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As I was reading an article about the Alien and Sedition Act (the law that the Federalists pushed through the Congress on June 25, 1798 in order to quell rebellion against its growing power), and thinking about how its essence resembled the intent and effect of the USA Patriot Act, this news flash came across my email:
"Defense deputy gets authority for military tribunals."
I did not have to open the email to learn who it was. It could only be (and it is)–the one, the only, the unhonorable, the dissembling, and the anti-constitution autocrat, Paul Wolfowitz. He will run the military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or wherever else outside the US Rumsfeld chooses to try these poor souls.
Seems that Rumsfeld has his hands busy with this "untidy" war (I thought it was over and that we had won?) in Iraq that just won’t quit. With those ungrateful Iraqis not happy with American occupation, and the concomitant lack of energy, money, and food. I digress.
According to CNN News, Wolfowitz will exercise key powers in the commission process. After the chief military prosecutor drafts charges against a prisoner (CNN, of course, referred to this hapless person as a "detainee"–talk about dissembling), Wolfowitz will "approve" the charges and send the detainee to trial. So he has already served as chief prosecutor, grand jury, and presiding judge.
As appointing authority, he also will select military officers to sit on commissions. If commission members cannot resolve matters related to procedures, motions or facts, Wolfowitz will make the final decision. There you go, a judge again. The article did not say that Wolfowitz would carry out the executions (and there will be plenty of them, you can be sure, in secret, as will be the trials), but you can bet he will. Or wants to. Or maybe he does not want to get blood on his white shirt or stain his gold cufflinks. But by now, he has risen to the status of Lord High Executioner in this most bizarre of legal systems.
Whatever, there you have it, justice American style. A criminal court created by Bush, run by the Pentagon, and with "laws" drafted in consort with Ashcroft, Chertoff, and minions at the Department of Justice. The trials will be in secret. The chief defense attorney is a reluctant officer who had been praying for the prosecutor’s position (won’t he give some zealous defense?). American defense attorneys, if any prisoner can afford one, will have to swear a vow of allegiance to Rumsfeld, of course, agree to a lifetime gag order, and stand by while certain proceedings against his client are held in secret, out of his presence. (What lawyer worth his license would agree to this? None that I would want, that’s for certain.)
Foreign news sources have reported that execution chambers are under construction. Bush and Rumsfeld are said to be deciding who the lucky ones are to be tried in this mockery of "justice."
And you should be wondering, as Independence Day nears, how we have come to this under our Emperor George Bush II.
So on the anniversary of the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts, we witness a sequel of a government so afraid of its "enemies" (or so they say–we will never hear the evidence) that it has to create a caricature of a "legal" system and try them in secret.
Why don’t they just drop the charade, line up the prisoners, and shoot them? Bring on Lord Wolfowitz with his rifle–or maybe he would prefer a sword?
ELAINE CASSEL practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia and teaches law and psychology. She is writing a book on civil liberties post 9/11, and keeps and keeps an eye on Bush and Ashcroft’s trampling on the Bill of Rights at her Civil Liberties Watch.