FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Free Jose Padilla

by MIKE WHITNEY

 

May 8 marked the third anniversary of the imprisonment of Jose Padilla. Padilla was apprehended at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in 2002 by Federal officers under the shaky “material witness” provision and trundled off to prison. In a conspicuous effort to poison public opinion, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced on national TV that Padilla was conspiring to set off a “dirty bomb” (radioactive device) within the United Sates. To date, the government has never produced any evidence to corroborate their spurious claims. In all probability, Padilla may be entirely blameless.

Jose Padilla represents the crowning achievement in the war on terror. As the situation in Haiti and Afghanistan steadily deteriorates, and as America’s 8 divisions continue to bog-down in the Iraqi quagmire; the administration’s one unassailable accomplishment is the death-blow it has delivered to the Bill of Rights. Padilla now faces his 4th year of captivity without any formal charges filed against him and without any reasonable expectation of defending himself in a court of law.

Happy anniversary, Jose.

The government defends its detention of Padilla on the grounds that he is an “enemy combatant”. The term “enemy combatant” means “presumed guilty” and its application to US citizens or foreign nationals allows the state to operate outside the confines of international human rights law and the Bill of Rights. Simply put, it is the end of the rule of law in America and a rejection of a legal tradition that dates back 800 years. Most likely, the phrase originated in a right-wing think-tank as a way of dealing with potential enemies of the state while ignoring the law. In fact, it has no legal meaning, but its use assumes that the president has the authority to conduct the war on terror however he sees fit; using “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided terrorist attacks”or, in order, to “prevent future acts of international terrorism.” (Congress; Joint Resolution Sept 18, 2001) The Bush administration believes that this empowers the president to strip citizens of their constitutional rights and detain them without charges. So far, the courts have failed to stop this disturbing overreach of executive power.

When Padilla’s case appeared before the US District Court, Judge Henry Floyd disputed the administration’s defense of the “enemy combatant” label saying, “If the law in its current state is found by the president to be insufficient to protect this country from terrorist plots, such as the one alleged here, then the president should prevail upon Congress to remedy the problem.”

Indeed, it’s not the purview of the president to invent laws as he goes along, but to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”.

The moniker “enemy combatant” creates the greatest constitutional crisis the nation has ever faced. It undermines the principle of “inalienable rights” by allowing the president to pick and choose who is entitled to the benefits of citizenship. More importantly, it presumes that suspects have no right to challenge the terms of their detention through access to the legal system. The media breezily refers to the plight of enemy combatants as “legal limbo. It is not limbo; it is despotism.

In Justice John Paul Stevens scathing dissent (to the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the Padilla case) Stevens articulates the gravity of Padilla vs. Rumsfeld. He said the Padilla case poses “a unique and unprecedented threat to the freedom of every American citizenAt stake is nothing less than the essence of a free societyFor if this nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny.”

Stevens is not exaggerating; the threat posed by placing our freedom in the hands of the president is incalculable. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear Padilla’s case demonstrates its tacit support for the unlimited power of the president and its unwillingness to address whether Padilla is entitled to any protection under the Constitution. Their rejection condemns Padilla to indefinite detention and shows the world that they are incapable of meeting the requirements of their profession.

The Supreme Court is meaningless if it stubbornly refuses to clarify even the most fundamental points concerning constitutional protections and personal liberty. (The court would not even rule on Padilla’s habeas corpus petition, that is, whether he can be kept in jail without being charged with a crime)

In his brilliant article “The Supreme Court and Enemy Combatants”, Marc Norton notes a critical opinion written by Judges Rehnquist, Kennedy and O’ Connor. (joined by Breyer) Norton says, “The key finding by this gang of four is to uphold the concept of enemy combatants, for citizens and non-citizens alike. There is no bar to this Nation’s holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant,’ they boldly declare.”

No bar to holding a citizen as an enemy combatant? What is the Bill of Rights if it is not a bar to the arbitrary power of the state??? The court’s finding is a clear vindication of Bush’s power-grab and the court’s culpability.

Readers should carefully consider Norton’s quote and judge for themselves whether it is consistent with any reasonable interpretation of the Bill of Rights. If the Court majority is willing to overturn the inalienable rights of its citizens and confer absolute power on the executive, the task before us is to remove the erring jurists on the court.

When Justice O’ Connor issued her blistering statement that, “A state of war is not a blank check for the President”; it was slapped on the front page of every newspaper across the nation. Unfortunately, there’s not a word of truth in O’ Connor’s declaration. The high court cleared the way for Bush to summarily disregard the due process rights of citizens according to his own discretion. By endorsing (in principle) the enemy combatant label, the court removed the guarantees of a speedy trial, the right to confront ones accusers, the right to produce witnesses for one’s defense, the right to an attorney, the right to challenge the terms of one’s incarceration, and the right to an impartial jury of one’s peers. All of these protections are inserted into the Bill of Rights for one reason alone; to establish the procedures that make it impossible for the government to do what Bush has done to Padilla. The provisions (in the Bill of Rights) are expressed in clear, unambiguous language so the state cannot rob citizens of their freedom without just cause and hard evidence “nor be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” (5th amendment)

“without due process of law!”

Padilla is almost certainly innocent; a random victim of government-demagoguery and public hysteria. Even if the allegations were true, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. The terms of his imprisonment have never been justifiable and he should be released without delay. His continued incarceration (in a 5′ by 7′ windowless cell in Norfolk, VA.) is an affront to a nation that claims to be committed to human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law.

The Bush administration has no interest in Jose Padilla, a hapless gang-banger caught up in the 9-11, anti-terror dragnet. It’s the precedent that’s paramount; the go-ahead to toss citizens in jail at the whim of the president and to dispose of enemies without recourse to the law.

The path to tyranny is paved with the language of tyranny. The intrusion of “enemy combatant” into our jurisprudence obliterates the ideals of constitutional protections and inalienable rights. Jose Padilla is just a minor player in this much grander scheme.

We value the law because it protects the very least among us by putting a wall between ourselves and the long-arm of the government. Bush’s actions have removed that wall and put every one of us within the grasp of the all-powerful state.

Free Jose Padilla!

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail