When President Bush was confronted by reporters as he left the White House for Camp David following the announcement of the five indictments of, and the resignation of Vice President Dick Cheney chief of state I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, he offered up a lame comment, which at the same time exposed him as a grotesque hypocrite.
“In our system,” he said, “each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial.”
Sure. That’s what will happen with Scooter, and with Karl Rove if he gets indicted when the other shoe drops.
But what about Jose Padilla? This U.S. citizen, picked up at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport back in 2001, has been held in a military brig without charge, without access to an attorney, and in solitary confinement without any contact with family members for four years because President Bush has claimed the right, on his sole authority, to declare any American citizen to be an “enemy combatant” and to revoke their Constitutional rights and rights of citizenship.
No formal charges have been filed against Padilla. Instead, the Justice Department has just made unsupported statements claiming first that he was planning to build and detonate a dirty-nuke bomb, then dropping that and claiming that he planned to blow up gas lines in apartment buildings. Since Padilla is unable to contest these charges-or really even to know what the charges are or who has been testifying against him-no one can know their veracity.
The same thing was been done to another American-born citizens, Yaser Esam Hamdi, who was ultimately stripped of his birthright and deported to his parent’s homeland, Saudi Arabia, after the government had to admit that it didn’t have the evidence to try him as a terrorist. (The weakness of the President’s case in revoking Hamdi’s citizenship rights and his right to the fair trial Bush so ardently insists on as Libby’s right, is that the government has said it’s willing to allow Hamdi to return to the U.S. with his family to visit Disneyworld.)
And what, for that matter, about the thousands of Muslim residents in America who have been rounded up and deported over the last few years without even a hearing, often on charges of minor traffic or visa violations which they were not given a chance to contest in court?
Clearly Bush does not really believe that everyone in America has a right to the presumption of innocence and to a fair trial-only people in his administration who are charged with serious crimes.
But as the noose starts to tighten on this administration for its lies in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, and for its many other crimes, from initiating a war on a country that posed no threat to the U.S. to subverting the electoral system and violating the Geneva Convention against torture, it is understandable that this President is suddenly invoking the very Constitution and Bill of Rights he has been trashing for the last five years.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org