FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out

 

“Mr. Ashcroft’s legacy has been an open hostility to protecting civil liberties and an outright disdain for those who dare to question his policies. We need to do more than just replace John Ashcroft; we need a wholesale re-examination of Justice Department policies that trample on civil liberties and human rights.”

–Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The underlying cause of crime in America is criminals.”

–John Ashcroft

Now that John Ashcroft is packing it in and heading back to Missouri, will the drapes being coming off the bare-breasted statuary in the halls of Justice? Perhaps, they could be converted into sackcloth for the many Muslims he callously tossed in jail with no legal recourse. Or maybe they could be sewn into blinders for the next staff at the DOJ? With Bush at the tiller, it’s doubtful that the next team (Gulliani?) will veer too far from the course set by the current Attorney General.

Ashcroft’s tenure at Justice ended with a fizzle. After fashioning the 350 pages of the notorious Patriot Act (which effectively eviscerates the 4th amendment), the Missouri Mullah devoted himself to the various chores of harassing terminally ill patients protected under Oregon state law (trying to end their lives in dignity), disrupting the sale of medical marijuana to cancer patients, and ferreting through the medical records of women who had legal abortions. No effort was ever spared to ensure that his narrow view of personal morality was rigorously applied like a tourniquet.

But these are just minor details in the broader Ashcroft legacy. The real meat-and-potatoes of his four year tenure was his Clansman-like zeal in rounding-up and persecuting innocent Muslims; 5000, give or take a few. It was a task for which the autocratic General was particularly well suited. As proficient as Ashcroft was in detaining terror suspects on any imaginable pretext (his favorites were “material witness”, immigration violations or, the favorite, no charges at all) he was much less adept at getting convictions. As law professor David Cole points out, of the 5000 suspects Ashcroft arrested “NOT ONE HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY CONVICTED OF TERRORISM…the only conviction obtained having been thrown out by a federal judge in Detroit.” The rest were settled through plea agreements; deals that were struck through coercion and threats of being sent to Guantanamo if defendants refused to cooperate. The presumption of innocence was as breezily discarded as was most of the Bill of Rights. The result is an unblemished record of failure that will be filed in the national archive as the biggest flop in American history.

It’s hard to know what to make of Ashcroft, other than the fact that he’s an intellectually-inoperative, religious sociopath who thinks that God entrusted him with “His terrible swift sword” to dispatch the infidels. His religious convictions never included defending the “meek” or “the poor in heart”. They may be swept upwards to the kingdom of heaven, but they could always count on “short-shrift” from the A.G. As the Seattle PI reports: “Like Bush, Ashcroft stuck to conservative positions on a wide range of issues. He sought to limit judges’ flexibility to reduce criminal sentences, to have the federal death penalty applied more uniformly nationwide and targeted Internet pornography for high-profile crackdowns.” In other words, punishment was the Ashcroft panacea for all ailments.

Suspects could always count on a “touch of the lash” whether guilty or not. There was no “sparing the rod” in the Ashcroft regime. Under his leadership the concept of justice was put through the juicer and replaced with his favorite substitute; incarceration. As a result, respect for the office has withered considerably. Ashcroft’s contempt of legal precedent may impress his friends at the Federalist Society, but it’s done little to elevate his standing with the American public.

Ashcroft’s career has not been without its low points. Who can forget his spectral appearance in front of Congress following 9-11 when he said, “Those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.”

His bleak demagoguery mixed with his bizarre habits, of early morning prayer meetings and religious “sing-a-longs”, put Ashcroft in a category well outside the mainstream. He became a political liability for the image conscious administration and, ultimately, had to be dumped. Fanaticism is revered at the Bush White House, but only if it is concealed behind a businesslike demeanor. Ashcroft had to go.

Will anyone remember how Ashcroft stonewalled the Congress in their investigation of 9-11 (he still hasn’t provided the documents they required) or stubbornly refused to produce the memos that authorized the abuse at Abu Ghraib? Apparently, his astute sense of morality doesn’t involve illuminating the details of the deaths of 3000 Americans or of assisting the victims of torture. His political attachments far transcend his commitment to common decency.

And, what have the affects of John Ashcroft been on the institution of Attorney General? Do people really believe in American justice anymore? It’s hard to know. The DOJ has run roughshod over most of the principles that are fundamental to our system. The behavior of the A.G. has been so erratic that no one can be entirely certain whether they,re even entitled to an attorney anymore. It’s been an astonishing turnaround.

The DOJ spends half its time enforcing the American version of Sharia Law, and the other half sharpening its talons for political enemies. There’s little time for justice in the classic sense of the word. We,d be better off boarding up the Justice Dept and slapping up a few more “high security” prisons in its place. That seems to be the idea anyway.

In any event, the only ones who will be missing Ashcroft will be Al Qaida. His blundering incompetence made sure that not one terrorist was ever successfully locked up. As for the rest of us its, “Ciao, John, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

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

 

More articles by:

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.

February 21, 2019
Alex Campbell
Tracing the Threads in Venezuela: Humanitarian Aid
Jonah Raskin
Mitchel Cohen Takes on Global and Local Goliaths: Profile of a Lifelong Multi-Movement Organizer
Binoy Kampmark
Size Matters: the Demise of the Airbus A380
February 20, 2019
Anthony DiMaggio
Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse
Charles Pierson
When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb
Doug Johnson Hatlem
“Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)
Kenneth Surin
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia
John Feffer
The Psychology of the Wall
Dean Baker
Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich
Russell Mokhiber
Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool
George Ochenski
Unconstitutional Power Grabs
Michael T. Klare
War With China? It’s Already Under Way
Thomas Knapp
The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers
Manuel García, Jr.
Two Worlds
Daniel Warner
The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity
Norman Solomon
What the Bernie Sanders 2020 Campaign Means for Progressives
Dan Corjescu
2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage
Matthew Johnson
Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?
William A. Cohn
Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told
Bill Martin
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
February 19, 2019
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard
Patrick Cockburn
She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Literature and Theater During War: Why Euripides Still Matters
Maximilian Werner
The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy
Conn Hallinan
Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey
Nyla Ali Khan
Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward
Mark Ashwill
On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam
Joyce Nelson
Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt
Ron Jacobs
Day of Remembrance and the Music of Anthony Brown        
Cesar Chelala
Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment
February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail