FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Jose Padilla and the Death of Personal Liberty

 

“The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive.”

Judge Antonin Scalia

I had to sit down when I heard the Padilla case had been settled. I literally felt sick to my stomach, like I was gasping for air. The case of Jose Padilla is quite simply the most important case in the history of the American judicial system. Hanging in the balance are all the fundamental principles of American jurisprudence including habeas corpus, due process and “the presumption of innocence”. All of those basic concepts were summarily revoked by the 3 judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court. The Court ruled in favor of the Bush administration which claimed that it had the right to indefinitely imprison an American citizen without charging him with a crime. The resulting verdict confers absolute authority on the President to incarcerate American citizens without charge and without any legal means for the accused to challenge the terms of his detention. It is the end of “inalienable rights”, the end of The Bill of Rights, and the end of any meaningful notion of personal liberty.

I remember reading 3 or 4 years ago, in Zbigniew Brzezinski’s, “The Grand Chessboard“, of a strategy to dominate the world that would result in the loss of freedom for American citizens. Brzezinski recognized the inherent threat that liberty posed to the development of empire. He stated:

“It is also a fact that America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America’s power, especially its capacity for military intimidation. Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being. The economic self-denial (that is, defense spending) and the human sacrifice (casualties, even among professional soldiers) required in the effort are uncongenial to democratic instincts. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization.” (p.35)

Brzezinski’s prescient forecast has proved to be astonishingly accurate. The determination of the neocons, the Federalist Society, the far-right radio giants, the Olin, Scaife, Coors and Bradley foundations, and the entire stable of right-wing, quasi-fascist groups that operate openly within American society, have pounded the final wooden stake into the heart of the personal freedom. The basic legal protections that safeguard the citizen from the arbitrary and hostile action of the state have been rescinded. We all stand naked before the absolute power of the President.

The government has no case against Jose Padilla, a hapless Chicago gang-banger who allegedly visited Pakistan before he was arrested at O’Hare airport 3 and a half years ago. He is simply an unwitting victim of circumstance; a convenient scapegoat for eviscerating the rule of law. The Bush administration has used its extraordinary influence in the media to demagogue the case and keep him locked-away without producing one shred of evidence against him. The entire affair has been a grotesque mockery of justice. The hard-right groups that engineered this plot know exactly where the fault-lines in American jurisprudence lie; in the inalienable protections of its citizens.

Padilla became the test-case for shattering the Bill of Rights with one withering blow. It has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectation.

There’s no chance that the Supreme Court will retry the case and draw more attention to the shocking details of this judicial-coup; they already punted once before preferring to pass it along to the lower court. Rather, the meaning of the case will be ignored until the president needs to exercise the newly-bestowed powers of supreme leader. That authority is now firmly rooted in the legal precedent established by the Padilla ruling.

Americans seem unaware of the great loss we’ve all suffered by the Padilla verdict. If the President is allowed to arbitrarily decide who has “inalienable rights”, than those rights become the provisional gifts of the government rather than a reliable shield against the abuse of state power. It means that every American citizen is as vulnerable to the same violation of human rights as the men currently imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. It also means that the legal wall that shelters the citizen from the random violence of the political establishment has been reduced to rubble.

The Padilla ruling is the blackest day in American history. The icons of American liberty; the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Statue of Liberty; are empty shrines if they are not underscored by the guarantee of freedom. The Vietnam Memorial, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, the 4th of July, the Federalist Papers, and the American flag; all gratuitous expressions of a principle that has vanished from the political landscape. Every man and woman who ever wore an American uniform and died in the service of their country, died in vain. Their sacrifice has been rendered completely worthless by the action of the 4th Circuit Court.

George Bush has now extinguished every meaningful part of the American dream. The last vestige of the social contract has been defiled and desecrated by the administration and their court. Personal freedom is dead in America; it was impaled by the verdict against Jose Padilla. How many thousands or, perhaps, millions of Americans will die or endure incalculable suffering to regain what we have lost on this tragic day?

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.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
January 23, 2020
Richard Moser
Ten Best Messages for Waging Peace
Thomas S. Harrington
The Catalan Crisis Threatens to Reopen a Debate That the EU’s Power Brokers Thought They Had Long Ago Quashed
Martha Rosenberg
SARS-Like Disease Could Become a Pandemic
Ron Jacobs
A Cesspool of Constitutional Nonsense-Impeachment in the Senate
Gaither Stewart
One Hundred Years: the Proletariat in Search of a Class
Nick Pemberton
Final Phallus
Russell Mokhiber
PBS Public Editor and the Disease of Contempt
Thomas M. Magstadt
The Myth of the Free Market
Mandy Smithberger
How the Military-Industrial Complex Gets Away With Murder in Contract After Contract
Russell Rickford
The Paradox of Populism
Howard Lisnoff
Action Research: Acquiescing to the Awful
George Ochenski
Comes Now the Winter of Our Discontent
Binoy Kampmark
Diminishing Returns: Calculated Misery in Air Travel
Nick Licata
Do Republicans Have More to Lose Than Democrats in the Impeachment Trial?
Dean Baker
The Myth of China’s Population Crisis
John Kendall Hawkins
Steal This Whistle
January 22, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Media and the Military Mindset
John Davis
The Real Megxit Deal
John O'Kane
The Obama Legacy: Reform Versus Revolution
Kenneth Surin
The “Evolving” Scotty Morrison From Marketing
Martin Billheimer
“The Cops & the Klan Go Hand in Hand!”
Thomas Knapp
Executive Power: Alan Dershowitz’s Imagination Versus the Constitution
Jacob G. Hornberger
Egypt and the Destruction of Civil Liberties in America
Justin Podur
The People of Colombia are Cracking the Walls of War and Authoritarianism
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson
Our Final Decade to Get Climate Policy Right
Jonah Raskin
Terence Hallinan: Fighter for the People and for the Legalization of Marijuana 
Colin Todhunter
Challenging the Flawed Premise Behind Pushing GMOs into Indian Agriculture
January 21, 2020
Sheldon Richman
Warmonger Cotton Accuses Antiwar Think Tank of Anti-Semitism
John Feffer
Trump Makes Space Great Again
Patrick Cockburn
The US and Iran’s Perpetual Almost-War is Unsustainable – and Will End Badly
James C. Nelson
Another Date That Will Live in Infamy: 10 Years After Citizens United
Robert Fisk
Iran Will be Changed Forever by Admitting Its Great Mistake, Unlike the West Which Ignores Its Own Misdeeds
Dean Baker
Did Shareholders’ Benefit by Paying Boeing’s Fired CEO $62 Million?
Susan Roberts
The Demise of the Labour Party and the Future For UK Socialism
Binoy Kampmark
Janus-Faced on Climate Change: Microsoft’s Carbon Vision
David Levin
The Teamster Revolt Against the Hoffa Era
Victor Grossman
Defender and Spearheads
Russell Mokhiber
BS Public Editor and the Disease of Contempt
Tiffany Muller
Get the Money Out of Politics: 10 Years After Citizens United
Laura Flanders
Iowa is Not the Twitterverse
Graham Peebles
Education: Expanding Purpose
Elliot Sperber
Handball in Brooklyn 
January 20, 2020
Paul Street
Trump Showed Us Who He Was Before He Became President
Eric Mann
Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Ipek S. Burnett
MLK and the Ghost of an Untrue Dream
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail