by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
December 23, 2011
A STEALTH REPEAL OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- On the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Senate voted to ratify a bill that will destroy many of our civil liberties.
And President Barrack Obama, who quickly signed it, will go down in history as the President who gave the U.S. military the right to detain any citizen deemed as a threat to national security, and do so without due process.
In effect, the new battlefield in the so-called War on Terror is now right outside your window.
Once again, our enemies are celebrating. That's because in terrorist warfare, victories aren't won on the battlefield. They are won by making your enemy defeat itself.
In the decade since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, our nation has been transformed. Fear, and the exploitation of that fear by unscrupulous politicians, stampeded the American people into giving up their civil liberties in exchange for safety, and, as Benjamin Franklin famously warned, gaining neither in the process.
The Bush Administration's record is well-documented in this area. From the creation of a gulag at Guantanamo Bay, to the secret overseas "black sites" where suspects were subjected to "enhanced interrogation methods" (or torture, in plain English) without being formally charged with wrongdoing, to illegally spying upon and eavesdropping upon Americans, the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions were flouted at every opportunity.
The Obama Administration was supposed to behave differently.
Sadly, it hasn't.
Despite his lofty rhetoric of supporting human rights, President Obama has continued nearly all of his predecessor's policies, and pushed them along even further.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning President has kept Guantanamo open. He has authorized the expansion of the prison at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan to house the thousands of new inmates swept up in a war that may never end because our nation will always find a new enemy to attack. And he has our military actively waging war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya.
And yes, Iraq still should be on the list. Despite this month's withdrawal of nearly all U.S. military forces from Iraq, our nation will continue its intervention in that nation with 16,000 State Department personnel - half of whom are armed mercenaries - stationed in the largest U.S. embassy in the world.
Now we can see the real reason why the Obama Administration refused to investigate its predecessors for flouting Constitutional and international law - because this President wanted the Executive Branch to keep the powers that the Bush Administration carved out for themselves.
There are fears that this law is a prelude toward using the military to quell the Occupy movement. In just three months, the people who camped out in public spaces around the country have successfully shifted the political debate from obsession over deficits to the very real consequences of a winner-take-all economy where the 1 percent benefit at the expense of the 99 percent.
The police raids that broke up these encampments in recent weeks may be just a taste of what could come next. There will likely be more and bigger protests around the country next year. Is America ready to see its soldiers gun down unarmed protesters?
There's a presidential election coming up. And yes, Democrats will be told that they must support President Obama because there is no other alternative. But the race for the Republican presidential nomination is a clown show, and whomever wins the nomination will be so damaged that Obama is likely to win by an even larger margin than in 2008.
But the 2012 election will be the most dispiriting and depressing that this nation has ever seen. Never has a incumbent President been so undeserving of re-election, yet also so likely to win in spite of it.
It's hard to support a President that has this nation embroiled in multiple wars, who has refused to scale back the military-industrial complex to reflect the true nature of the threats we face, who has done just about everything President George W. Bush has done in regards to foreign policy - minus the smirk and mangled syntax.
It's even harder to support a President who is a supposed constitutional scholar who is accelerating our nation's slide into a police state by assuming permanent wartime powers in a war on terror which by its very definition has no end, since the so-called enemy is not a sovereign nation but an amorphous network. Many a democracy has vanished in that kind of murk.
With the stroke of a pen, President Obama will go down in history as the President that went even further than George W. Bush ever dreamed of in transforming our nation into a tinpot dictatorship, where the government can have anyone it wishes "permanently disappeared."
This is what our nation has come to: A declaration of martial law, couched in legal double-talk and almost totally ignored by the media, has slipped past the American people. Constitutionally-mandated civil protections, including habeas corpus, due process and other judicial procedures, no longer apply if the Pesident decides someone is a threat to national security.
The members of the House and Senate that voted for this should be ashamed of themselves. And President Obama should be equally ashamed of himself for signing this stealth repeal of the Bill of Rights into law.
Chief of AR Correspondents Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org