McCain/Scalia/WSJ Rally to Support Tyranny, Torture at Guantanamo

(9:00PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

“No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed, or outlawed, or banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him, nor send upon him, except by the legal judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” 1

“One of the worst decisions in the history of this country.” 2

“The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” 3

“In considering both the procedural and substantive standards used to impose detention to prevent acts of terrorism, the courts must accord proper deference to the political branches. However, security subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom’s first principles, chief among them being freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to the separation of powers.” 4

Boumediene concerns habeas corpus – the right of Americans to challenge detention by the government. Justice Kennedy has now extended that right to non-American enemy combatants captured abroad trying to kill Americans in the war on terror. We can say with confident horror that more Americans are likely to die as a result.” 5

“The game of bait-and-switch that today’s opinion plays upon the Nation’s Commander in Chief will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” 6

The Supreme Court decision to render unconstitutional the provisions of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that curtailed use of habeas corpus by detainees deemed “enemy combatants” by the Pentagon and held at the Guantanamo U.S. military base in Cuba has unleashed a spurt of vitriol from the right-wing establishment. As can be seen above, the Wall Street Journal has picked up the hysterical standard set forth by right wing ideologue Scalia in his blistering dissent to the Boumediene decision, accusing his fellow justices as nothing less than accomplices to murder. With John McCain jumping on the bandwagon, the GOP agenda for the fall campaign is thus established: a liberal Supreme Court, along with an ostensibly too-liberal and inexperienced Democratic candidate for President, are threatening our troops abroad, and making terrorist attacks at home a near certainty.

This demagogic assault on civil liberties is dangerous. Setting up your political opponents as criminals is a half-step away from indicating they are outside the pale of appropriate discourse. Such opponents can be targeted themselves by those who are only too ready to carry out the wishes of those they serve. But I consider even more ominous the likelihood that such outlandish statements represent the opinions of the military establishment, who have constructed the Guantanamo hell-hole, and wish to do their best to keep the torture and abuse there as secret and unnoticeable to citizen awareness as possible.

Suspension of Habeas and Techniques of Torture

Few understand, nor is it hardly ever mentioned, that indefinite detention is an integral part of the U.S. torture program. This program, no matter what its day-to-day contingencies (today waterboarding is in, tomorrow it’s out… today hooding is in, tomorrow it’s out) relies on three essential components: the inculcation of debility, dread, and dependency in prisoners held for torture and interrogation.

By debility, one means the breaking down of physical and psychological stamina. Common forms of effecting debility include the use of isolation, sleep deprivation, diet reduction, lack of access to needed medical procedures, stress positions, and sensory overload or deprivation — all of which have been practiced at Guantanamo and other sites in Bush’s “war on terror” prisons.

Dread is self-explanatory: it means making prisoners afraid, and the use of phobias and fear of the worst happening are two ways to produce this. (For instance, inducing fear of waterboarding is much more efficient than using waterboarding itself.) By dependency, the torturers mean producing a state where, as the CIA once put it:

Prisoners “… have reduced viability, are helplessly dependent on their captors for the satisfaction of their many basic needs, and experience the emotional and motivational reactions of intense fear and anxiety…. Among the [American] POW’s pressured by the Chinese Communists, the DDD syndrome in its full-blown form constituted a state of discomfort that was well-nigh intolerable.”

We might call this a smashing of hope in the prisoners’ mind, an acceptance that his or her entire fate, his life, perhaps the lives of his or her family, rests with the incarcerating power.

If you allow prisoners the right to petition a court for their freedom, and to challenge the tyrannical exercise of executive authority, then you reduce the sense of total dependency that the torturers intend to perpetuate in their victims. This is why you hear the squealing from the apologists for U.S. torture, from right-wingers on the Supreme Court, to ostensible “moderate” on torture John McCain, who was tortured himself once, long, long ago. McCain has made an identification with the torturers of his own government, and this is not in itself so unusual, from a psychological point of view.

The particular reason for McCain’s apostasy on torture is unknown to us — perhaps it’s guilt for talking under torture back in Vietnam, perhaps it’s pure ambition and opportunism — but one thing is certain, his current posture is anathema to anyone who opposes the use of torture and attacks on civil liberties, not to mention a militarist agenda that blithely suggests a war lasting for 100 years or more.

Make Torture a Central Issue

As much as Obama and his supporters like to keep the campaign against torture as something rolled out for special speeches and the like — you won’t find a word about torture by the Bush administration at Obama’s campaign website — the fight against torture is at the center of the struggle against Bush’s war drive abroad and attack on civil liberties at home. Guantanamo’s prison, which sits on a leased piece of land in Cuba, is a toehold for fascistic policies of torture and suspended civil rights to be implemented in the United States if and when the government deems it necessary. Already, the U.S. Naval Brig at Charleston, South Carolina has been the site of inhumane torture practices against U.S. citizen Jose Padilla.

The rhetoric is heating up. Bush and his backers fear that their untrammelled campaign projecting U.S. military power and influence abroad is threatened by the upcoming elections. They are desperate and will do anything to paint their opponents as traitors and criminally negligent adventurers. The miserable economy may make it impossible to effectively spread their message, but I wouldn’t be too sure. The Democratic Party had best consider taking on the jingoistic, yellow journalism rhetoric of the right, if it is serious about defeating the right-wing agenda in this country.

Were the last, best defenders of democratic rights in this country five relatively old judges and a handful of constitutional attorneys? I know a lot of money is flowing into Obama’s campaign coffers now, but that won’t necessarily be enough to defeat Bush and Cheney’s heir apparent. And even if McCain goes down in flames, a much bigger obstacle lies ahead for progressives in this country in the form of the myriad connections and influence of energy, technology, financial, information and military industries with the institutions of the army, navy, air force, and intelligence agencies… a tremendously larger obstacle.

1 Magna Carta, quoted in Boumediene et al. v Bush, Justice Kennedy’s Opinion, p. 9

2 John McCain, GOP presumptive nominee for President, at a speech in New Jersey, commenting upon the Boumediene v Bush ruling, in “McCain Condemns Supreme Court Guantanamo Ruling”, Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2008

3 U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 9, Clause 2

4 Boumediene et al. v Bush, Syllabus [of Majority Decision], p. 8

5 Editorial, Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2008

6 Boumediene et al. v Bush, Dissent by Justice A. Scalia, p. 2

Also posted at Invictus

21 comments

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    • Valtin on June 16, 2008 at 2:01 am
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    But Happy Fathers Day, everyone!

  1. First, the Wall Street Journal should be ashamed of itself for this:

    Boumediene concerns habeas corpus – the right of Americans to challenge detention by the government. Justice Kennedy has now extended that right to non-American enemy combatants captured abroad trying to kill Americans in the war on terror.

    I have seen this so many times that you’d think I would be numb to the inhuman stupidity of it by now.  But I will say it again anyway: We don’t know whether the prisoners in question did anything at all!  They have never had a fair trial!  Plainly, the WSJ simply does not care if the prisoners at Gitmo and elsewhere actually did anything.

    Second, I will quote Sen. McCain from his 1974 report on the value of adhering to the Geneva Conventions:

    The prisoners were required to bow whenever a North Vietnamese came into proximity.  This aspect of the treatment by the North Vietnamese backfired on them and served to stiffen the resistance posture of the prisoners.  Many ex-POWS have stated that due to the length and divisiveness of the Vietnam conflict, if the policy of the North Vietnamese towards the captured Americans had been of strict adherence to the Geneva Convention the North Vietnamese might have returned a group of men who would have been grateful and sympathetic to their problems in that part of the world.  Instead, a dedicated group of anti-communists have emerged from that ordeal.

    Full 44 page McCain report: PDF.

  2. They knew the evils of tyranny and they understood the need to build safeguards against tyranny into the very foundation of their new nation’s laws.  OTOH, McCain, Scalia and the WSJ are actually part of the current tyrant’s government or enablers of it, so they would, of course, feel the need to defend the tyrant, and their own shameful roles in the tyranny.

  3. that any of these noncombatant’s are terrorists. Some of them where simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some were protecting there homeland from the invaders us. The fact that these sadists won’t let them have trials and that they have so obscured the truth behind the initial act of terrorism which triggered this insanity leaves no doubt in my mind that these are rag tag guerrillas at best, scary terrorists? unlikely.

    The Viet Nam war was another twisting of facts, a place where the real terrorists and war criminals us, are now in this  revisionist political backward world called heroes. Mai Lai Agent Orange, killing villages of woman and children, Napon all this and more. At least we saw that go around of inhumanity for geopolitics occurring via the pictures and journalists.

    Meanwhile we torture and kill and lie again with renewed vigor because this enemy is called terrorist. Tragic and illegal but how else would a paper or media who were and are embedded from the start report this? One where we our shown the 2nd in line of Al Queda every few months being captured or killed. No one believes it and no one stops them as were all culpable but especially the media who sold us this version of Goldstein and his surrogates we have locked up in the name of ?.              

    • Viet71 on June 16, 2008 at 3:51 am

    is, of course, about habeas corpus.

    The Court holds the Privilege (and yes, the Constitution refers to habeas corpus as a privilege) extends to the prisoners at Guantanamo basically because (a) the U.S. has de facto complete sovereignty over the Guantanamo, (b) the prisoners there have not been afforded a decent adversarial process to determine the legitimacy of their being held, and (c) the prisoners have been so held for as long as 6 years.

    Fundamentally, however, Boumediene is about separation of powers.

    Kennedy’s opinion is as much a thinly veiled display of contempt for congress as it is a rebuke of the Bush administration.

    Suggestion:  Don’t read the dry, lifeless sylllabus of the the majority opinion.  Spend an hour or so reading Kennedy’s opinion.

    It will be worth your time.

    Then, if you’re trained in constitutional law (or even if not), read the dissent and retch.

  4. Hardly.  That would mean it would have to be worse than Bush v. Gore, Dread Scott, Korematsu, and Plessy v. Ferguson.  So, no, I don’t think so.

    Another thing: to be among the worst decisions ever you have to deny rights.  A decision that recognizes habeas rights isn’t even in the first division of bad decisions.  

  5. for my salary.  As Russia “fell” so too will America and my Russian boss will have been proven correct when he said he has now lived in two socialist countries.  He answered that question in the 1980s by the way.

    War is profitable.

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