SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Yesterday, White House press spokesman Tony Snow assailed the Fourth Circuit’s ruling that President Bush does not have the power to lock away people lawfully in the United States forever without charges. Says Snow:
Are you saying that detaining people who are plucked off the battlefields is an assault on democracy? Are you kidding me? You’re talking about the people who were responsible for supporting the Taliban, somehow detaining them is an assault on democracy?
The battlefield that Al-Marri was “plucked off of” was an apartment complex in West Peoria, Illinois, where he had been living, under constant observation, for many months. He was a computer science student at Bradley University at the time. He was arrested not using the commander-in-chief authority of the president, but rather using normal criminal justice process, by the FBI. Long after his arrest, a decision was made within the government to change the terms of his detention and to transfer him into the custody of the military. Why exactly? Well, the Fourth Circuit explored that in some detail. The Bush Administration offered no explanation. But the Fourth Circuit found a public statement by Attorney General John Ashcroft indicating that the purpose of the transfer was so that he could be more effectively interrogated. That is so say, so that enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding, long-time standing, hypothermia, and sleep deprivation could be used on him. So virtually every statement that Snow made during the press conference yesterday on this score was a studied lie.
And at the end we have the real whopper: it is the essence of democracy, he suggests, for the president to place someone who is lawfully in the country on a student visa under military detention, beyond the review of any court, and torture him. Actually, the powers that Snow supposes to be vested in the president match an established category of governance that would have been easily recognizable to Aristotle. The word is tyranny: long defined as a system in which a single ruler has unchallenged power to detain and punish his subjects.
The point here is not to say that Al-Marri is an innocent lamb, but rather that if the Bush Administration believes he is guilty of complicity in terrorist schemes, he should be charged and brought to trial, and the charges should be proved. You know, that old fashioned thing, justice–in which we allow people to confront the charges brought against them and make their case. It’s a simple concept. And one that’s being slowly forgotten in the White House’s political hyperventilation.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
From the June 2014 issue
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.”