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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:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Years ago, I lived in Montana, a land of purple sunsets, clear streams, and snowflakes the size of silver dollars drifting through the cold air. There were no speed limits and you could legally drive drunk. My small apartment in Missoula had little privacy. In order to write, I rented an off-season fishing cabin on Rock Creek, a one-room place with a bed and a bureau. I lacked the budget for a desk. My idea was to remove a sliding door from a closet in my apartment and place it over a couple of hastily cobbled-together sawhorses.
Average number of bacteria living in a pound of U.S. mud:
Canadian doctors saved a baby from drowning in his own drool by using Botox on his salivary glands.
A black bear named Pedals, famous for walking upright on his hind legs through Rockaway Township, New Jersey, was reported killed by a hunter, and a hiker in California was attacked after he interrupted two bears mating. It was a “pretty good bear attack,” said the local police chief.
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"She never thanked me, never looked at me—melted away into the miserable night, in the strangest manner I ever saw. I have seen many strange things, but not one that has left a deeper impression on my memory than the dull impassive way in which that worn-out heap of misery took that piece of money, and was lost."