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Thomas Jefferson and James Madison shared one definition of the term “tyrant”–a ruler who deprived a person of his freedom without operation of law and without accountability before a court. Which perhaps explains why American historians are consistently ranking George W. Bush at the very bottom of the list of all American presidents; the man, ultimately, is guilty of tyranny.
Take Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, accused by the Bush Administration of being an Al Qaeda sleeper agent. Al-Marri says that he came to the United States as a student and had no more sinister objective than to get a college degree. The Bush Adminstration brought charges against him, but as soon as its charges were set to be tested in a courtroom, it got cold feet. Jane Mayer reveals that this decision was against the advice of the career prosecutors handling the case–that the President, apparently lacking faith in the criminal justice system or his own Justice Department, directed al-Marri be seized by the military and held at a facility near Charleston, South Carolina. He’s the sole detainee at the facility, and he’s now been held for seven years. No charges, no due process, subjected to prolonged interrogation using what John Yoo calls the “Bush Program.”
Mayer offers a thorough review of the al-Marri case and the extremely important question it presents. We get a good glimpse of al-Marri and learn that, notwithstanding the difficulty of his confinement, he has quite a sense of humor.
Since prison censors cut many of the hard-news stories out of the papers he received, Marri began sending brig authorities frequent notes about local ads. As Savage recalls it, one note said, “It’s a two-for-one sale on upholstered chairs! I’ll take the purple—you can have the lime green.”
Can a U.S. president wield powers that the Founding Fathers called tyrannical simply by labeling a person an “enemy combatant”? Is that determination final and binding, not subject to challenge in a court? The treatment of al-Marri was another assault on the U.S. Constitution. If sustained, it means the President could arrest anyone and lock him away forever. No right of habeas corpus; no right to present a case to a court. Watch Jane Mayer discuss the case on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow:
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”