Wednesday, October 18, 2006


"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. "
~ Benjamin Franklin.

If you liked the PATRIOT Act, you're gonna love the Military Commissions Act, signed into law today by President Bush. It kind of reminds me of Turkey's new anti-terror law (TMY). According to the LATimes, Bush signed the bill, surrounded by military officers, among others.

Hey! Do you think Buyukanit and his gang stand around Sezer when Sezer signs bills into law?

If you want to believe the administration, The Military Commissions Law is supposed to protect American citizens, but those concerned about civil rights have their doubts, from The Progressive:

It [Military Commissions Law] allows the President himself to decide what is covered by Geneva Conventions, and what is not.

In short, it gives the President a green light to torture.

[ . . . ]

It will permit secret evidence, hearsay evidence, and even coerced testimony.

The Military Commissions Act authorizes the President of the United States to designate anyone—foreigner or citizen alike—as an “enemy combatant.” He can then detain this enemy combatant indefinitely, and if that person is not a U.S. citizen, that person has no recourse whatsoever.

“No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination,” the new law states.

This gives the President “the privilege of kings,” as Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, has noted. But Bush doesn’t want you to care about such little things.

The US is starting to look more like Turkey every day. How scary is that?

The Jurist has the rundown on the Military Commissions Act, and the worst part about it is the stripping away of the right of habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus is a legal idea derived from English common law, and it permits someone who is in prison to seek release from unlawful punishment. Basically what it does is requires the prisoner to appear in court so that the court can determine is the prisoner has been wrongly imprisoned and then make a decision as to whether or not the prisoner can be released. As Wikipedia's habeas corpus entry states: "The writ of habeas corpus in common law countries is an important instrument for the safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action."

Can you imagine?! It safeguards the individual from arbitrary state action! Can you further imagine if Kurds in Turkey had recourse to a law like this, and it was actually used properly, to protect Kurds from the arbitrary actions of the state? Kurds would think they had died and gone to heaven! I was just talking to a friend last night and he mentioned that the thing every Kurd worries about is the constant and very real possibility of being arrested for nothing and charged with everything. That is the reality of life in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan.

The Jurist has a related article about the history of habeas corpus from a professor of history at the University of Virginia, specifically discussing a political crisis in England, 1689. The country was in political chaos with the threat of invasion running high. The government began to round up the politically questionable while suspending the right of habeas corpus. The argument used by the government? "Your security of your liberty?" Sound familiar?

The English parliament limited the suspension of habeas corpus to seven months. The result after the suspension period was that "82% of those jailed on charges of treason or sedition in 1689 and ‘90" were released without any harm tot he country. The experiment in suspension and reinstatement of habeas corpus in England at that time, proved that the legal system was more than fit to handle both liberty and security:

When we use habeas corpus, we protect the safety of both our physical selves and our moral selves. Members of Parliament saw this when they allowed their legislative suspension to lapse in October 1689. Englishmen everywhere saw this as King’s Bench considered the cases of hundreds of alleged traitors in the months following. For all their fears, political order was maintained and public safety ensured. So too was the safety of law and liberty. Well might the President reflect on this history before his signature makes the Great Writ quite a bit smaller.

Unbelievable! For a little backgrounder on the suspension of habeas corpus by a previous American president, check the Wikipedia link about to see what Abraham Lincoln did with habeas corpus during the American Civil War.

In another related article from the end of September, when Congress passed the Military Commissions bill, a lawyer from Fordham University School of Law discusses the suspension of habeas corpus as a "significant alteration to our structure of government" and the Constitution:

First, the U.S. Constitution establishes as a fundamental structural premise that there will be three independent branches of government that serve as checks and balances upon each other. Removing entirely the independent judiciary from any role in checking the conduct of the Executive and Congress is a substantial alteration to that structural premise. Second, the writ of habeas corpus has, since this country’s founding, served as a particularly important guardian of liberty. Throughout our history, when the government has captured and detained individuals, the “Great Writ” has served the basic function of guarding against arbitrary government in the form of unjustified and secret detention.

She goes on to quote Alexander Hamilton from the Federalist No. 84:

To bereave a man of life …without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.

The last related item . . . A US Navy lawyer who had defended a Guantanamo prisoner and successfully challenged his imprisonment through a classic habeas corpus petition, was passed over for promotion by the US Navy, thus ending the lawyer's naval career:

"He [Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift] brought real credit to the Navy," said Fidell. "It's too bad that it's unrequited love."

[ . . . ]

"Charlie has obviously done an exceptional job, a really extraordinary job," said Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, a former American Civil Liberties Union attorney, calling it "quite a coincidence" that the Navy promotion board passed on promoting Swift "within two weeks of the Supreme Court opinion."

In June, the prestigious National Law Journal listed Swift among the nation's top 100 lawyers, with such legal luminaries as former Bush administration Solicitor General Theodore Olson, 66; Stanford Law constitutional-law expert Kathleen Sullivan, 50; and former Bush campaign recount attorney Fred Bartlit, 73.

Lt. Cmdr. Swift will continue to defend his Guantanamo client pro-bono in civilian life.

Can you imagine a TSK officer doing something like that for a Kurdish prisoner, whether accused of being a "PKK terrorist" or not?

Man . . . why is it that America has great legal stuff like habeas corpus, or great political thinkers like Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, or Benjamin Franklin, but Americans don't care anything about any of this?

Benjamin Franklin was right.


Vladimir said...

Cihan News Agency-World
US Congress okays sale of 30 F-16 jets to Turkey
The United States Congress has approved the sale of 30 new F-16 fighter jets to Turkey.

The US Department of Defense (Pentagon) applied to the congress on September 28 for the approval of the sale of 30 new Block 50 F-16 fighter falcons to Turkey. Since no objections have been made in the two-week legal waiting period, the sale has been endorsed.

US and Turkish officials will meet to discuss and set the details of the project before both sides sign the contract. The project will cost around $2.9 billion if Turkey agrees to buy all relevant systems offered with the fighter planes.

Block 50 F-16 Fighter Falcons, which are among the most sophisticated fighter jets in the world, are manufactured by US-based Lockheed Martin.

Vigilante said...

Bush will stop at nothing to elevate his sorry-ass fiasco to the status of a war for national security. There is literally nothing he will not sacrifice to save his ass.

Mizgîn said...

Vladimir, the sale was virtually complete when the Pentagon request was submitted to Congress. LM and the Pentagon both kept this deal secret until the last moment, to avoid any unnecessary ugliness from those of us who object. That's why the focus must be on the F-35 JSF project.

Vigilante, this is more than just Bush, it is the entire administration. And let's not forget that the Clinton administration was no better, at least not regarding Kurds, as they also made billions from the sales of weapons to Turkey, which then used those weapons to murder 40,000 Kurds.

As far as this new law goes, and the controversy of suspending habeas corpus, I suspect that the major news media, are also to blame. They continue to propagandize a climate of fear--totally unnecessary fear--in order to create sensation and increase ratings/profits. No one is holding them accountable for their fearmongering.

The American people have abdicated their responsibilities as citizens and are willing participants in creating this new fascist regime. They will get the government they deserve.

Vladimir said...

Interview Erdogan

philip said...

Mizgin, mon ami, I think you need to cool down about this military commission law. This law simply formalizes the legal defense of the type of people who in previous wars wd have been summarily lined up and shot.

In fact, I can recall a well-regarded Kurdish commentator making the point online NUMEROUS TIMES that when the Peshmerga catch a terrorist (esp an Arab) alive, they sure don't appoint a lawyer for him..."Two shots right behind the ear, that's what you need to do!"

I'll remember that guy's name, it's someone you wd definitely respect...

Mizgîn said...

The problem is, Philip, that there is a huge difference in circumstances between the US and Kurdistan.

Turkish-occupied Kurdistan is under war conditions, thanks to the occupation. The new Turkish anti-terror law is basically an enforcement of the old "State of Emergency" (OHAL), that existed in the 1990's.

South Kurdistan is surrounded by enemies and has the very real threat of bombers coming in from Iraq. South Kurdistan has also been under attack recently from both Turkey and Iran.

The US has none of this, no matter what the propaganda of the American media says.

Unless, of course, it is the intention of the American regime to create OHAL here. If they do, I'll be very interested to see the reaction of the people, when they finally have to suffer something the reality of which they have imposed on the Kurdish people for a very long time, in collusion with their Turkish ally.