Continuing Bush’s War on Terror, Obama Continues Policy of Unfettered Presidential Power to Assassinate Americans Abroad and McCain Sponsorsthe Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010
Sen. John McCain was once an honorable man, a respected “war hero,” and a “maverick” politician who stood on principle before political expediency. In 2000 the Arizona senator waged a “maverick” campaign for the Republican presidential nomination from inside his Straight Talk Express bus and stunned the nation with a convincing victory over heavily favorite Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the New Hampshire primary. He became an instant media “darling” who suddenly had the respect and admiration of most moderate Republicans and independents. The Vietnam “war hero” had taken on the Republican Party establishment and won.
Then came South Carolina—a primary election battle that would change McCain and he would never quite be the same again. Republican Party insiders, and their South Carolina operatives, gutted McCain’s seemingly impenetrable “war hero” stature and seriously damaged his “maverick” political persona. They did it with a smear campaign The New York Times described as a “painful symbol of the brutality of American politics.” The smear campaign included unfounded charges that McCain “abandoned” veterans on POW/MIA and Agent Orange issues; that he fathered a black child out of wedlock; that he was a homosexual and his wife a drug addict; and that he was either mentally unstable because of his POW experiences or a traitorous “Manchurian Candidate.”
While the mainstream media did not give much serious coverage to the smear charges, the inherent problem about playing in mud is that you get muddy. Bush trounced McCain in the South Carolina primary and went on to assume his family-gifted presidency. McCain was a thoroughly whipped political puppy who had effectively disenfranchised himself from the Republican Party base, that is until the 9/11 terror attacks brought down New York City’s Twin Towers. In the wake of this worst-ever terror attack on American soil which resulted in a Bush declared “war on terror” and the invasion of two countries, Afghanistan and Iraq, Sen. John McCain had a new, invigorated political mission: he would be a “hawk” on the wars being fought on two fronts by American troops and he would lead the nation into the unchartered constitutional waters in its first-ever “war on terror.”
To his political credit, Sen. McCain voiced criticism of the use of “torture” on terror suspects captured by American authorities during the Bush era. As a former prisoner of war in North Vietnam and the victim of horrendous torture by North Vietnamese military officials, McCain become the most compelling moral voice against the practice of torture, such as water boarding, when it was advocated and condoned at the highest levels in the Bush administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Then came McCain’s second bid for the presidency—a bungling, shoddy attempt to secure the political prize he most cherished. And while most political pundits and strategists chalked his campaign off as a blue collar comedy tour rather than a maverick “straight talk express,” the old war horse refused to give up when all the polls strongly suggested that he quit. He summoned up the strength and courage he had exhibited to survive the hell he endured in the Hanoi Hilton to claim the Republican Party nomination, even though he was never really accepted or trusted by the party’s hard right-wing base despite all his deprecating, humiliating attempts to curry favor with those “Jerry Falwell types.”
But even the prized nomination proved more disastrous than South Carolina. A freshman senator from Illinois, Barak Obama, thoroughly ran circles around the stumbling, inept “war hero” who, either in a fit of political desperation or temporary state of insanity, saddled himself with a moose-stew eating governor from Alaska as a vice presidential running mate. The McCain-Palin ticket was a national political embarrassment and the butt of international jokes. The campaign imploded in the midst of the fall 2008 economic crisis and after Sarah Palin could not even affirm she had ever read a Reader’s Digest. McCain once again was denied an opportunity to sit in the Oval Office and define the world as he sees it.
The “agony of defeat” to the brilliant young Senator from Illinois was even worse than the Bush-machine smear campaign; it ripped out of the soul of the old war hero. McCain became a sullen and bitter man, a voice of the irrational anger movement led by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, the unquestioned leaders of the white conservative political establishment, who wanted more than anything to see the nation’s first African-American president fail. It was a feeling politicians like McCain and Sen. Joseph Lieberman likely shared in the hidden corridors of power in Washington but one that was openly expressed to millions of listeners by Limbaugh shortly after President Obama’s inauguration.
Tragically, the once victim of torture is now pushing for torture legislation against Americans and international terror suspects. Joined by Sen. Lieberman and seven other conservative Republican lawmakers (including prostitute-chasing Sen. David Vitter, R-La), Sen. McCain recently introduced a bill (“S.3081”) titled “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010” which allows for the secret interrogations and indefinite confinement without constitutional protection of terror suspects, including Americans. S.3081 is for all practical purposes a “torture bill,” and if enacted, it would establish the following draconian measures:
- Any individual, including Americans, suspected of engaging in “hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners” through terrorism shall be placed in military custody for initial interrogation and determination of whether the person should be classified as an “unprivileged enemy belligerent.”
- An individual suspected of being an “unprivileged enemy combatant” captured by an intelligence agency may be “held, interrogated, and transported” to military custody in secrecy.
- The President shall establish interagency interrogation groups to interrogate any suspected unprivileged enemy combatant and to make a preliminary determination if he/she should be considered s “high-value detainee.”
- Each interagency group “shall” be composed of Executive Branch personnel who have expertise in “national security, terrorism, intelligence, interrogation, or law enforcement” as the President deems appropriate.
- Any interagency group established by the President will be known as a “high-value detainee interrogation group” and will be charged with the responsibility of conducting all interrogations of individuals designated as high-value detainees.
- A high-value detainee interrogation group “may” utilize “military and intelligence personnel, and Federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel” in the interrogation process.
- An individual suspected of being an “unprivileged enemy belligerent” shall not either prior to or during interrogation be advised of his Miranda rights or in any way “informed of any rights that the individual may or may not have to counsel or to remain silent.”
- The determination of whether an individual should escalate from being a high-value detainee to a permanent unprivileged enemy belligerent status shall be based on information secured through the interrogation process, and this preliminary determination shall be promptly submitted to the Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Attorney General.
- “As soon as possible” after receiving the preliminary high-value detainee determination, the Secretary of Defense and Attorney General shall present to the President and to the appropriate committees in Congress a “final determination” of whether or not the detainee is a full-fledged “unprivileged enemy combatant.”
- This determination process shall be based on the following criteria: whether the individual poses a “potential threat” to attack civilian facilities; whether the individual poses a “potential threat” to military personnel or military facilities; the “potential intelligence value” of the individual; whether the individual is a member of al Qaeda; or “such other matters” deemed appropriate by the President.
- The “operations and activities” of the high-value detainee interrogation groups shall be governed by “regulations” established by the President; their purpose “shall be the protection of United States civilians and United States civilian facilities;” and they shall be “thorough and professional interrogation[s]” conducted “for intelligence purposes.”
- Any individual determined to be an unprivileged enemy belligerent “may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States.”
The clear purpose of S.3081 is to continue the “enhanced interrogation techniques” employed by intelligence and military personnel against terror suspects during the Bush presidency. “Enhanced interrogation techniques” is a euphemism for torture just as much as “those people” are social code for racial or ethnic prejudice. Further, the very concept of indefinite confinement of individuals for the mere suspicion that they “may” pose a “potential threat” to a civilian target or a military asset is torture.
Sen. McCain touted this proposed torture legislation on March 4, 2010 from the floor of the United States Senate when he announced to the President of the United States, Barak Obama: “Mr. President, I rise to introduce legislation that sets forth a clear, comprehensive policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of enemy belligerents who are suspected of engaging in hostilities against the United States. This legislation seeks to ensure that the mistakes made during the apprehension of the Christmas Day bomber, such as reading him a Miranda warning, will never happen again.”
Does this former POW and “war hero” not realize that the legitimate Government of North Vietnam considered him an “unprivileged enemy belligerent” for bombing its civilian population without a formal “declaration of war” having ever been declared against it by the United States of America? McCain, and his fellow naval pilots, killed more innocent North Vietnamese civilians during their bombing campaigns than terror attacks have killed innocent Americans around the world. The definition of terror is relative and thus belongs to those countries who have witnessed their civilian populations killed by bombs either dropped from military jets or triggered by individual suicidal lunatics.
Perhaps John McCain and Barak Obama are determined to continue their rival presidential campaigns as they both confront at different political levels the nation’s “war on terror.” S.081came on the heels of revelations by the Washington Post in early February that President Obama, the staunch defender of constitutional protections, in December 2009 authorized the assassination of Americans abroad, without trial, who are “suspected” of having engaged in terrorism plots against the United States.
There are times when rational thinking of Americans must question whether the politics associated with the “war on terror” have become more dangerous than terrorism itself. This observation was evidenced in a February 4, 2010 post on salon.com by Glenn Greenwald:
“I [have] wrote about all the reasons why it’s so dangerous—as well as both legally and Constitutionally dubious—to allow the President to kill American citizens not on an active battlefield during combat, but while they are sleeping, sitting with their families in their home, walking on the street, etc. That’s basically giving the President the power to impose death sentences on his own citizens without any charge or trial. Who could possibly support that?
“But even if you’re someone who does want the President to have the power to order American citizens killed without a trial by decreeing that they are Terrorists (and it’s worth remembering that if you advocate that power, it’s going to be vested in all Presidents, not just the ones who are as Nice, Good, Kind-Hearted and Trustworthy as Barak Obama), shouldn’t there at least be some judicial approval required? Do we really want the President to be able to make this decision unilaterally and without outside checks? Remember when many Democrats were horrified (or at least when they purported to be) at the idea that Bush was merely eavesdropping on American citizens without judicial approval? Shouldn’t we be at least as concerned about the President being able to assassinate Americans without judicial oversight? That seems much more Draconian to me.
“It would be perverse in the extreme, but wouldn’t it be preferable to at least require the President to demonstrate to a court that probable cause exists to warrant the assassination of an American citizen before the President should be allowed to consider it? That would basically mean that courts would issue ‘assassination warrants’ or ‘murder warrants’—a repugnant idea given that they’re tantamount to imposing the death sentence without a trial—but isn’t that minimal safeguard preferable to allowing the President unchecked authority to do it on his own, the very power he has now claimed for himself? And if the Fifth Amendment’s explicit guarantee—that one shall not be deprived of life without due process—does not prohibit the U.S. Government from assassinating you without any process, what exactly does it prohibit?”
If S.081 becomes law, and the President’s authority to have Americans assassinated without trial goes unchecked, then the Constitution of these United States stands for nothing. It must be remembered that the Founding Fathers of this once great Democracy were “free-thinking” liberals who were considered “terrorists” by the sovereign nation of England. The Founding Fathers risked not only their lives but the lives of their families and fellow citizens to stand for the constitutional protections that Sen. John McCain and President Barak Obama are now trying to destroy.
The politics of division, race, anger, and revenge have brought our once glorious nation to the brink of what many believe is an impending civil war. Political leaders and their families are now casually threatened with death and mayhem because they support controversial causes, and the lynch noose is routinely found in the such prominent work places as Home Depot, and “hate speech” has become such a fixture in our social discourse that Ann Coulter recently told a Canadian audience that Muslims should not be allowed to board commercial airliners (and, in fact, specifically told one Muslim student she should use a “camel” as a mode of international travel).
But what can you expect? When Government leaders advocate torture and assassination as appropriate weapons in the “war on terror,” social lynching becomes a quasi-legitimate weapon against those who don’t share the same values, color, and beliefs of the mainstream society. God save us! Not from the King of England but our own selves.
By: Houston Criminal Lawyer John Floyd and Paralegal Billy Sinclair