Another Turn Towards Tyranny

The United States congress and senate have now passed Bush’s Military Commissions Act and in doing so have taken a firm step towards tyranny in the United States.

Strong language, I know. But judge for yourself.

The New York Times: Rushing Off a Cliff:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret – there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Yes, the enemy combatants portion of this bill means that you or I, as Canadians, could travel to the United States, get arrested, be declared enemy combatants, and then be locked away indefinitely (perhaps forever) with no right to challenge our detention in court (habeas corpus). Kind of like what happened to Maher Arar, except now it’s legal.

Worse for Americans, some interpretations of this bill indicate this could also happen to American citizens.

Los Angeles Times: The White House Warden:

Buried in the complex Senate compromise on detainee treatment is a real shocker, reaching far beyond the legal struggles about foreign terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay fortress. The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.

This dangerous compromise not only authorizes the president to seize and hold terrorists who have fought against our troops “during an armed conflict,” it also allows him to seize anybody who has “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” This grants the president enormous power over citizens and legal residents. They can be designated as enemy combatants if they have contributed money to a Middle Eastern charity, and they can be held indefinitely in a military prison.


We are not dealing with hypothetical abuses. The president has already subjected a citizen to military confinement. Consider the case of Jose Padilla. A few months after 9/11, he was seized by the Bush administration as an “enemy combatant” upon his arrival at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. He was wearing civilian clothes and had no weapons. Despite his American citizenship, he was held for more than three years in a military brig, without any chance to challenge his detention before a military or civilian tribunal. After a federal appellate court upheld the president’s extraordinary action, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case, handing the administration’s lawyers a terrible precedent.

The bill also allows the Bush administration to define what constitutes torture, enabling it to continue to use favoured techniques of the Khmer Rouge like forced hypothermia and stress positions. It does not require the administration to reveal which techniques it advocates, opening up yet another loophole for the administration.

And it also retroactively prevents Americans from being prosecuted for war crimes committed in the war on terror. This is especially important for Bush now, because recent Supreme Court rulings made it clear that he had, in fact, committed war crimes by authorizing illegal imprisonment and indefinite detention of “enemy combatants” and US citizens, as well as the “outrages upon human dignity” prohibited in the Geneva Conventions, which were, until now, also American law.

All in all, it’s about time to say, Good Luck America, have fun.

[tags]politics, torture, human rights, tyranny[/tags]


The Great Lakes: America’s Shooting Range

The United States has started live-ammunition training drills on the Great Lakes “to prepare officers to combat terrorists flooding across the border from Canada by boat”, reports the Globe and Mail.

The automatic-weapon drills started earlier this year but came to light only in the past two weeks after information about the Coast Guard’s move to create 34 permanent live-fire training zones in the Great Lakes was published in the U.S. federal register.

Since the beginning of the year, the Coast Guard have conducted 24 drills, each time firing about 3,000 rounds of lead bullets about a third of the size of a fishing-line sinker from light-weight machine guns in waters at least eight kilometres from the Canadian border and U.S. shores. Two more target practices are scheduled for this year.

The high-powered drills have stunned environmentalists, boaters and mayors in cities dotting the lakes in both countries who are outraged that the U.S. government would jeopardize the safety of pleasure boaters and commercial fishermen who could stray into the line of fire. Just as infuriating, they say, is the risk of lead exposure to fish and the more than 40 million people who draw drinking water from the Great Lakes.

I can picture it already: blissfully relaxing by the pool at my in-laws’ house on the shore of Lake Ontario, sipping my beer and listening to the gentle crackle of machine-gun fire and the rumble of high-powered Coast Guard vessels.

For a dash of added excitement, perhaps the occasional stray round will shatter a nearby window or richochet off the barbecue.

This should also be wonderful for tourism. “Welcome to the Great Lakes Region, where straying into the line of fire makes every vacation memorable.” It also represents a great business opportunity for the first company that invents a bulletproof life vest.

In fact, this seems like such a positive development all around that maybe Canada should get into the game too. I suggest we designate the 34 US live-fire training zones as live-fire bombing zones for our air force. And if our bombing runs just happen to coincide with their training exercises? Hey, there’s nothing like realism when you’re training top-quality personnel!


Faithful Slumber

Fidelity is important in any relationship and especially important in intimate relationships. But there’s one kind of cheating that doesn’t count.

When you fall asleep at night and begin to dream, all previous commitments are off. The most faithful person can be flagrantly promiscuous all night long and still wake up with a crystal-clear conscience.

My partner will wake up some mornings with a satisfied sigh and a little smirk on her face. Thankfully, she usually spares me the details, but when I get the goods, it’s like peeking into an Academy Awards afterparty.

I won’t name any names, but if you’re not A-list material, you’re not getting past the velvet rope in her brain.

The reason I’m talking about her nocturnal conquests instead of my own is because I never get to have any. When I meet a beautiful woman in a dream it typically takes just moments before I announce I’m married and that if she’s looking for some action, she’s in the wrong head.

Unlike Pinocchio, I have never wished my conscience would disappear. I just wish it would go to sleep instead of chirping at me all damn night.

Last night’s dream was different.

I found myself in a Shopper’s Drug Mart, filling up a small basket with various items. When I had everything I needed, I walked over to the counter to pay. The cashier was gorgeous.

We exchanged some idle chit-chat as she rang through my purchases. Then I made my move.

“I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner tonight, after work.”

“I don’t get off work until 7:30,” she replied.

“That’s alright, I don’t mind eating late – ”

” – and I have to work really early tomorrow morning.”

There was an awkward pause. “I think the word you’re looking for is ‘no’,” I said.

“Yeah,” she agreed. “That’ll be $26.03.”

If it wasn’t for real life, I think I’d be really depressed.

[tags]humour, dreams[/tags]


Steve’s Sleight of Hand

The Prime Minister bolstered Canada’s military engagement in Afghanistan last night on CBC’s The National. In an interview with Peter Mansbridge, Mr. Harper claimed the interaction has made Canada’s military stronger and a better fighting force.

No one will argue with him on that point. In Afghanistan, the military is doing what it is trained to do. However, we may want to ask “to what end?”

Last year, the House of Commons held a scant debate on Canada’s role in Afghanistan. Australian Prime Minister John Howard was making a planned visit to Canada and Prime Minister Harper rushed the debate, ostensibly to accommodate Mr. Howard’s address in the House – a poor excuse by every standard.

Yesterday’s opening Question Period in the House of Commons further confirmed the void of military purpose defining Canada’s role in Afghanistan. Defense Minister Gordon O’Connor deflected opposition criticisms by saying that Canada was not about to hand Afghanistan back over to the Taliban.

Again, no one will question the premise here. Rather, Canadians are unsure about the alternative. The Prime Minister has done little to rationalize the death of 36 Canadian soldiers. Instead, his focus has been patriotic rebuke:

If I can be frank about this, you know, in some ways I think we can complain that only a handful of countries are carrying the bulk of the load and the bulk of the danger there. It’s certainly raising Canada’s leadership role, once again, in the United Nations and in the world community where we used to have an important leadership role.

If one were to think quite literally, the Prime Minister’s stance seems to be that Canada needs this war as much as Afghanistan. His motives for the continued military engagement are going to be called into question. What kind of answer can we expect?

The Prime Minister has arranged a diplomatic visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzai later this week. Karzai will address the House of Commons. He will also attend a wreath-laying ceremony with Mr. Harper at the Canadian War Memorial in Ottawa. Canadians can expect effusive praise from Karzai for the Canadian military’s efforts in Afghanistan.

However, the diplomatic visit is little more than political sleight of hand. Harper expects to drown uncertainty about the war in a patriotic deluge. It is a page out of the George Bush playbook. I can hardly understand why the Prime Minister would think this is a good way to define his foreign policy objectives.

This post was written by alevo. The timestamp has been adjusted to give this post the attention it deserves.

[tags]afghanistan, canada, politics[/tags]


Maher Arar is Vindicated

A Canadian government commission has declared that Maher Arar, the Syrian-born Canadian who was secretly and illegally taken to Syria by the United States in a process called “extraordinary rendition” to be tortured, is innocent.

This is all over the news but Democracy Now has a good, long bit on this, that includes a clip from a former interview with DN where Arar describes the terrible effects torture has had on him, causing serious psychological problems and “ruining [his] life”, as he puts it.

In related news, Bush said in a press conference that Common Article III of the Geneva Conventions, is over his head:

Common Article 3 says that ‘there will be no outrages upon human dignity. That’s very vague. What does that mean, ‘outrages upon human dignity’? That’s a statement that is wide open to interpretation.

You can find video of the press conference here, that bit is about 4/5 of the way through. Stephen Colbert also opens with it in this clip, if you want to spend less time waiting to see this portion (the rest of the Colbert video isn’t really worth watching).

I really do recommend watching this portion of the video because you get a revealing glimpse of a man so immersed in double-think that he seems scarcely capable of distinguishing between reality and fantasy. The text doesn’t do it justice.

[tags]torture, politics, terrorism[/tags]

Life, politics, code and current events from a Canadian perspective.

Adrian Duyzer
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