ashcroftJohn Ashcroft’s war on those he deems ‘enemies’ in the US — that is, everyone that doesn’t share his fiercely reactionary views — is brilliantly documented in a new book Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the ‘War on Terrorism’, by David Cole, professor at Georgetown University Law Center and a renowned expert on constitutional law. Cole makes it clear that the current outrageous and arbitrary treatment of at least 5,000 aliens by Ashcroft and his Patriot Act stormtroopers — including arbitrary arrest, deprivation of access to a telephone, to legal counsel, food and water, long periods of solitary confinement, arbitrary deportation, confiscation and destruction of property, and indefinite confinement at hell-holes like Guantanamo without charges and in violation of the Geneva convention — is just a dress rehearsal for similar draconian treatment for citizens who dare question the wisdom of the US Administration. This will be enabled by new legislation, the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, to be pushed through under the guise of ‘fighting terrorism’, that will further strip away the basic rights and freedoms of Americans to expose anyone who isn’t a Bush Patriot, and then deprive them of their citizenship so they can be treated as — guess what — aliens.

Cole shows Ashcroft as a man without moral scruples, engaged in an all-out pathological war on imagined and trumped-up ‘enemies’ — anyone who doesn’t support the Government without question, without condition, without reservation. He cites case after case where aliens, and now some American citizens who are either Islamic or have the misfortune to have MidEastern names, have been treated as ‘enemy combatants’, with no rights, no recourse, no appeal, by the one-man McCarthyite wrecking-crew named Ashcroft. And all hidden under a blanket of secrecy under the guise of ‘national security’.

America has had psychotic extremists like this in power before — McCarthy, Nixon and others — but these were people who were bent on changing the law for their own deranged purposes, not ignoring and circumventing the law as Ashcroft is doing. What is particularly disconcerting is the lack of demands — by Democrats and the media — to have this man, who shows contempt for everything most Americans hold dear, immediately removed from office. In a review of Enemy Aliens in The New York Review of Books (from which the above cartoon by the amazing David Levine is taken), writer Anthony Lewis says:

“What was not inevitable [after 9/11]ónot necessaryówas that officials should act in an arbitrary, even lawless way. Commitment to law has been the great secret of America’s rise to wealth and power, and a main reason for the world’s admiration of our system. Law binds us all, great and small: so we believed. The Bush administration’s abandonment of legal normsóthe disregard of the Geneva Convention in Guant·namo, the order for trial by military commissionsóhas cost us dearly not only in our own values but in the world’s estimate of us. At a moment when we need allies around the world to join us in resisting terrorism, we have made too many think we are not really committed to law.”

This ‘ends justifies the means’ contempt for US  law is new. But US government contempt for international standards of law is a hallmark of the Bush Administration — the refusal to support or honour the decisions of the International Court of Justice, the refusal to sign the Land Mine Convention, and to ratify dozens of other international agreements endorsed by nearly every other democracy in the world. It is ironic that this administration, the most obsessed with law and order since Nixon, so openly disdains the law. For Bush, Ashcroft and the whole extremist gang, it’s all about power, and law is just in the way. It’s almost as if the first half of the Attorney-General’s title is in parentheses.

(thanks to Subdude for the link)

You know, it is something very strange: You learn to live with things. For example, something is taken away, like let’s say, the freedom of the press or . . . yeah, let’s say that your telephones are tapped, so you say “Okay, I can live with that,” and then the next day something else, and then you say, “Okay, I will have to live with that, too,” and so forth. And then after a few months, you realize that you have lost everything

ó Isabel Allende, interview with Buzzflash

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  1. O RLY YA RLY says:

    Interesting how people use the same word for ‘people from other countries’ as for ‘little green men’.

  2. Kate says:

    Interesting, too, that even with so many writers and thinkers from Latin America telling us where we’re headed, we pay no attention and move ahead with blinders on anyway. Charles Bowden had it right when he called Juarez “the laboratory of our future.” Is the future here? Is it predetermined to be one where “reality” TV shows are more important than the reality all around us? (a diversion…sorry. It all fits in somehow.) Where rights are widdled away with only minor notice, all the stories stuck back in the neverland pages of A20+? It’s so scary.

  3. Kate says:

    One more thing…The most shocking part of Ashcroft’s Cromwellian plans is that he’s motivated by the same fundamentalist rhetoric that drives nutcase-armaggedonites preaching the end of the world. That they have gained legitimacy in our society is truly frightening. Ashcroft is one of many in the government; meanwhile, the Lost Behind book series is one of the best-selling series EVER, and across the country conferences are being held to discuss America’s role in the earth’s demise. I hope we shed our hoods and look around next fall and vote this crew out. If not, there may be the same sort of brain drain of the US as there was during Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, with intellectuals and thinkers moving to Canada, Europe, Mexico, wherever. I have no idea how this story will play out. I’m staying optimistic because that seems to be the only choice I have.

  4. Indigo Ocean says:

    “Domineering members may strive to encourage apathy and lack of participation, usually by keeping people uninformed or clueless about what’s going on in the group. This is an authoritarian strategy to concentrate power within one individual or small faction. When the majority loses interest in making decisions, the few will take that role upon themselves.” – excerpted from The Collective BookI would argue that the means Ashcroft et al are using to encourage apathy and lack of participation is basically overwhelming people with the sheer comprehensiveness and relentlessness of their assaults. Not only is the average American charged with collecting accurate information, forming well-thought out opinions, and courageously championing unpopular solutions, but this is required to defend: the environment, public education, health care access, social security and retirement pensions, unlitateral declarations of war against innocents abroad, the dismantling of consitutional rights, and so on and so on. Moreover, this is to be done while worrying whether their job is going to still be there in another month or year and whether they will ever be able to afford a mortgage or college tuitions for their kids.Overwhelmed, the unexceptional, everyday person escapes. A society built upon the requirement that the bulk of the citizenry be exceptional is not a very sustainable society. Something has got to be done to make civic participation something that is doable for the average person. These systems have gotten to be too complex, and the media that is supposed to be doing the first third of the job for us (offering accurate, balanced information) is absolutely failing us. Add to that failing education, handicapping the citizenry’s ability to engage in critical thinking no matter how much accurate raw data they are given, and you get the movement towards authoritarian dominion within a supposedly free society.Finally another quote that addresses the pitfalls of the consensus process. While America is not a political system built upon consensus, but rather rule by the majority (democracy) it is still instructive to look at common pitfalls of any system that does not bow to an authoritarian regime.”For instance, a group might look to consensus primarily as a means of voting on proposals — declaring, as a result, that all decisions must be unanimous — while it fails to encourage or allow the free expression of opinions. In that situation, consensus has been subverted. Rather than being a means to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, consensus becomes a coercive tactic to shore up the power of a self-appointed elite [by creating the illusion of a mandate].”

  5. Dave Pollard says:

    Indigo: “A society built upon the requirement that the bulk of the citizenry be exceptional is not a very sustainable society.” — great quote, thank you. I’ll check out The Collective Book.

  6. Fiona says:

    Please see my 10.24 posting.

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