BUSH/ASHCROFT "MILITARY TRIBUNALS" II: POISONOUS SCHEMES CONTINUE [HUNTER GRAY   3/22/02]

 

COMMENT [ HUNTER GRAY  NOVEMBER 10, 2001]

 

AND MY "NEW OPEN LETTER TO RADICALS" [OCTOBER 17, 2001]  HUNTER GRAY

 

BUSH/ASHCROFT "MILITARY TRIBUNALS" II: POISONOUS SCHEMES CONTINUE [HUNTER GRAY   3/22/02]

Note by Hunterbear:

It continues to be tragically obvious that the Bush / Ashcroft forces dwell
in a world of authoritarian fantasy. But, unlike most of those dreaming and
unsavoury mentalities in this country, they have the power and weaponry to
make those nightmares a broadeningly cruel reality -- which they are to the
increasingly threatened Bill of Rights and to possibly as many as 2,000
non-charged individuals still held in United States prison confinement [in
the grand traditions of Mitchell Palmer during one of the many Dark American
Nights and the Japanese-Americans during Another.]  The relative lack of
indignant outcry on all of this -- including from much of the ostensible
Left -- is reminiscent of the Silent South during the old days of domination
by the White Citizens Councils et al.

As I've noted earlier, the regular, conventional military justice system for
the various branches of the United States armed services is a very fair one,
governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which almost always works
excellently in that established context of military culture -- but is not
designed for and should never be used outside that milieu. No reputable
military person that I have ever known would advocate  usage of the United
States military justice system in the civilian or quasi-civilian world.

And the Bush/Ashcroft "military tribunal" proposals are still a vast Grand
Canyon away from the conventional US military justice system with respect to
recognition and maintenance and practice of basic, Constitution-guaranteed
fairness.

While I had no direct experience with the U.S. military courts martial
procedures, I was familiar with several proceedings dealing with matters
which varied widely in  seriousness. I was impressed -- and continue to
be -- with the fairness of that official, established  military system. I
should add, as a quick anecdote, a humorous incident in which I did figure
peripherally -- almost half a century ago.


I had drawn, on a particular day, an assignment which had me at barely 20
years of age technically "in charge"  of a piece of things. It was more or
less uneventful until, suddenly, a Military Police vehicle pulled up,
discharging several MPs who surrounded and escorted two handcuffed and
leg-shackled members of our company:  Billy D. [from eastern Oklahoma] and
Tom H. [a western North Carolina Cherokee.] Both were, I should add, very
congenial f___ups. These two forlorn-looking creatures brightened visibly
when they saw me on duty -- but I, of course, for the pragmatic moment,
maintained a level of solemnity, high and deep.

After determining that I was formally "in charge" for that tiny ripple of
human history, the SFC heading the MP detail then said, formally:

"I am delivering these two enlisted men to you.  Will you accept them?"

"Certainly, Sergeant," said I.  And I added, judiciously, "And very formally
so."

The SFC then presented me with a document-of-receipt which I signed with an
impressive signature, and dated.

At that point, Billy and Tom were de-handcuffed and un-shackled and, moving
from the shadow of the MP detail, came into my orbit.

The MPs saddled up and left in their vehicle and I rustled three beers from
a privileged cache.

Hunterbear


----------------------------------------------------------------------------
-----


"But the rules nonetheless offer no right to an appeal to an independent
judicial authority, and they permit rules of evidence that are so lax that
tribunals could, by a simple majority vote, agree to accept evidence and
confessions obtained under torture.
Such lax rules are unacceptable in the US military-justice system, experts
say.

Critics of the plan say it ignores US and international law and could
establish a dangerous precedent that might condemn American military forces
and civilians to identical treatment in future conflicts."

------------------------

How evidence stacks up on military tribunals

Christian Science Monitor | Friday, March 22, 2002 | By Warren Richey |
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor


WASHINGTON - When President Bush authorized the creation of military
tribunals for suspected terrorists last November, he insisted they would
provide "full and fair" trials.

Exactly how full and how fair is now coming into sharper focus. And as new
details are disclosed, they're only adding more fuel to an already fiery
debate over the propriety of the United States seeking to carve out a
special, ad hoc brand of justice for those accused of terrorism.


It remains unclear how many tribunals may ultimately be held for suspected
Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Some of the 550 detainees in Afghanistan and
at Guantanamo may be transferred to their home countries for trial. Some may
be designated as prisoners of war and held pending the outcome of the Afghan
war. Others may be set free after interrogation and investigation.


And still others may be forced to stand trial before specially assembled
tribunals of three to seven US military-service members, who - upon a
unanimous vote - may order their execution.



The prospect of even a handful of military tribunals has some analysts
concerned about how the world may perceive such an assertion of authority by
the United States.


"It matters that justice be done and that it be seen to be done," says
Allister Hodgett of Amnesty International in Washington. "It is difficult to
imagine how justice will be done or be seen to be done if these military
commissions operate as prescribed."


Lawyers at the Pentagon drafting the rules for tribunals have offered some
modifications to address concerns of critics, such as guaranteeing a right
to civilian counsel of choice, a right to examine evidence, and a right to
open tribunals.


But the rules nonetheless offer no right to an appeal to an independent
judicial authority, and they permit rules of evidence that are so lax that
tribunals could, by a simple majority vote, agree to accept evidence and
confessions obtained under torture.

Such lax rules are unacceptable in the US military-justice system, experts
say.

Critics of the plan say it ignores US and international law and could
establish a dangerous precedent that might condemn American military forces
and civilians to identical treatment in future conflicts.


But Bush administration officials say the tribunals will help balance the
need for a fair process with the need to protect the security of the nation.
Supporters of the White House strategy say Osama bin Laden and his followers
are stateless and lawless renegades who have disqualified themselves from
the protections of the Geneva Conventions and international law through
their own indiscriminately violent actions.


"Al Qaeda is different," says David Rivkin, a Washington lawyer who writes
on international law and constitutional issues. "The Geneva Conventions do
not apply to them, because they are not a state signatory [of the Geneva
accords], they are a pan-national terrorist organization."


At the core of the disagreement between tribunal supporters and critics is
the extent to which Mr. Bush has an obligation to conduct trials that are at
least as "full and fair" as those of suspected war criminals facing justice
before international tribunals and of US military personnel on trial before
American courts-martial.



What is most controversial about Bush's plan is that it seeks to embrace the
relatively low level of due-process protections that existed in Washington
in 1942.


Instead of capitalizing on the nation's long tradition of leadership in the
global fight for human and civil rights, critics say, the White House is
seeking to conduct the tribunals at a level of justice that existed nearly
60 years ago - prior to a long list of significant advances in American and
international legal systems.


"If they are to be effective in dealing with the war on terror, they have to
be viewed at least by the majority of the civilized world as meeting
accepted standards of justice," says Kevin Barry, a nationally recognized
military-justice expert and board member of the National Institute of
Military Justice.


Mr. Barry says the regulations and laws governing military justice have
greatly evolved since 1942, including the US signing in 1949 of the Geneva
Conventions, adoption of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 1950, and
the 1992 signing of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights.


"Our tribunals will be judged by those standards simply because those
standards track with one another and all are derived from standards that the

United States has proclaimed for all the world for a number of years," Barry
says.


Mr. Rivkin disagrees. He says that, just as in 1942, those deemed to be
"unlawful combatants" still exist outside the protections of international
treaties and law.


"There are some due-process requirements [necessary in tribunals]," he says.
"But there is a difference between people doing something in the
international sphere and it becoming a binding norm."


Rivkin says that in the end, the quality of justice will depend on the
fairness of those appointed to do the judging. "The notion that military
guys are just going to railroad people just doesn't hold water," he says.
"These are honorable people."





COMMENT
  [HUNTER GRAY  NOVEMBER 10, 2001]

Note By Hunterbear [November 10, 2001]:  I initially posted my "New Open
Letter To Radicals"  a month or so ago,  Our [RedBadBear discussion] list has now grown considerably.  Healthy discussion about civil liberties, threats thereto, and the great dangers posed by new repressive Bush/Ashcroft thrusts, is much to the fore here and in a vast number of other quarters.  So are other
pressing matters on the broad social justice front.

With some additional comment, I now run this "New Open Letter"  through
again.

There are many things, of which I certainly know little or nothing, but I
have been an active and consistent  [ecumenical ] Left radical  since the
mid-1950s.  That's going on close to half a century and I do have some
thoughts and insights -- and, as always, some long-range optimism -- to
offer.

At this point, substantive indications are that the spontaneous and
deliberately initiated and manipulated fear and hysteria are subsiding in
the United States.  The hideously sanguinary, so-called "War" is bogging
down and the much touted entourage of "Allies" is splitting and fading.
[Any talk by the Bush administration about reviving the military draft will
only initiate new campus protests and fuel the ones already underway.]  Some
of the most viciously repressive legislation ever spawned from the dark
corners of this country now sits -- formally and officially -- on the books.
But, true to form vis-a-vis the "sociology of repression," Bush/Ashcroft and
their FBI advisers, et al. are now moving ever further afield:  massive,
prolonged "detainment" [what a patently disingenous, fraudulent term!"],
resurrection of archaic "sedition" laws which open up even further the
repressive uses of the generally discredited [morally and legally]
"conspiracy" doctrimes, bugging attorney/client phone calls, serious
consideration of "torture" [a hardly uncommon  -- but never directly
sanctioned in the judicial sense  --practice in many police/jail
situations] -- and much more.

[I hope we are all learning that, in the matter of civil liberties and civil
rights and social justice generally, the slippery slopes of relativism are a
drop down an old Butte shaft right into the pits of Hell.  "An injury to one
is an injury to all"  could not be more meaningful than it is right now in
this dark and murky late Fall, 2001.]

But some intensive Fight Back against this essentially  fascist  [a word I
never use lightly] complex is beginning:   grassroots reaction -- frequently
but not exclusively -- from younger people; lawyer associations concerned
[however selectively at this point] about violations of due process as deep
as the Grand Canyon [and  very much so in the case of the
bugging/attorney/client calls just ordered by Ashcroft];  major media that,
in however skittery a fashion, are finally recognizing [and reacting to]
direct administration and related attacks on their own First Amendment
rights.

From the Left can easily come  electoral threats to certain "liberal"
members of Congress who joined the cowardly Congressional retreat in the
context of Ashcroft's open bullying vis-a-vis the so-termed Patriot
legislation, etc.  [And, from another direction, the Libertarian forces
could likewise threaten certain other members of Congress who also fled.]

And we have yet to hear from the courts -- especially the Federal courts --
on the obvious unconstitutionality of about everything Bush/Ashcroft et al
have done.  Obviously, we can't put all our eggs in that bouncing and often
staggering basket -- far from it!  But the courts can sometimes do
interesting and constructive things.  Don't count them out.

The economy is now in an obviously recessionary slide --  and it's going
down / down in a hand bucket.  That's true in the massive urban/industrial
settings -- and it's true in this little Idaho town.  Affected individuals,
families, friends are mad as hell.  If organized labor [and I belong to two
AFL-CIO unions] is going to have any relevancy, it's going to have to fight
far, far beyond its  now-traditional super-narrow perspective. I think much
of Labor -- maybe even most of it
-- will do that.

And, most basically of all, constructive, creative dissent on all social
justice fronts has not dissipated like mountain/valley fog under the hot air
and threats by reactionaries. Far from it. Solid dissent has been moving
right along and, with whatever deliberate speed [and with some defections,
surprising and otherwise],  it's gathering momentum, scope, depth, and

height.  It's doing that nationally and it's doing that globally.

So -- keep fighting: sensibly, militantly, with vision.  No one ever said
"Life is a bed of roses!"  Things are back-and-forth, always have been and
always will.  But Humanity gains more ground than it loses.

And I continue to think and say, "Success will be ours in the long run."


In Solidarity -

Hunterbear [November 10, 2001]




THE NEW OPEN LETTER TO RADICALS [The Current Crisis And The Future: Organize, Fight Back, Fight On--And With Optimism]

[Hunter Gray, October 17, 2001]

The smell of a kind of fascism [cloaked, as always, in ostensible "Americanism"], is floating ever more freely over the myriad of flags in the land of the free. In an atmosphere of spontaneous and deliberately initiated and manipulated fear and hysteria, the cowardly capitulation of Congress to the repressive Bush/Ashcroft “anti-terrorism” proposals and the now emergent massive incursion into civil liberties and personal privacy -- bound up with such labels as “Patriot” and “Uniting and Strengthening America” -- is rapidly becoming ever more reminiscent of the late 1940s and early and mid 1950s.

Meanwhile, we have a sanguinary war [yet another] initiated by the United States against the poverty-stricken and faction-torn Afghanistan [a sovereign nation against which nothing of international criminal nature has been proven] -- blending mounting military aggression with token contributions of “humanitarian” food and sanctimonious U.S. government-sponsored collections of money for children. This extends the frontier of national hypocrisy even further than most of this tortured world’s 20th century examples.

To exhibit my enduring and very basic optimism, I’ll use a Mississippi phrase, “This mess will pass.” This isn’t going to last nearly as long -- not by a very long shot -- as the horrific mid-century Red Scare atmosphere in which some of us came of radical age.

Many of us, fighting ever onward, survived that. And everything since. We’re still here. Still fighting. And, as always, there are the younger people rising up -- fresh vision and vigorous commitment and burning passion and clear-eyed optimism.

Within the United States, things will eventually settle ’way down on the terrorism front -- and maybe even much sooner than later. The “War,” stumbling on in confused and blood-thirsty fashion, will fade [even as some of the “Allies” presently seem to be doing themselves.] Unemployment is mounting across the country -- cities big and small, and in the little out-of-the-way places -- and significant dimensions of the economy are indicating clear, fundamentally recessionary signs.

The hideous legacy of death and injury and hatred in those sections of the world which we [and others] for decades have tortured with mainly safe-from-on-high bombing will last, of course, for many generations.

The essentially totalitarian complex of repressive laws will remain with us -- but only if their proponents and advocates have their way. Eventually, the witch-hunting pathology carried by FBI et al. will move from the “easy” targets -- “known radicals” and dark-skinned people with “ethnic” names -- into more “mainstream” America: liberals, Left newspapers and journals and websites, more and more educators and journalists,“guilt by association,” ex post facto fish-nets. And, given the New Faith , these government attacks on civil liberties and personal privacy will eventually come to plague [fiscally and otherwise] the very corporate captains of cyberspace themselves.

And there’ll be, too, the growing realization that this totalitarian poison ivy and belladonna [nightshade] isn’t going to be effective in preventing bona fide terrorism or in apprehending its perpetrators. [After all, it’s been obvious for decades that FBI et al. have consistently carried out illegal, repressive operations against a vast number of people in our land.] Only genuinely global social justice will prevent terrorism. And, at whatever tragically glacial pace, that will inevitably proceed.

Mounting economic crises and concerns and demands will move to the fore. And the voices from that deepening nightmare will grow ever wider and louder.

And as all of this inevitable and complex sociology progresses, thinking America will lose its enthusiasm for the expensive -- liberty-wise and fiscally -- security of the barbed-wire corral, the rabbit hutch, the barricaded closet.

But we cannot wait for that.

Our job right now is to fight -- sensibly, militantly, effectively -- with every ethical resource at our command. And to keep fighting -- for a full measure of bread-and-butter and a full measure of liberty and for peace with justice/justice with peace.

We need to organize -- and organize again and again on every social justice front: in our own little corners of the world, and with national perspective -- and with international vision. And indeed, some of that is gathering momentum and its thunder is more frequent -- and louder. But most grassroots organizing -- and such critical components as local leadership development and blending long-range vision with shorter-range pragmatism and much much more -- is slow, hard, tedious struggle-work over the long, long pull. It’s absolutely critical in the Save the World Business.

We need to use every single available legal resource. There is still due process and judicial review -- discouraging as they often are. We’re going to see more and more genuinely effective legal advocacy outfits developing and joining the older tried-and-true organizations. But, again, much good law is still made in the streets.

We need to use the political process. Even though almost all politicians of “the two old parties” may frequently leave us cold, we can make some use of some of them. And, more and more, I’m sure there will be positive and constructive independent and third party political action.

We need to make use of massive non-violent demonstrations in every social justice sector. People need to be prepared to go to jail and, in some instances, to stay there for awhile.

We need to make full use of every media and cyberspace and associated resource at our disposal.

And if you can do witch-craft, do that. Witch-craft for good purposes is “good medicine.”

We must always remember that, in the final analysis, an organized and militant and genuinely radical grassroots is the most basic foundation for the successful catch of “the good things of life.” Rights don’t come from politicians and courts. Rights are inherently ours as human beings. But we always have to organize to take and keep and to advance those rights -- ever upward and together -- to the Sun.

So we keep fighting, always and onward, because this struggle for full social justice -- for a full measure of food and a full measure of liberty and for just peace -- will never really end. And when we fight, we must always fight in the context of “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

And success will be ours -- always ours -- in the long run.

=====

[A note: Even though the situation involving repressive legislation and witch-hunting by FBI et al. is rapidly worsening, this country has had an anti-civil libertarian Federal/state/local “task force” operation in the shadows ever since the still very functionally operative Clinton-initiated Anti-Terrorist Act of 1996. Some of us on the Left have been targets of that for years. Our large social justice website www.hunterbear.org continually documents as much of this as we can pin down [and it’s a lot] of what has been and is outright surveillance and harassment. Now, of course, the totalitarian, repressive mechanisms are certain to widen considerably and deepen sharply -- with an ever broader circle of victims. If you haven’t already, take a look at our website --and the experiences of ourselves and some others will provide some indication of the methodology of FBI and its sycophants.]

Hunter Gray [Hunterbear] October 17,  2001

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