Wednesday, June 12, 2002
BY BARRY CRIMMINS
Remember those old George Booth cartoons of the long-bearded, raggedy prisoner chained to a dungeon wall because he had offended some totalitarian authority? Well, so does John Ashcroft, who has now successfully integrated that image into the American legal system.
On Monday, speaking from Moscow, where I presume he had traveled to lay a wreath on Joseph Stalin's grave, Kaiser Ashcroft disclosed that the Justice Department had broken up an Al Qaeda plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" inside the United States. Abdullah al-Muhajir, a 31-year-old American citizen born in Brooklyn as Jose Padilla, has been detained in the case.
The word "arrested" was used, but since the Justice Department feels no need to file charges or make a case, "detained" is more accurate.
According to the USA Patriot Act of 2001, Abdullah al-Muhajir needn't be charged with anything for the duration of the Purported War on Terrorism. In other words, so long as there is a terrorist on planet earth, this American citizen is relegated to rot in confinement with no defense, trial, or contact with the outside world.
According to the USA Patriot Act, trials are not patriotic. This law, rushed through Congress in the post—September 11 haze, is just as Orwellian as its bombastic name implies. According to this horrendous piece of legislation, the American citizenry has no right to an open examination of the case against Abdullah al-Muhajir, or anyone else the government chooses to label as a terrorist. We have no right to learn his side of the story. We have no right to sit in a jury box and determine the validity of this case. We have no right to the details of what could be a very serious threat to public safety.
Whether or not that threat to our safety comes from a dirty nuclear device or a police state – or both – we may never know.
Actually, we do know that under the court-appointed Bush regime, the ever-shrinking Bill of Rights will soon be reduced to the Second Amendment. It's a relief to consider that no matter how horribly this right-wing band of yahoos defaces the principles of our country, we will still be permitted to buy guns with which to shoot ourselves and escape an ever-more-miserable state of affairs.
On Tuesday, headlines trumpeted the dirty-bomb story by telling us that a terrorist plot had been "foiled." The convenient thing about the Bush, Cheney & Ashcroft Railroad is that the we no longer have to waste a lot of time using qualifying terms like "alleged." Nor are we expected to express any doubts as the Authoritarian Express screams past us, right on tightly guarded schedule.
Abdullah al-Muhajir was detained on May 8, but Ashcroft didn't see fit to announce this until over a month later, from the bosom of Mother Russia. This makes it much tougher for us to get answers to questions Ashcroft has no intention of answering.
- If this person was arrested on May 8, why didn't we hear about it on May 8? What possible harm could have come from informing us of this man's detainment? It's not as if such a disclosure could compromise the case, because the United States isn't bothering to make one.
- Who is in charge of announcing arrests at the Justice Department? The same person who schedules cable-TV-service calls?
- How many more unconvicted people are rotting in American jails, not awaiting trials?
- Isn't the timing of this announcement just a tad suspect since it comes on the heels of all sorts of disclosures about September 11 intelligence failures that have embarrassed the court-appointed Bush administration? (Or would have, if it were capable of feeling embarrassment.)
- Has anyone in the former USSR thanked the court-appointed Bush administration for vindicating the KGB by using it as a template for the Office of Homeland Security?
- Does it shame you at all to consider that the Catholic Church is now more open and accessible than the Justice Department?
- What ever became of writs of habeas corpus? Are they being stored in the same pit where Dick Cheney's appointment book lurks?
- Doesn't the public have a right to know the details about plots against it?
- Might not this detainment make a martyr of a man who could otherwise be shown, in a fair and public trial, to be deserving of long-term penal confinement?
And those are just a few queries. I'm sure there are many, many more that will never be answered by the arrogant church-state integrationist who is America's highest-ranking legal officer.
Osama bin Laden is reportedly trying to destroy the American way of life, but he's a piker compared to John Ashcroft and the rest of the court-appointed Bush administration. We don't know if America was targeted with a dirty bomb (and nobody has any intention proving it), but we do know our judicial system is now reeling from the shockwaves of a dirty deal.
Americans do not require the protection of tyrants and their police-state tactics. We need protection from them. With an assist from an ill-advised piece of legislation, George W. Bush and John Ashcroft are destroying those protections and telling us it's for our own good.
This is pathological nonsense.
If Abdullah al-Muhajir is guilty, prove it in a court of law. This man is entitled to the best possible legal representation, and then a jury of his fellow Americans should decide his guilt or innocence. By doing this, we could show the world that, at least in this case, we are a free and fair nation.
Until that happens, we have returned to what Mark Twain once derided as the "United States of Lyncherdom." Shame on everyone who remains silent in times of such outrage.