Shadows on the Wall

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"The power of the executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law,and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

— Winston Churchill

And so we sit, shackled by self-imposed chains of fear, captivated by shadowy forms that move discordantly across the walls of our perception. Once again we are eager to accept appearance for reality. The Supreme Court ruling last week rejecting George Bush’s military commissions to try Guantanamo detainees casts a huge shadow on the wall. Many are saying it not only curbed Bush and Cheney’s unlimited presidential power grab, but absolved us of the responsibility of having to do anything about it.

Everybody’s talking about this stunning victory for democracy. That’ll show Bush that he doesn’t get to decide everything. The New York Times opined the victory would "likely force negotiations over presidential power." In a separate editorial, "A Victory for the Rule of Law," the Times wrote the decision "is far more than a narrow ruling on the missue of military courts. It is an important and welcome reaffirmation that even in times of war, the law is what the Constitution, the statute books and the Geneva Conventions say it is — not what the president wants it to be."

The Washington Post chimed in with, "For five years, President Bush waged war as he saw fit. If intelligence officers needed to eavesdrop on overseas telephone calls without warrants, he authorized it. If the military wanted to hold terrorism suspects without trial, he let it…Now the Supreme Court has struck at the core of his presidency and dismissed the notion that the president alone can determine how to defend the country."

The Post’s David Ignatius writes, "The Hamdan ruling should be a cause for celebration, at home and abroad, because it demonstrates that the self-correcting mechanisms of American democracy remain healthy." Thanks to checks and balances from the courts, Congress and the press, Ignatius believes "this administration’s mistakes are being reversed."

And you have to smile at the Post’s wonderfully talented Eugene Robinson, whose relief was palpable when he wrote, simply, "Finally. It seemed almost too much to hope for, but the Supreme Court finally called George W. Bush onto the carpet yesterday and asked him the obvious question: What part of ‘rule of law’ do you not understand?"

Such giddiness — wishful thinking — can almost be excused when you consider this is the first time in more than five years Bush has been confronted with a single check or balance. Almost excused. The media’s refusal to delve into the shadows and ferret out the reality behind them is cowardly, dishonorable — a blot on the Fourth Estate. Anyone who thinks this Straussian pack of jackals whose thirst for power borders on madness will back up and adhere to the rule of law or obey the Geneva Conventions doesn’t know Jack about George. Or Alberto. Or Donald.

The Court’s ruling offers no relief to the more than 450 prisoners serving life sentences at Guantanamo, nor does it address the hundreds — perhaps thousands — of those detained without charge in Orwellian Room 101 prisons in other countries. These poor creatures are being held like caged animals in countries infamous for torture without legal consequence. They are of no further use to Bush. They cast no shadow on Congressional or media radar screens.

Guantanamo Bay is but a mere scab on the corrupt boil of secret CIA "rendition" operations. In a revealing Jan. 14, 2005 piece in the UK Guardian, Jonathan Steele writes that one CIA officer told the Washington Post, "The whole idea has ecome a corruption of renditions. It’s not rendering to justice. It’s kidnapping."

Steele says, "The administration sees the US not just as a self-appointed global policeman, but also as the world’s prison warder. It is thinking of building jails in foreign countries, mainly ones with grim human rights records, to which it can secretly transfer detainees (unconvicted by any court) for the rest of their lives — a kind of global gulag beyond the scrutiny of the International Committee of the Red Cross, or any other independent observers or lawyers." Since then, with The Decider’s enthusiastic approval, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales and the CIA have done exactly that.

So, what was the Supreme Court really up to in its shadowy 5-3 decision that did not challenge Bush’s policy of indefinitely detaining enemy combatants — the worst of the worst — forever, if need be, without access to due process? It was simply telling him it was time for him to cover his ass by forcing Congress to make tribunals legal and then he could continue to do whatever the hell he wants. It provided a distraction from the torture, murder and suicides that have become hallmarks of the Guantanamo Bay gulag and of the United States itself. It placated the media, and calmed things down for the upcoming elections. Democracy is alive and well. Why change horses in the middle of the stream in a time of war?

When news of the ruling broke, a tight-lipped Decider stared woodenly into the cameras, saying only that he would look at the findings of the court "very seriously," while working with the Congress to continue the tribunals. Bush watchers, however, know that behind the shadow of this concession lies the stubborn insistence that he is the Commander-in-Chief; a war president who is not just above, but outside the law. Bush is prone to brag that he is the most powerful man in the world and, as such, will accept no limits on his power. Back off? Cut and run? Not likely.

The "Military Order" Bush issued two months after 9-11 concerning detention of non-citizens and their trials, if any, by military tribunals in his war on terror remains in effect. In that order, Bush flatly states that any non-citizen whom he determines from time to time in writing caused — or even "aims" to cause — adverse effects on the US will be detained and will "not be privileged to seek any remedy" in any court of the United States or any court of any foreign nation or any international tribunal.

The Congress was dragged reluctantly from the shadows to perform a nonpartisan role foreign to them, that of oversight. The Republicans chose instead to attack the "traitors" on the Supreme Court and the cowardly "cut and run" Democrats who are on the side of the terrorists.

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts,Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and 9-11 Commission cover-up chief, was visibly angry. He shouted indignantly at CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, "The Supreme Court gave the protection of the Geneva Conventions to people who don’t qualify — the Supreme Court made a pact with Al Qaeda — it ursurped presidential authority!"

The Democrats scrambled to assert their total alligience, not to the US Constitution and the rule of law, but to The Decider, and promised to give him everything he wants to continue his perpetual war against enemy combatant plotters and planners and killers.

And so it goes. We are oblivious to the reality of impending martial law, strict media censorship, and the vanishing power of any government entity over The Decider and his minions. We are blissfully unaware that we have been transplanted into another realm — a dark place from which there is no escape — and nothing to do but sit here and watch the hideous shadows on the wall.

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