September 10, 2005
"The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated
powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the
Executive." Judge Antonin Scalia
I had to sit down when I heard the Padilla case had been settled. I
literally felt sick to my stomach, like I was gasping for air. The case of
Jose Padilla is quite simply the most important case in the history of the
American judicial system. Hanging in the balance are all the fundamental
principles of American jurisprudence including habeas corpus, due process
and "the presumption of innocence". All of those basic concepts were
summarily revoked by the 3 judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court. The Court
ruled in favor of the Bush administration which claimed that it had the
right to indefinitely imprison an American citizen without charging him with
a crime. The resulting verdict confers absolute authority on the President
to incarcerate American citizens without charge and without any legal means
for the accused to challenge the terms of his detention. It is the end of
"inalienable rights", the end of The Bill of Rights, and the end of any
meaningful notion of personal liberty.
I remember reading 3 or 4 years ago, in Zbigniew Brzezinski's, "The
Grand Chessboard", of a strategy to dominate the world that would result in
the loss of freedom for American citizens. Brzezinski recognized the
inherent threat that liberty posed to the development of empire. He stated:.
"It is also a fact that America is too democratic at home to be
autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America's power, especially its
capacity for military intimidation. Never before has a populist democracy
attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal
that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or
challenge to the public's sense of domestic well-being. The economic
self-denial (that is, defense spending) and the human sacrifice (casualties,
even among professional soldiers) required in the effort are uncongenial to
democratic instincts. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization."
Brzezinski's prescient forecast has proved to be astonishingly accurate.
The determination of the neocons, the Federalist Society, the far-right
radio giants, the Olin, Scaife, Coors and Bradley foundations, and the
entire stable of right-wing, quasi-fascist groups that operate openly within
American society, have pounded the final wooden stake into the heart of the
personal freedom. The basic legal protections that safeguard the citizen
from the arbitrary and hostile action of the state have been rescinded. We
all stand naked before the absolute power of the President..
The government has no case against Jose Padilla, a hapless Chicago
gang-banger who allegedly visited Pakistan before he was arrested at O'Hare
airport 3 and a half years ago. He is simply an unwitting victim of
circumstance; a convenient scapegoat for eviscerating the rule of law. The
Bush administration has used its extraordinary influence in the media to
demagogue the case and keep him locked-away without producing one shred of
evidence against him. The entire affair has been a grotesque mockery of
justice. The hard-right groups that engineered this plot know exactly where
the fault-lines in American jurisprudence lie; in the inalienable
protections of its citizens.
Padilla became the test-case for shattering the Bill of Rights with
one withering blow. It has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest expectation..
There's no chance that the Supreme Court will retry the case and draw
more attention to the shocking details of this judicial-coup; they already
punted once before preferring to pass it along to the lower court. Rather,
the meaning of the case will be ignored until the president needs to
exercise the newly-bestowed powers of supreme leader. That authority is now
firmly rooted in the legal precedent established by the Padilla ruling..
No Longer the Land of the Free.
Americans seem unaware of the great loss we've all suffered by the
Padilla verdict. If the President is allowed to arbitrarily decide who has
"inalienable rights", than those rights become the provisional gifts of the
government rather than a reliable shield against the abuse of state power.
It means that every American citizen is as vulnerable to the same violation
of human rights as the men currently imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. It also
means that the legal wall that shelters the citizen from the random violence
of the political establishment has been reduced to rubble..
The Padilla ruling is the blackest day in American history. The icons of
American liberty; the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Statue
of Liberty; are empty shrines if they are not underscored by the guarantee
of freedom. The Vietnam Memorial, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address,
the 4th of July, the Federalist Papers, and the American flag; all
gratuitous expressions of a principle that has vanished from the political
Every man and woman who ever wore an American uniform and died in the
service of their country, died in vain. Their sacrifice has been rendered
completely worthless by the action of the 4th Circuit Court..
George Bush has now extinguished every meaningful part of the American
dream. The last vestige of the social contract has been defiled and
desecrated by the administration and their court. Personal freedom is dead
in America; it was impaled by the verdict against Jose Padilla. How many
thousands or, perhaps, millions of Americans will die or endure incalculable
suffering to regain what we have lost on this tragic day?.
Courtesy and Copyright © Mike Whitney