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Obama signs Pentagon bill maintaining Guantanamo and military detention

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If anything, this year's legislation has clarified even further the scale of the assault on democratic rights that has been signed into law.

In a closed-door meeting of Senate and House conferees, an amendment unanimously passed by the Senate providing limited protections to US citizens and permanent residents against indefinite military detention was stripped from the legislation without explanation. The amendment applied only to such citizens and residents abducted within the US, not to those grabbed overseas. It also left open that such detentions would be permissible given the possibility of a trial before a drum-head military tribunal and provides that an Act of Congress would be sufficient to abrogate the Constitution and the age-old right of habeas corpus, allowing the US military to arrest and effectively "disappear" US citizens within the US itself.

Nonetheless, even this amendment was ultimately ruled as overly restrictive on the use of military detention.

The vague and expansive language of the law enacted by Obama now permits the military to secretly grab virtually anyone deemed by the president to be an "enemy of the state" and throw them into Guantanamo or any other military prison to be held indefinitely without charges or trial.

It allows indefinite military detention to be employed against anyone, including US citizens, on the basis of unproven and secret charges that they have provided support to al Qaeda, the Taliban or "associated forces," committed a "belligerent act" or given "aid" to "enemy forces."

With none of these terms defined, indefinite detention could be justified in cases ranging from antiwar protesters to journalists whose writings are deemed unduly sympathetic to Washington's many enemies. Workers on strike could be accused of committing a "belligerent act," as could someone viewed as overly critical of the US government.

What is involved here is not, as Obama's liberal critics would have it, merely political cowardice or a "failure to lead." As president, Obama has "led" in the direction demanded by America's ruling financial aristocracy and the military-intelligence complex. He has continued and deepened the crimes of the Bush administration, creating an apparatus of state assassinations as a virtual fourth branch of the US government.

It is not an accident that the president enacts legislation enshrining military detention without charges in law as his administration and the Congress prepare to make the working class pay for the economic crisis through savage cuts to social programs and a historic reduction in living standards. The ruling class anticipates social upheavals and is preparing accordingly.

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Bill Van Auken (born 1950) is a politician and activist for the Socialist Equality Party and was a presidential candidate in the U.S. election of 2004, announcing his candidacy on January 27, 2004. His running mate was Jim Lawrence. He came in 15th (more...)
 
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