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Unlike Afghan leaders, Obama fights for power of indefinite military detention

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"A US official confirmed that the transfer of detainees had paused because of the dispute."

Is that not amazing? On the very same day that the Obama DOJ fights vigorously in US courts for the right to imprison people without charges, the Afghan government fights just as vigorously for basic due process.

Remember: the US, we're frequently told, is in Afghanistan to bring democracy to the Afghan people and to teach them about freedom. But the Afghan government is refusing the US demand to imprison people without charges on the ground that such lawless detention violates their conceptions of basic freedom. Maybe Afghanistan should invade the US in order to teach Americans about freedom.

This is not the first time this has happened. In 2009, the Obama administration decided that it wanted to target certain Afghan citizens for due process-free assassinations on the ground that the targets to be executed were drug "kingpins." They were to be killed based solely on US accusations, with no trial, just as the Obama administration does with its own citizens. But again, that plan ran into a roadblock: Afghan leaders were horrified by the notion that their citizens would be extrajudicially executed based on unproven suspicions [my emphasis]:

"A US military hit list of about 50 suspected drug kingpins is drawing fierce opposition from Afghan officials, who say it could undermine their fragile justice system and trigger a backlash against foreign troops.

"The US military and Nato officials have authorized their forces to kill or capture individuals on the list, which was drafted within the past year as part of Nato's new strategy to combat drug operations that finance the Taliban ...

"General Mohammad Daud Daud, Afghanistan's deputy interior minister for counternarcotics efforts, praised US and British special forces for their help recently in destroying drug labs and stashes of opium. But he said he worried that foreign troops would now act on their own to kill suspected drug lords, based on secret evidence, instead of handing them over for trial.

"'They should respect our law, our constitution and our legal codes,' Daud said. 'We have a commitment to arrest these people on our own' ...

"There is a constitutional problem here. A person is innocent unless proven guilty," [former Afghan interior minister Ali Ahmad Jalali] said. "If you go off to kill or capture them, how do you prove that they are really guilty in terms of legal process?"

In other words, the Obama administration has received far more resistance to its due process-free imprisonments and assassinations from Afghans than it has from its own citizens in the US. If only more Americans, including progressives, were willing to point out the most basic truths in response to these Obama power seizures, such as: "If you go off to kill or capture them, how do you prove that they are really guilty in terms of legal process?"

Instead, many Americans, particularly in the age of Obama, are content to assume that anyone whom the US government accuses of being a terrorist should, for that reason alone, be assumed to be guilty, and as a result, any punishment the president decides to dole out -- indefinite imprisonment, summary execution -- is warranted and just; no bothersome, obsolete procedures such as "trials" or "indictments" are necessary.

It is that mindset that will ensure that Obama's vigorous fight to preserve the power of indefinite detention will provoke so little objection: among Americans, that is -- though obviously not among Afghans, who seem to have an actual understanding of, and appreciation for, the value of due process.

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For the past 10 years, I was a litigator in NYC specializing in First Amendment challenges, civil rights cases, and corporate and securities fraud matters. I am the author of the New York Times Best-Selling book, How Would A Patriot (more...)
 
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