August 19, 2007
This is simply not how we are supposed to operate in America. This country is supposed to be a model for justice around the world. It is supposed to be the example of due process and equality under the law. We have seen many egregious violations of our core principles under the renegade Bush Administration but what happened this past week typifies the absolute worst of what we can be when we allow fear to supersede our laws. When we allow partisanship to replace our values. The powers that be and the corporate controlled media will have us believe that we are left or right, blue or red, and republican or democrat. Apparently along the way we have simply forgotten what is right and wrong.
This week a guilty verdict was reached in the case of Jose Padilla. The White House gushed at the verdict as if they were proud of the subversion of democracy they orchestrated for years in dealing with the prosecution of this citizen. In 2002 Jose Padilla was arrested for allegedly conspiring to release a dirty bomb in an undesignated American city. The media fanfare the Bush Administration created to announce the arrest was ostentatious and grandiose. We were told how lucky we were to have the administration looking out for such plots against our homeland. Of course Jose Padilla never stood trial for the crimes he was arrested for. What happened to him next should never happen in a country that calls itself free.
Soon after his arrest, Padilla was designated an “unlawful enemy combatant” for the sole purpose of allowing the Bush Administration to do what they wished to him without fear of oversight, reprisal or restriction. He was “disappeared” to a brig off the coast of South Carolina where he was kept for years without contact and without legal representation. Habeas Corpus was eradicated; a key lynchpin of democratic societies for over 800 years. In an attempt to break his will, Padilla was subjected to complete and abject isolation for years. He was tortured. Plain and simple; he was tortured. I do not care how many times Bush likes to say “we don’t torture”; Jose Padilla was routinely and purposefully tortured for a period of years. The result was not a broken will but a broken human being. He was essentially driven mad, as policy. No court was allowed to oversee or check the new unlimited power of the would be tyrant. Only when it became obvious to the administration that the Supreme Court would demand that Padilla be tried or released did Bush bother to take Mr. Padilla to trial. When the administration did, they took a shell of a human being to trial, not for the crimes they alleged when they arrested him for, but rather for activities that he and friends of his engaged in during the 1990’s.
Did you get that America? Do you fully comprehend what happened? A United States citizen was arrested for alleged crimes, was stripped of all rights as a citizen, dumped into isolation in prison for years with no legal representation, and only when the hand of the administration was forced he was brought to trial for completely different crimes, discovered after the fact and after years of being tortured. That is not due process. That is not even remotely just. It has been compared to governmental behavior found during the height of the Soviet Union. Even the conservative Cato Institute had to lament that “for those of us concerned about the rule of law, the Padilla episode is not the way America is supposed to work."
Rule of law? How about basic human decency? What have we become in latter day America when this is heralded as a “victory?” If the man was that guilty, why did he have to be tortured to the point of near insanity? I do not pretend to know if Jose Padilla supported terrorism or not. I do not know if he is as bad as the government says he is. What I do know is that what happened to him is a stain on the fabric of our democracy and the conviction this week does not change that. In fact, it only highlights what happens when we become so scared that we are willing to look the other way while our civil liberties are stripped away.
Our government took an American citizen and tortured him until they drove him insane. They could not even bring charges against him for what they had originally arrested him for. Instead they reached back a decade and found anything they could that might stick. Those of you out there that think this is good for our safety miss the point of being a democracy. You miss the point of what we are supposed to stand for. If you saw this story and thought it was a positive event for our nation, you have forgotten the faces of those who have died to protect the very democracy that is crumbling around us. If Jose Padilla is all it takes for us to compromise our most basic values as human beings then where does that leave us? No better than the tyranny we have fought against for over 200 years. We have become what we abhor. We now stand for what we have loathed.
When the protection of the free requires the removal of liberty, we are left to be free no more.
May God help us all.