WAS IT ILLEGAL for American officials [who kidnapped Abu Omar in Italy] to send Abu Omar to Egypt? Yes, according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, which prohibits delivering someone to a country where there are “substantial grounds” to assume that he might be tortured. Were there substantial grounds to believe that transferring Abu Omar to Egypt would result in his being tortured? Plenty, according to a State Department report that detailed the methods used by Egypt’s security services during the year that Abu Omar was abducted and confined, including stripping and blindfolding prisoners; dousing them with cold water; beatings with fists, whips, metal rods, and other objects; administering electric shocks; suspending prisoners by their arms; and sexual assault and threats of rape.
Yes, the US tortures.
Yes, this is against everything which the US was created for – Thomas Jefferson would spin in his grave.
Yes, Jose Padilla is an American citizen who the American government declared, without trial, to be an “enemy combatant,” – an un-person, a category of human beings without rights under the Constitution or the Geneva Convention. He was held illegally without charges for years, tortured, rendered effectively unfit for trial by his treatment including the claimed torture, and then the charges of torture were brought up, the tapes which could have exonerated the government – or proven torture – were mysteriously missing.
Now, let us put this into context. Consider the oath of enlistment.
“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
At this point, every US citizen who has taken this oath has a problem: the current regime is a domestic threat to the Constitution, and obeying the orders – to torture, to kidnap and have tortured, to hold American citizens without trial under made-up legal black holes like “enemy combatant” – is breaking the oath to support and defend the Constitution. It is the duty of every person who has taken this oath to uphold the Constitution, and that responsibility goes beyond the duty to obey the chain of command.
An American soldier does not get to “just follow orders” as the Nazis did. He, or she, is a citizen soldier, a guardian of the rights of every American, under the Constitution. Those who have participated in torture and other unconstitutional practices can help all of us now, by making sure that the chain of command which violated the law is not above the law and, when a new hand takes the helm at the Presidency, by making sure that everybody involved in violating the rights of Jose Padilla and countless others goes to jail.
It is your duty, under the oaths you took, to defend America against those who have violated the Constitution. This is still a nation of laws, not of men, and regardless of how powerful and privileged those who break the laws are, they must be brought to justice, tried, and punished. War crimes have been committed, likely by the President himself, and when the American Nuremberg Trials come, as they must for America to be made whole again, it is they who must carry responsibility for what was done on their orders.
If you doubt the reality of this, I ask you to imagine what Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, George Mason or any of the others would have made of a president who authorizes the torture of American citizens, and holds them without trial?
In fact, we do not have to ask what they would have made of such a president: we know. They wrote down their opinion, in a document we call the Constitution.
The war for liberty is not the war on terror. The war on terror is a war for safety. The war for liberty is a war on the Government of America, waged in the courts, by military officers giving honest testimony about what the chain of command authorized, with names and places, so that the chain of command can start going to jail for war crimes.
It is in your hands to fix America. It starts with applying the law of the land to the President, to the Vice President, to John Yoo, and to every other hand that resulted in kidnapping and torture as America’s fundamental strategy in responding to terrorism, and to violating the natural rights of every American citizen to privacy and security of their person, among numerous other crimes.
The president should fear the law. He is not a king. It is our responsibility to make sure that every subsequent president fears the law, and this status is only to be attained by putting this president in jail for the rest of this century, and most of the rest of his administration and advisory team with him.
This is America. We do not torture. And we jail those who do.
Anything less than this, and you can kiss America good bye: the nation founded by those original guardians of liberty will be effectively dead, leaving only a pale imitation which happens to bear the same name.
Jail time for president Bush & his fellow members of the administration is the minimum standard required to give the Constitution teeth again and a toothless Constitution is no Constitution at all.
Liberty, in our time, means enforcing the law of the land on the president: nothing more, and nothing less.