Posts Tagged ‘lieberman’
At Harper’s, Scott Horton makes a great catch:
Senator Joseph Lieberman has developed a knack for craven fearmongering. His latest proposal was born from the police operation by New York’s finest that led to the capture of Faisal Shahzad last weekend. Shahzad, a financial analyst, is a United States citizen and, as a long-time resident of Bridgeport, one of Lieberman’s constituents, which Lieberman considers a troublesome complication. Lieberman says he will sponsor legislation under which the president will be given the power to deprive a person of his citizenship simply by bringing certain charges.
Lieberman is vague about the proposals, and he offers no explanation of how a citizen could be stripped of his citizenship by executive fiat consistently with the Constitution,a step that would have all the traditional badges of tyrannical government. He also apparently believes, incorrectly, that only U.S. citizens have a right to receive aMiranda warning. (That’s the sort of mistake that a young lawyer sitting for the bar would never make, although Lieberman has been a lawyer since 1967 and was a former Connecticut attorney general.)
Though obviously legislative adventures such as those of Mr. Lieberman should be avoided at all costs, I think it is important to remember that the “facts” of the Times Square incident are now murky and inconclusive at best. We have a “suspect”, but no idea if he actually did it; we have a confession, but no idea how it was extracted. For all the front-page accusations of his supposed “links” to “The Taliban”, we know only for sure that
1) – A crude, incompetent bomb consisting of M-88 firecrackers (the sort children play with), a sealed tank of propane, and a couple bags of fertilizer was placed at the back of an SUV in Times Square. This is not how you make a bomb, and given that the sort of firecracker he bought cannot undergo self-reignition (one M-88 can’t set off another M-88 with its detonation), I have real doubts that the “explosion” would have even broken through the car. It was hardly the sort of device one envisions upon hearing the phrase “car bomb”, particularly as the citizens of Baghdad have come to know it.
2) – A Pakistani-American citizen was picked up at an airport attempting to leave the country with a ticket he paid for in cash. The Times sent its reporters scurrying to find his relatives the moment the NYPD released his name, and they emerged with a hit piece on how the suspect, Mr. Shahzad, “fit the profile of a Terrorist”. Rife with circumstantial evidence, the article describes his “‘money woes”, his newfound “zeal for Islam”, his “strong religious identity” and so forth. The article does not mention the evidence against Mr. Shahzad, and takes his guilt as a foregone conclusion.
3) – The suspect confessed. But I should stress emphatically that that is all we know of his confession. Mr. Shahzad has been accused of five terrorism-related charges, according to the New Statesman, and apparently gave his interrogates “the goods” – that is, he confessed to having trained in Pakistan, having “links” with “The Taliban”, etc – precisely what our policy planners might have wanted. The AFP was kind enough to note that Mr. Shahzad has not been in a court, and has in fact, “disappeared” since his “dramatic arrest” 4 days ago. We don’t know where he was taken, who interrogated him, or what exactly he confessed to.
I do not wish to be called a “conspiracy theorist”, but it is well known (and given the tone of coverage, tragically well accepted) that if you are accused of the crime of Terrorism, you will be interrogated in secret and tortured at the very least by days or weeks of sleeplessness (try it, reader!). I have no idea how Mr. Shahzad was interrogated, except that it was done by the military. Unless I see documentary evidence to suggest otherwise, I think that given the military’s past experiences with interrogation, we can assume Mr. Shahzad was tortured.
Then what is his confession worth? Very little, it would seem, and even less given the almost hilarious nature of his “crime”. The contents of his car were essentially inert. Is it a crime to have firecrackers, a sealed propane tank, and a few bags of fertilizer in your car at Times Square on a Saturday night? Evidently, if you happen to be on a particular list, everything is a crime.
It would be difficult to overstate the danger of Mr. Lieberman’s proposal and those like it. By classifying a certain class of crime (“Terrorism”) as one for which normal rules do not apply, one creates a dangerous precedent. Who, after all, is a Terrorist? Mostly Muslims, for now, but the Administration has given indications for years that it plans on expanding the definition to, say, civil disobedience.
This is an unhealthy trend, and ought to be stopped. To have two sets of laws – one for people accused of “Terrorism” and the other for everyone else – is illogical and absurd; and worse, it demolishes the idea of whether or not we can conclusively ascertain a “Terrorist’s” guilt. Precisely because Mr. Shahzad likely confessed under torture, we shall never know whether or not he was actually guilty.
The Times calls that unfortunate desert a “Qaeda bastion” in its headline, while the Post goes for a vaguer effect by claiming that “Al Qaeda” is merely “gaining prominence” there. These stories come on the heels of a premeditated slaughter of Yemeni civilians via US forces, and they can only be seen as justification for further US attacks on the impoverished Yemeni citizens. Let’s see for ourselves how such acts are justified.
The country has long been a refuge for jihadists, in part because Yemen’s government welcomed returning Islamist fighters who had fought in Afghanistan during the 1980s. The Yemen port of Aden was the site of the audacious bombing of the American destroyer Cole in October 2000 by Qaeda militants, which killed 17 sailors.
Audacious! Except it occurred more than 9 years ago, and killed only a fraction of the Yemeni citizens we killed last week (42 dead in one “drone” strike!). And remember, the Yemeni “terrorists” were kind enough to target the US military (which, after all, has no business in their country.) We, on the other hand, kill their civilians with impunity.
The Post goes for more recent justification, dubious and uncorroborated though it may be:
U.S. authorities say Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, the Nigerian suspect who tried to ignite explosive chemicals with a syringe sewn into his underwear, may have been equipped and trained by an al-Qaeda bombmaker in Yemen. He allegedly made that claim to FBI agents after his arrest.
Emphasis mine. Given that our secret police routinely interrogate by torture, I think it would be wise to take any “confession” thus extracted with a large grain of salt.
The Times treats us to yet more evidence:
Meanwhile, there have been increasing Yemeni ties to plots against the United States. A Muslim man charged in the June 1 killing of a soldier at a recruiting center in a mall in Little Rock, Ark., had traveled to Yemen, prompting a review by the F.B.I. of other domestic extremists who had visited the country.
A Muslim man traveled to Yemen? Stop the presses! Let us review what The Times is trying to say here. A man charged with killing a soldier, who happens to be Muslim, had, at one point, traveled to Yemen. Therefore, Yemen is a “dangerous haven for Al-Qaeda”, and we must pummel them into their dusty graves. Astounding.
Ironically, The Post gives us the real reason for the “increase in terror activity in Yemen” as a closing line:
On Sunday, Al-Qaeda in Yemen issued a communique declaring that it would take revenge for the Dec. 17 airstrikes.
The damned cheek! The US murders 43 Yemeni citizens and they have the audacity to want revenge? Don’t they understand we’re doing this for their own good? As they said in Vietnam, “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.” It should be clear to anyone not in the pay of our “defense contractors” that our actions in the Arab world are a direct catalyst for international terrorism. Even a cursory look at history should demonstrate this quite easily. The US sends its military into a country, and behold! They see a dramatic increase in “terrorism”!
Pakistan, you will remember, had almost no “terror problem” prior to 2007, when the US began a ham-fisted attempt to “combat Al-Qaeda” by waging war on Pakistan’s villagers. Iraq, under the “brutal tyrant” Saddam had no terrorists of which to speak. Now bombings in Baghdad are a weekly affair. Afghanistan… well, just look at it.
So what makes our politicians blind to such an obvious conclusion? Campaign donations! The Times, to take one example, quotes Joe Leiberman as saying:
“Yemen now becomes one of the centers of that fight,” said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who visited the country in August. “We have a growing presence there, and we have to, of Special Operations, Green Berets, intelligence,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Could this full-throated endorsement of war have anything to do with his campaign donors? Given that the largest contributor to Lieber-campaign is “United Technologies” a major arms manufacturer that makes, among other things, our Black Hawk helicopters, I think the answer to that question should be clear.
The time will soon come, I hope, when the American public realizes that those who speak out in favor of this insane “war on terror” do so because their campaign donors compel them to. If I am invested in an arms company, I have every reason to see this war drag on indefinitely. And if that arms company gives me a healthy donation every election cycle, you can bet that I will defend this war at all costs, Yemeni citizens be damned!
I’ve tried to stay away from the unholy imbroglio of our “health care debate”, more, perhaps, from a love of sanity than a lack of interest. The endless grubbing for votes, the pointless Republican obstructionism and the overt deviation from Senate rules (bills are supposed to need only 51 votes, remember?) have left me thoroughly disgusted with the affair. The one ray of hope was the surprising resurrection of the public option debate, but that, too, has been taken from us.
An interesting question now arises as to whether health-care reform would still be worth it without a strong public option. I admit I have not combed through the 4,105 page bill currently being discussed, but my feeling is that “health care reform” without a public option becomes “health insurance reform”. While both schemes promise to extend insurance to a proportion of America’s currently uninsured (say, 25 million out of 45 million now without insurance), “health insurance reform” would leave much of the industry’s profits intact. “Health care reform” would instead bite into the for-profit paradigm that now prevails.
Aside from the Public Option, the other significant part of the proposed reforms is the “mandate”. Way back, during the 2008 Democratic Primaries, Hillary and Barack had a minor feud regarding this bit of policy, which produced an amusing bit of histrionics from our Secretary of State (“Shame on you, Barack Obama!”). Obama then attacked Hillary for her health care plan, objecting to her “mandate”, which would force Americans to buy insurance (in much the same manner as car insurance is mandated). Shortly after winning the Presidency, Obama changed course (“flip-flopped”, as the expression goes) and came out in support of the mandate, which is now featured prominently in our present health care bill.
It stands to reason that a country-wide mandate without an adjoining non-profit health exchange would be a massive boon to the existing health-insurance providers. With a stroke of the legislative pen, these companies will immediately receive tens of millions of new customers, who, after all, have no choice but to buy health insurance from them or pay a hefty fine. Meanwhile, with no non-profit alternative, our existing “health providers” can make out like bandits on fees and overcharges.