Friday, February 17, 2006

Uigher Update

Last August, I wrote about the plight of two Chinese Muslims, Abu Bakker Qassim and A'del Abdu Al-Hakim. ("Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Justice," 8/27/2005):

In 2001, they fled China and set out for Turkey in hopes of finding work. Then came 9/11. They were in Pakistan when the U.S. attacked Afghanistan. We had a bounty on “terrorists” — $5000 a head. Someone in Pakistan saw $10,000 of easy money, tipped off the U.S.; and we bought them in January of 2002.

In early 2005, without the benefit of counsel, they stood trial in a military court and were found innocent. Nevertheless, they remain captives.

The U.S. will not send them to China, where they would face discrimination at best and quite possibly incarceration. But we won’t set them free, either. We won’t let them live in the civilian community at Guantanamo, and we won’t let them live in the United States. The reason is clear enough. Out of prison, they will be free to talk about what happened in prison, and that we will not permit.

After I wrote about Qassim and Al-Hakim, I learned that there are at least five Uighers at Guantanamo; and it appeared that all of them are completely innocent. By other accounts, there are between 15 to 22 Chinese Muslims jailed at Guantanamo.

On February 16, 2006, the A.B.C. evening news belatedly aired a report about the Uighers at Guantanamo. The story confirmed that five are being held and that when two of them “had a chance to defend themselves,” they were acquited. A.B.C. did not mention that their “chance to defend themselves” was a secret trial or that their lawyer, Sabin Willet, only learned about it after it was over.

To its credit, the network noted U.S. District Court Judge James Robertson’s opinion that the Uighers’s indefinite confinement is unlawful, as well as his finding that he does not have the power to release them. Unfortunately, A.B.C. did not include Willet’s assessment. “It's a bizarre conclusion,” he said, “to have a judge say the executive branch is acting illegally, but he can't do anything about it.”


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George Will Not

Hopelessly conservative pundit George Will wrote an editorial for the Washington Post titled “No Checks, Many Imbalances.” (2/16/2006, p. A27) In it, he pondered future Congressional authorizations of presidential military powers. If the Bush administration prevails with its doctrine of presidential powers, why would any future President bother to consult Congress? According to the neo-con view of the executive branch of government:

…whenever the nation is at war, the other two branches of government have a radically diminished pertinence to governance, and the president determines what that pertinence shall be.

George Will also questioned the position that the President is the only agent for the nation in foreign affairs:

That non sequitur is refuted by the Constitution’s plain language, which empowers Congress to ratify treaties, declare war, fund and regulate military forces, and make laws "necessary and proper" for the execution of all presidential powers. Those powers do not include deciding that a law — FISA, for example — is somehow exempted from the presidential duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” (Emphasis in the original)

And then, Will threw his argument away. Rather than have Congress assert its Constitutional powers, rather than have Congress perform its constitutional responsibility to declare war, rather than have the executive faithfully execute the laws of the land, Congress should revise the laws to accommodate George Bush, Junior:

with language that does not stigmatize what he has been doing, but that implicitly refutes the doctrine that the authorization is superfluous.

Implicitly refutes? Why not explicitly? And what does he mean when he speaks of “language that does not stigmatize” prior felonies? George Will will not get it; he refuses to get it. The checks and balances of our system can only be defended through application, not abdication.


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Spreading Democracy

Kenneth Starr is accused of sending fake letters on behalf of a client, Michael Morales, to governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Morales is scheduled to be executed for the rape and murder of a teen-age girl 25 years ago. The letters, ostensibly from five jurors in the case, requested clemency for Morales. According to a spokesman for the California Attorney General, the jurors all denied writing the letters or talking to the defense investigator who supposedly secured their signatures. Kenneth Starr, the prosecutor in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, is the dean of the Pepperdine School of Law.

Tony Blair has promised an investigation of British soldiers who were caught on video beating four Iraqi youths. (Three are shown in the sequence above. The fourth was brought in moments later, and several more soldiers joined in the fun.) It is impossible to determine with any precision the ages of the victims; but they are clearly much shorter than their captors, suggesting that they are fairly young. One soldier wearing a helmet butted heads with a victim; another soldier apparently kneed the boy in the face. Four or five soldiers set upon him in earnest. All the boys were beaten with clubs. One of them was kicked in the groin while he was held face down on the ground by two men who were punching him.

The video apparently was made by a corporal who was cheering the soldiers on. “Oh, yes! Oh, yes! You’re gonna get it! Yes, naughty little boys! (Laughter)” The boys can be heard crying, “No, no, please.” The cameraman mocks them, saying “Oh, please, don’t hurt me.”

The video is available at for February 12, 2006. It is not a beautiful thing to see.

In a related story, 60 new photos have been released documenting the abuse of prisoners at abu Ghraib. Although similar to pictures already available, the new photos reveal graphic images of sexual humiliation and torture along with new incidents of murder. The pictures are available through World News Australia, but they have not yet been shown by American media outlets. Link Link

The final lesson in democracy comes from Palm Beach, Florida. In recent county elections, right-wing media mouth Ann Coulter voted in the wrong precinct — and not by accident. In fact, she gave a false address when she registered to vote in 2005 and signed the registration form certifying that the information she provided was true.

It is a felony to vote knowingly in the wrong precinct. Falsifying a voter registration form can result in a fine of up to $5000 and a maximum jail sentence of five years.

It’s going to be hard for her to blame this on President Clinton, but I’m confident she’ll find a way.


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