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A Secret Democracy: Qustion Mark?

Short Version: mp3, 3.27 MBs, 3:53
Speech Version:
mp3, 4.23 MBs, 5:07

[Col. Recorded 5/16/04]

"American history is longer, larger, more beautiful, and more terrible than anyone has ever said about it." — James Baldwin (1963)*

For several years now, the US government has been operating prisons and detention centers, under the direction of an Executive Order (or Military Order), signed by US President, George W. Bush, on November 13, 2001.

Bush's Order established military tribunals to be used to try non-citizens with terrorism-linked charges.

As lawyer and writer, Barbara Olshansky, and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) has written:

With a single swipe of his pen, President Bush replaced the democratic pillars of our legal system with that of a military commission system in which he, or his designee, is rule-maker, investigator, accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury, sentencing court, reviewing court, and jailer or executioner. This new system radically abandons the core constitutional guarantees at the heart of American democracy; the rights to an independent judiciary, trial by jury, public proceedings, due process, and appeals to higher courts. In the newly authorized military tribunal system, all of these safeguards against injustice are gone. [Olshansky, B., and the CCR, *Secret Trials and Executions: Military Tribunals and the Threat to Democracy*

(Open Media/7 Stories, 2002), p. 7-8.] According to the presidential Military Order, Bush is allowed to: > Identify the persons to be tried in the tribunals;

  • Set up the rules of the tribunal *and change them at will*;
  • Choose judges, prosecutors & defense lawyers;
  • Decide sentences (after virtually certain convictions);
  • Resolve appeals;
  • Conduct the entire process, and even executions, in secret, with no input, nor accountability of Congress, the courts, or the American people. [Similar to Olshansky's p. 12]

This is essentially the erection of a secret court system that is answerable to only one man: George W. Bush.

Now, honestly; how does this strike you?

Not only do these events occur in secrecy and isolation; much of the 'evidence' relied upon by the US must, assuredly, have come from tainted and tortured 'sources.'
What we have seen in Iraq should give us some inkling of what goes on in Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba.

What is astounding is how anyone can look at the events at Abu Ghraib prison, and *not* call it "torture", as did Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who suggested, as he wasn't a lawyer, it was simply "abuse."

Much has been made of the Geneva Convention, as the legal basis for the treatment of prisoners and detainees abroad.

Since 1992, the US has agreed to follow the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). As with all treaties, once this instrument was ratified by the Senate, it became the "Supreme Law of the Land" under the US Constitution. It is therefore, the law that Bush, and all major members of the Cabinet, and all the judges, and all the soldiers swore upon, to 'protect and defend.'

Under the ICCPR's Article 7, all people have the right to be free from "torture, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment" (p. 48).
Indeed, under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, torture is named as a "crime against humanity."

Call it what you will, what we have already seen from Abu Ghraib is physical and psychological torture. If Rumsfeld was subjected to it, he wouldn't dare to question it!
But, we are at a disadvantage; for hundreds, perhaps as many as a thousand photos, are being held in secrecy. The American people, it seems, are too gentle to view what their soldiers and intelligence officers have done in their name.

Centuries ago, the philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, wrote, of government secrecy:
It has been the one song of those who thirst after absolute power that the interest of the State requires that its affairs should be conducted in secret.... But the more such arguments disguise themselves under the mask of public welfare, the more oppressive is the slavery to which they will lead... Better that right counsels be known to enemies than that the evil secrets of tyrants should be concealed from the citizens. They who can treat secretly of the affairs of a nation have it absolutely under their authority; and as they plot against the enemy in time of war, so do they against the citizens in time of peace. [Fr. Spinoza's *Tractatus Politicus*, Ch. 7; Fr. Will & Ariel Durant's *The Story of Philosophy*, (1961), p. 147.]

We are witnessing the wisdom of Spinoza's insight today.
[*Fr. "A Talk to Teachers", *Saturday Review*, (12/21/63).]

Copyright 2004 Mumia Abu-Jamal

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Submitted by: Sis. Marpessa

Text © copyright 2003 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of the author.