Sunday, October 01, 2006
Am I safe? Pondering hope & despair under the new detainee law
By Pamela K. Taylor
As I watched with incredulity as our government legalized what most of us would consider torture, strip habeas corpus rights from "enemy combatants" who could be American citizens, allow hearsay, coerced testimony, secret evidence (in which a defendant does not know the evidence, or perhaps even the charge, against him), indefinite detentions with no trial, I wavered between disbelief and despair.
I have real fears that the government may go on a spree, rounding up whoever they like, without any of us having the right to challenge that imprisonment.
Am I safe?
Before 9-11, my husband and I had been supporting an orphan through an organization that turned out to be siphoning the funds to terrorist groups in Afghanistan. (So says our government, but after Iraq and the elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction, I don't even know if I should believe that contention.) After we recovered from our fear of donating to Islamic charities, we picked an organization that had supposedly been cleared by Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, but only months later was shut down.
Will the fact that we picked poorly twice be seen as a pattern? Proof of nefarious intentions?
Will my outspoken opposition to many of America's foreign policies be used as an excuse to claim I'm giving comfort to terrorists? Will they pick me up, along with other folks who spoke at peace demonstrations?
I have young children, what would happen to them? Would relatives step up and take care of them, or would the courts appoint guardians from the foster care system? Would I have any say over who they go to?
It is a depressing thought, indeed.
The only lantern of hope I hold out is to consider the history of the 18th Amendment, creating the prohibition against alcohol. The amendment was a mistake, and a few years later, our elected officials realized that and repealed it. With any luck, in a few years (or even better a few months) our elected officials will pass a new law repealing the Military Commisions Act. Or, perhaps, the Supreme Court will strike it down as unconstitutional.
I have great hope that we won't continue down the path of increasing executive branch authority, decreasing checks and balances, and that we won't let fear gut the rights and liberties enshrined in the Constitution.
We have taken wrong turns before -- the shameful treatment of the native population, slavery, the internment of the Japanese, the McCarthy era. Sometimes it took only a few years to realize our mistake, and sometimes it took a lot longer. Hopefuly this one will take less time, rather than more.