Madison on aristocratic-military rule

While Madison, Hamilton, and Jackson collectively laid a deplorably anti-democratic foundation for the US, you can’t argue with this quote:

“A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”

James Madison,
Constitutional Convention [June 29, 1787]

The American Gulag

Remember the Martin Niemoller quote.


Panel Ignored Evidence on Detainee

By Carol D. Leonnig
The Washington Post
Page A01 March 27, 2005

A military tribunal determined last fall that Murat Kurnaz, a German national seized in Pakistan in 2001, was a member of al Qaeda and an enemy combatant whom the government could detain indefinitely at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The three military officers on the panel, whose identities are kept secret, said in papers filed in federal court that they reached their conclusion based largely on classified evidence that was too sensitive to release to the public.

In fact, that evidence, recently declassified and obtained by The Washington Post, shows that U.S. military intelligence and German law enforcement authorities had largely concluded there was no information that linked Kurnaz to al Qaeda, any other terrorist organization or terrorist activities.

In recently declassified portions of a January ruling, a federal judge criticized the military panel for ignoring the exculpatory information that dominates Kurnaz’s file and for relying instead on a brief, unsupported memo filed shortly before Kurnaz’s hearing by an unidentified government official.

Kurnaz has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since at least January 2002.

“The U.S. government has known for almost two years that he’s innocent of these charges,” said Baher Azmy, Kurnaz’s attorney. “That begs a lot of questions about what the purpose of Guantanamo really is. He can’t be useful to them. He has no intelligence for them. Why in the world is he still there?”

The Kurnaz case appears to be the first in which classified material considered by a “combatant status review tribunal” has become public. While attorneys for Guantanamo Bay detainees have frequently complained that their clients are being held based on thin evidence, Kurnaz’s is the first known case in which it has been revealed that a panel disregarded the recommendations of U.S. intelligence agencies and information supplied by allies.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Daryl Borgquist, said the government will not answer questions about the decisions made by the tribunals. “We don’t comment on the decisions of the tribunals,” he said.

About 540 foreign nationals are detained at Guantanamo Bay as suspected al Qaeda or Taliban fighters, or associates of terrorist groups. In response to a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June that allowed the detainees to challenge their imprisonment, the military began holding new review tribunals last fall.

During tribunal hearings, a panel of military officers considers public and secret evidence, and the detainee is offered an opportunity to state his case and answer questions. The military panel then decides whether a captive should be designated an enemy combatant and be further detained. A second panel later reviews how dangerous the detainee would be if released.

According to the Defense Department, 558 tribunal reviews have been held. In the 539 decisions made so far, 506 detainees have been found to be enemy combatants and have been kept in prison. Thirty-three have been found not to be enemy combatants. Of those, four have been released.

In January, U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green ruled that the tribunals are illegal, unfairly stacked against detainees and in violation of the Constitution. The Bush administration has appealed her decision.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, who, like Green, sits in the federal district for the District of Columbia, has ruled that the tribunals provide an appropriate legal forum for the detainees. Detainees are appealing his ruling.

In Kurnaz’s case, a tribunal panel made up of an Air Force colonel and lieutenant colonel and a Navy lieutenant commander concluded that he was an al Qaeda member, based on “some evidence” that was classified.

But in nearly 100 pages of documents, now declassified by the government, U.S. military investigators and German law enforcement authorities said they had no such evidence. The Command Intelligence Task Force, the investigative arm of the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the Guantanamo Bay facility, repeatedly suggested that it may have been a mistake to take Kurnaz off a bus of Islamic missionaries traveling through Pakistan in October 2001.

“CITF has no definite link/evidence of detainee having an association with Al Qaida or making any specific threat against the U.S.,” one document says. “CITF is not aware of evidence that Kurnaz was or is a member of Al Quaeda.”

Another newly declassified document reports that the “Germans confirmed this detainee has no connection to an al-Qaida cell in Germany.”

Only one document in Kurnaz’s file, a short memo written by an unidentified military official, concludes that the German Muslim of Turkish descent is an al Qaeda member. In recently declassified portions of her January ruling, Green wrote that the panel’s decision appeared to be based on this single anonymous memo, labeled “R-19.”

The R-19 memo, she wrote, “fails to provide significant details to support its conclusory allegations, does not reveal the sources for its information and is contradicted by other evidence in the record.” Green reviewed all the classified and unclassified evidence in the case.

Eugene R. Fidell, a Washington-based expert in military law, said Green appropriately chided the tribunal for not considering the overwhelming conclusion of the government that Kurnaz was improperly detained and should be released.

“It suggests the procedure is a sham,” Fidell said. “If a case like that can get through, what it means is that the merest scintilla of evidence against someone would carry the day for the government, even if there’s a mountain of evidence on the other side.”

Douglas W. Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University who supports the tribunal process, said the lack of evidence against Kurnaz is “very troubling” and should prompt a military review of this particular tribunal. “Failing to do that would undercut the argument that the military, in times of war, is capable of policing itself.”

Azmy, Kurnaz’s attorney and a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey, asked, “Having concluded long ago that he has no links to terrorists, what is keeping him there (at Guantanamo Bay)?” Azmy said the Pentagon seems unable to admit it was wrong to detain someone so long. “Or perhaps it’s just a bureaucratic trap that Murat cannot get out of,” Azmy said.

Justice Department lawyers told Azmy last week that the information that exonorated Kurnaz may have been improperly declassified and should be treated in the foreseeable future as classified.

Uwe Picard, the German prosecutor who investigated the case said, “As far as I’m concerned, this group (that Kurnaz was accused of belonging to) is just a series of letters that means absolutely nothing,” he said. “And as I see it, the Americans really have no reason to hold Mr. Kurnaz. That wouldn’t be allowed under German law.”

Washington Post staff writer Dita Smith and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

“I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century. But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege, men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be color and race.”
W.E.B. Du Bois

tyrannasaurus americanus

Muneer Ahmad is defending the Canadian boy Omar Khadr abducted in the US on a stopover and imprisoned at the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp.

If you have legal skills, help by reaching Ahmad at (202) 274-4389. Email: mahmad@wcl.american.edu.

See http://www.cageprisoners.com/pr_articles.php?aid=275 and http://www.ccrny.org/v2/legal/september_11th/docs/RasulOmarAhme%20KhadrSCAmicus.pdf.

Ahmad says the community of lawyers is growing around the US that is dedicated to working against the debauched federal government for abducting people, revoking due process and other aspects of the Constitution, and sending folks off to concentration camps. We need to fight this tyranny now.

Here are a few advocates with integrity (two sources in Minnesota):

Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights: 650 3rd Ave S, #550 Minneapolis, MN 55402-1940. Phone: (612) 341-3302. (See
http://www.mnadvocates.org/Q_A_Guantanamo.html).

Joe Margulies, Margulies & Richman, PLC. 2520 Park Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55404. 612.872.4900. fax: 612.872.4967 .
jmargulies@jmrrlaw.com. Margulies will be presenting at St. Thomas Law School on Monday, April 11, from 4-6 (see http://www2.mnbar.org/sections/criminal-law/04-11-05.pdf).

More opportunities to help restore democracy:
http://www.cageprisoners.com/whatcanwedo.php.

The fall of the house of labor: Racism and middle class identity

Early Americans had the real sense of dignity in work that comes from having control over production. Workers were independent, skilled, knowledgeable, had status, and took pride in their contributions to the American polity.[1] They tended to support Jeffersonians, rejecting the contemptuous, aristocratic, pro-British, monopolist Federalists associated with Alexander Hamliton.[2]

In the face of the mechanization, Taylorization, deskilling, and loss of control over production and innovation that arose with industrialization, US workers articulated socialist politics. They subscribed to the labor theory of value, wherein capital is seen as the expropriation and accumulation of years of workers’ efforts; and they promoted cross-ethnic, cross-religious solidarity, cooperatives, ten-hour movements, and unions. They recruited immigrants, produced journals in many languages, and disseminated job and wage information to workers. [3] The impetus for labor organization was strong: not only did industrialization degrade workers’ working conditions, it fanned class inequality, and it threatened to remove the workers’ political rights, which were tied to property ownership. The unions grew until the 1830s.

Early Anglo-Americans’ young unions suffered setbacks in the depression of the 1830s, as intertwined, cross-class temperance, Protestant revivalist, and nativist movements arose to prominence in American society. Nativists were characterized by “a zeal to destroy the ‘enemies’ of an ‘American way of life’.”[4] Where de Tocqueville had once identified Americans’ loyalty to Republican principle, in the 1830s American opinion descended into loyalty to a distorted, ideological construction of place. The material land had become a political touchstone, the basanos upon which the racialized bodies of labor were to be tortured to produce the “truth” of elite rule.[5]

When Irish and German Catholics began immigrating in the 1840s, Anglo American workers faced an incoming tide of cheap labor, and a choice: embrace immigrants and rebuild the unions, or join the Anglo nativist organizations that agitated for abolishing the immigrants’ political rights—though not restricting immigration.

Privileged AngloAmericans opposed restricting immigration because they could rapidly accumulate wealth by exploiting vulnerable immigrant domestic, factory, and farm labor, while congratulating themselves for saving the castaway populations of Europe.

In the 1840s, the working class politics of solidarity gave way to a less-innovative, less-independent, less-ambitious, but more immediately pragmatic politics, what A.T. Lane (1987) calls the “politics of survival.”

The “politics of survival” were essentially a conflict strategy for distinguishing the native population of Anglo-American Protestants as a sober, Protestant-educated, disciplined, reliable middle class, a chosen, exceptionalist, competitor class. By abjecting the immigrant workers –and, after the Civil War, African-Americans—instead of rebuilding unions, the Anglo Protestants hoped to forward an elite-friendly strategy for reducing the immigrant impact on Anglo workers’ work quality and wages.[6]

The Anglo American Protestants stumbled down the path of dehumanizing and sacrificing the lives of their non-Anglo brothers and sisters. They gave up on solidarity, and committed the U.S. to serving the interests of landowners and other exploiters of cheapened labor. While previously Anglo workers understood capitalism as a democracy-threatening conflict between workers and “accumulators” over the deployment of the social wealth, with the expansion of racism and the middle class identity, capitalists rather than workers (even middle class workers) could be framed as “innovative” agents. Racism was expanded throughout American society, and the American “middle class” beetled on in pursuit of the proofs of their monopoly on sobriety, discipline, and reliability.


[1] Lane 1987: 15.

[2] Lane 1987: 16

[3] Lane 1987: 25-26.

[4] John Higham quoted in Lane 1987: 21.

[5] The basanos in Ancient Greece was the “imaginary tool for the testing of friendship, loyalty, and adherence to traditional values.” Literally, slaves were tortured on a stone, the basanos, when their masters were accused of crimes (DuBois, Page. 1991. Torture and truth: The new ancient world. New York: Routledge).

[6] Lane 1987: 30.