I've decided to start carrying a toothbrush.
Incredibly, we’ve reached that point in America where, thanks to a bunch of spineless traitors in Congress (Republicans and Democrats), it is only a matter of time before the state begins rounding up people like me and whisking us off to dark cells without telling anyone.
Congress, with almost no discussion, has just approved a law ostensibly about authorizing military tribunals for alleged terrorists which actually went way beyond that bad enough end run on the Constitution, to include giving the president the congressional sanction to torture captives and, as well, the power to snatch up any American citizen and declare her or him to be an “unlawful combatant,” devoid of Constitutional rights.
Such a victim of presidential whim or pique could be shuttled off to a gulag anywhere in the world, or to Guantanamo Bay, or to a military installation somewhere in the U.S. (Or perhaps to that mysterious concentration camp that is reportedly being constructed in secret somewhere in the U.S. by Kellogg Brown & Root.) Nobody, not even family members, would have to be notified of this capture and detention. No lawyer would be called.
This, sad to say, is America today, courtesy of your elected representatives, a majority of whom have violated their oaths of office to uphold and defend the Constitution. Our nation has become a place that the revolutionists of 1776 would easily recognize, not as the country they brought into being, but rather as a reprise of the tyrannical colonial British rule that they struggled to break free from.
Under the guidelines President Bush is using for the made-up term "unlawful combatant," anyone who is said to be giving aid to terrorists (a very slippery term itself, which has been used to describe everyone from a lone bomber to the elected presidents of Iran and Venezuela) could be subjected to secret, indefinite detention without charge, and to torture as well.
Such "aid" could be an innocent donation of money to a charity that, unknown to the donor, turned out to somehow be providing funds to an organization associated with a terrorist organization. A Christian charity that donates some of its funds to an Iranian state orphanage might easily if inadvertently fit that bill. Writing an article critical of the Bush administration's hoked up "war" on terror (like this one here), could qualify the author for arrest, too. Certainly a piece I wrote for The Nation magazine's online edition last week, disclosing that the Bush administration had pushed forward deployment to the Iran Theater of an aircraft carrier battle group by a month in preparation for a probable attack on Iran before Election Day could pass the terrorist-aid test.
Likewise a report by Time Magazine reporters the same week revealing that Navy personnel had received "prepare to deploy" orders to be ready to sail a fleet of minesweepers to the Persian Gulf on October 1, also in preparation for war against Iran.
Once Bush begins really using his new gift from Congress of dictatorial powers of arrest without charge and detention without trial, the brigs of the country's military bases will begin to fill with journalists, anti-war activists and little old ladies who gave to the wrong charity.
Make no mistake. This is going to happen unless this catastrophic sell-out bill passed into law by Congress is repealed or declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, because history has made it crystal clear that powers made available are powers used.
The less popular this president becomes--and he deservedly ranks right down there with the most unpopular leaders of all time--the more desperate he will be, particularly because he has already committed so many offenses against this nation and against the Constitution that his impeachment by a Democratic Congress is increasingly probable.
We are at a critical moment in American history.
With the passage of the new anti-terrorism bill, Election Day on November 7 could well be the last chance for the American people to reassert their faith in the Constitution that our Founding Fathers and the blood of tens of thousands of revolutionary soldiers provided us with over 200 years ago.
It is, at this point, imperative that the voters of this country think strategically, forget petty ideological differences and intellectual debates over whether or not the Democratic Party can ever be reformed, and simply vote for the Democrat in every election district. Even the cowardly Democrats who supported the terror bill must be returned to office, I'm afraid (we can deal with them later).
The key is to gain a Democratic Party majority in both houses of Congress, and to remove the rubber stamp Republican Party from control.
As nauseating as it may be to find one's self voting for the likes of Texas Rep. Chet Edwards or Illinois Rep. Melissa Bean (two of 34 Democratic representatives who joined Republicans in voting for the terrorism bill), it is nonetheless crucial that both be re-elected so that Democrats can add at least 15 seats to their total in the House and take over control of that institution. Ditto in the Senate. A Bob Casey may be pro-Iraq War and anti-abortion, but if he is not elected to replace Sen. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, there is no chance Democrats will retake control of the U.S. Senate in November.
Now I know the idea of voting for Democrats--especially Democrats who have voted wrong on the war, wrong on torture, wrong on giving the president dictatorial powers--can be both sickening and seemingly contradictory for those who feel the Party has constantly betrayed its own constituents, but with this last law we've crossed a Rubicon. We are in a police state when there is no longer habeas corpus and when even the Congress is saying that the president and the "Justice" Department can start locking people up in military prisons without the right to bring the case to a court. Heck, at this rate, after November, we may not even have another election. That makes voting for Third Party candidates kind of pointless, doesn't it? Basically, I'd say we've got a shot this November at stopping the coup, and we need to grab it. It might not work, but I'm betting most of those Democrats who shamelessly voted yes on the terrorism bill did it because they thought they needed to vote that way to win this election. They may be wrong (and I may be wrong), but the simple equation is--vote your conscience in those districts, and the Republicans keep in control in Congress and the police state grows in strength; ignore your conscience, vote for lame Democrats, and the Republicans lose Congress and we have at least a chance of stopping this march to totalitarianism. It's really that simple.
Certainly a Democratic Congressional victory on Election Day will not herald a return to some 1960s liberal America, or even a Clintonian pseudo-liberal era, much less to a new New Deal, and nobody should be under such an illusion. But it would be a major defeat for the Bush dictatorship, as a Democratic Congress could be expected to begin seriously investigating Bush administration crimes, could start to undo the creeping coup that has been eroding American democracy and long-held democratic freedoms, and could protect us from being saddled with yet another pro-authoritarian Supreme Court justice. (For that to happen, given the lame nature of the Democratic Party, will require a powerful mass movement through the course of the next two years, after Election Day.)
Meanwhile, just in case, I'm carrying that toothbrush. I care too much about the health of my gums and about keeping my teeth to want to lose them to a period of military detention.
Dave Lindorff is co-author, with Barbara Olshansky, of "The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office" (St. Martin's Press, June 2006). His work, and more information on the book, can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net