First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
--Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)
Martin Niemöller was a German pastor and theologian born in Lippstadt, Germany, in 1892. Niemöller was an anti-Communist and supported Hitler's rise to power at first. But when Hitler insisted on the supremacy of the state over religion, Niemöller became disillusioned. He became the leader of a group of German clergymen opposed to Hitler. Unlike Niemöller, they gave in to the Nazis' threats. In 1937 he was arrested and eventually confined in Sachsenhausen and Dachau. His crime was "not being enthusiastic enough about the Nazi movement." Niemöller was released in 1945 by the Allies. He continued his career in Germany as a clergyman and as a leading voice of penance and reconciliation for the German people after World War II. His statement, sometimes presented as a poem, is well-known, frequently quoted, and is a popular model for describing the dangers of political apathy, as it often begins with specific and targeted fear and hatred which soon escalates out of control.
Setting the Trap
Levin-McCain bill would create a presidential dictatorship. Where is the outrage?
by Justin Raimondo
Buried in the annual defense appropriations bill is a provision that would give the President the power to use the military to intern anyone – including American citizens – indefinitely, and hold them without charges or trial, anywhere in the world, including on American soil. The provision essentially repeals the longstanding Posse Comitatus Act, which prevents the military from engaging in law enforcement on US territory – the greatest fear of the Founders. Approved by a Senate subcommittee in secret hearings, the provisions open the road to a military dictatorship in this country – and for that we can thank Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, who introduced the measure. Both the FBI and the Pentagon came out against the Levin-McCain monstrosity, and Senator Mark Udall (D-Colorado) introduced an amendment striking the provision: the amendment was defeated in the Senate, 37-61.
The mind reels. As the ACLU’s Chris Anders puts it:
“I know it sounds incredible. New powers to use the military worldwide, even within the United States? Hasn’t anyone told the Senate that Osama bin Laden is dead, that the president is pulling all of the combat troops out of Iraq and trying to figure out how to get combat troops out of Afghanistan too? And American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. Really? Does anyone think this is a good idea? And why now?”
Why now, indeed – and the answer is not hard to fathom. With the US banking system making very loud creaking noises as the eurozone descends into the economic abyss, and a total meltdown staring us in the face, the Powers That Be want to make sure they have their hands on the reins of power – and on the whip they won’t hesitate to use.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) exults that the bill will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and anyone can be imprisoned without charge or trial “American citizen or not.” Graham doesn’t care about any of that sissy constitutional stuff, and never did – throw ‘em in the brig! Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from the “Live Free or Die” state, doesn’t care that she’s destroying the American republic and our constitutional liberties by voting for this draconian measure because, she says, “America is part of the battlefield.”
Nothing illustrates the longstanding warning from antiwar advocates that “war is the health of the state” than this ominous development. The principle that war leads inevitably to the erosion and eventual destruction of our constitutional form of government is being dramatized on the floor of Congress even as I write these words. At the Republican foreign policy debate held recently, Professor Gingrich lectured us on “the difference between national security requirements and criminal law requirements,” and, drawing on this spurious distinction, averred:
“All of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives. This is not going to end in the short run. And we need to be prepared to protect ourselves from those who, if they could, would not just kill us individually, but would take out entire cities.”
For the rest of our lives we’ll be in thrall to Gingrich, Graham, Levin, and the rest of them, on the pretext that we’re about to be nuked by a bunch of marginal fanatics hiding in a cave somewhere. It’s a thin rationale indeed for setting the stage for martial law in the United States, but it couldn’t have come at a more convenient time for our rulers, as they face the prospect of civil disorder in the face of economic collapse.
That the authoritarian strain in American politics is coming to the fore in this time of crisis should come as no surprise. Backed up against a wall, the ruling elite is baring its teeth, and the Constitution – which has long been a mere piece of moldering parchment rather than the law of the land – is easily disposed of. Our cowardly Congress, which lives only to advance special interests and line its own pockets, is hardly a bulwark against this onslaught: indeed, they are the source of it.
So where are the Tea Partiers, who warn against “Big Government” and denounce “RINOs” like Sen. Graham who don’t share their aversion to centralized authority? They’re busy campaigning for Gingrich, the “true conservative” and $1.6 million Fannie Mae “consultant,” who preaches the virtues of endless war. Besides, the Levin-McCain provisions will only be used against them damned Mooslims – right?
Wrong – but by the time these “patriots” realize how wrong they are, it’ll be too late. As Rep. Justin Amash, one of the few congressmen elected on the Tea Party wave who has a conscience (and a brain), put it, this bill, which is “carefully crafted to mislead the public,” is one of the most “anti-liberty pieces of legislation in our lifetime.”
As the economy collapses – say, around next week sometime – and as people line up at the banks to get their money out, and discover the till is empty, as the food distribution system breaks down, and the mobs gather and swell, they’ll call the army out into the streets to keep order. And it will all be perfectly “legal.”
Don’t tell me our sainted solons are cringing in fear of al-Qaeda, which is by now a mere shadow of a shadow: the real object of their fear is the American people – and they have every reason to be afraid.
The “debate” in Congress over the Levin-McCain provisions is not really what it appears to be, as Marcy Wheeler points out in some depth. On the Senate floor, opponents of the provision, such as Dianne Feinstein, mentioned the dangers of the army patrolling the streets of American cities only in passing, if at all: their real objection is that the provisions impede the really existing “war on terrorism.” Wheeler argues that the Obama administration would be constrained from utilizing its network of informants if detainees were handled by the military. As she puts it:
“Again, I suspect that’s the Administration objection. It allows them to do these things. But requires they do them with a paper trail Congress can audit. In short, it’s a future Fast and Furious scandal, the guaranteed exposure of all of their harebrained undercover operations, waiting to happen.”
The administration’s veto threat has nothing to do with protecting civil liberties: indeed, quite the opposite. As Sen. Levin noted in his remarks, a bit of politicking went on at the secret Senate hearing:
“The initial bill reported by the committee included language expressly precluding ‘the detention of citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.’ The Administration asked that this language be removed from the bill.”
The real purpose of the Levin-McCain provisions is entirely unrelated to “terrorism,” either by al-Qaeda or any known domestic outfit. It was put in there to codify a number of important “legal” precedents, which make it possible for the President to declare an American citizen an “enemy combatant” and hold him or her indefinitely without charges. This is the final step in a process that will enable the President to establish a de facto military dictatorship: it’s the “unitary presidency” meets the global economic crisis.
“America is part of the battlefield,” says Sen. Ayotte, quite accurately – and Americans are the target. Resistance is “terrorism”: dissent is a crime, and you’d better shut up and take it if you know what’s good for you. That’s the message they’re sending – and how, one wonders, will Americans respond?
Tryptophaned into a submissive lethargy by large doses of turkey and stuffing, and living in constant fear of imminent destitution, they hardly notice this historic betrayal. The trap is set, baited, and ready to spring: one has to wonder, however, if this passivity will hold once those steel jaws bite. I bet they’re wondering in Washington, too.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
We are headed straight for a military dictatorship in this country – but it isn’t too late to fight back. Antiwar.com is in the front lines of the battle, educating the American people about the nature of the regime we live under and making the case for liberty and peace. Yet we can’t do it alone: we need your help to keep up the fight. The success of our winter fundraising drive is essential to our survival, so please give today – because the future of the country depends on it.
American Civil Liberties Union
Senators Demand the Military Lock Up American Citizens in a “Battlefield” They Define as Being Right Outside Your Window
by Chris Anders
While nearly all Americans head to family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield — even people in the United States itself.
Senators need to hear from you, on whether you think your front yard is part of a “battlefield” and if any president can send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.
The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president—and every future president — the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.
The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.
I know it sounds incredible. New powers to use the military worldwide, even within the United States? Hasn’t anyone told the Senate that Osama bin Laden is dead, that the president is pulling all of the combat troops out of Iraq and trying to figure out how to get combat troops out of Afghanistan too? And American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. Really? Does anyone think this is a good idea? And why now?
The answer on why now is nothing more than election season politics. The White House, the Secretary of Defense, and the Attorney General have all said that the indefinite detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act are harmful and counterproductive. The White House has even threatened a veto. But Senate politics has propelled this bad legislation to the Senate floor.
But there is a way to stop this dangerous legislation. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is offering the Udall Amendment that will delete the harmful provisions and replace them with a requirement for an orderly Congressional review of detention power. The Udall Amendment will make sure that the bill matches up with American values.
In support of this harmful bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) explained that the bill will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and people can be imprisoned without charge or trial “American citizen or not.” Another supporter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) also declared that the bill is needed because “America is part of the battlefield.”
The solution is the Udall Amendment; a way for the Senate to say no to indefinite detention without charge or trial anywhere in the world where any president decides to use the military. Instead of simply going along with a bill that was drafted in secret and is being jammed through the Senate, the Udall Amendment deletes the provisions and sets up an orderly review of detention power. It tries to take the politics out and put American values back in.
In response to proponents of the indefinite detention legislation who contend that the bill “applies to American citizens and designates the world as the battlefield,” and that the “heart of the issue is whether or not the United States is part of the battlefield,” Sen. Udall disagrees, and says that we can win this fight without worldwide war and worldwide indefinite detention.
The senators pushing the indefinite detention proposal have made their goals very clear that they want an okay for a worldwide military battlefield, that even extends to your hometown. That is an extreme position that will forever change our country.
Now is the time to stop this bad idea. Please urge your senators to vote YES on the Udall Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
The Senate vote: 93-7; both California senators voted for it
Senate rejects effort to strip provisions on terror suspects from defense bill
By Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday rejected an effort to strip divisive provisions from a defense bill that deal with the capture and handling of suspected terrorists, setting up a showdown with the White House.
The resounding 60-38 vote sent a strong message to the Obama administration, which has threatened a veto of the bill over the requirement of military custody for captured terror suspects and limitations on the ability to transfer detainees from the naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The clash underscores the ongoing dispute between the executive branch and some in Congress over whether to treat suspected terrorists as prisoners of war or criminals.
Weigh In Corrections?
inShareIt also exposed deep divisions within Senate Democratic ranks.
“The provisions would dramatically change broad counterterrorism efforts by requiring law enforcement officials to step aside and ask the Department of Defense to take on a new role they are not fully equipped for and do not want,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who added that the legislation would make the military “police, judge and jailer.”
His amendment would have taken out the sections on detainees and instead called for congressional hearings with Pentagon and administration officials on the issue.
Defending the provisions, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin argued that they contain a national security waiver for the administration. The issue has pitted Levin against other senior Democratic senators, including the chairmen of the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.
“Should somebody when it’s been determined ... to be a member of an enemy force who has come to this nation or is in this nation to attack us as a member of a foreign enemy, should that person be treated according to the laws of war? And the answer is yes,” said Levin, D-Mich.
The bill would require military custody of a suspect deemed to be a member of al-Qaida or its affiliates and involved in plotting or committing attacks on the United States.
“We’re fighting a war, not a crime,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and FBI Director Robert Mueller have spelled out their opposition in letters to lawmakers. Mueller said Monday that because the legislation applies to people detained in the United States, it could disrupt ongoing international terrorism investigations and make it difficult for the FBI to work with a grand jury or obtain subpoenas.
Mueller also described the waiver as too cumbersome, requiring that it be obtained from the defense secretary in consultation with the secretary of state and the director of National Intelligence with a certification to Congress.
Preston Golson, a spokesman for CIA Director David Petraeus, said “The director feels that the president should have flexibility in dealing with persons detained for involvement in international terrorism.”
Hours after the vote, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said he would have voted to strip the terror suspect provision, and announced that he had changed his vote.
The vote came shortly after the weekly Republican and Democratic policy luncheons. A guest at the Republican session was former Vice President Dick Cheney, an advocate for harsh interrogation tactics against suspected U.S. enemies during his two terms in office. Republicans said he was a guest and did not make remarks at the session despite an intense discussion within GOP ranks about the detainee provisions.
The sweeping defense bill would authorize $662 billion for military personnel, weapons systems, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and national security programs in the Energy Department. Reflecting a period of austerity and deficit-driven cuts in military spending, the bill is $27 billion less than what Obama requested for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 of this year. The Senate hopes to complete the legislation by week’s end.
Earlier this month, Armed Services Committee investigators found about 1,800 cases of suspect counterfeit electronic parts being sold to the Pentagon, with lawmakers blaming China for dumping them. By voice vote, the Senate on Tuesday approved a broad amendment to improve detection, including a provision that would prohibit contractors from charging the Pentagon for the cost of fixing the problem when counterfeit parts are found
The Senate also rejected an amendment by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., that would have ended the authority for using force in Iraq. The vote was 67-30.
After nearly nine years of war, some 13,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by year’s end, but Paul argued that his measure was about the separation of powers and Congress needed to reclaim its authority to declare war.