From the Foxhole
The Detention of Americans
How the quest for absolute security is compromising our democracy
By Alex E. Limkin
The Senate voted in favor of allowing the military to detain American citizens indefinitely without trial on U.S. soil.
I am concerned for my own safety.
Although I am not a terrorist, I oppose this aspect of the National Defense Authorization Act, and because I oppose the provision—drafted to “keep us safe”—I fear I could be depicted, rather easily, as a terrorist sympathizer.
For who else would be foolish enough to oppose antiterrorism legislation? This could be the poor logic used to intimidate all who assert that this proposal is unconstitutional.
If the measure becomes law, in less than one year U.S. citizens could be accused of terrorism, and on this basis, they will begin vanishing.
Let me be clear on what the Senate has voted to approve: a measure to permit the government to detain American citizens without any formal charges, for an indefinite period of time and with no access to legal representation. Like the nightmare depicted by Franz Kafka in The Trial, it will be enough that one is accused. The accusation will be sufficient to warrant indefinite military detention of American citizens—something we have not seen since the internment of Japanese-American families in WWII.
President Obama still has the authority to veto this legislation. If he, as a trained constitutional lawyer who understands due process, vetoes it as he has threatened to do, he will undoubtedly be depicted by the right-wing media as a terrorist sympathizer. By others in the media, he may be considered weak on terrorism, despite his signing of Osama bin Laden’s death warrant earlier this year. Because of this tremendous pressure, President Obama may not have the political courage to veto.
I am retraining myself—for peace. I believe in nonviolence. I believe in the Constitution of the United States.
So what then? If the measure becomes law, in less than one year U.S. citizens could be accused of terrorism, and on this basis, they will begin vanishing. They may be people you have heard of—dissidents, writers, activists—or they may be anonymous. In any event, they will not have the right to legal representation, and they will be taken away, like enemy combatants picked up off a mountainside in Afghanistan, to be detained indefinitely with no hope of a trial.
Like the suspects at Guantanamo Bay, they will likely be tortured. They will likely endure solitary confinement. Many of them, in response to the prolonged isolation, will likely go insane.
If I am accused of being a terrorist sympathizer by the FBI or by the CIA, or by some secretive organization within the Department of Homeland Security, I will have the following to say in my defense: I am not a terrorist. I am not any sort of terrorist. I am not a small-time terrorist with an explosive vest and explosive sneakers; nor am I a big-time terrorist with tanks and laser-guided missiles. I have no desire to inflict terror on people anywhere in the world.
Although I was trained to kill in the Army, and assisted in killing in Iraq, every day that I live, I am retraining myself—for peace. I believe in nonviolence. I believe in the Constitution of the United States.
I believe, like Howard Zinn, that between the points of war and apathy exist a thousand possibilities, which should all be explored.
I believe, like Dwight D. Eisenhower, that “when people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war.”
I believe, like Edward Abbey, that “a patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”
And I believe, like Abraham Lincoln, that “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
Alex Escué Limkin served in the U.S. Army for 15 years, including a tour in Iraq from 2004-2005. The suicide of his commander, Col. Ted Westhusing, changed his life. He blogs about his experience at warriorswithwesthusing.org.
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