Oh, no O(bama) . . . Tell me it ain’t so!

December 19, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

I remember taking a course at Saint Louis University in International Law with Professor Jean-Robert Leguey-Feilleux Ph.D. in my college days in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The course included a discussion of terrorism. Dr. Leguey-Feilleux told us one of the issues before the United Nations and the international community was a definition of “terrorism.” The best definition of “terrorism” I remember, and the one my instructor endorsed, was “the taking of innocents for political purposes.”

Terrorism is not necessarily killing, but may cause death and certainly fear. Terrorism is political. In another college class, political science professor and author David Easton defined “politics” as “the authoritative allocation of values.” So “terrorism” is the taking of innocents in an attempt to influence how people or peoples allocate their “values.” The primary motivator in any terrorist effort is fear. The absence of fear negates the intent of the terrorist. But fear may motivate others to seek gain from the tactical terrorist efforts for strategic purposes. I believe such was the goal of the Bush administration and still remains that of the Republican Party in the United States. I now fear we may have to add President Obama to the fold of those which have sacrificed basic American values and democratic freedoms to short term political expediency.

During the 40 or so years of the Cold War, the Republican right could be counted upon to rant about Democrats being “soft on Communism” and take electoral victories in the White House which was only interrupted by Kennedy’s “missile gap,” Johnson’s “Great Society” (following JFK’s assassination) and the blip of Jimmy Carter after Watergate. After the rise in expectations after the growth and success of the Solidarity movement in Poland, due in large part to Pope John Paul II, and similarly after Democrats like Sen. Scoop Jackson (D-WA) forced increased emigration from the old USSR (which wanted “most favored nation” trade status) and Jimmy Carter’s “human rights” focus upon US foreign policy, the Cold War ended.

Now there was a conundrum for the right. No more “soft on Communism” to run national elections strategies upon anymore. There ensued two terms of President Bill Clinton.

President Bill Clinton infuriated the right into heretofore unseen levels of spastic fits of yobbo yapping and a renewed commitment by the right and its corporatist supporters to an electoral victory in 2000. After nearly a billion dollars of campaign spending to support a candidate which the corporations invented and called “George Bush,” Bush v. Gore ensued. “W” was then anointed president thanks to the one vote of Sandra Day O’Connor, along with the rest of the Republicans on the US Supreme Court. But “W” was an unproven commodity and he foundered in his early days in the Presidency, until 9/11.

George Bush liked to repeat the mantra “9/11 changed everything” and he’s right. 9/11 gave the political Right an opportunity to claim Democrats are “soft” on terrorism just as they had in the past claimed Democrats were “soft” on Communism. George B. Shaw said; “Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but no one has a right to be wrong on the facts.” Let’s look at the former Soviet Union and its satellites as a threat and compare them to our latter day foes in the “Global War on Terror (GWOT)”.

At a minimum, the Soviet Union had hundreds of thousands, maybe a million or so, of soldiers, sailors and airmen in arms. The Soviet Union had hundreds of thousands of tanks, planes, ships and submarines. The Soviets had some 15,000 nuclear warheads, most targeted on the US. Their nukes actually worked. We may not now know where they all are, but there were some 15,000.

The Soviets had numerous substantiated chemical, nerve and biological weapons. In short, real weapons of mass destruction (WMD) existed. The Soviets had a highly skilled professional army with Special Forces, weapons and tactics which challenged the United States for over 40 years. The former Soviet Union was governed by a philosophy completely antagonistic to our way of life and our system of government. The old Soviet Union was dedicated to “burying” us. The Soviet satellite Warsaw Pact nations had tens of thousands of tanks, millions of armed citizens, and access to the latest in Soviet weaponry and tactics, including anti-tank weapons and anti-aircraft weapons. I have not included the allied forces of the former Soviet Union outside of Europe, which numbered in the hundreds of thousands, again.

If we look at the current forces of “global” terror, we might come up with, say, 100,000 people dedicated to using innocents for political purposes. Modern day terrorists have no standing army, no tanks, no planes, no nukes, no chemical, nerve or biological weapons. Modern terrorists have no identifiable nation state backing (outside of Afghanistan and its drug lords and maybe our ally against terror, Pakistan), although most of the 9/11 terrorists were from our friend Saudi Arabia.

Since the start of the Obama administration, the toll against al Qaeda and its terrorist allies has been horrific. George W. Bush with his unfunded and undeclared wars and trillions of dollars could not do in eight years what it took the Obama administration barely 28 months to do- wreak systematic havoc on al Qaeda and its terrorist allies to such a degree that Osama bin Laden and most of the terror group’s actual leaders, planners and finance people have been killed, captured or driven into inaction.

But now, in the latest bill to fund American defense operations (National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA), we see legislation awaiting the President’s signature far worse than the nightmares of the so-called USA Patriot Act. Section 1013 of the NDAA would allow for the indefinite detention of terror suspects by US forces or authorities anywhere in the world, and for the first time since the birth of our nation, even the indefinite detention of US citizens by the US military on US soil.
The NDAA on the President’s desk would deprive US citizens of access to civilian courts, to be told of the charges against them, to be represented by counsel, and to only have any trial be held in secret by the use of secret evidence before secret military tribunals. The situation in America for all of its citizens under Section 1013 of the NDAA would be tantamount to what America and its NATO allies have said was intolerable for our troops to remain in Iraq and Afghanistan because they would not have immunity from prosecution in the various courts of those two nations. President Obama would allow against all Americans what he would not allow against our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan if he were to sign the NDAA into law with Section 1013 as a part of it. Americans would be subject to the vagaries of possible arrest and prosecution for undefined and undisclosed offenses outside of the US Justice system.

If Mr. Obama signs Section 1013 into law, he will have lost any shred of any claim to be a defender of the basic and fundamental American values of freedom and democracy. If President Obama signs this legislation into law and makes Section 1013 operative against any and all of us, he will have made himself over into a latter day Mad King George III against whom we fought our nation’s war of independence for the very same types of transgressions. There is absolutely no factual justification for the actions against American citizens or the citizens of other nations which would be allowed under Section 1013 of the NDAA.
The last I heard, there were some 310 million people in the United States. Ask yourself, how may a global “force” of 100,000 so poorly equipped and unsupported by nation states pose any credible threat to our nation? It’s simple-they don’t. But, now, what the Republicans and President Obama want you to fear is that they do. Why?

Some want to rule America and not to merely govern, to suppress dissent by Americans and to not allow a free discourse about our military and private sector actions against so-called “terrorists” and to enact an agenda completely against the self-interest of the average American and to use fear to win elections or re-election.

According to the libertarian Cato Institute, the numbers of US citizens killed by international terrorists since 1960 (when we started counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe peanut allergies.

The numbers cited by CATO do not include the many hundreds of innocent deaths caused by our own homegrown murdering terrorists like Larry Wayne Shoemake, Terry McVeigh, Terry Nichols, Eric Robert Rudolph, James Charles Kopp, Keith Luke, Richard Poplwaski and Darrin Huff, among others. All of the before-mentioned gentlemen were captured, tried or pleaded guilty and sentenced by civilian authorities.

Are we going to use “terror” as a rationale to round up, try and execute all the accident causing deer? Are we going to use lightning strikes as a rationale to mandate all persons, vehicles and structures be restrained or re-designed so as to restrict all of our basic American values to stop lightning strikes? Are we going to round up all the peanut farmers and related peanut agriculture industry people and toss them into prison forever without charge, counsel or a trial before their peers to stop peanut allergy deaths?

No, we will not do any of the above, and President Obama should take his most presidential action to date and veto this abomination of a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) so long as Section 1013 remains part of the legislation.


Category: Civil Rights, Law, law and order, Politics

About the Author ()

imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.

Comments (2)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    “In sum, there is simply no question that this bill codifies indefinite detention without trial (Myth 1). There is no question that it significantly expands the statutory definitions of the War on Terror and those who can be targeted as part of it (Myth 2). The issue of application to U.S. citizens (Myth 3) is purposely muddled — that’s why Feinstein’s amendments were rejected — and there is consequently no doubt this bill can and will be used by the U.S. Government (under this President or a future one) to bolster its argument that it is empowered to indefinitely detain even U.S. citizens without a trial.”


  2. Erich Vieth says:

    From the U.K. Guardian:

    The president has the power to veto the bill and, initially, his aides had suggested he would do so. However, citing vague “changes” to the language of the bill, Obama – the most veto-shy president since James Garfield in the 1880s – made a U-turn this month and withdrew his veto threat in what a New York Times editorial called “a complete political cave-in, one that reinforces the impression of a fumbling presidency”.

    But this isn’t about the president’s political incompetence or abject weakness. It is, above all, yet another example of Obama’s refusal to stand up for civil liberties and the rule of law. Over the past three years, the former constitutional law professor has failed to close Guantánamo Bay, expanded the detention facility at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, defended the use of warrantless surveillance and military tribunals, and – shockingly – asserted the right to assassinate, via drone strike and without due process, US citizens he deems to be terrorists. As the leading US legal scholar Jonathan Turley has argued, “the election of Barack Obama may stand as one of the single most devastating events in our history for civil liberties”.


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