Posts Tagged ‘ President George W Bush ’

The National Defense Authorization Act: Our Disappearing Rights and Liberties

By Alton Lu for The Huffington Post

Back in the beginning stages of the War on Terrorism, President Bush enacted the Patriot Act. This allowed the government to spy on citizens, monitoring their activities in order to discern whether or not someone is a terrorist. It brought about changes in law enforcement that allowed agencies to search phones, financial records, etc.

One of the most controversial aspects of the law is authorization of indefinite detention of non-U.S. citizens. Immigrants suspected of being terrorists would be detained without trial until the War on Terrorism finished.

On December 31, 2011, President Obama signed a law known as the National Defense Authorization Act for the 2012 fiscal year, or the H.R. 1540. Congress passes this act every year to monitor the budget for the Department of Defense. However, this year the NDAA bill has passed with new provisions that should have the entire country up with pitchforks.

Normally, this is just an act which details the monetary calls of the Department of Defense which is passed every year. However, the act passed for the 2012 fiscal year changes the bill and can be seen as an extension of the Patriot Act. Now, the indefinite detention has been extended to U.S. citizens as well. If people are spied on and suspected of being terrorists, they may be detained indefinitely without trial.

In a country famous for the belief that one is innocent until proven guilty, this is an upsetting change that is being foisted upon the American people with many unaware of what it means.

The provisions of the Patriot Act allow the government to spy upon U.S. citizens and the NDAA allows the government to whisk a citizen away for no reason other than being suspected of terrorism.

So why has this law been passed when it is very easily seen as unconstitutional? The Fourth Amendment grants liberty from unreasonable seizures, while the Sixth guarantees every U.S. citizen a trial in front of a jury. No matter what supporters of the bill might have said about the provisions being misunderstood, the simple fact is that it is unconstitutional.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has made arguments for this provision, stating that the law would apply for US citizens’ turncoats who have aided Al-Qaeda or other associated organization. He gave a long-winded story of how a U.S. citizen might fly to Pakistan to receive terrorist training, then return home and shoot down fellow citizens a few miles from the airport.

It’s a disgusting show that Graham is pulling. He has made an example of how a single U.S. citizen might become a turncoat and because of that possible risk, the citizen’s right to a trial and jury has been abolished.

Supporter of the NDAA, Representative Tim Griffin stated in the Daily Caller:

Section 1022’s use of the word ‘requirement’ also has been misinterpreted as allowing U.S. citizens to be detained, but this provision does not in any way create this authority. This provision must be read in the context of Section 1022’s purpose, which is reflected in its title and relates solely to ‘military custody of foreign al Qaida terrorists.’ The term “requirement” does not mean that detention of U.S. citizens is optional under this provision.

He merely states that the people have ‘misinterpreted’ the provisions within the bill.

This is a situation in which they are able to detain U.S. citizens, but they won’t because that’s wrong. I will repeat: “They are allowed through the NDAA to detain U.S. citizens, but they won’t because that’s wrong.”

Similar to Griffin’s response, President Obama has released a statement regarding the H.R. 1540
(NDAA):

Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.

President Obama says that his administration will not authorize the indefinite detention of American citizens. Yet Obama also said that he would close Guantanamo Bay. Obama also said he would recall the troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office. Obama also said he would end the Bush tax cuts.

It doesn’t matter the reason these promises were not kept. What matters is that they weren’t. Obama says his administration will not authorize the indefinite detention of citizens. But that could change. The interpretation of this bill can change on a dime. These politicians who say there is nothing to fear could quickly change whenever they see fit.

These implications grow larger as we know there is no single accepted definition of terrorism present in the United States. The State Department defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.”

Under this definition, the entire United States can be seen as terrorists. The government had planned the operations in Iraq and has resulted in over 100,000 civilian deaths. It can also be said that the U.S. is changing views of terrorism throughout the world… influencing an audience. Terrorism cannot be specifically defined as attacks against the United States; therefore, the United States might have been terrorizing parts of the Middle East.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has stated that there are laws regarding terrorist suspects in America in place by the Department of Justice. Issues such as having an armed weapon or having a food supply lasting at least seven days can be grounds for terrorism.

I look to my well-supplied pantry filled with foods my loving mother had purchased from Costco. I’m not one to count it all, but I’d say it would last my entire family over a week.

My father legally owns a handgun. There’s something about protecting his family that is important to him, so he keeps a gun nearby.

I am writing a story that is against what the politicians in Washington have voted for. Can I be seen as aiding Al-Qaeda because I am attempting to change the views of the public to something that is against government; because there is a gun in my home and we have a well-supplied pantry?

Can I be seen as a terrorist under the definition of terrorism? Yes I can. Will I? I hope not.

Alton Lu is an 18 year old high school senior. Alton Lu: I see the name as the most uncommon thing about myself. I’m just a typical teenager in a stereotypical high school residing an in un-extraordinary town. I enjoy pretending that I’m a modern-day philosopher and political activist while still living out the generic high school experience. I am now embarking on the longest, most extensive campaign to the presidency. If you agree with my views, look forward to voting for me in about thirty years. If you disagree…I hope you’ll still vote for me.

The American Debate: Where Has All The Love Gone?

By Dick Polman for The Philadelphia Inquirer

As we navigate the waning days of our xenophobic August, with so many opportunists in high dudgeon about Muslims in our midst, perhaps it’d be wise to quote a notably tolerant Republican – somebody whose words might possibly shame the fearmongers who currently pervade his own party.

For instance: “America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country. Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms, and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect. . . . They love America just as much as I do.”

On Sept. 17, 2001, so said President George W. Bush.

Hey, I’m starting to miss the guy. Notwithstanding all the disastrous aspects of his presidency, his generous, inclusive attitude toward immigrants of color – particularly Muslim Americans in the wake of 9/11 – was always in the finest American tradition. We could use a sustained dose of his tone today.

Unfortunately, the conservative movement that he twice led to victory now seems to have shelved that pluralistic tradition, preferring instead to sow fear to reap short-term political gain. And not a single prominent Republican politician has had the courage – heck, it’s not even courage, it’s a duty – to step forward and denounce the roiling irrationality that currently infects our political discourse.

So we’re stuck with the faux issue of a “ground zero mosque” that’s actually not just a mosque (it’s a proposed community center with an interfaith board of directors) and not at ground zero; with Newt Gingrich equating all Muslims with Nazis; with myriad attacks on mosques in Florida (pipe bombs, bullets); with Sarah Palin Twittering her simplicities; with an evangelical pastor who plans to mark the 9/11 anniversary by burning copies of the Quoran (when asked what he knew about the Quoran, he replied, “I have no experience with it whatsoever”); with a tea party blogger who writes that all Muslims are “animals” who worship a “monkey god,” and whatever else the haters are doing in our name.

Since no elected Republican dares to utter a peep, let us try to quell the hatred, however briefly, by skimming the cream of the Bush ouevre. What you’re about to read was mainstream Republican thinking just a few scant years ago.

From the president’s second inaugural address, on Jan. 20, 2005:

“In America’s ideal of freedom, the public interest depends on private character – on integrity and tolerance toward others . . . . That edifice of character is built in families, supported by communities with standards, and sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Quoran . . . .”

From remarks on June 27, 2007, at the rededication of the Islamic Center in Washington:

“We come to express our appreciation for a faith that has enriched civilization for centuries. We come in celebration of America’s diversity of faith and our unity as free people. And we hold in our hearts the ancient wisdom of the great Muslim poet Rumi: ‘The lamps are different, but the light is the same.’ ”

From remarks on Sept. 17, 2001:

“Both Americans and Muslim friends and citizens, tax-paying citizens . . . were just appalled and could not believe what we saw on our TV screens. These acts of violence against innocents violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith. And it’s important for my fellow Americans to understand that. The English translation is not as eloquent as the original Arabic, but let me quote from the Quoran itself: ‘In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule.’ The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.”

Compared with what we’re hearing on the Republican right these days, Bush sounds like a “Kumbaya” folkie in the tradition of Peter, Paul, and Mary. But even at the time, he was no starry-eyed naif. Aside from the fact that his calls for tolerance were in the best American tradition, there was also a dash of calculation. He and his advisers knew that al-Qaeda wanted to frame the war on terror as a clash of civilizations. Therefore, it ill-served America to behave as though it were at war with Islam. It was smarter to embrace the followers of Islam, as a way of isolating the violent extremists who had perverted its tenets. Basically, this was a national-security priority. It still is.

Bush’s former chief speechwriter, Michael Gerson, understands that. He’s one of the only Bush alumni who has spoken out; in a recent newspaper column, he reiterated the Bush credo: “A president not only serves Muslim citizens, not only commands Muslims in the American military, but also leads a coalition that includes Iraqi and Afghan Muslims who risk death every day fighting Islamic radicalism at our side.”

In other words, Americans who attack their fellow Muslim citizens – and politicians who inflame such attacks or remain mute – are weakening America. As Gerson put it, treating Muslims as bogeymen, and assailing their Lower Manhattan project, will “undermine the war on terrorism. A war on Islam would make a war on terrorism impossible.”

Of course, it’s easy to understand why the post-Bush GOP has done nothing to quell the Muslim-bashing. Its priorities are decidedly short-term. Forget the war on terror; this party is primarily focused on the war for control of Congress. Its conservative base is angry, fearful, and ginned up for November. Muslim American voters are far less numerous, and the liberals and moderates who lament the current hysteria aren’t likely to vote Republican anyway – or even to vote at all this year.

So it’s probably futile to wave the flag and quote George W. Bush again, but let’s give it one last try. Six days after 9/11, he warned his fellow citizens that Muslims “must be not intimidated in America. That’s not the America I know. That’s not the America I value.”

Is that really so hard to agree with?

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