BAILEY T. STEEN | SUNDAY, MAY 1, 2018
Guantanamo Bay, the controversial detention facility known for holding prisoners indefinitely, is back in business and ready to take new inmates, officials from The Pentagon announced this week — just when a new bipartisan bill could grant President Donald Trump sweeping authorities to declare anyone a terrorist and arrest them forever without a trial.
According to a new report from The Intercept, a new Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), granting the president more authoritarian powers, is being pushed through Congress by six lawmakers — including prominent #Resistance figures like Republican Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the former vice presidential pick for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Under former president Barack Obama, the condemned National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) allowed the executive branch to hold anyone, including U.S. citizens, indefinitely only if they were involved with the 9/11 attacks or who “substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces.” Rightfully, the right-wing’s Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and the left’s Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) opposed these measures. The only difference is neoconservatives still had the argument the only people have their rights violated are terrorists with presentable links to anti-American groups. These divides are nowhere as ethical, it seems, given the bipartisan bill potentially expands the authority to declare any “enemy combatant” is a go — while they claim President Trump is the puppet of more authoritarian nations.
Kaine told CNN “for too long, Congress has given presidents a blank check. We’ve let the 9/11 and Iraq War authorizations get stretched. … Our proposal finally repeals those authorizations and makes Congress do its job by weighing in on where, when, and with who we are at war.” This is all well and good, Mr. Kaine, but how is it ethical to say the blank check with specific authorities, which is unethical on its face, is in any way worse than Congressionally approved, broad-sweeping authorities that allow the president to take away the rights of all citizens at the drop of a pussy tape?
It was only recently we reported on Trump’s January executive order that pledged to refill Guantanamo with “some bad dudes”. The president was alone is his adoration for the detention centre. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gave a press briefing saying he was “absolutely certain that there is not one thing going on down there that would not be in accordance with the international protocol — the Geneva protocol.” To the extent this is true, we don’t exactly know, but it’s scandalous enough they’re holding over 100 suspects who were not given a trial on American soil or convicted of a crime, a direct violation of Habeas corpus. Their best argument is this time around they’re not going to torture the extrajudicial prisoners. Any Republican that runs as the “law and order candidate” can’t also be the criminal candidate.
This contradiction, however, is lost on supposed anti-Trump legislators like Sens. Kaine and Corker who seek to expand executive power under Trump’s rule. Journalist Jon Schwarz is right to clarify any president can’t just detain people be done during peacetime based on the AU MF— but since when has the United State of America been at peace?
Since former President George W. Bush, the 2001 AUMF resolution gave the president quite general powers on who can be unethically arrested during wartime. The journalist points us to the case of José Padilla, the typical Brooklyn born U.S. citizen, that was arrested Chicago’s O’Hare Airport in May 2002 on these orders shortly after his trip to the middle east.
The Bush administration declared the man to be an “enemy combatant… closely associated with Al Qaeda,” placing him in a military prison without the due process of trials and convictions. The 2001 legislation made clear who the targeted groups were and said they had to be linked to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre.
The Kaine-Corker bill, however, goes past basic ethical standards for declaring the use of force. Under Sec. 10 the AUMF would read:
“Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) and the Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2018 [the Corker-Kaine AUMF, etc].”
Under Corker-Kaine’s AUMF, this allows the president to regain the authorities of Bush by declaring he has the power to wield his military against any “organization, person, or force”, so long as they’re part of those previously named groups “or designated associated forces.” This language is problematic since all that’s need for the president to decide to go after someone is he must inform “the appropriate congressional committees and leadership”, the kind of legislators who have vested campaign finance interests in allowing the GOP rule to flourish. Now war-hawk presidents won’t need Congressional votes for the use of force against any nation they declare in need of invading — they would already have the mother of all votes on their side within the law.
“This policy rips the lid open for refilling Guantanamo,” Vince Warren, executive for the Center for Constitutional Rights, told The Daily Beast earlier this week. “It has the same generalized deformities that previous policies have, leaving it to people on the ground to make determinations about dangerousness that will follow through another generation of detainees to fight the same legal battles as the previous generation.”
Thanks for reading!
Bailey T. Steen is a journalist, editor, artist and film critic based in Victoria, Australia, but is also Putin’s Puppet™ on occasion.
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