Saturday, September 2, 2006
Casualties of War
Look at this picture, if you can stand to.
Incredible as it may seem, Jade – the child in this photo, who suffers from what is described as a “mild” case of cerebral palsy – is five years old. She is not Iraqi or Lebanese, but she is just as much a victim of the Bush regime's campaign to “democratize” the Middle East as any of the children who have been on the receiving end of the regime's “humanitarian” terrorism.
Jade is from Salt Lake City, Utah, a community whose leaders (with the noble exception of Mayor Rocky Anderson) engaged in an orgy of sycophantic praise for the Idiot King during his recent visit to address the American Legion convention. Jade's mother, a single parent who enlisted in the military most likely out of economic desperation, was ripped from her side to serve in the Idiot King's illegal war in Iraq.
After Jade's mother was dispatched to Mesopotamia, her live-in boyfriend was given power of attorney to care for the child. At the time Mommy was sent off to war – contemplate, for just a second, the indictment of our nation that phrase implies – Jade was healthy, vibrant, and happy.
Michael John Bowden the boyfriend to whom Jade's mother entrusted her child, was too busy vacuuming out the mother's bank account and running up her cell phone bill to feed or otherwise care for the youngster.
On August 18, Jade's grandfather, Rafael Ferrando, finally bulled his way past the boyfriend to get a look at Jade, who by that time had wasted away to about 10-12 pounds.
Ferrando sought and obtained an ex parte protective order. Jade is in the hospital. Bowden is in jail. I would love to spend about fifteen minutes in an otherwise empty cell with him.
As the Middle East morass deepens, families across the country have been broken up, many of them permanently. From the Boston Globe comes what Radley Balko calls “the saddest story you'll read today” -- a description that would have been true had I not read about Jade – describing the use of “Flat Daddy” and “Flat Mommy” cardboard cut-outs of “deployed service members [given] to spouses, children, and relatives back home” by the Maine National Guard.
“The Flat Daddies ride in cars, sit at the dinner table, visit the dentist, and even are brought to confession,” notes the story.
This belongs in the “Life Imitates The Onion” file, which is becoming downright obese as absurdities mount. When news of the “Flat Daddy” program first assaulted my offended and incredulous eyes, I was reminded of a scene from the early-80s Steve Martin film "The Lonely Guy," in which our titular hero discovers a line of life-size cardboard cut-outs he and other Lonely Guys can use to fill their otherwise drab and vacant bachelor apartments.
Military families are also subject to other forms of particularized misery.
Roughly a year after I had discussed how “Debt-Pushers” -- specifically, the “payday loan” racket – target military personnel, USA Today has reported: “As many as one in five members of the armed services are being preyed on by loan centers set up near military bases that can charge cash-strapped military families interest of 400% or more.” The ironic “good” news here is that some soldiers with sufficiently onerous debt loads aren't deployable.
A few weeks ago, before the Birch Blog was euthanized, I pointed out that Injustice For All, a video documentary I helped produce back in 1998 about the UN's International Criminal Court, seemed to foretell the advent of the Bush regime's proposals to reconfigure our judicial system:
“In order to make the somewhat abstract discussion vivid and compelling, the video opened with a mini-dramatization involving what we would now recognize as the `extraordinary rendition' of a helpless guy named John Bills. Seized by thugs in a parking lot, Mr. Bills (not to be confused with the similarly unfortunate Mr. Bill) is stuffed into an airplane, flown overseas, summarily imprisoned on the basis of a `sealed indictment,' and arraigned before a Star Chamber-style `court' where Anglo-Saxon concepts of Due Process don't exist, and the rules are rigged to guarantee conviction.
Although, as we pointed out in the video, everything depicted in our dramatization either had happened, or could reasonably be expected to happen soon, in the UN's prosecution of alleged war criminals, the scenario we created seemed a bit fanciful in 1998.
Eight years later, the abuses we depicted have become standard policy not for the UN, but for the U.S. Government, presided over by a supposed conservative and purported enemy of the UN.
And with the eager support of the GOP-led conservative movement, and the passive acceptance of the rest of it, the Bush administration is seeking to codify those abuses into law.”
Under the ICC statute, the UN's new tribunal supposedly becomes the apex judicial body on the planet, claiming jurisdiction over individuals to extradite and prosecute them for what it defines as crimes against international law. Extradition is not necessary, under that statute, if a nation's judicial institutions qualify under the principle of “complimentarity” -- meaning that they are suitable instruments to enforce the UN's decrees.
What is happening, after a fashion, is that the abuses promoted by the Bush regime – judicial kidnapping, indefinite detention without judicial review, creation of courts empowered to use hearsay evidence and defy Anglo-Saxon due process guarantees – would align our “justice” system with the vision that begat the UN's International Criminal Court and its affiliates.
Yesterday, the War Street Journal published a house editorial that made – from the perspective of a partisan of the Bush regime – almost exactly the same point. (Subscription required.)
“[T]he allegedly problematic features of the proposed military tribunals -- such as the permissibility of `hearsay' evidence -- are little different from some of the compromises that have been made to facilitate the work of such institutions as the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia and the permanent International Criminal Court,” noted the Journal. “Those two institutions enjoy the enthusiastic support of Human Rights Watch and other critics of the Bush Administration's tribunals.”
Bush's envisioned terror tribunals (whose jurisdiction would include U.S. citizens) would permit prosecutors to withhold evidence from defendants and to allow anonymous testimony, since doing otherwise “might mean allowing the defendant to learn the identities of informants or the existence of secret surveillance or money-tracking methods to which he could alert his al Qaeda compatriots if he is set free.”
Can you spot the pulsating fallacy in the middle of that argument? Unless you're handicapped with a Hannity-level IQ (in which case you wouldn't be reading this, or anything more challenging than a Bazooka Joe comic strip), you should be able to.
In the interests of clarity, and in the event that someone is reading this to Sean the nescient, here's the answer:
The argument above assumes either a) the mere accusation of conspiracy with al-Qaeda is as good as proof; b) that the Bush administration envisions allowing al-Qaeda operatives to be set free; or c) both.
This is because the tribunals – like the UN judicial bodies they would resemble – would place the burden of proof on the accused.
Having committed the foregoing offense against logic, the Journal insists that compromising due process in this fashion is appropriate because similar procedures have been used “at the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal (ICTY) on the grounds of` `exceptional circumstance.' The ICTY has routinely allowed the admission of hearsay evidence, for example, and has allowed witnesses to conceal their identities behind voice- and image-altering devices lest they face retribution at home. Those practices certainly compromise the right of defendants to confront their accusers, yet we haven't heard the human-rights crowd crying foul.”
Apparently determined to run the table of logical fallacies, the Journal uncorks a tu quoque -- “I know you are, but what am I?” -- after planting the axiom that only the self-described “human rights community” could criticize the Bush Tribunals, and then only out of narrow, spiteful motives. By this reasoning, if that word can be tortured into applying here, the question isn't whether the Bill of Rights should be destroyed, but rather whether this should be done by the UN or the executive branch of the US government.
Right now, the entire conservative movement, without a single organized exception of which I am aware, is either actively supporting the Bush regime's assault on the Bill of Rights, or passively conniving in that crime, either out of cowardice or opportunism. In this environment, the "patriotic" alternative is to do the job of destroying our own liberties, rather than out-sourcing the task to the UN.
Of course, at the rate we're creating enemies and depleting our wealth, there will be plenty of applicants in a few years, should the destruction of our freedom prove to be another of those "jobs Americans won't do."
at 2:17 PM