Mike Whitney: Jose Padilla and The Death of Liberty


Richard Moore


Jose Padilla and The Death of Liberty  
By Mike Whitney 

        "The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of
        separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment
        at the will of the Executive." 
        - Judge Antonin Scalia

09/10/05 "ICH" -- -- I had to sit down when I heard the
Padilla case had been settled. I literally felt sick to my
stomach, like I was gasping for air. The case of Jose Padilla
is quite simply the most important case in the history of the
American judicial system. Hanging in the balance are all the
fundamental principles of American jurisprudence including
habeas corpus, due process and "the presumption of innocence".
All of those basic concepts were summarily revoked by the 3
judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court. The Court ruled in favor
of the Bush administration which claimed that it had the right
to indefinitely imprison an American citizen without charging
him with a crime. The resulting verdict confers absolute
authority on the President to incarcerate American citizens
without charge and without any legal means for the accused to
challenge the terms of his detention. It is the end of
"inalienable rights", the end of The Bill of Rights, and the
end of any meaningful notion of personal liberty. 

I remember reading 3 or 4 years ago, in Zbigniew Brzezinski's,
"The Grand Chessboard", of a strategy to dominate the world
that would result in the loss of freedom for American
citizens.  Brzezinski recognized the inherent threat that
liberty posed to the development of empire. He stated: 

"It is also a fact that America is too democratic at home to
be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America's power,
especially its capacity for military intimidation. Never
before has a populist democracy attained international
supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that
commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden
threat or challenge to the public's sense of domestic
well-being. The economic self-denial (that is, defense
spending) and the human sacrifice (casualties, even among
professional soldiers) required in the effort are uncongenial
to democratic instincts. Democracy is inimical to imperial
mobilization." (p.35) 

Brzezinski's prescient forecast has proved to be astonishingly
accurate. The determination of the neocons, the Federalist
Society, the far-right radio giants, the Olin, Scaife, Coors
and Bradley foundations, and the entire stable of right-wing,
quasi-fascist groups that operate openly within American
society, have pounded the final wooden stake into the heart of
the personal freedom. The basic legal protections that
safeguard the citizen from the arbitrary and hostile action of
the state have been rescinded. We all stand naked before the
absolute power of the President. 

The government has no case against Jose Padilla, a hapless
Chicago gang-banger who allegedly visited Pakistan before he
was arrested at O'Hare airport 3 and a half years ago. He is
simply an unwitting victim of circumstance; a convenient
scapegoat for eviscerating the rule of law. The Bush
administration has used its extraordinary influence in the
media to demagogue the case and keep him locked-away without
producing one shred of evidence against him. The entire affair
has been a grotesque mockery of justice. The hard-right groups
that engineered this plot know exactly where the fault-lines
in American jurisprudence lie; in the inalienable protections
of its citizens. 

Padilla became the test-case for shattering the Bill of Rights
with one withering blow. It has succeeded beyond anyone's
wildest expectation. 

There's no chance that the Supreme Court will retry the case
and draw more attention to the shocking details of this
judicial-coup; they already punted once before preferring to
pass it along to the lower court. Rather, the meaning of the
case will be ignored until the president needs to exercise the
newly-bestowed powers of supreme leader. That authority is now
firmly rooted in the legal precedent established by the
Padilla ruling. 

No Longer the Land of the Free 

Americans seem unaware of the great loss we've all suffered by
the Padilla verdict. If the President is allowed to
arbitrarily decide who has "inalienable rights", than those
rights become the provisional gifts of the government rather
than a reliable shield against the abuse of state power. It
means that every American citizen is as vulnerable to the same
violation of human rights as the men currently imprisoned in
Guantanamo Bay. It also means that the legal wall that
shelters the citizen from the random violence of the political
establishment has been reduced to rubble. 

The Padilla ruling is the blackest day in American history.
The icons of American liberty; the Washington Monument, the
Lincoln Memorial, the Statue of Liberty; are empty shrines if
they are not underscored by the guarantee of freedom. The
Vietnam Memorial, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address,
the 4th of July, the Federalist Papers, and the American flag;
all gratuitous expressions of a principle that has vanished
from the political landscape. 

Every man and woman who ever wore an American uniform and died
in the service of their country, died in vain. Their sacrifice
has been rendered completely worthless by the action of the
4th Circuit Court. 

George Bush has now extinguished every meaningful part of the
American dream. The last vestige of the social contract has
been defiled and desecrated by the administration and their
court. Personal freedom is dead in America; it was impaled by
the verdict against Jose Padilla. How many thousands or,
perhaps, millions of Americans will die or endure incalculable
suffering to regain what we have lost on this tragic day?

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at:

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Richard Moore (rkm)
Wexford, Ireland
blog: http://harmonization.blogspot.com/

"Escaping The Matrix - 
Global Transformation: 
    "...the Patriot Act followed 9-11 as smoothly as the
      suspension of the Weimar constitution followed the
      Reichstag fire."  
      - Srdja Trifkovic

    There is not a problem with the system.
    The system is the problem.

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