Monday, January 30, 2012

Chris Hedges Fights The Good Fight

(h/t Cuchulain in comments)
Chris Hedges, outspoken polemicist and prolific author that he is, doesn't just talk the talk on matters important to the future of the American Experiment in liberty, he walks the walk.

He's been arrested numerous times protesting the creeping tyrannies and indignities that have accompanied "the death of the liberal class" -- a term he used to title one of his recent non-fiction books. He's been arrested at the White House, he's been arrested at Goldman Sachs headquarters, he's been arrested at Quantico, and so it goes.

He has made clear that he believes civil disobedience is the only practical course left open to Americans struggling to restore dignity and justice in their lives and the lives of others; the political system is broken, captive to a tiny segment of the "1%", and it cannot function on behalf of the People in its present state.

"Stand up, fight back; resist."

Earlier this month, he took it a step further by filing suit against the President and the Secretary of Defense "to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31."

It's not necessarily clear what that means, so he helpfully explains:

The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled “Counter-Terrorism,” for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until “the end of hostilities.” It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.

Well. Isn't that special.

Now of course these objections to the NDAA were raised time and again prior to their passage and the assent to them by the President. These objections were dismissed on several levels. First, according to some analysts, there is no such authorization for domestic military policing; it's just not in the bill. Second, even if there were, it wouldn't apply to American citizens, only to foreigners deemed "terrorists." Third, even if it did apply to American citizens, which it doesn't, there is always habeus corpus so ultimately nothing has changed at law.

You see.

Besides the which, the President issued a signing statement setting forth the following:

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.

So there.

But Hedges is not satisfied with airy promises from the White House press office, oh no:

I suspect the real purpose of this bill is to thwart internal, domestic movements that threaten the corporate state. The definition of a terrorist is already so amorphous under the Patriot Act that there are probably a few million Americans who qualify to be investigated if not locked up. Consider the arcane criteria that can make you a suspect in our new military-corporate state. The Department of Justice considers you worth investigating if you are missing a few fingers, if you have weatherproof ammunition, if you own guns or if you have hoarded more than seven days of food in your house. Adding a few of the obstructionist tactics of the Occupy movement to this list would be a seamless process. On the whim of the military, a suspected “terrorist” who also happens to be a U.S. citizen can suffer extraordinary rendition—being kidnapped and then left to rot in one of our black sites “until the end of hostilities.” Since this is an endless war that will be a very long stay.

When he wrote, the Occupy Movement was still in a kind of suspended animation, but over the weekend, as we know, it came out of its shell in Oakland -- with dozens of cities marching in solidarity after the Oakland demonstrators were violently assaulted by police and hundreds of peaceful protesters were arrested.

As we may not know, however, more and more officials are suggesting or are blatantly declaring the Occupiers and the Movement "terrorists." It's only a matter of time, it seems, before the designation is officially determined and the round ups begin.

We could see it as soon as this summer when the G8 and NATO hold their joint summits in Chicago. Or even before.

The City of London declared the Occupy Movement a "domestic terror organization" back in December to much outrage and denunciation, but the designation stands. In the United States, there has yet to be a designation of "domestic terrorists" as such, but members of the Oakland city council and other elected representatives have had no qualms using the term "domestic terrorists" to characterize Occupiers and the Movement, and a press release issued by the Oakland Police Department yesterday claimed -- in passing -- that the protesters used "improvised explosive devices" (pdf)against the police, which of course is a not-so-subtle means of classifying the Occupy demonstrators in the same category as armed insurgents abroad.

Just as a side note, the Oakland Police Department, as usual, was lying. One of the things that needs to be made clear as crystal is that the Oakland PD is notorious for issuing public statements that are blatant lies, and nothing whatever that they say should be taken as truthful without extensive evidence and investigatory follow up.

There were no "improvised explosive devices" used against the police in Oakland over the weekend. None. Zero. The police, of course, fired numerous tear gas rounds, flash-bang and smoke grenades, and rubber bullets at the crowds -- some of which were thrown back, as they tend to be in these confrontations. The police also fired tear gas against the wind which had the salutary effect of blowing back in the unprotected faces of the officers. Oops.

But that aside, Hedges, by filing suit against the President and Defense Secretary over the NDAA provisions for domestic military policing has taken the matter well beyond polemics. In a sense, he is directly challenging the authority of the White House and the Pentagon in these matters, and further, he is daring the President and/or the Secretary of Defense to order his arrest and indefinite detention in military custody because he may well fall under the provisions of the act regarding "support" of individuals and organizations deemed to be "terrorists" by the President due to his work as a writer of books, articles and essays that deal with such people and organizations previously designated or yet to be designated.

A lawsuit is not exactly The Revolution, of course, especially when Hedges would be among the first to acknowledge the corruption and practical uselessness of the courts to protect the People. Nevertheless, by taking this action, Hedges demonstrates once again what it means to be a citizen rather than a subject and I applaud him.

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