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Old 12-12-2001, 08:07 AM   #1
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John Ashcroft - Anyone who criticises the U.S government is a terrorist

The government claims to be "defending freedom" and then turns around and pulls shit like this:

Individuals brought before the tribunals would have no right to a jury trial, no right to confront their accusers and no right to judicial review of trial procedures or sentences, which could include death.
Sounds like what we are claiming to defend, right?

So, people rightly criticize such measures.

And what does the Attorney General of The United States say in response?

"To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists."
So exercising your First Amendment rights now makes you a terrorist and voicing your disagreement with those who wish to trample the Constitution - and the liberties we are supposed to be defending - makes you just as bad as those who finaced the September 11 attacks.

[This message has been edited by DoctorGonzo (edited 12-12-2001).]

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Old 12-12-2001, 08:53 AM   #2
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Dr. G,

Regardless of whether one thinks military tribunals are right or wrong, I posit that the reason Bush wants them can be reduced to two letters.


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Old 12-12-2001, 10:38 AM   #3
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Bush wants military tribunals because these are puppet trials. Bush likely fears that the evidence is weak, and that it probably won't uphold in standard courts, which would then leak out into the press, causing humiliation.

With military tribunals, the government always wins. The trials are likely just formalities, quite similarly in how Stalin had fully orchestrated puppet trials, right down to convincing the accused that it was just a show and that they would be freed at the end. Maybe the U.S. won't go as far as to lie to the accused, but I really doubt that anyone who goes before the tribunals will ever see the light of day again, guilty or not.

As for Ashcroft, I've disliked him from the start. He is using the same scare tactics he is accusing others of, but, in this case, it is to aid his plans. Bush and Ashcroft seemingly are running this all like a dictatorship, keeping secrets and not even consulting the Legislature on many important issues that affect us. What is worse is that these two hate criticism, much in the same capacity that both Reagan and Bush I hated it as well. Reagan used to quelch that by controlling press questions and Bush I openly declared his belief that free speech needs limits. Unfortunately, it seems that Bush II here has started where Daddy left off, and is using the "war on terrorism" as his scapegoat for a different agenda. Let's see if these limits on freedoms are repealed after the anti-terrorist campaigns. Or will the "anti-terror" campaigns last 50 years like the Cold War? Or will it be like the "luxury tax" on gasoline we are still being taxed for that was created to fund the Spanish-American War in 1898--rights being limited for a non-existent war?

I guess we are really helpless to change it regardless, so we will just have to see.


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Old 12-12-2001, 11:19 AM   #4
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I don't like John Ashcroft...but I do like Colin Powell...It's a divided life I lead... I never really did like my civil liberties anyway...

Go lightly down your darkened way.

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Old 12-12-2001, 11:46 AM   #5
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Originally posted by Hans Moleman:
Bush wants military tribunals because these are puppet trials. Bush likely fears that the evidence is weak, and that it probably won't uphold in standard courts, which would then leak out into the press, causing humiliation.
Wrong Melon, he wants them for national security purposes. We don't know what evidence the government holds but all who have seen it (including the UN and the UK) have said it is pretty convincing. By the way, these Military Tribunals are in no way unprecedented. They've been done in war before, and tehy'll be done again. Here is a great history of military tribunals, from

A Long And Mostly Honorable History
Friday, Dec. 07, 2001

Civil libertarians, from both the right and left, have expressed continuing concern over the President's proposed use of military tribunals for bringing terrorists to justice. Even before knowing what procedures will be used, or who will be tried by these military panels, many have anticipated that worst case scenarios will be the likely norm.

It is easy to complain. But hand wringing is not terribly helpful. Personally, I'm withholding judgment. The potential of having to mete out justice to possibly thousands of alien enemy terrorists, or unlawful combatants, who are openly violating the common law of war makes the use of these military proceedings very appealing.

As I discussed at greater length in a previous column on critiques of the tribunals, I am baffled why the critics (particularly those who support the war) want to change the rules of warfare when enemy combatants are captured. It is unclear to me why they want to use our civilian courts in a military situation.

To learn more of the historical use of military commissions, I have been looking at their history. Military commissions (interchangeably called tribunals) are not the legal equivalent of kangaroo courts, nor are they odious star chambers incapable of administering justice. Rather, they have been used repeatedly in time of war.

While military commissions were used by George Washington during the American Revolution, I have focused on their use since our Constitution was adopted in 1789. The legal scholarship of a retired Army attorney, Colonel Frederick Bernays Wiener, served as my guide. He's an expert on the history of our military law. (I learned of Colonel Wiener's work in a 1995 article by Gary Wills in the New York Review of Books.)

Early Uses Of Military Commissions: The Mexican-American War

Colonel Wiener traces the original creation of American military tribunals to the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and Major General (his then-rank) Winfield Scott. Military commissions were used with both volunteer American troops who went out of control once below the Rio Grande, and to deal with the offenses of Mexican guerrilla fighters, and the fractious local populace, in Mexico.

History reports no criticism of General Scott's use of these panels to administer justice against enemy belligerents and citizens harboring such combatants. Trying Mexican guerrilla fighters, who were not part of the Mexican Army, before military commissions is an early precedent for bringing contemporary foreign terrorists before such tribunals today.

Uses of Military Commissions in the Civil War

It was during the Civil War that the most extensive use was made of these military forums to administer justice. Senior officers of the Union Army took their guidance from their experiences with such tribunals during the Mexican-American War.

For example, Major General Henry Halleck, the commander in Missouri, found the civilians of that state "as obstreperous as the former Mexican civilians had been," Colonel Wiener reports. Their offenses, which in times of peace would be civil offenses, became offense under the law of war, and they "were to be tried by a military tribunal, even in places where civil tribunals existed."

Back in Washington, Halleck's actions, however, did not sit well with the Judge Advocate of the Army, John Fitzgerald Lee. Lee held that such military commissions were without authority and illegal. Lee's view, however, was quickly challenged and overruled. Indeed, Lee was legislated out of a job by Congress, and President Lincoln, a Republican, appointed a Democrat, Joseph Holt, to the new post of Judge Advocate General of the Army. (Congress had slightly changed the title and salary.)

According to Colonel Wiener, "It was Holt who truly developed the military commission into an instrumentality that enable military authorities to arrest, try, convict, and keep confined many persons who would otherwise have been released by civil courts." These persons would not have been released because they were innocent, but rather because their civilian peers who would have constituted the juries sympathized with their behavior.

It was Holt who later headed the prosecution team that tried those involved in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln, all of whom were tried by a military commission. The fairness and thoroughness of these proceedings is evident, and indeed striking, when one reads the trial record of the Hunter Commission - as the nine officers were known who tried those who conspired to kill Lincoln, and attempted to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson, Secretary of War Seward, and General Ulysses S. Grant.

Defendants were all represented by counsel and entitled to call witnesses in their defense, and the panel seemed exclusively interested in ascertaining the guilt or innocence of those charged. Over 350 witnesses testified. The record has withstood the test of time.

Given the horrendous nature of the crime involved, it is difficult to believe a civilian Court in the District of Columbia, where the crime occurred and the Hunter Commission sat, would have been as fair and impartial as this military body. The fact that not all of the conspirators were sentenced to death (which - in a parallel to President Bush's recent Executive Order - only required a two-thirds vote) shows the military panel's ability to make just determinations.

The Civil War Milligan Precedent In Context

According to Colonel Wiener, there may have been as many as 4,000 military commission trials during the Civil War period. The precise number is not known. The annals of the well-known cases are replete with acts of terrorism by defendants that parallel those of their modern successors. In short, there are a host of precedents for President Bush's planned use of tribunals from this period.

Many critics of President Bush's plans rely on Ex Parte Milligan, an 1866 case from the Civil War. There, the U.S. Supreme was critical of military commission. In its opinion the Court said: "The Constitution of the United States is the law for rulers and people, equally in war and peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances."

However, no less than Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing about this case in 1998, has observed that the government's chief lawyer in the case, Attorney General James Speed, "was not a first-class lawyer or advocate." Rehnquist seems to suggest that if the government had had better counsel it would have prevailed in Milligan. The sweeping language of Milligan critical of military tribunals must be viewed in this context.

More importantly, as Colonel Weiner has noted, Milligan's "emotional stem-winder about the Constitution being always the same in war and peace is demonstrably not the law in the 1990s - nor has it been for more than three-quarters of a century." He cites a half dozen high Court cases to make this point.

The Historical Precedent, From FDR's Presidency, Relied On By President Bush

According to testimony of Attorney General Ashcroft, and other administration officials, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the precedent that President Bush is relying on is that of President Franklin Roosevelt's decision in 1942 to deal with Nazi saboteurs who landed on American shores by using military commissions. FDR was a serious history buff, and particularly enjoyed both the American Revolutionary War and Civil War periods.

Presumably, President Bush feels towards the al Qaeda terrorists as FDR felt about the Nazis: rather cold and heartlessly. No doubt he wants known enemies treated as such. Certainly, WW II did not bring out FDR's civil libertarian instincts; to the contrary.

In his recent book, Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage, Joseph Persico reports FDR's response when Attorney General Francis Biddle reported to the President that the saboteurs - two of whom had at one time been American citizens -- had all been arrested, and nearly $174,000 in cash the Nazis had provided the group had been seized. FDR's response evidences his thinking, and the civil liberties of the Nazis bent on sabotaging our nation were not foremost in his mind.

"Not enough, Francis. Let's make real money out of them," he quipped. "Sell the rights to Barnum and Bailey for a million and a half - the rights to take them around the country in lion cages at so much a head." President Roosevelt had also decided their fate. "The two Americans are guilty of treason. I do not see how they can offer any adequate defense ... it seems to me that the death penalty is almost obligatory." As for the six German citizens, FDR found "an absolute parallel" with the Revolutionary War cases of Major John Andre and Nathan Hale. As FDR noted, "Both of these men were hanged."

Persico says that FDR, in essence, took charge of the case. Drawing on his knowledge of the Civil War, he instructed his Attorney General that he wanted all eight tried by a military tribunal. They were not entitled to a civilian trial because they "were waging battle within our country." Thus, they fell under the law of war. This would be a fast way to convict them, and one that would not be subject to protracted appeals. And a tribunal could impose a death sentence with a two-thirds vote.

As Persico explains, use of a military tribunal assured the president of the outcome he wanted. "I want one thing clearly understood, Francis," he said. "I won't hand them over to any United States Marshal armed with a writ of habeas corpus. Understand!" Accordingly, FDR issued his order to establish a military tribunal.

FDR's action would be tested in a special session of the U.S. Supreme Court, but it would pass the test: The Court unanimously approved of his use of military tribunals in Ex Parte Quirin.

Later, the United States and its Allies would bring other WW II combatants, both Nazis and Japanese officers, to trial in military tribunals. There were hundreds of these proceedings. Many of them - like those at Nuremberg, to mention the obvious - remain models of fairness and justice.

Congress Should Strengthen The Authority For the Use Of Military Tribunals

History suggests that the use of military commission should be authorized by Congress. Both Lincoln and FDR had the blessings of Congress

Critics of President Bush's planned use of military commissions assert that, unlike in the Civil War and WW II, the Congress has not declared war. Thus, unlike Lincoln and FDR, he does not have the same latitude. This is a matter that Congress can clear up, and should - although, as I explained in a prior column, I am not sure it is legally necessary in light of prior Congressional actions, as well as the fact that courts avoid adjudicating issues such as the extent of Presidential power vis-a-vis Congress.

During the Vietnam War, there were regular efforts to get federal courts to enjoin this or that government activity as unauthorized because there was no Congressional declaration of war (only the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution). These Vietnam era efforts consistently failed, for courts stay out of foreign affairs.

For example, as one federal court noted in the 1972 case of Atlee v. Laird: "Congress is, of course, the only branch of government with the power to declare war. Implicit in this constitutional provision may be congressional authority to take steps short of a formal declaration of war, equivalent to an authorization." [Emphasis added.] But this court, like other courts, noted the judicial branch has no business deciding such political questions.

To be safe, however, Congress should pass a joint resolution authorizing the use of military tribunals. But it should go no further. It would be unprecedented for Congress to write laws as to how the President should try non-citizen enemy combatants, or to require the same standards to be applied in the tribunals as are used in our criminal justice system. We are engaged in a war on terrorism, not a peace-keeping mission. It is vital that we remember there is a difference.

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Old 12-12-2001, 12:46 PM   #6
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Oh yes..."national security."

But even the article just substantiated my point:

"This would be a fast way to convict them, and one that would not be subject to protracted appeals. And a tribunal could impose a death sentence with a two-thirds vote.

As Persico explains, use of a military tribunal assured the president of the outcome he wanted."

They might as well just shoot the people on the spot, rather than waste the money on these puppet trials.

Of course, I would want justice against those who are truly guilty of such crimes, but are we going to turn into the Fujimori-era Peru where probably for every guilty man arrested for "terrorism," there were likely three arrested who were innocent? Of course, we are going on the "those damn foreigners" principle, whereas whomever is subject to these tribunals we will never know personally. If they die, it won't affect us in the slightest.

However, they do have loved ones, and are we prepared for possible repercussions? Lenin's older brother was executed for supposedly attempting to assassinate the tsar, and it was because of this that he vowed to bring revolution, and, over 30 years later, he finally got his wish. This, of course, is an extreme example, but, somehow, do we think that people can be thrown away? Bin Laden and the Taliban made that mistake in dealing with September 11th, and their days are likely numbered as a result. Are we, however, going to make the same mistakes, even if it is as a much smaller scale and in "legal" methods?

It is something to think about, and I'm quite disgusted that Ashcroft wishes to brush this aside, quite similarly in the way he brushed aside Microsoft's antitrust suit. This coming from a supposed "pro-life" individual too. How amusing...


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[This message has been edited by Hans Moleman (edited 12-12-2001).]
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Old 12-12-2001, 01:08 PM   #7
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This is just another way the government is trying to do things behind closed doors. They are tapping our computers, our phones, our privacy in the name of "this is war." but when the war is over, they're not going to back away.

As for the tribunals, if the UN and the UK have seen the evidence why can't the public? The tribunals during WW2 were open to the media and if there is information that could somehow threaten security, protect that but at least let the media or outside observers in to see what is happening.

The constitution was set up to protect the people, not the government. That's why we have the First Amendment, the Freedom of Information Act, etc. There are alot of politicians who wish they could subdue the media and the public from getting important information about the government and we have to fight for our rights. I will not allow someone to trample all over the First Amendment in the name of war.
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Old 12-12-2001, 01:39 PM   #8
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Oh please. We all know that Dubya staged this war so he could have more control over our personal lives. He just wants to take away all our liberties because he's an asshole. There's nothing more to it.

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Old 12-12-2001, 01:42 PM   #9
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Originally posted by Not George Lucas:
Oh please. We all know that Dubya staged this war so he could have more control over our personal lives. He just wants to take away all our liberties because he's an asshole. There's nothing more to it.
You have completely deflected my point. No, Dubya did not stage this war, but he is exploiting it to further his own agenda he would not likely get through otherwise.


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Old 12-12-2001, 01:45 PM   #10
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I never thought I would say this, but I think Hans Moleman is right

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Old 12-12-2001, 04:03 PM   #11
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If the John Dean that wrote the article above is the same John Dean that was involved in Watergate (and I think it is), I would say he has already demonstrated what he thinks about the rights of the government to grab power and trample civil liberties. Let's not lower ourselves to his moral standards of judgment.

That's like asking Kissinger if it's OK to bomb Afghanistan . . .

The presumption of innocence is the most important part of ensuring that civilians receive fair trials. When we say that people arrested for wartime crimes are not subject to this, we essentially say that we don't really care if they're guilty as long as the government says they are. This is not the path to truth or justice.
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Old 12-12-2001, 07:37 PM   #12
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You all know what I think...
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Old 12-12-2001, 07:50 PM   #13
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I believe the military tribunals are fine. They are standard for war criminals which each of these terrorsts are...Tim MC Veigh...shoul have been done the same way
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Old 12-12-2001, 09:36 PM   #14
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It is a war, Military tribunals are ok. It wouldn't be good to send say a senior Al Queda guy through the US legal system. I think it should be dealt with quickly, quietly and not in the spotlight. I don't think giving them a public forum to explain themselves might be the best idea. I think everything about the tribunals should be made public, and honest (some media present) just not IN public. But I think the US should be more open with evidence. I understand obviously nothing sensitive, but surely there must be stuff they can release that isn't putting anyone/anything at risk.
They'd get a lot more intl. support, which has been dropping off steadily lately.

And I still can't believe that a country like the US can have a pres like George Bush.
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Old 12-12-2001, 09:45 PM   #15
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YOU make some good points here (except for the one about Bush!)

My concern with having a typical American jury trial is that some sleeze like Johnny Cochran/F. Lee Bailey, etc. will turn it into another media circus (I think Speedracer made this analogy?), where technicalities and media overload degrade it into a "let's send them a message" verdict, the U.S. being on the receiving end of the "message."


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