Guest post by Ben Carmack
Many thanks to my friend Jon Adams for letting me know about the National Defense Authorization Act, a law that Congress is preparing to pass and send to our president for his signature. According to this article from the Huffington Post, the U.S. Senate voted, 38 to 60, to reject an amendment from Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) that would have rolled back a provision of the bill that allows the U.S. military to imprison American citizens indefinitely without charges or trial if they are "suspected of terrorism."
How many hearings would one get if one were charged under this bill? One hearing. And then prison.
This is disturbing on many levels. The prospect of the "War on Terror" coming to the United States--with fellow citizens, many of them perhaps our Muslim neighbors, being railroaded into prison and "enhanced interrogation," then held indefinitely--is not pleasant. But we can't say we weren't warned about this. We allowed the federal government under the previous administration to persuade us that Muslim terrorists were a grave threat to our country, when reality makes clear that they were not. We bought the fear mongering; now the policies we allowed to be used on foreigners, because "they weren't U.S. citizens" and "not entitled to our Constitutional protections," are now going to be used on us.
Extreme nationalism and hatred of "the other" doesn't work, folks. We're all people. We're all human beings, whether we're American citizens or not. The basic human rights listed in the Bill of Rights are inherent rights of all humans, given to us by a good and just God. Governments do not decree them and hand them down to us, then, when they feel like it, take them away. Our rights continue to exist even if no government acknowledges them. It is our right to insist on our rights and to refuse to acquiesce when governments don't respect our dignity.
What I am saying comes directly from the Declaration of Independence. What could be more American?
Furthermore, carrying this logic even further, the military's participation in warfare does not purchase our rights or our freedoms. We do not need to thank soldiers for "giving us our freedom." Our freedom is a birthright from God. Governments may not respect our freedoms but we have them nonetheless. I should add that government is never more at odds with God-given freedoms than in time of war. It is especially odd that we should thank the military for our freedoms.
As anyone who has served in the military knows, military leaders do not highly regard freedom, particularly the freedom of "enemy" civilians. According to the more conservative statistics, upwards of 100,000 Iraqi civilians have perished in the Iraq War. Other estimates say upwards of half a million. Many thousands more have died in Afghanistan and Pakistan, several at the hands of drone aircraft, safely operated by computer jockeys in the continental U.S. Do those people think their freedoms are being defended? Wonder why they're not grateful to U.S. soldiers for their freedoms?
This is all part of a pattern. The U.S. military treated German and Japanese civilians the same way during World War II. The U.S. military repeated the pattern in Korea and Vietnam. All of these wars were said to be about freedom. All involved heavy civilian casualties. All involved gigantic increases in government power at home and abroad, power that was not totally reversed when peacetime came again.
Selling arms to a government at war and making loans to a government at war are highly profitable. You can make a real killing, as they say on Wall Street. The wars continue.
When it was about killing people far away, Americans more or less put up with it. After all, them's other countries, other people. They talk funny, worship statues, and pray to the Moon God, probably all bound for Hell anyway, right? Hell, we're just executing God's judgment on the poor suckers. They shoulda been good upstanding Christians like us.
Now that the same cruelty that we have inflicted on foreigners is coming to our shores, a few of us are rightly upset and angry, but I'm afraid it's too little, too late. Cruelty against one is cruelty against all, American or non-American.
On the upside, there's a lot of money to be made in building prisons and building weapons. As American citizens are hauled off to prison indefinitely without due process, the economy will be stimulated and jobs created. Doesn't that make you feel better?
While our feckless Congress can't figure out how to balance the budget, regulate the financial industry, deal with unemployment or keep Social Security solvent, they can all get together to erase the Bill of Rights and enforce the new Police State.
What should be done? Should we join Occupy Wall Street? Should we write our Congressman? Should we protest? Perhaps. I'm not sure what good all of that will do. I confess I'm not real political myself, and probably that won't change.
Here's what I can suggest: an Advent meditation to bring us all back to the basic dignity and worth of all people, regardless of citizenship:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. Titus ii:11
I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
St. Luke ii:10-14
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Comments always welcome, pro and con.
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Comments always welcome, pro and con.