September 16, 2005

Government by Star Chamber

America is in the clutches of autocrats

by Paul Craig Roberts

The most important casualties of September 11 are respect for truth and American liberty. Propaganda has replaced deliberation based on objective assessment of fact. The resurrection of the Star Chamber has made moot the legal protections of liberty.

The US invasion of Iraq was based on the deliberate suppression of fact. The invasion was not the result of mistaken intelligence. . . .

If fact played any role in the decision to continue with this war, the US would not be spending hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars to provide recruits and training for al Qaeda, to radicalize Muslims, and to destroy trust in the United States both abroad and among its own citizens.

American casualties (dead and wounded) of this gratuitous war are now approximately 20,000. . . .

There is an even greater cost of the war--the legal system that protects liberty, a human achievement for which countless numbers of people gave their lives over the centuries. The Bush administration used September 11 to whip up fear and hysteria and to employ these weapons against American liberty. The Orwellian named Patriot Act has destroyed habeas corpus. The executive branch has gained the unaccountable power to detain American citizens on mere suspicion or accusation, without evidence, and to hold Americans indefinitely without a trial.

Foolishly, many Americans believe this power can only be used against terrorists. Americans don't realize that the government can declare anyone to be a terrorist suspect. As no evidence is required, it is entirely up to the government to decide who is a terrorist. Thus, the power is unaccountable. Unaccountable power is the source of tyranny.

The English speaking world has not seen such power since the 16th and 17th centuries when the Court of Star Chamber became a political weapon used against the king's opponents and to circumvent Parliament. The Star Chamber dispensed with juries, permitted hearsay evidence, and became so reviled that "Star Chamber" became a byword for injustice. The Long Parliament abolished the Star Chamber in 1641. In obedience to the Bush regime, the US Congress resurrected it with the Patriot Act. Can anything be more Orwellian than identifying patriotism with the abolition of habeas corpus?

. . . In the US today nothing stands in the way of the arbitrary exercise of power by government. Federal courts have acquiesced in unconstitutional detention policies. There is no opposition party, and there is no media, merely huge conglomerates or collections of federal broadcasting licenses, the owners of which are afraid to displease the government.

. . . . To press its fabricated case against Iran's alleged weapons of mass destruction program, the Bush administration is showing every foreign diplomat it can corral an hour-long slide show titled, "A History of Concealment and Deception." Wary foreigners are reminded of the presentations about Iraq's WMD and wonder who is guilty of deception, Iran or the Bush administration.

Now that the war in Iraq has established that US ground forces cannot easily prevail against insurgency, the Bush administration is bringing new military threats to the fore. The neocon orchestrated "Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations" abandons the established doctrine that nuclear weapons are last resort options. The Bush administration is so enamored of coercion that it is birthing the doctrine of preemptive nuclear attack. . . .

The Bush administration has abandoned American principles. It is a Jacobin regime. Woe to its citizens and the rest of the world.


[Paul Craig Roberts served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration.]

Robert S. McNamara, "Apocalypse Soon," Foreign Policy, May/June 2005

Enver Masud, "Iraq War: 'Supreme International Crime'," The Wisdom Fund, June 29, 2005

Julian Coman, "Now America Accuses Iran of Complicity in World Trade Center Attack," Telegraph, July 21, 2005

Eric S. Margolis, "9/11, Iraq, Katrina. Enough is Enough,", September 12, 2005

Al Gore, "American Democracy is in Grave Danger," Associated Press, October 6, 2005

Barton Gellman, "The FBI's Secret Scrutiny: In Hunt for Terrorists, Bureau Examines Records of Ordinary Americans," Washington Post, November 6, 2005

[Once trumpeted as one of the Justice Department's significant triumphs against terrorism, the case targeting the so-called "Detroit sleeper cell" began less than a week after the attack on the World Trade Center. It was only after a jury convicted two men of supporting terrorism that the flimsiness of the government's case became clear.--Peter Slevin, "Detroit 'Sleeper Cell' Prosecutor Faces Probe: Grand Jury Considering Indictment for Misconduct," Washington Post, November 20, 2005]

Paul Craig Roberts, "The Grave Threat of the Bush Administration," CounterPunch, November 28, 2005

Elaine Cassel, "Trashing Every Principle of Constitutional Law: A Government Game of "Gotcha" with Jose Padilla," CounterPunch, December 1, 2005

[The former professor, Sami al-Arian, a fiery advocate for Palestinian causes who became a lightning rod for criticism nationwide over his vocal anti-Israeli stances, was found not guilty on eight criminal counts related to terrorist support, perjury and immigration violations.--Eric Lichtblau, "Not Guilty Verdicts in Florida Terror Trial Are Setback for U.S.," New York Times, December 7, 2005]

[For 35 years, James Wedick had been a star at the FBI. When his former colleagues prosecuted a suspected terrorist, he came to the side of the defense and was branded a traitor. . . .

Down the road on Highway 99, the feds had busted up an Al Qaeda sleeper cell in Lodi--Mark Arax, "The Agent Who Might Have Saved Hamid Hayat," Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2006]

[Become an informant and regularly report to the FBI on what his Muslim friends in San Francisco were saying and doing. In exchange, he would get back his green card. He could resume his education, bring his Moroccan wife to America, and pursue his dream of buying a car, moving to Sacramento and becoming an engineer.--Peter Waldman, "A Muslim's Choice: Turn U.S. Informant or Risk Losing Visa," Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2006]

Tom Hays, "Post- 9/11 Detainee Returns to His Life," Guardian, August 17, 2006

[Padilla's lawyers are arguing that he is not fit to stand trial because he has been driven insane by the government.--Naomi Klein, "The US psychological torture system is finally on trial ," Guardian, February 23, 2007]

[In December, 2005, al-Arian was acquitted on the most serious charges and on those remaining; the jurors voted 10 to two for acquittal. Because the FBI wanted to make further charges, al-Arian's lawyers told him to make a plea that would end any further prosecution. Arriving for his sentence, however, al-Arian - who assumed time served would be his punishment, followed by deportation - found Moody talking about "blood" on the defendant's hands and ensured he would have to spend another 11 months in jail. Then prosecutor Gordon Kromberg insisted that the Palestinian prisoner should testify against an Islamic think tank. Al-Arian believed his plea bargain had been dishonoured and refused to testify. He was held in contempt. And continues to languish in prison.--Robert Fisk, "The true story of free speech in America," Independent, April 7, 2007]

[My father, a Palestinian professor named Sami Al-Arian, was arrested over four years ago on trumped up terrorism charges and submitted to a prosecution over the course of six months that bordered on the farcical. Though he was ultimately acquitted by a jury of the most serious charges against him, the Bush administration has prolonged his imprisonment indefinitely.--Laila Al-Arian, "My Father, 9/11 Scapegoat," Huffington Post, April 23, 2007]

[The true patriot is motivated by a sense of responsibility and out of self-interest for himself, his family, and the future of his country to resist government abuse of power. He rejects the notion that patriotism means obedience to the state. Resistance need not be violent, but the civil disobedience that might be required involves confrontation with the state and invites possible imprisonment.--Ron Paul, "On Patriotism,", May 24, 2007]

George W. Bush, " Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq," White House News, July 17, 2007

[The award-winning documentary, US vs Al-Arian, shed new light on the human cost of the trial: the Al-Arian family's struggle with pain and uncertainty as a loved father and husband was taken from them, and their efforts to maintain their unity as a family in the face of crushing odds.--Zainab Cheema, "Beyond the Lens of USA vs Al-Arian," Muslim Link, January 4, 2008]

[The case against Al-Arian, in the eyes of the grand inquisitors like Kromberg, is a battle against a culture and a religion that they openly denigrate and despise. This racism, the driving engine behind the campaign against Al-Arian, mocks the integrity of the American judicial system.--Chris Hedges, "Obstruction of Justice,", March 30, 2009]

[When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an Al Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

. . . within weeks of his capture, US officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. President Bush had publicly described him as "Al Qaeda's chief of operations," and other top officials called him a "trusted associate" of Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. None of that was accurate, the new evidence showed.--Peter Finn and Joby Warrick, "Officials: Torture confessions not proven useful,", March 30, 2009]

[In tandem with his vassal reporter at the Tampa Trib, Michael Fechter, Emerson waged a decade-long jihad against a professor at the University of South Florida, Sami Al-Arian, accused by Emerson and Fechter of being a terrorist mastermind. Emerson and Fechter were backed by a shadowy network of former federal agents and foreign spooks, notably a disinformation specialist for Israel's ultra-right Likud party named Yigal Carmon and a controversial ex-FBI official named Oliver "Buck" Revell - and a lot of money whose origins have never been revealed.

However, where their information came from was clear. As the great Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz explained before Al-Arian’s 2005 federal trial: "Israel owns much of the copyright for the case; a well-informed source termed the prosecution an 'American-Israeli co-production.' The Americans are running the show, but behind the scenes it was the Israelis who for years collected material (and) transmitted information"--John F. Sugg, "Why won't the Tampa Trib tell you what people in Nashville know about Steve Emerson?,", November 2, 2010]

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