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For The Record
Confronting the Rule of Law

Jim Kirwan
On May 26, 2009 MSNBC released a video comment by Rachel Maddow commenting on a speech that Barack Obama had just made in the archives, in front of the actual Constitution itself. For those who lack video capabilities here is what she said:
Indefinite Detention a Tale of Two Speeches
RACHEL: "A tale of two speeches both from the same man, both from president Obama. One speech that could have been billed as a Ballad to the Constitution, a proclamation of American values and a repudiation of the lawless behavior of the last presidential administration: And in another speech announcing a radical new claim of 'presidential power' that is not afforded by the Constitution and that has never been attempted in American history; even by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Remarkably, today Obama made both of those speeches simultaneously!
Standing inside the archives, in front of the actual Constitution, president Obama delivered a blistering critique of the Bush administration, in which he called their actions and their legacy ­ a "literal mess."
OBAMA: "Our government made a series of hasty decisions, in a poorly planned haphazard approach; too often we set those principles aside as luxuries we could no longer afford. Our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight. The decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for 'fighting terrorism' that was neither effective nor sustainable."
RACHEL: "An 'ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism' ­ that 'was neither effective nor sustainable.' Ouch! Then moments later he announced his own ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism. President Obama today proposed something called 'prolonged detention.' Doesn't sound that bad right? Did you ever see the movie "Minority Report"? It was based on a Philip K. Dick short story, it came out in 2002 and starred Tom Cruise, remember? He played a police officer in something called the Department of
Pre-Crime. Pre-Crime is where people are arrested and incarcerated to prevent crimes that they have not yet committed! (a film clip is played here)
You didn't do anything, but you're gonna! Future murder, creepy right? Putting someone in jail, not for what they have done, but for what you are very sure they're going to do?"
OBAMA: "There may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted; but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States."
RACHEL: We're not prosecuting them for past-crimes but we need to keep them in prison because of our expectation of their future crimes."
OBAMA: Al Qaeda and their affiliates are at war with the United States and those that we capture, like other prisoners of war, must be prevented from attacking us again. "
RACHEL: "Prevented" We will incarcerate people preventively! Preventive Incarceration! Indefinite detention without trial; that's what this is! That's what president Obama proposed today. If you strip away the euphemisms, one civil liberties advocate told the NY Times today: "We've known this was on the horizon for many years, but we were able to hold it off with George Bush. The idea that we might find ourselves fighting with the Obama administration over these powers is really stunning." And it is stunning; particularly to hear president Obama claim the power to keep people in prison indefinitely with no charges against them, no conviction, no sentence, just imprisonment!
It's particularly stunning to hear him make that claim in the middle of a speech that was all about The Rule of Law."
OBAMA: ". . . but we must do so with an abiding confidence of The Rule of Law. Our government was defending positions that undermined The Rule of Law, to insure that they are in-line with The Rule of Law."
RACHEL: "How can a president speak the kind of poetry that president Obama does about The Rule of Law AND call for the power to indefinitely,
preventively imprison people because they might commit crimes in the future? How can these things co-exist in the same man, even in the same speech? Well this brings us to the self-conscious awkwardly embarrassing part of this speech today. After condemning the Bush administration for what he called their 'ad-hoc legal strategy'; for trying to make things seem legal that patently weren't-this is what Obama proposed.
OBAMA: "My administration has begun to reshape the standards that apply to insure that they are in-line with The Rule of Law. We must have clear and lawful defensible standards for who shall fall into this category." [Unlike those unnamed masses that were targeted under Bush, Cheney & Ashcroft] "We must have a thorough process of periodic review so that any prolonged detention is kept carefully evaluated and justified! Our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for the remaining Guantanamo detainees that cannot be transferred. Our goal is not to avoid a legitimate framework. In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man. "
"If an when we determine that the United States must hold individuals to keep them from carrying out an act of war; we will do so within a system that involves judicial and congressional oversight. And so going forward, my administration will work with congress to develop an appropriate legal regimen so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our constitution.
RACHEL: "You'll construct a legal regime to make indefinite detentions legal-you will develop an appropriate legal regimen! So you can construct a whole new system outside the courts, even outside the military commissions so that you can indefinitely imprison people without charges, and you'll build that system from scratch. What's that somebody said about 'Ad-hoc legal strategies'?
Just for context here, [Britain] where there isn't even a bill of rights; there has been a major debate about whether people can be held in preventative detention. The Former British Prime Minister wanted three months to be the outer limit, for how long anyone there could be held. There was a big political fight about it-Parliament ended up limiting the power to 28 days. Twenty-eight days is still the longest period of preventative detention that's allowed under law in any comparable democracy-anywhere in the world.
How long will president Obama's Preventative Detention last? Well he's not saying yet but here's how he defines the threat that he says makes indefinite detention necessary."
OBAMA: Right now in distant training camps and in crowded cities, there are people plotting to take American lives. That will be the case a year from now; five years from now; and in all probability ten years from now."
RACHEL: "Ten years from now? So you could get arrested today and locked up without a trial, without being convicted, without being sentenced for say, ten years: Until the threat of your future criminal behavior passes?
Prolonged Detention he's calling it. This was a beautiful speech from president Obama today with patriotic, moving, and even poetic language about The Rule of Law and the Constitution-and-one of the most radical proposals for defying the Constitution that we have ever heard made to the American people. End of video tape. (1)
In addition: "ISLAMABAD - The U.S. is embarking on a $1 billion crash program to expand its diplomatic presence in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, another sign that the Obama administration is making a costly, long-term commitment to war-torn South Asia, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
The White House has asked Congress for - and seems likely to receive - $736 million to build a new U.S. embassy in Islamabad, along with permanent housing for U.S. government civilians and new office space in the Pakistani capital.
The scale of the projects rivals the giant U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which was completed last year after construction delays at a cost of $740 million." (2)
Apparently the target which the Green Zone in Iraq has become, is something that needs to be replicated inside Pakistan? This from the man who was going to bring the troops home, remember? If ever there was a waste of three-quarters of a trillion dollars this is it! Between what Obama, as Bush III is apparently planning, and his current stance against allowing the tortures to be revealed inside Abu Gharib and elsewhere: there is little hope that the man who will preside over the fall of the United States has any interest in saving anything to fight off the looming problems on the home front that are directly due to these ceaseless and pointless wars wherein he is continuing the Bush plan for trying to kill ideas with bullets; when only diplomacy can even remotely bring about any resolution-whatsoever.
1) Indefinite Detention - video
2) Obama Seeks Funds for Pakistan Super-Embassy

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