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George W. Bush: Judge, Jury, and Executioner

A new executive order means that American citizens, if declared "enemy combantants," can be executed without lawyer, judge, or jury.
 
 
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First he appointed himself President. Now George W. Bush has declared himself God. As Americans begin their third year of Supreme Court-ordered political occupation, Bush has just signed an impressive new executive order. You may be surprised to learn that it grants him the right to order your execution.

No judge, jury or lawyer. No chance to prove your innocence. One stroke of Bush's pen, and bang--you're dead. Not even your American citizenship, according to Bush, will save your life if and when he decides to kill you. The only reason you're reading this right now--instead of meeting the Entity Formerly Known as God--is that neither Bush nor one of his "high-level officials" has yet signed a piece of paper declaring you an "enemy combatant." Once they do the paperwork, Administration officials assert, they have the right to murder you. Bush's secret assassination directive surfaced on Dec. 3, when reporters asked about the Nov. 3 Central Intelligence Agency rub-out of alleged Al Qaeda operatives riding in a car in Yemen. Langley fired a Hellfire missile from a remote-controlled Predator drone into the vehicle, blowing up several men. The CIA later discovered that an American citizen, Kamal Derwish, had inadvertently been killed in the inferno. "No constitutional questions are raised here," asserted National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, stretching credulity more than usual.

Officials claim that a loophole in Bush's order authorizing the CIA to "covertly attack Al Qaeda all over the world" validates Derwish's murder. Since this sneaky directive makes exception neither for Americans nor American soil, these guys say, you and I have no more rights than the now-deceased, not-presumed-innocent Kamal Derwish.

Your life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are now officially subject to George W. Bush's personal judgement--or whim. The war on terrorism isn't a war, it's a cheesy public service announcement, like the "war on poverty" and the "war on drugs." Like those old un-won campaigns, it involves no declaration of war, no defined enemy, no front. And like them it will gradually fade into embarrassing irrelevance.

"Can you believe it?" future citizens will marvel. "People actually took this stuff seriously!" In the meantime, America's Gang of Four--Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft--have brilliantly exploited the nebulousness of nullity. Having no enemy means that anyone can be declared the enemy. Having no battleground means that the battleground is anywhere and everywhere. "The Bush Administration and Al Qaeda together have defined the entire world as a battlefield," writes the Associated Press' John J. Lumpkin.

While the CIA has targeted U.S. citizens in the past, those killings were officially sanctioned only when the person in question was considered an immediate threat to American lives. Scott L. Silliman, director of the Duke
University Center on Law, Ethics and National Security asks: "Could you put a Hellfire missile into a car in Washington, D.C. under the same theory? The answer is yes, you could."

Never mind that anyone driving on the Beltway could just as easily be pulled over by the cops. Like the medieval lords who wielded the right of life and death over their subjects, our Texan warlord now claims the droit du seigneur over the American people.

Under his legalized assassination mandate, Bush could theoretically declare the 2004 Democratic nominee an "enemy combatant," Hellfire his campaign bus and coast to reelection unopposed. It would be a heck of a lot easier than preparing for debates.

Granted, it's unlikely that CIA missiles will begin raining down on Berkeley or other liberal burgs anytime soon. Killing Muslims, even those with U.S. citizenship, is one thing; offing "ordinary" Americans is another.

As has been the case with previous Bushie infringements on fundamental civil rights--electronic eavesdropping, jailing people without trial or a visit by a lawyer--most citizens believe themselves safe simply by virtue of their not being terrorists.

They may be right. They might be wrong. It's all in the hands of the executioner-in-chief now.

Ted Rall is editor of "Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists," an anthology of cartoons, ephemera and interviews with 21 of America's best editorial cartoonists.