November 20, 2001

Here's a piece by Nat Hentoff for the Village Voice:
Assault on Liberty: Abandoning the Constitution to Military Tribunals

On Thursday, November 15, William Safire—The New York Times' constitutional conservative—distilled Bush's new raid on the Constitution:
"Misadvised by a frustrated and panic-stricken attorney general, a president of the United States has just assumed what amounts to dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens. . . . We are letting George W. Bush get away with the replacement of the American rule of law with military kangaroo courts. . . . In an Orwellian twist, Bush's order calls this Soviet-style abomination 'a full and fair trial.' "
What Bush has done by executive order—bypassing Congress and the constitutional separation of powers—is to establish special military tribunals to try noncitizens suspected of terrorism. Their authority will extend over permanent noncitizen American residents, lawfully living in the United States, as well as foreigners.
The trials will be held here or in other countries—like Pakistan or "liberated" Afghanistan—and on ships at sea. The trials will be in secret. There will be no juries. Panels of military officers will be the judges—with the power to impose the death penalty if two-thirds of these uniformed judges agree. There will be no appeals to any of the sentences. (Even in regular court martials, judges must rule unanimously for executions.)
The defendants may not be able to choose their own counsel—lawyers who, after all, might get in the way of the swift justice commander in chief Bush has ordered.
The military tribunal will have other, more extensive ways to undermine the rule of law than exist in court martials or regular trials. The evidence to be allowed will be without the range of protections accorded defendants in what used to be the American system of justice.
For example, under "the exclusionary rule" in American courts, illegally obtained evidence cannot be used at a trial. Neither can hearsay evidence, which can include rumor and other unverified information about which a witness has no personal knowledge. Such evidence helps produce a death sentence.
Much of the prosecution's evidence will be withheld from the defendant and from whatever lawyer he or she can get because it will allegedly be based on classified intelligence sources. And the military officers in charge will, of course, decide the severe limits on the defense in other respects as well. These secret trials will be based, to a large extent, on secret evidence.

A little good humored Turkey Day fun:


Patriotic Turkey and friend

Here's an interesting account of the stand-off going on right now in Afghanistan between the Taliban and U.S. Troops written by Ian Cobain (in Konduz Province) and Damian Whitworth (in Washington D.C.) :
America will take no prisoners

The title sounds harsh, but it's actually a pretty objective article. I mean, on the one hand, sure, it would be kinda silly to go all the way out of there and then kinda look the other way when "they" (or, in this case, the "friends of they") are finally surrounded.

But at the same time, there's no need to be too hasty about it if there's a chance that perhaps thousands of innocent people might be saved...

AMERICAN forces attacking Taleban fighters in Afghanistan are under orders to take no prisoners, the US Defence Secretary said last night.
Donald Rumsfeld also ruled out suggestions that thousands of al-Qaeda mercenaries trapped in the northern city of Konduz might be allowed to negotiate safe passage to a third country, and said that America would do all in its power to stop Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taleban leader, fleeing Afghanistan.
“The United States is not inclined to negotiate surrenders, nor are we in a position, with relatively small numbers of forces on the ground, to accept prisoners,” he said.
Mr Rumsfeld was responding to attempts by opposition forces to negotiate a peaceful end to the siege of Konduz. General Mohammad Dawood Khan, commanding the Northern Alliance forces that face the Taleban on three sides of the city, told The Times: “If a country accepted them as refugees, we would have no problem, they can go free. We have been in contact with the UN over this.”
The deal is being discussed to avoid massive bloodshed during any attempt to take the city by force. Up to 30,000 troops, including up to 10,000 foreign fighters, are encircled in Konduz, the last outpost of Taleban resistance in the north of Afghanistan.
The prospect of giving safe passage to large numbers of fundamentalists alarms Washington because they would be expected to regroup and possibly wage guerrilla war against whatever government may be established in Kabul, or to plot further terrorists attacks.
Mr Rumsfeld said: “Any idea that those people in that town who have been fighting so viciously and who refuse to surrender should end up in some sort of a negotiation which would allow them to leave the country and go off and destabilise other countries and engage in terrorist attacks on the United States is something that I would certainly do everything I could to prevent. They’re people who have done terrible things.”
The US was not prepared to negotiate with the Taleban or al-Qaeda’s foreign forces, he added. “It’s our hope that they will not engage in negotiations that would provide for the release of al-Qaeda forces.
“The idea of their getting out of the country and going off to make their mischief somewhere else is not a happy prospect. So my hope is that they will either be killed or taken prisoner (by the Northern Alliance).” Mr Rumsfeld would not say if US forces would pursue al-Qaeda over borders, but said “We might have an early, intensive consultation with the neighbours.”
He also ruled out the possibility of Mullah Omar being allowed to find a safe exit from Kandahar. “Would I knowingly let him get out of Kandahar? No I would not,” he said.

While searching for information about the Larry Flynt/Afghanistan situation, I happened upon a great essay by Sarah Guzick for the University of Texas' Campus Newsjournal of Women's Issues: Issue 2 --
Larry Flynt: "Hero" for Free Speech, Insidious Woman Hater? Or Both?

At least The People vs. Larry Flynt puts the porn/free-speech issue on the table, even if it leaves out tons of relevant information. See the movie, think about porn, think about how it affects you, if it affects you at all. The doors of a dialogue on pornography have been re-opened. Let's keep them open. Let's discuss these issues even if they do not affect us consciously on a day-to-day basis. Regardless of our positions, we as women should be concerned. If this film has to be the catalyst for our discussion, then so be it.!

Hilary and Chelsea can't figure out whether Chelsea was jogging or out getting a newspaper when the first plane hit in New York on the morning of September 11. (And I can't figure out why anyone cares :-)

See Larry Elder's The Clintons and the Journalists who Love Them

What Hilary says (to Jane Pauley on TV):

"She'd gone on what she thought would be a great jog. She was going down to the Battery Park, she was going to go around the towers. She went to get a cup of coffee and – that's when the plane hit."
Pauley: "She was close enough to hear the rumble."
Sen. Clinton: "She did hear it. She did."
Pauley: "And to see the smoke ... "
Sen. Clinton: "That's right."
Pauley: " ... in person, not on television."
Sen. Clinton: "No ... "

What Chelsea says (In her Talk Magazine article):

"On the morning it happened I was at my friend Nicole Davison's apartment, near Union Square in Manhattan. That morning we had gotten up and grabbed coffee, and then she took the subway to work while I bought a paper and headed back to her apartment. I had just walked in when she called from work. A plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center, she said. I should stay put and she'd call me back when she knew more. I turned on the television and watched as the second plane hit. "

These people aren't even in the White House any more, and we still have to follow them around every time one tells a fib to the other? Who knows which story is true or indeed if either story is true? This isn't a terrorist investigation, right? This is just Hollywood. (White noise really...)

Larry Flynt is Suing the Defense Department for not letting him send reporters to the front lines of Afghanistan. (Thank you, Larry.)

WASHINGTON (AP) - Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt has sued the Defense Department for the right to send reporters to the front lines in Afghanistan.
Flynt asked a federal court in Washington to force the agency to loosen its restrictions on media coverage.
``The actions of American soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan are of great interest and concern to American citizens,'' his attorney said in the lawsuit filed last week.
The Pentagon turned down Flynt's request to allow writers to accompany troops on combat missions because of ``the highly dangerous and unique nature'' of the operations, according to a letter Flynt said he received this month from Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke.

November 18, 2001

It's hard to believe, but this is the other Newsweek press release that went up today: Newsweek: Afghan Woman Who Had Secret Beauty Parlor in Kabul Says in a Month Or Two, 'I'll be One of the First to Open a Beauty Shop in Public'

An Afghanistan woman who secretly operated a beauty parlor in her home for five years tells Newsweek's Melinda Liu that although hers is still a "Taliban style" beauty salon, in a month or two, "I'll be one of the first to open a beauty shop in public. I hope you and other Western women will come."

Sure I'll be on the next plane. Pencil me in for Sunday at 2:45...

The woman, named Latifa, wore lipstick and had dyed auburn hair. She secretly styled women's hair, applied makeup, hidden by the all-enveloping burqa, which covers the face, and played forbidden music cassettes and videotapes for women who lounged on sofas covered in leopard-print material in her living room...

And isn't that what freedom is all about? (Lounging on leopard-skinned sofas, listening to Elvis the pelvis and secretly piercing your ears..)

The politics of post-Taliban Afghanistan still need to be sorted out and Afghan women are waiting to see if Northern Alliance representatives are serious about women's liberation.

So it's in the hands of the Northern Alliance, is it? How unfortunate. They haven't been overly concerned with women's rights in the past.

Under Taliban rule, Afghan women were forbidden to work or show their faces and were required to wear the burqa. But since last week, Afghan women are venturing into public again and looking for work...

And food and shelter...

At least four women got jobs at Radio Afghanistan, and others continued to stop by the radio station to apply. "When I heard the Taliban was finished, I rejoiced beyond measure," says Rida Azimi, 25, one of the first women to read the news at Radio Afghanistan after the Taliban fled. After Azimi heard the news about the Taliban's defeat, she joyously burned her burqa at home. "I felt so depressed wearing the veil," she tells Newsweek. "Now I see the sunlight and it's so beautiful."

Due process is out and secret military tribunals are in.

Newsweek: Bush Insisted Only He Should Decide Who Should Stand Trial Before Military Court .

(Note: this is not a full article but a press release about an article that appears in the print version of "Newsweek" that hits the stands Monday.)

After he signed an order allowing the use of military tribunals in terrorist cases, President George W. Bush insisted he alone should decide who goes before such a military court, his aides tell Newsweek. The tribunal document gives the government the power to try, sentence -- and even execute -- suspected foreign terrorists in secrecy, under special rules that would deny them constitutional rights and allow no chance to appeal.
Bush's powers to form a military court came from a secret legal memorandum, which the U.S. Justice Department began drafting in the days after Sept. 11, Newsweek has learned. The memo allows Bush to invoke his broad wartime powers, since the U.S., they concluded, was in a state of "armed conflict." Bush used the memo as the legal basis for his order to bomb Afghanistan. Weeks later, the lawyers concluded that Bush would use his expanded powers to form a military court for captured terrorists. Officials envision holding the trials on aircraft carriers or desert islands, report Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff and Contributing Editor Stuart Taylor Jr...