There is nothing to fear, but fear itself...
I read an excellent column not so long ago by Eric Margolis about how the US is slipping into some of the same tactics that the KGB used against its prisoners. Sleep deprivation, near drowning, freezing, terrorizing them with dogs... some of the very tactics that the US wants to use, were favorites of the KGB.
Now the House has approved these tactics, along with trials in which defendants may be refused the right to see materials being used against them. Rather hard to mount a defense when you don't even know what the evidence is.
It's well known that torture results in unreliable data... people subject to or afraid of torture will say anything to escape the torment. Yet, the American public seems all too willing to allow the CIA to do pretty much whatever they want to suspected terrorists who might (or might not) be able to give testimony regarding planned activities. So much for humane treatment of prisoners and the Geneva conventions, so much for innocent until proven guilty... these tactics are to be used on detainees who have not been tried, have never seen a jury, nor received a conviction. And they will used to procure confessions as well as supposed evidence.
Then when they are tried, they will not be allowed to see any "sensitive" evidence against them. Kangaroo courts is what we used to call them when the KGB tried people without them being able to defend themselves.
This legislation is coupled with new definitions of who is considered a terrorist or a material supporter of terrorism. Under the new definitions, the lawyers who defend these prisoners could be tried for material support of terrorists, even if they are court appointed! This has, in fact, already happened to the lawyer who defended the suspects in the first World Trade Center bombing.
And why are we willing to tolerate torture, kangaroo courts, cases targeting court appointed lawyers? Because we afraid. Irrationally afraid one might add. Count the number of people killed in car accidents, or by enraged spouses last year, and it will far exceed the number of people killed by terrorists. It will far exceed the number killed even in 2001. But we don't go around saying it's ok to torture husbands we suspect might want to hit their wives so as to understand their real intentions. Nor would we approve interogating anyone who is applying for a driver's license, to make sure they aren't planning to drink and drive, or run a red light, or speed. That would, naturally, be considered ludicrous as well as a complete violation of civil and human rights.
So too, the proposed legislation is a travesty against all human rights. Human rights, by the way, are not limited to the citizens of one country or the other, they pertain to all human beings. Safety from torture is a human right.
It is the fear of the other, and hyped up fear of violence affecting loved ones, coupled with the sure knowledge that the legislation won't affect ourselves or our families, that lets Americans turn a blind eye to the creeping Stalinization of America. One wonders, how far will we let it creep. Today, it's enemy combatants, and terror detainees, most of whom are foreigners. What will the American public say if large numbers of American Muslims, American citizens who happen to be Muslim are labeled enemy combatants or detained on terrorism charges they cannot refute because they can't see the evidence against them?
I wonder sometimes if it were to happen to me would my neighbors and acquaintances say, "I know that woman, there's no way those charges are true," Or would they say, "Oh my God! We never suspected." It's certainly a sad day when you have to ponder those kinds of questions.