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Mental Detectors and Military Courts 


by  Mumia Abu-Jamal 


Afrikan Frontline Network,  21 November 2001 

Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG),  globalresearch.ca,  25 November 2001

War is declared in the wake of the Sept. 11th attack, and fear fuels a kind of public hysteria.

It has ever been thus.

Thousands of Arab-Americans are being held in secret detention, unable to contact lawyers or families; those who contact lawyers may do so only with the government eavesdropping on attorney-client discussions.

Now the Bush administration has announced that military tribunals will be established for those it deems "terrorists," rather than U.S. civil courts.

In a time of terror, the question arises, who is a "terrorist"?

Who decides? The government? The military?

Recently, an American anti-war activist was barred from boarding a flight at an airport in Bangor, Maine. Members of the U.S. military trained their automatic weapons at her, and ordered her away from the plane.

Was she a "terrorist"?

An American citizen is being denied the right to travel, by the armed forces of the United States, because of her anti-war beliefs.

Is this "homeland security"? (Or homeland insecurity?)

What we are seeing is the dangerous conflation of dissent and terrorism.

The military cannot become the dictator of "correct" political ideas -- neither can the government.

Back during the U.S. Civil War both the Union and the Confederates suspended habeas corpus; Unionists, under Lincoln, denied the writ to Confederate sympathizers in border states like Maryland; Confederates under Jefferson Davis, denied the writ to a growing number of men who bitterly opposed conscription -- the forced draft of poor men into war, while wealthy men could buy exemptions.

What is forgotten a century later, is how people criticized their leaders -- in times of war (!) -- and condemned their actions. The New York Tribune (2/17/1862) called Lincoln's suspensions of habeas corpus a "reign of lawless despotism."

The Confederacy's own Vice President, Alexander Stephens, Georgia Gov. Joseph Brown, and Gen. Robert Toombs, proslavery advocates all, called Confederate President Davis's conscription acts, "despotism." Regarding the suspension of the writ, Stephens said, "Our liberties, once lost, may be lost forever."

Gov. Brown said, ..."[We] have more to fear from military despotism than from subjugating the enemy." Gen. Toombs called his president's acts "infamous schemes," and labeled his supporters "Janissaries," warning that "The road to liberty does not lie through slavery." (The term 'Janissaries' refers to the elite warriors of the late Ottoman Empire, who were captives of war, who were converted and later gained enough power to make or unmake the sultans). [Source: James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom..., (1988), pp. 435-436.]

Again, these were the voices of people dissenting from their own governments, in times of Congressionally- declared war (which this ain't - yet)!

The U.S. Civil War wasn't a cakewalk. It still ranks as America's deadliest war -- Americans killing other Americans, Northerners against Southerners, blacks, whites, Indians, children, with over 600,000 casualties. Yet it was a war that sparked considerable dissent.

Secret courts, secret detention, military tribunals and secret searches are already the result of this undeclared war against a nebulous non-state.

Dissent is punished by fiat of the armed forces.

Wars will always be accompanied by fear, but it must not become an instrument of officially enforced silencing of dissent.

For what is dissent today, may become majority opinion tomorrow.


Copyright 2001, Mumia Abu-Jamal

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