Everyone should read Naomi Wolf’s “The End of America”

I’ll be posting chapter excerpts as I read because this is such an amazing book:

“Everything changed in America in September of 2006, when Congress passed the Military Commissions Act. This law created a new legal reality that heralds the end of America if we do not take action. Yet most Americans still do not understand what happened to them when that law passed.

“This law gives the president-any president-the authority to establish a separate justice system for trying alien unlawful enemy combatants. It defines both ‘torture’ and ‘materially support[ing] hostilities’ broadly. The MCA justice system lacks the basic protections afforded defendants in our domestic system of laws, in our military justice system, or in the system of laws used to try war criminals-Nazi leaders got better civil liberty protection than alien enemy combatants, as did perpetrators of genocide like Slobodan Milosovic. And persons accused by the president (or his designees) of being alien unlawful enemy combatants are forbidden from invoking the Geneva Conventions, a treaty that represents the basic protections of justice common to all civilized nations. The United States has signed the Geneva Conventions and agreed to abide by them, and this repudiation is a radical departure from our traditions. Under the MCA, the government can used ‘coerced’ interrogation to obtain evidence. Finally, and perhaps most damagingly, the MCA denies unlawful alien enemy combatants the right to challenge the legitimacy of their confinement or treatment. So, while the MCA provides all sorts of rules that the military is supposed to follow, it will be difficult, if not impossible to hold anyone accountable for breaking those rules.

“But this is not all. The president and his lawyers now claim the authority to designate any American citizen he chooses as being an ‘enemy combatant’ and to define both ‘torture’ and ‘material support’ broadly. They claim the authority to give anyone in the executive branch the power to knock on your door, seize you on the street, or grab you as you are changing planes at Newark or Atlanta airports; blindfold you and put earphones on you; take you to a cell in a navy prison; keep you in complete isolation for months or even years; delay your trial again and again; and make it hard for you to communicate with your lawyer. The president claims the authority to direct agents to threaten you in interrogations and allow into your trial things you confessed to while you were being mistreated.

“The president claims the authority to do any of those things to any American citizen now on his say-so alone. Let me repeat this: The president asserts that he can do this to you even if you have never committed a crime of any kind: ‘enemy combatant’ is a status offense. Meaning that if the president says you are one, then you are.

“Human rights groups raised the alarm early on about what this law might mean to the many innocent foreign detainees who had been swept up in the machinery of Afghan prisons and sent to Guantánamo. Some Congressional leaders have warned us about what this law might do to our own soldiers, if they are taken as POWs. But most ordinary citizens did not understand what Congress had done-not to anonymous, possibly scary brown people on a faraway island, but to them. Most Americans still do not understand.

“Last September, concerned about the legal arguments being put forward by the Department of Justice, I called a friend who is a professor of Constitutional law.

“‘Does the administration assert that the president can define anyone he wants to as an ‘enemy combatant’? Including U.S. citizens?’ I asked.

“‘Yes,’ he replied.

“‘And does it argue that courts must defer to the government’s assertions that someone should be held as an enemy combatant, even when it presents no direct evidence?’

“‘Yes,’ he replied.

“‘So doesn’t that mean they are saying that now any of us for any reason he decides can be seized off the street an imprisoned for months and interrogated?’

“‘Yes,’ he said.

“‘So why isn’t anyone saying that?’

“‘Some people are. But a lot of people probably think it would just sound crazy,’ he replied.'”

The End of America, Introduction, pages 15-17, by Naomi Wolf, Chelsea Green, 2007, ISBN 978-1-933392-79-0 (you can read the whole introduction here, in a pdf)

Everyone should buy 2 copies and give one away. Give one to someone you love or just think needs a wake up call. It’s been adding up over the years, I hadn’t realized, but Naomi Wolf lays it all out for us.

This book is a deal at Overstock.com. Or you can be a really big hero and buy it from Chelsea Green, they could probably use the dough.

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