MILITARY COURTS AND CONGRESS
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
In the aftermath of 9/11/01, the Bush Administration has announced plans to form, staff and adjudicate military tribunals to try anyone the U.S. deems a terrorist. These courts will be presided over by military officers, as will any appeals process, with the final arbiter, either the defense secretary or the president, ending the case.
No civil judge, of any division or rank of the federal judiciary, will ever hear any syllable of appeal from anyone tried before such a tribunal. So frenzied is the American mood, so supine the liberal elite, and so prostrate the nations legal community to power, that barely a murmur is heard in protest to this gross, naked power grab by the Administration.
It is not enough that the institution of such courts are the very antithesis to the grand American claim to due process. Nor is it sufficient to argue that such war measures are inappropriate in the absence of a formal, congressional declaration of war (this Congress would have no real trouble doing so). This Congress, already jittery in light of reports of anthrax contamination of some offices, rushed through in record speed (with little debate, no public hearing, and neither a committee report nor a conference) the unprecedented, complex, and radically repressive USA Patriot Act.
The presidential decree ordering military tribunals is, on its face, unconstitutional. Indeed, the very provision which grants the president Commander In Chief powers, also limits his powers over judicial matters. Heres what it says:
From Art. II: Sect. 2, Constitution of the U.S.:
And from Article III; Section 1 of the Constitution:
Supreme Court judges, and Congress ordains and establishes new courts.
Congress cant abdicate this duty to the executive. The presidents order establishes a court, one which has all of its officers under his direct control and command. This is a classic kangaroo court, of the very kind that Americans condemned when the Fujimori regime established them in Peru (interestingly, to fight terrorism).
Nor is this meant to heap false praise on U.S. civil courts, which are fundamentally political institutions. Have we all forgotten the trial of Tim McVeigh, the domestic terrorist, where it was later learned that the FBI withheld thousands of pages of documents, until days before his execution? Civil courts merely winked at this violation, as a minor irritant.
And while the government had its way (by executing McVeigh) it was embarrassed by reports of their handling of the case. That wont happen now, will it?
Under the Bush administration, military tribunals serve as an instrument of administrative whim. Under the command structure of the military, each judge, each jury, each prosecutor, and each court officer is a sworn officer of the military, in the sworn service of the Commander in Chief. If they want to further their career in the armed services, even if they ever wanted promotion, they follow their administrative cues. What do you think they would do to a foreign national, who is already tagged as the enemy?
With either Bush, the Secretary of Defense, or even another military panel serving as a Supreme Court of Appeals, what would be the result?
But, after all, the accused are (to use the term of popular appeal) sand niggers (the Brits would call them wogs), Arabs, Pakistanis, a few Afghansso, why care?
The same was said in the 20s when Russian Jews were exiled from the U.S. after the Palmer Raids, or in the 40s when Japanese were thrown into concentration camps; theyre just commie Jews, or slantsright?
Such events were said to be separate, involving others, yet they tainted the judicial process and U.S. claims of fair play, up to the present generation. Let us fight this madness, or it will return to haunt us all.
Copyright 2001 by Mumia Abu-Jamal. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the author. Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of three books: Live from Death Row, Death Blossoms, and All Things Censored.