Category Archives: Terrorism

The UN and Israel

We have for years watched passively as Israel continued to build settlements in areas designated for Palestinian statehood since the Oslo accords. The US representative has vetoed many actions by the Security Council to sanction Israel for the illegal settlements, so it came as a surprise when Samantha Power finally abstained from the most recent resolution. It may have been too little and too late. With Donald Trump looming on the horizon, AIPAC and its allies can breathe freely again in the knowledge that it won’t happen again.

Lindsay Graham has called for the defunding of the UN and the new Democratic leader in the Senate has roundly chastised the Obama administration for allowing the resolution to stand. There is precious little reporting in this country of the violence and destruction being caused by Israeli “settlers” and their Israeli army protectors in the furtherance of the annihilation of hopes for a two state solution in the land holy to three major religions.

When Israeli “settlers” (I would prefer to call them terrorists or vigilantes) called a one-and-a-half year old child a terrorist after firebombing the house in which he lived with his parents and older brother, they showed how utterly lacking in humanity and reason they were in their actions. The crime of this family?  Living too close to an illegal Israeli settlement. The cost of the firebomb? The parents and baby dead, the older brother burned over 70% of his body. Two out of eleven Israelis involved in the action were charged, neither being held pending trial, and only one of them charged with murder.

Donald Trump doesn’t have any problem with the so-called settler movement. This should surprise no one. But people of good will may well wonder that our government has been so facile in refusing to chastise Israel for its support of the movement. Abby Mann, whom I have spoken of before, has two reports on the incident above and the history and current state of the settler movement. They can be found here and here. I will not repeat the statistics she has reported, but suffice it to say that the number of deaths, some of which she has videos of at the hands of the “settlers” and their military supporters, will shock and appall you.

It is not surprising that the Security Council at the UN has been trying to sanction Israel for years for the illegal settlement program. The program has displaced or killed thousands of Palestinians, destroyed their farms and their livelihoods, and left them in an apartheid-like state the likes of which have not been seen since South Africa. For it to be created by the victims of the holocaust would be ironic if it were not so outrageous. Now it can only be said that the United States for once did the right thing on this issue.

Bill Clinton, criminal law, and political machinations

Although much is made of the 1994 crime bill, superpredators et al., in today’s election, a more damning demonstration of Slick Willy’s attempt to out-Republican the Republicans can be found in The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) passed in 1996 after the Oklahoma City bombing. The Republicans had won the 1994 midterm election with Newt Gingrich’s notorious “Contract with America” (known in liberal circles as the Contract on America) and the Oklahoma City bombing seemed tailor-made for the law-and-order Republicans to play havoc with justice issues, including the 1994 crime bill.

Hoping to head off any tampering with his crime bill, Clinton and his administration hoped to kill two birds with one stone with AEDPA. Not only did it target the sorts of terrorism involved in Oklahoma, but also the “endless” appeals in death penalty cases which meant that inmates could wait years for an execution that might never happen. The mechanism by which this delay occurred was the time-honored and constitutionally guaranteed Writ of Habeas Corpus.

Habeas corpus is one of those often misunderstood and frequently disregarded rights that our forefathers were rightfully strongly in favor of. The writ allows judicial review of incarcerations as a result of actions in state courts  that may have violated constitutional guarantees and national standards of due process. It was one of the areas where our noble revolutionaries of the 18th century saw the autocratic hand of the monarchy as a cudgel against fairness and constitutional guarantees. Habeas corpus was a cornerstone of our revolutionary past.

Clinton’s aim was to restrict habeas corpus to one attempt started within one year of the end of state appeals. On its face, there’s nothing wrong with such a limitation. In fact, however, the problems with a prosecution may not be found for many years, and such a limitation cuts off advances in science or forensics that may establish a defendant’s innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. A case in point is DNA evidence. While new cases have shown some of the problems with relying on DNA evidence to prove a case, its use in disproving a case has never been stronger. The Innocence Project has won the release of many prisoners when DNA evidence has excluded the defendant from the pool of possible committers of the crime. Because of AEDPA, habeas corpus can no longer be used in the case of evidence of the defendant’s innocence, and nothing more strongly shows how warped and unconstitutional AEDPA is than the fact that habeas corpus cannot be used for its original purpose so important to our legacy.

And what, you might ask, did this violation of such an important constitutional principle have to do with the Oklahoma City bombing, the trigger for this heinous act? The Clinton White House hosted a meeting with survivors and family members of the victims of the bombing. One of their alleged complaints was the incessant appeals that would allow the terrorists the ability to tie up the courts with appeals for years. Clinton, facing re-election and determined to beat the Republicans at their own game, created this draconian truncation of the habeas corpus writ to prove he was “tough on crime,” a racial dog whistle at the time as shown by the 1994 crime bill.

The AEDPA was passed, without the support of Bernie Sanders, and is in use today under the most bizarre and surreal circumstances. The conviction of two farmers in Oregon under a provision of the AEDPA led to the standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and to the horror that they were convicted under a terrorist statute.  How so? The AEDPA made it a 25 year felony with a mandatory 5 year sentence to those who willfully and maliciously burned federal property, including grazing land.

While we may laugh at the irony to which the statute was used in Oregon, we cannot laugh at the the number of prisoners who must stay in prison because the unfairness of their convictions was not raised within the new time limits enacted in the AEDPA, whether they could know of the unfairness then or not. We have an evolving law with regard to rights and due process, and a whole class of criminals are barred now from challenging their convictions because Bill Clinton wanted to out-Republican the Republicans to insure his re-election in 1996.

 

 

Trump, the Idiot

I am not alone in finding the rants and idiocies of Donald Trump offensive and unAmerican. I will chime in for a short period, but much has already been said that doesn’t need to be repeated.

First, has he ever read the Constitution? Does he understand that the oath of office for the presidency requires dedication and adherence to the terms of that document? Does he understand that freedom of religion is the first right in the Bill of Rights? His idea to ban Muslims, even American citizen Muslims who travel abroad, from entry to the this country is purely and simply unconstitutional. And it smacks of Nazi Germany, Hitler, and all those other memes that get flaunted to easily in the hyperventilation of discourse in this country. But here it’s apt. There may not be a gold star on coats to identify the unwanted ones, but his ideas are as toxic as the Nazi scheme for extermination of the Jews.

Second, his claim that FDR did something as bad when he interned Japanese Americans and others during the second world war is amazing. If there is one official act, other than slavery, of the US government that is now uniformly condemned, it is the internment of citizens of this country because of their country of origin during a time of war. We did something nearly as bad after 9/11 with the Patriot Act, but we’re too close to it to see how insane that particular piece of legislation is. Wikileaks and Edward Snowden have shown us precisely how unAmerican the US government has been in implementing that act.

The dog whistles in Trump’s speeches have been noted before by the pundits as worrisome. What has now happened is much worse than that. What Trump has said actually helps Daesh (the so-called Islamic State) in its war of terror against Islam and the rest of the world. It confirms what Daesh has been claiming from the beginning, that the western world is anti-Islam. Trump’s most recent tone-deaf blatherings are in fact anti-Islam, and he is the leading contender for the Republican nomination for president. The world is listening in horror to him. His pandering to a small segment of the Republican right was acceptable, if appalling, when his words didn’t affect foreign affairs. Now he has gone too far.

I suggest that Trump’s current actions amount to treason. Legally, treason has been committed when one gives “aid and comfort” to an enemy. We are, heaven forfend, in a war against terror, and Daesh is our current target of choice. While Trump may not have been trying to comfort Daesh, he certainly aided it by proving that some Americans at least intend to enact laws that are anti-Islam. No one in a position of authority is likely to say that Trump has committed treason by interfering with the war we are waging against terror because no one wants to arrest him and antagonize a specific segment of the population whose care for the constitution has been suspect for some time.

No one has the balls to do anything about it except act appalled and upset. It’s a shame, and I don’t particularly want to give aid and comfort to the Republicans, but the arrest of Trump for treason would go a long way to obliterate the harm he has done. It would also save the Republicans from themselves, but that can’t be helped. Enough, already, with the complaints. Act, damnit!

Charleston

I have been discussing on LinkedIn with other writers the role of reality in fantasy books, and it got me thinking about fantasists who write about tragedies and terrorism, as happened in Charleston this past week. Nine people I never knew, and whose existence I was unaware of, in a few short hours meant more to me than any fantasy character I had ever “met.” Real life matters, but fantasy can be a refuge in times of real trauma. I don’t understand much of the dystopian fantasy that is now being written, when we face such horrors in real life. Are we being told that humanity is actually as bad as writers portray us in the face of apocalypse?

I don’t believe that it is possible to convey in fiction the actual depth of the horror that reality brings. There is an immediacy to events like Charleston that no book can adequately convey. This is not a slap at the novel, but a reflection of the visceral feeling that one can experience for another person, or nine, as the case may be. What makes reality more interesting is that the chorus of naysayers about the tragedy would not be believable in a book

There are two comments that set me off in particular. One I received by way of Rick Santorum, but it was  a comment supported by many people, particularly those of the religious right.  They insist, in spite of all the evidence, that the assault in Charleston was a religious attack. How can this possibly be true when the surviving witness and the alleged perpetrator both agree that race was the only reason for the attack?

Perhaps more troubling is the idiocy coming from the NRA. Their solution? Arm the ministers. Say what? The message of most of those ministers/preachers/priests is of the importance of love and compassion, and of a God of Love, a Prince of Peace. And these advocates are supposed to carry guns? The NRA has never been renowned for its logical reasoning, but this one doesn’t pass the straight face test. Next it will be courts or Congress where guns should be carried, all for the false sense of security that these folks get from their own guns.

NRA idiots should realize one thing about the so-called right to carry arms. Inherent in the right to carry arms is the right to refuse to carry arms. The right to carry arms, to the extent it exists, does not give anyone the right to compel others to bear arms.

As I mourn the dead, and empathize with the living of the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church, I swear that I will never write a book that tries to create in the reader the pain and horror of this past week. I will not profit off the anguish of fictional characters nor will I glorify the use of weapons to solve disagreements.