The Yasir Hamdi case has been resolved in favor of the Bush Administration, delivering a stinging blow to the Bill of Rights. For the first time in American history a citizen has been stripped of his citizenship and deported without ever having been charged with a crime. Hamdi’s expulsion fulfills the long-sought objective of right wing groups that have worked tirelessly to ramrod deportation legislation through the Congress. Now, with Hamdi being shuffled off to Saudi Arabia they,ve hit the Mother Lode; the precedent is set for robbing American’s of their citizenship and shipping them out of the country. It is an incalculable victory for despotism.
At this point, the allegations against Hamdi almost seem irrelevant. It’s obvious that Bush and co. had nothing concrete they could pin on him, so they labeled him an “enemy combatant” and tossed him in jail as a threat to national security. (The term “enemy combatant” has subsequently achieved a level of acceptability among the American people although it has no legal meaning and, in fact, indicates the suspension of all civil liberties by order of the president.) More than likely Hamdi was just an unlucky chap who could be used to unravel the nettlesome legal obstacles that protect the citizen from the state. He became the unfortunate lab-rat for Bush’s draconian revamping of the law.
Hamdi’s case has only attracted modest attention from the media. They would rather scrutinize every inane barb on the campaign trail then defend the country’s founding document. The press has kept the details of this landmark case tucked away on its back pages where the story can be used to offset advertisements for laundry detergent and panty liners. Civil liberties continue to take a back seat to both sensationalized news and consumerism.
Less then three months ago the Supreme Court decided that Hamdi could “not be held indefinitely without some access to the legal system”. Once again, the majority of the judges demonstrated their meager appreciation of the Constitution. Needless to say their ruling did nothing to mitigate the suffering of Hamdi who spent the last two and a half years in solitary confinement. Nor did it clarify how the law was to be implemented. It simply provided a nebulous admission that, “Yes, we do accept the concept of habeas corpus in principle; we just refuse to do anything to ensure that it is applied.”
Their ruling proved to be the “blank check” the Administration needed to pursue their dubious policies. Secretary Rumsfeld responded immediately to this by convening his “kangaroo” tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. He was undoubtedly emboldened by the Court’s unwillingness to issue a clear statement of how the law should be carried out. As for Hamdi, the ruling provided no relief at all. The old saying that “justice delayed is justice denied” is particularly poignant in this case where the court effectively suspended the process that allows justice to be realized.
Even more astonishing is the fact that the Bush administration hammered out a deal with Saudi Arabia to deport Hamdi and strip him of his citizenship in full view of the High Court without a word of dissent from the bench. The court’s culpability in this crime cannot be overstated. By refusing to force the government to either release Hamdi or charge him with a crime, they deprived him of his most basic due process rights and endorsed the tyrannical behavior of the Bush administration. Their inaction paved the way for an innocent man to be punished and for the Bush clan to add yet another weapon to their arsenal; the threat of exile. (The Court’s conduct in this case poses a serious constitutional crisis. By any standard, Hamdi’s deportation is a clear violation of the Bill of Rights. The collusive relationship of the government and the court must be thoroughly examined and remedied. We must at least consider the obvious, though daunting task of removing judges from the bench. A system that cannot provide even basic protections for its citizens, or allows the state to strip them of their “inalienable” rights, is terminally dysfunctional.)
The Bush Administration is offering the pitiable excuse that Hamdi was given a choice in renouncing his citizenship. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hamdi forfeited his citizenship in exchange for his freedom. He had no other option. He could either comply with the demands of the government or subject himself to indefinite incarceration. It was a clear case of coercion
The fact that Hamdi posed no serious threat to national security should be a red flag for Americans. It’s an admission that the case has a deeper meaning than what appears on the surface. The real significance of Hamdi’s case is to establish the precedents for revoking citizenship and forcing exile; two more repressive tools for the Bush work chest.
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: [email protected]