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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Jose Padilla and Our Civil Liberties

I just read remarks by the psychiatrist who spent 22 hours interviewing Jose Padilla in preparation for his recently ended trial and conviction. The thing I found most disturbing was this: She reported that Mr. Padilla still maintained that if he could just let the Commander in Chief know what had been happening to him that the CIC would understand and get him out of there.

While most people tend to dismiss this as the ravings of an insane person or at the very least, delusional, I found this to be the most heartrending part of the entire interview with its details of sensory deprivation, Stockholm syndrome, methodical brainwashing tactics and finally due to his long period of confinement under these conditions, what the psychiatrist described as actual, organic brain damage caused by the actions of our government.

Mr. Padilla is a US Citizen, and regardless of his past, he still believes in the basic fairness of the OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, and that if his situation could be heard, fairness would release him from this captivity. Even in the face of the treatment he has been subjected to, he still believes in the fairness of our institutions including the executive branch - and the occupant thereof.

We must not forget, although all the rest of us have been listening and been inundated with the daily list of scandals, cover-ups, whopping mistakes, lies, obfuscations, deceptions, manipulations, gaffes, spin and distortions coming out of this executive branch by and on behalf of George Bush and Dick Cheney, Mr. Padilla is probably been one of the few adults on the planet who knows nothing of all of this. Mr. Padilla has been kept in solitary confinement - absolutely no contact with the outside world - since he was arrested. He has not seen a TV, heard a radio, read a newspaper or book, or been able to talk with anyone other than his jailors and tormenters.

So the part that almost makes me cry is that this man, who has been treated so abominably, still believes in the integrity of the Office of the President. And that the person sitting in the White House MUST be a person of fairness and justice, and that somehow he must not know what is happening to Mr. Padilla because surely if he did, it would not continue to happen.

This is the most powerful commentary on the state of our Union and our Constitution today - that we, all of us, and George Bush in particular, believe that it is okay to treat anyone this way. Our country was founded on ideals of striving towards perfect justice (a high benchmark we have yet to achieve) and a country that has never espoused or condoned torture from our Revolutionary War on - until now.

Mr. Padilla will no doubt spend another long period in sensory deprivation (if you don't believe this look at the most recent photographs of him at the courthouse in Miami - he is transported to and from the courthouse in earmuffs and goggles - and no one seems to think this is untoward) until all his appeals are heard. At that point, if he is to be confined to any one of our civilian prisons, in his current poor mental health state, he is at very high risk among the inmates and I fear for his life. Of course that may be the intent of the "government" now - just have him killed in prison 'accidentally' and all this will just go away.

WE THE PEOPLE must pay attention. Mr. Padilla IS A CITIZEN of this country, like it or not. And if he can be treated this way, so can each and every one of us. It is not enough just to shake our heads, wring our hands and think too bad for him but that won't happen to me. No??? Well, the White House spin on this conviction started moments after the verdict and they are claiming it as a "vindication” of Bush's unrestrained and unaccountable powers to name ANYONE as an unlawful enemy combatant (including US Citizens), hold those persons without charge (writ of habeas corpus - remember that?), make a new law to fit what the person has allegedly done, and then - far after the fact - charge, try and convict them on something that was not a crime at the time they did it. Ah yes, those pesky details.

It can happen to you. To me. To anyone. We need to start talking about these issues to our friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, church groups, anyone. Write letters to the editor – join a blog – start a group. Sign petitions, call/write/drop in on your Congressional delegations either in Washington or in your local districts. When they come home on breaks - make a point to go see them. Tell them this is unacceptable. Do something! It doesn't matter what party you are from - this is not a Republican or Democratic issue - this is a Citizens of the United States of America issue. WE THE PEOPLE need to take back our government - otherwise we have become what we claim to be so afraid of.

Thank you to The General for his gracious invitation to post here.

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