Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Still another reason why I gave up on the Democrats and became an independent

Get past the warmongering, the destruction of human lives and livelihoods by championing neoliberal predatory capitalist policies (e.g., NAFTA), and what do we have left? Fearmongering:
One would have thought that the systematic dismantling of the Constitution of the United States would have been enough to satisfy even the most Jacobin neoconservative, but there is more on the horizon, and it is coming from people who call themselves Democrats. The mainstream media has made no effort to inform the public of the impending Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. The Act, which was sponsored by Congresswoman Jane Harman of California, was passed in the House by an overwhelming 405 to 6 vote on October 24th and is now awaiting approval by the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which is headed by Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. It is believed that approval by the committee will take place shortly, to be followed by passage by the entire Senate.
Harman's bill contends that the United States will soon have to deal with home grown terrorists and that something must be done to anticipate and neutralize the problem. The act deals with the issue through the creation of a congressional commission that will be empowered to hold hearings, conduct investigations, and designate various groups as "homegrown terrorists." The commission will be tasked to propose new legislation that will enable the government to take punitive action against both the groups and the individuals who are affiliated with them. Like Joe McCarthy and HUAC in the past, the commission will travel around the United States and hold hearings to find the terrorists and root them out. Unlike inquiries in the past where the activity was carried out collectively, the act establishing the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Commission will empower all the members on the commission to arrange hearings, obtain testimony, and even to administer oaths to witnesses, meaning that multiple hearings could be running simultaneously in various parts of the country. The ten commission members will be selected for their "expertise," though most will be appointed by Congress itself and will reflect the usual political interests. They will be paid for their duties at the senior executive pay scale level and will have staffs and consultants to assist them. Harman's bill does not spell out terrorist behavior and leaves it up to the Commission itself to identify what is terrorism and what isn't. Language inserted in the act does partially define "homegrown terrorism" as "planning" or "threatening" to use force to promote a political objective, meaning that just thinking about doing something could be enough to merit the terrorist label. The act also describes "violent radicalization" as the promotion of an "extremist belief system" without attempting to define "extremist."
As currently envisioned, the Commission will not operate in perpetuity. After the group has done its work, in eighteen months' time, a Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism will be established to study the lessons learned. The center will operate either out of the Department of Homeland Security or out of an appropriate academic institution and will be tasked with continuing to monitor the homegrown terrorism problem and proposing legislation and other measures to counter it.
As should be clear from the vagueness of the definitions, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act could easily be abused to define any group that is pressuring the political system as "terrorist," ranging from polygamists, to second amendment rights supporters, anti-abortion protesters, anti-tax agitators, immigration activists, and peace demonstrators. In reality, of course, it will be primarily directed against Muslims and Muslim organizations. Given that, there is the question of who will select which groups will be investigated by the roving commissions. There is no evidence to suggest that there will be any transparent or objective screening process. Through their proven access both to the media and to Congress, the agenda will undoubtedly be shaped by the usual players including David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, and Frank Gaffney who see a terrorist hiding under every rock, particularly if the rock is concealing a Muslim. They and their associates will undoubtedly find plenty of terrorists and radical groups to investigate. Many of the suspects will inevitably be "anti-American" professors at various universities and also groups of Palestinians organized against the Israeli occupation, but it will be easily to use the commission formula to sweep them all in for examination.
Consider this one a reminder. I'm guessing aside from a handful of obscuroid bloggers such as myself, this particular legislation got roundly ignored. There might be the occasional "respectable" liberal who will be mildly bemused, but chalk it up to appearing "tough" when it comes to the on-going Glorious Perpetual War on Terra and dutifully show up at the polls in order to cast votes for the very folks who seem hell-bent on oppressing them. After all, it only matters to get more Dems elected - never mind if they are as just as implicated in the dismantling of the Constitution as their Rethug conspirators. Certainly those six legislators in the House who were "no" votes on this one deserve credit where credit is due. Their efforts undoubtedly have proven futile, but hopefully they'll be duly remembered as the last patriots in the eventuality that the current imperial set-up crumbles.

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