November 3, 2007
End to a Shabby Prosecution
The federal government agreed this week to terminate 20-year-old deportation proceedings against two Palestinian men who were wrongly targeted for their political beliefs and activities. Better late than never, but we fear that there is little hope that the Bush administration will learn any lesson from this shockingly mishandled prosecution.
The two legal United States residents at the center of the storm — Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh — were the remaining defendants in a travesty dating back to the Ronald Reagan administration known as the L.A. Eight case. They were arrested and marked for deportation along with six others in 1987 for supporting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which the government lists as a terrorist group.
. . . they had distributed a magazine published by the Popular Front and raised funds for lawful charitable organizations somehow linked to the group. Yet, fairly early on, the government conceded that it had no evidence that the two defendants had ever been involved in any criminal or terrorist activity
. . . Unfortunately, that did not stop the government from obsessively pursuing the case under four presidents.
. . . easy to see this case as a tragic anachronism, a relic from the bad old days of the Red Scare and cold war. But the Bush administration continues to risk injuring innocent people and deflecting resources from real terrorist threats with cases built on weak allegations of guilt by association.
Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush---that's a lot of presidents through whose terms one must prevail. One only hopes the ACLU was footing the bill.
And the purpose of the government throwing in the towel? Was it a realization of the injustice? Not on your life. They saw the victory coming in the courts for the defendants and terrified to set a precedent, sought to avoid doing so by making the whole travesty moot in the eyes of the law.
But the reference that caught my eye and froze my interest in the headlights, was the reference to bad old days of the Red Scare and cold war, which seem absolutely tame by comparison to what's served up daily in the current-events news.
Joe McCarthy never water-boarded anyone, so far as I know. Richard Nixon, at his worst, never extraordinarily rendered whoever the hell he personally chose-- although he may have wished for the opportunity.
No Attorney General of that era was so disingenuous as to claim not to know if water-boarding, head-slapping, sleep deprivation and hypothermia are torture.
Those derelictions of the sworn presidential duty to protect and preserve the Constitution of the United States are not the bad old days--they are the badder new days, the current crimes.
The old days pale by comparison. The only constant is a feckless and inept Congress that has again and again and again misplaced its courage somewhere between bribery, fear and (dare I say the word?) duty.