Various items

The Al-Marri decision. Journalistic hubris. Wes Clark's response to Joe Lieberman's war cries.

By Glenn Greenwald

Published June 12, 2007 10:26PM (EDT)

I had what was supposed to be an 8-hour flight last night turn into a 16-hour stay inside the airplane as a result of wonderful surprises such as weather-compelled diversions to the airport runways of far away cities, so I was unable to post today. Until tomorrow, just a few notes of interest:

(1)The decision (.pdf) of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Al-Marri case technically rests on narrow grounds of statutory construction regarding the scope of the Military Commissions Act, but it is actually quite extraordinary in the broader constitutional principles it affirms and the tone it uses to apply them.

Next to the Padilla travesty, the Government's treatment of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri -- just on the facts alone -- may very well be the single most despicable instance of deliberate denial of the most basic liberties. I have written about the facts and circumstances of al-Marri's detention here.

I really recommend reading (at least) the first 11 pages of the court's decision, where the court sets forth in very stark and clear terms exactly what we have done to al-Marri. I recall the sensation, back in law school, of reading legal opinions from various periods of time throughout our country's history which began by recounting the government's behavior and finding it difficult to believe that any government could engage in such conduct without provoking a massive backlash (and sometimes it did).

That is the reaction which this opinion provokes (even though the facts are familiar). No matter how many times one thinks about it, reads or writes about it, it never ceases to amaze -- literally -- that our government has asserted the power to imprison people, including those on U.S. soil, and keep them locked up for years and years, indefinitely, without so much as charging them with any crime or even allowing them access to lawyers. And that is to say nothing of what is done to them while being held completely incommunicado. That was just a line that one thought the American Government could not cross without enormous backlash. Yet our government has done exactly that for years -- and has spawned a set of presidential candidates vowing to continue doing so at least as aggressively, if not more so -- without much protest at all.

(2) One of the first things I saw upon arriving home today after being liberated from the airplane was this little podcast chat, in which Time's Joe Klein continues with his foot-stomping protests about bloggers by complaining specifically about some of the posts I've written. It really refutes itself, as Klein repeatedly spews the same Entitlement Theories upon which ABC News relied previously in "responding" to criticisms of their use of anonymous sources ("we are ABC News, so of course we don't have to provide information about our sources; if we report something, it should be trusted because it is us").

Virtually every answer Klein gives, literally, illustrates the precise hubris, oozing vanity, and simple-minded lack of awareness which characterizes so many of our leading media stars, and is worth listening to -- if at all -- simply for that reason. If there is time tomorrow and it's valuable to do so, I'll write more about some of the points raised by that podcast.

(3) Gen. Wesley Clark on Joe Lieberman's public calls for dropping bombs on Iran:

Senator Lieberman's saber rattling does nothing to help dissuade Iran from aiding Shia militias in Iraq, or trying to obtain nuclear capabilities. In fact, it's highly irresponsible and counter-productive, and I urge him to stop.

This kind of rhetoric is irresponsible and only plays into the hands of President Ahmadinejad, and those who seek an excuse for military action. What we need now is full-fledged engagement with Iran. We should be striving to bridge the gulf of almost 30 years of hostility and only when all else fails should there be any consideration of other options. The Iranians are very much aware of US military capabilities. They don't need Joe Lieberman to remind them that we are the militarily dominant power in the world today.

Only someone who never wore the uniform or thought seriously about national security would make threats at this point. What our soldiers need is responsible strategy, not a further escalation of tensions in the region. Senator Lieberman must act more responsibly and tone down his threat machine.

People like Joe Lieberman and the increasing "Bomb Iran" chorus of which he is a part are the precise opposite of "serious" and "tough." They are irresponsible and dangerous extremists and it is good to see Gen. Clark making that point clearly and unapolegetically. If these warmongers are to be impeded in what is plainly their goal of prompting a new war with Iran, only unapologetic rhetoric and candid explanations, like the one offered here from Gen. Clark, will suffice.

Glenn Greenwald

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