October was a bad month for the civil rights of American citizens. It began with the passing of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, in which, as Garrison Keillor put it:
The U.S. Senate, in all its splendor and majesty, has decided that an “enemy combatant” is any non-citizen whom the president says is an enemy combatant, including your Korean greengrocer or your Swedish grandmother or your Czech au pair, and can be arrested and held for as long as authorities wish without any right of appeal to a court of law to examine the matter.
Then, on October 17, George W Bush signed Public Law 109-364, or the “John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007” (H.R.5122) (2), effectively making Martial Law as easy as a snap of his presidential fingers. As written by Frank Morales, this law:
allows the President to declare a “public emergency” and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to “suppress public disorder.”
Earlier this year, KBR (Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton) was put on standby with a $385 million contract to build civilian prison camps on military bases. Here is part of the press release from the American Patriot Friends Network:
The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other U.S. Government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency, such as a natural disaster.
What to do with detainees? Well, the Army can always put them to work. Army Regulation 210-35 “Civilian Inmate Labor Program” documents procedures and regulations for establishing civilian inmate labor programs and civilian prison camps on Army installations.
Yes, indeedy – it was a bad month for America. The kind of month that has me wondering what is going to happen next. At the same time I’m thanking my lucky stars I have the right color skin and accent, I know that’s no guarantee. And while I’m tempted to keep my mouth shut and head down, I feel it’s my duty to say loudly and often, “This is wrong and we need to do everything we can to get our civil rights back.”