Embracing the Subtle Upside of Terror

By Garrison Keillor
The Chicago Tribune

    Wednesday 25 October 2006

now the federal government is extending the frontiers of terror with the Military Commissions Act of 2006, legalizing torture and suspending habeas corpus and constructing a loose web of law by which you and I could be hung by our ankles in a meat locker for as long as somebody deems necessary. “Any person is punishable …” the law states, “who knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States” and when it comes to deciding what “knowingly and intentionally” might mean or who is the enemy, that’s for a military commission to decide in secret, with or without you present. No 5th Amendment, hearsay evidence admissible, no judicial review.

    People came to America to escape this sort of justice. The midnight knock on the door, incarceration at the whim of men in shiny boots, confessions obtained with a section of hose, secret trial by star chamber. One is reminded of Germany, 1933, when the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act to give the chancellor the power of summary arrest and imprisonment, a necessary tool for the defense of the homeland against traitors, Jew-lovers, terrorists.

    Not that this is a bad thing. Who am I to say? Maybe we’ve been too lenient with enemies of the state. A period of stark repression might be a rich and rewarding experience for all of us. But when the Current Occupant signed the act last week, the difference between freedom and terror did suddenly shrink somewhat. It makes you wonder: What if Vice President Dick Cheney does not wish to give up power two years from now? Maybe he has other priorities. If an enemy of the United States – a Democrat, for example – appeared to be on the verge of election, perhaps Mr. Cheney, for the good of the country, would be forced to take the threat seriously and head for an undisclosed location and invoke his war powers and shovel a few thousand traitors into camps and call up his friends at Diebold and program the election results that are best for the country, or call the whole thing off….more

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