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Musharraf’s and Bush’s Enemy-Combatant Power

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It is important that we keep in mind that military dictator Pervez Musharraf’s round-ups of lawyers, judges, and protestors in Pakistan are a logical consequence of President Bush’s “war on terrorism.”

After all, don’t forget that under Bush’s “war on terrorism,” the head of a country wields the omnipotent power to round up citizens who are “enemy combatants.” Thus, after 9/11 when Musharraf’s military and police rounded up Pakistani citizens for rendition to Guantanamo Bay, Bush hailed him as a great partner in the U.S. government’s war against “the terrorists.”

Musharraf’s dictatorial power — the power to label a person an “enemy combatant” and treat him accordingly — is the same power that Bush and the Pentagon now wield here in the United States. All that Bush and his military have to do is label any American a “terrorist” or an “enemy combatant” and they can whisk that person away, keep him incarcerated in a dungeon or prison camp for the rest of his life, and torture and abuse him, all without due process of law and trial by jury.

That was the legal and judicial revolution that the 9/11 attacks brought, all without a constitutional amendment. When it comes to the “war on terrorism,” the procedures in Pakistan and the United States for dealing with “the terrorists” are now the same.

Of course, American neo-cons would say, “But Bush and his loyal partner Musharraf can be trusted to use such power only against genuine ‘bad guys.’ They would never abuse such powers against non-terrorists.”

Well, try telling that to the lawyers, judges, and anti-tyranny protestors in Pakistan. They’re now rotting in Pakistani jails as enemy combatants during the “war on terrorism emergency” in Pakistan. And no one can do anything about it because Musharraf’s enemy-combatant power is omnipotent, just as President Bush’s is.

After all, Musharraf and Bush say, we don’t want the courts to be interfering with the military’s determination of who is a terrorist or enemy combatant, do we? We’re at war! Anyway, isn’t that what freedom is all about — trusting our rulers with omnipotent power over the citizenry?

As Musharraf and Bush would tell us, there’s nothing wrong with disappearing terrorists and enemy combatants. Musharraf and Bush are just trying to keep us safe. Never mind that the courts aren’t permitted to determine that those who have disappeared are really terrorists or enemy combatants. That’s what the military and the secret police are for, in Pakistan, the United States, and everywhere else in the “global war on terror,” right?

How far can the enemy-combatant power wielded by Bush and Musharraf be taken?

According to Amnesty International, “Pakistan’s involvement in the U.S.-led ‘war on terror’ has been characterized by widespread violations of human rights. Mass arrests of terror suspects — often for bounties of thousands of dollars — have led to detainees being taken away to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, transferred to secret CIA detention centers, unlawfully transferred to other countries or held in arbitrary and often secret detention in Pakistan itself. Many — if not most …have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated.” Human Rights Watch has documented beatings, sleep deprivation, and electric shocks in Pakistan’s prisons.

Whenever a neo-con suggests that America is moving in a good direction, one might respond with a pointed question: “You mean, like in Pakistan?” Just don’t be surprised if he responds, “You’re darned right!”

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.