Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 12.09.02


The Power of One

"The authority to kill U.S. citizens is granted under a secret finding signed by the President,,,"

This cheery note was included in a newspaper article written by John Lumpkin of the Associated Press and appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer last Wednesday. The article goes on to say that the CIA will only kill us if they think we are members of Al Qaeda.

Just what the hell is a "secret finding?" Sounds like George was hunting for Easter eggs in the Rose Garden and found an authorization to kill American citizens under a birdbath.

I don't want to be an alarmist but you realize what this means right? It means that you or I or any citizen of this country can be snuffed out like a birthday candle on the say so of the CIA, or the FBI, or I presume anyone who can convince the President that someone is a member of Al Qaeda. Wow, if Nixon had thought of this one his enemies list could have been a lot shorter.

That Canadian bureaucrat who called Bush a moron was wrong. He may talk like a moron but he knows what he wants and he won't let a little thing like our Constitution stand in his way.

Under his gentle guidance a man named Jose Padilla, an American citizen, has been held in a military jail for the past seven months without being allowed to see a lawyer.

The CIA dropped a bomb on the head of an American in Yemen recently. He wasn't the target but he was hanging with a suspected Al Qaeda leader so tough souvlaki for him, I guess.

There is a very famous quotation by a survivor of Nazi prison camps named Reverend Martin Neimueller. He said:

First they arrested the Communists - but I was not a Communist, so I did nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats - but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing. Then they arrested the trade unionists - and I did nothing because I was not one. And then they came for the Jews and then the Catholics, but I was neither a Jew nor a Catholic and I did nothing. At last they came and arrested me - and there was no one left to do anything about it. "They" in this case, are the minions of the Bush administration. They have declared war on an amorphous body of men and women who have neither army nor country. They can be black, white, or any color in between. They can be named Osama or Jose or John Walker. These enemy combatants can be anyone George says. They get no trial, they get no , they get nothing but a bullet or a bomb if George says so.

We, as a people, have been horribly attacked by fanatics suffused with hate and envy. These murdering terrorists were spawned in countries ruled by dictators, royal families, and military strongmen. Democracy to them is as foreign as summary execution is supposed to be to us.

We cannot let George Bush turn us into one of them. We cannot give up our civil rights in hopes that we can catch some terrorists. We certainly cannot let an administration of proven bad faith like Bush and his cronies decide who lives and who dies.

The administration says that capturing and questioning Al Qaeda operatives and their "American" cohorts is preferable and the decision to murder an American can only be made at the highest level. I do not trust the Bush administration to make the "preferable" choice.

I believe that they will make the choice that is expedient or that would save them from embarrassment or that would allow them to profit. I don't think we should turn anyone loose with the power to kill one of us without trial, representation, or, as in the case of Kamal Derwish, compunction.

I hope we won't stand by while fellow citizens are imprisoned without hope of trial or representation or even killed without proof of crime. As the good Reverend says, you never know who might be next.