On the Military Commissions Act:
A Government at War Against the People

October 21, 2006

On October 17, George Bush signed into law the "Military Commissions Act" (MCA). This law puts new arbitrary, repressive powers in the hands of the President and the executive branch of government. The powers granted to the President so flagrantly violate the basic rights of the people that in voting for the bill, Senator Arlen Specter said that it is "patently unconstitutional on its face."

The Military Commissions Act:

- gives the President legal authority to detain anyone without charge by designating them (without any evidence or public review) "enemy combatants."

- suspends the right of habeas corpus for non-citizens, including legal permanent residents, detained as "enemy combatants". (The right of habeas corpus is the right to judicial review of detention; since the Magna Carta of 1215 this right has been considered the cornerstone of western law protecting people from arbitrary arrest, disappearance and indefinite detention without charge.)

- authorizes the President to determine what constitutes torture; the law explicitly declares that the Geneva Convention - the internationally recognized watershed law on prisoners of war - can not be invoked "as a source of rights in any court of the United States."

- allows the use of coerced confessions, if gained nine months prior to passage of the law, and hearsay evidence.

- provides retroactive immunity for U.S. military and intelligence officials for any and all abuses carried out at such notorious torture chambers as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and secret CIA facilities.

The MCA has been enacted into law precisely at a time when public opinion in the U.S. and the world is expressing outrage at the systematic torture of prisoners by the U.S. government. This law has been passed at a time when people are seeking justice for the hundreds of immigrants arbitrarily detained and abused by the U.S. government since September 2001. The MCA has been put into law while Americans are denouncing the ongoing attacks on the rights and privacy of Americans through such outrageous practices as widespread wiretapping, compiling secret dossiers on millions of Americans, infiltration and repression against anti-war protests, etc.

The MCA tells the whole world that the U.S. government is a government of torturers. It is another declaration that the American people have no rights which are recognized by the government. The MCA is another proof that the U.S. government recognizes no law; it is nothing but the dictatorial, repressive power of the capitalist class, a power, based on violence, and centered in the executive branch of government.

The MCA again reminds us that the "war against terrorism" is not only a war against the nations all over the world. It is also a war against the American people. In its public declarations as well as its repressive practice, the government has made it clear that anyone who opposes it can and will be branded as an "enemy combatant."

But the rights of the people are not "gifts" or privileges bestowed on us by the government. They belong to us by virtue of our humanity and throughout our history we have claimed these rights through struggle against the arbitrary, dictatorial power of the exploiting classes. So it is today. We will continue to defend our rights. We must continue to organize ourselves and struggle against the entire government program of war, repression, racism and exploitation. We must use every available means to demand an end to the government's repression and to win safeguards for our rights.

The real defense is the independent organizations of the people and our capacity to struggle against the power of the rich. To win lasting guarantees for our rights, we must defeat the political power of the capitalists and create a new political power which arises from and serves the people themselves.