Ashcroft Following Nazi Example
By Peter Meyer

In mid-August 2002 U.S. Attorney-General John Ashcroft announced a plan that would give him the legal right to order the indefinite incarceration of U.S. citizens and remove from them their constitutional rights and access to the courts by declaring them "enemy combatants".

This follows the cases of José Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi, both U.S. citizens arrested as "enemy combatants", imprisoned despite there being no evidence against them of any criminal activity, denied access to lawyers and denied a trial.

The Bush administration seems to believe, on no good legal authority, that if it calls citizens combatants in the war on terrorism, it can imprison them indefinitely and deprive them of lawyers. This defiance of the courts repudiates two centuries of constitutional law and undermines the very freedoms that President Bush says he is defending in the struggle against terrorism. —  Editorial in the New York Times, 2002-08-08

Lest it be thought that Ashcroft is arrogating unconstitutional powers to himself alone aides have indicated that a "high-level committee" will recommend which citizens are to be stripped of their constitutional rights and to be imprisoned in the proposed camps.

Now where have we heard of this sort of thing before?  Ah, yes ... the Nazi concentration camps. One of the first things that the Nazis did, even before Hitler's Enabling Act (enacted on March 24, 1933) giving him and his henchmen the near-dictatorial powers that John Ashcroft seeks, was to suppress dissent by arresting and imprisoning German citizens deemed to be enemies of the state and placing them in indefinite incarceration in Dachau.

[Dachau was] the first Nazi concentration camp in Germany, established on March 10, 1933, slightly more than five weeks after Adolf Hitler became chancellor. Built on the outskirts of the town of Dachau, about 12 miles (16 kilometres) north of Munich, it became the model and training centre for all other SS-organized camps. During World War II the main camp was supplemented by about 150 branches scattered throughout southern Germany and Austria, all of which collectively were called Dachau. (This southern system complemented the camps for central and northern Germany, at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.) In the course of Dachau's history, at least 160,000 prisoners passed through the main camp and 90,000 through the branches. Incomplete records indicate that at least 32,000 of the inmates died there, through the "natural diminution" of disease, malnutrition, and physical oppression; but numberless more were transshipped to the extermination camps in Poland.

Dachau was the first and most important camp at which German doctors and scientists set up laboratories to perform medical experiments on involuntary inmates, using them as guinea pigs ...  Continued throughout World War II, such experiments and the harsh living conditions made Dachau one of the most notorious of camps. —  Encyclopedia Britannica

Since the "detainees" in Ashcroft's camps will have no constitutional rights, the government will be able to do anything it wants with and to them. Might the germ warfare scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (Fort Detrick, MD) be pleased to have some human guinea pigs on which to test their anthrax vaccines? And if they develop a new virus that might be useful in killing "enemy populations" they would, of course, first have to test it on a few humans, and the inmates of Ashcroft's camps will conveniently be at hand.

Of course you, as a law-abiding U.S. citizen, would never end up in one of these camps, right? That's what thousands of law-abiding German citizens thought in 1933, so they said nothing.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the communists
and I did not speak out — because I was not a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me —
and by then there was no one left to speak out for me.

—   Pastor Martin Niemöller

And if you don't end up in one of these camps, what about your son or daughter? It will be no good going to a U.S. court and demanding that the government provide due process, or even any information at all. The government will say, as it has done in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, that since the U.S. is "at war" the usual legal niceties no longer apply, and judges and defense lawyers will just have to get used to it. Remember, "enemy combatants" have no rights. Zip. None. Tough about your kid dying from that experimental vaccine they gave him in the camp, but hey! America is at war, aren't you a patriot?

And given that Ashcroft is a rabid, fundamentalist Christian, one has to wonder what he might have in mind for the Jews, when the time is right. After Dachau there was Auschwitz.


See also:

High Treason in the U.S. Government
The World Trade Center Demolition and the So-Called War on Terrorism
Liberty and Democracy Serendipity Home Page