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The American Police State

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Posted on Oct 29, 2007
By Chris Hedges

A Dallas jury, a week ago, caused a mistrial in the government case against this country’s largest Islamic charity. The action raises a defiant fist on the sinking ship of American democracy.

If we lived in a state where due process and the rule of law could curb the despotism of the Bush administration, this mistrial might be counted a victory. But we do not. The jury may have rejected the federal government’s claim that the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development funneled millions of dollars to Middle Eastern terrorists. It may have acquitted Mohammad el-Mezain, the former chairman of the foundation, of virtually all criminal charges related to funding terrorism (the jury deadlocked on one of the 32 charges against el-Mezain), and it may have deadlocked on the charges that had been lodged against four other former leaders of the charity, but don’t be fooled. This mistrial will do nothing to impede the administration’s ongoing contempt for the rule of law. It will do nothing to stop the curtailment of our civil liberties and rights. The grim march toward a police state continues.

Constitutional rights are minor inconveniences, noisome chatter, flies to be batted away on the steady road to despotism. And no one, not the courts, not the press, not the gutless Democratic opposition, not a compliant and passive citizenry hypnotized by tawdry television spectacles and celebrity gossip, seems capable of stopping the process. Those in power know this. We, too, might as well know it.

The Bush administration, which froze the foundation’s finances three months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and indicted its officials three years later on charges that they provided funds for the militant group Hamas, has ensured that the foundation and all other Palestinian charities will never reopen in the United States. Any organized support for Palestinians from within the U.S. has been rendered impossible. The goal of the Israeli government and the Bush administration–despite the charade of peace negotiations to be held at Annapolis–is to grind defiant Palestinians into the dirt. Israel, which has plunged the Gaza Strip into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, has now begun to ban fuel supplies and sever electrical service. The severe deprivation, the Israelis hope, will see the overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza and the reinstatement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has become the Marshal Pétain of the Palestinian people.

The Dallas trial–like all of the major terrorism trials conducted by this administration, from the Florida case against the Palestinian activist Dr. Sami al-Arian, which also ended in a mistrial, to the recent decision by a jury in Chicago to acquit two men of charges of financing Hamas–has been a judicial failure. William Neal, a juror in the Dallas trial, told the Associated Press that the case “was strung together with macaroni noodles. There was so little evidence.”

Such trials, however, have been politically expedient. The accusations, true or untrue, serve the aims of the administration. A jury in Tampa, Chicago or Dallas can dismiss the government’s assaults on individual rights, but the draconian restrictions put in place because of the mendacious charges remain firmly implanted within the system. It is the charges, not the facts, which matter.

Read the remainder of this excellent article at Truthdig.com