September 11 started the war. When will it end? Maybe never. Where is the battlefield? The entire world, including the United States. Who is an enemy combatant? Anyone the President says is an enemy combatant, including a U.S. citizen–no need for a charge, no need for a trial, no need for access to a lawyer. What if they’re found not to be an enemy combatant? We can keep them in prison anyway, and we don’t have to tell their families they’re alive or their lawyers that they were cleared. What can you do to an enemy combatant? Anything you want. Detain him forever, for the rest of his life, because this is a war like any other and we have always been able to detain POWs for the duration of the war. But you don’t need to follow the Geneva Conventions, because this is a war like no other in our history. And oh yes–if the President decides that we need to torture a prisoner for the war effort, it’s unconstitutional for Congress to stop him. They took that position in an official memo, and they have not backed down from it. They have said it was “unnecessary” but they have never backed down from it.
They are not only entitled to do these things to people; they are entitled to do them in secret. When Congress asks for information about them, they can just ignore it. And they are entitled to actively deceive the public about all this.
That’s the power they claim. At what point are we going to take that claim seriously?
At some level, I think we read these things and think: well, they can’t really mean that. But by now we know that they mean it enough to have shattered a number of lives.