A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
With his claim to the right to kill and indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or trial, President Obama “has crossed a Constitutional Rubicon that would have been beyond the capacity of George Bush or any white Republican.” The groundwork for Obama’s nullification of the rule of law was laid through federal “prosecutions whose sole purpose has been to establish that there exists an ‘enemy within’ U.S. borders, that it is largely Black as well as Muslim, and which requires a greatly expanded police state with extraordinary powers.”
The Racist Roots of Obama’s Preventive Detention
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“The national security state has proven adept at using race, ethnicity and class like battering rams to demolish Constitutional protections.”
It should have been clear that the United States was on the road to preventive detention of U.S. citizens back in 2006, when the federal government went after the so-called Liberty City Seven, Black men from Miami’s poorest ghetto who were charged with plotting terrorist attacks. With unrelenting zeal, the U.S. Justice Department pressed the case that men who were too poor to escape their own devastated neighborhood – some of whom were actually homeless – represented a grave danger to the United States. They were charged with plotting to bring down the Sears Tower, even though only one of them had ever been to Chicago, and none knew anything about explosives. It took three trials to convict five of the Liberty City Seven, who were sent to prison during President Obama’s first year in office. They have since been joined by the Newburgh 4 and many others, in prosecutions whose sole purpose has been to establish that there exists an “enemy within” U.S. borders, that it is largely Black as well as Muslim, and which requires a greatly expanded police state with extraordinary powers.
Before one can successfully eviscerate the Constitution in the name of national security, one must first demonstrate to the public that there exists a class of people for whom the new laws are intended, fellow citizens whose presence is such a danger to society that the rule of law as previously understood should no longer apply. Under George Bush and Barack Obama, the FBI has dedicated vast resources to conjuring up the specter of dark and dangerous internal enemies – with an emphasis on “dark.” The FBI chose to troll its informants and their fishhooks dangling with money among the poor of the Liberty Citys and Newburgh New York’s of the nation, creating a profile of the kind of people that the law should not protect. Under both Republicans and Democrats, the national security state has proven adept at using race, ethnicity and class like battering rams to demolish Constitutional protections.
“Once Obama took unto himself the power to assassinate his fellow Americans without trial or charge, preventive detention of citizens became inevitable.”
It is a great historical irony that the election of the First Black President has vastly accelerated the assault on the most elementary rights to due process – rights without which the rule of law simply disappears. A man who looks like the ethnic group that is most opposed to abuses of state power, a constitutional lawyer from the group that has suffered the most from arbitrary imprisonment, is leading the charge towards indefinite preventive detention of U.S. citizens. Barack Obama announced his principled support for preventive detention only a few months into his term, in the spring of 2009. He didn’t specifically include U.S. citizens in his framework of detention, back then, but once Obama took unto himself the power to assassinate his fellow Americans without trial or charge, preventive detention of citizens became inevitable. Obama has crossed a Constitutional Rubicon that would have been beyond the capacity of George Bush or any white Republican. He is, by these deeds alone, the most effective evil on the political scene, today. But Obama's nullification of the rule of law was ultimately made possible because this country remains so eager to deny Constitutional protections to Black and poor people, like the Liberty City Seven. Its citizens will sacrifice their own freedoms, just to spite the rights of darker people. And that is how they will lose those freedoms.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].