copyright © 2001 James Thorn / Todd Ristau


by James Thorn,

adapted for the stage

by Todd Ristau (© 2001)

Archie Levine: (in an Andy Rooney voice) You know what really makes me mad?

Dubya and Ashcroft want to avoid giving bin Laden an OJ-like trial that amounts to "Osama TV." They also tell us they want to avoid putting jurors at risk.

To avoid these things, Dubya issues an order establishing secret military tribunals that can arrest, detain, try, and execute a suspect without ever telling anyone that any of the above ever happened. The accused has no right to counsel, doesn't have to be told the evidence against him so that he defend himself, may be convicted on evidence -- such as hearsay -- that lacks the normal evidentiary guarantees of credibility, is tried by career military officers who work for the man who put the accused before the tribunal in the first place only because he had already decided the accused was guilty, and cannot appeal to any other court.

And what to do with the convicted? That’s easy, execution may be ordered by as few as two of the five members of the tribunal in some circumstances. Dubya may throw a suspect into this system on his own say-so without any oversight by Congress or the Court.

This order covers not only Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda associates, or even only those persons accused of directly and knowingly committing or participating in terrorist acts, but any foreigner or any one of twenty million or more persons in the United States currently holding a green card or visa whom Dubya decides has done something that falls into the broad and undefined category or "aiding" or "harboring" a "terrorist." (Defending this plan before Congress yesterday, for example, Ashcroft suggested that anyone who publicly criticizes it is aiding the terrorists. Senators Leahy and Kennedy are fortunate that they aren't here on green cards, or they might have disappeared by now.)

All this from an administration that has already abridged the Freedom of Information Act, refused to respond to a subpoena from Congress to discuss Dick Cheney's planning of America's energy policy in closed meetings with a chummy cabal of Big Oil insiders, and has issued an order to seal the records of the Reagan and George the First administrations and to also seal its own records in the future. If you find that hard to believe, check it out for yourself. It’s called Executive Order 13233.

Oh, I know, Little Georgie crosses his heart and promises to use these broad, ill-defined, and lethal powers nicely without any congressional oversight or judicial restraint.

Listen, I don’t trust my 4 year old grandson promise to stand-up pee without missing the toilet unless I’m there watching him do it from the doorway and I’m not crazy about trusting this administration for nearly the same reasons.

Here's a wild idea: just try "terror" suspects in a regular court-martial. There's no TV and no jurors, but almost all the normal guarantees of a fair trial are in place. If I can think of that so easily, I assume that Dubya and Ashcroft thought of it, too. So why do they prefer the course outlined above, even in the face of domestic and international opposition? They obviously don't want merely to avoid "Osama TV," so what the hell is it that they do want? (pause) Huh?



"Osama TV" debuted December 7, 2001, performed by Todd Ristau.

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