Is Bob Casey’s National Defense Authorization Vote Hurting His Global Reputation?
Did you know Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey is a champion of human rights? That’s correct! His spot on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has made him the main man in tiny Asian nation Sri Lanka. That country finally won its 26-year war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam — a terrorist group known for participating in ethnic cleansing, suicide attacks, and utilizing more than 5,000 child soldiers — in May 2009. And Casey, as a member of the committee and Subcommittee on Near Eastern, South and Central Asian Affairs, is now pressuring the country on human rights as it rebuilds and reconfigures its population.
The U.S. supported Sri Lanka’s government in its fight against the rebels over the past couple decades. And lately, Casey actually presented a resolution passed at the United States Embassy in Colombo that would establish an accountability mechanism to investigate the alleged war crimes and human rights abuses during the war against the Tamil separatists, a group separate from the LTTE. Casey was also one of three Senators signing a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “pressing for the establishment of an independent international commission, either by the UN Human Rights Council or under the Secretary-General’s own authority regarding Sri Lanka’s human rights issues.”
With that in mind, the Asian Tribune, a South Asian online newspaper (recently centered in Sweden) which focuses most of its reporting on the above civil conflict, is confused about the Pennsylvania Senator’s take on a recent national defense bill we’ve been telling you about since November 28. Specifically, that paper wonders, how could Casey could vote for a measure (since re-written in a “face-saving” manner) that would incarcerate Americans indefinitely?
“How could a human rights champion like Bob Casey possibly support a bill that will arrest American citizens and other alien residents on charges of engaging in terrorist activities against the American nation be put in indefinite military custody without charges and trial?” the paper asks.
The Tribune also notes that the provisions and laws Sri Lanka has been asked to take on by Western Interests does not go as far as the original writing of Provision 1031 in the National Defense Authorization Act. (It should be noted the Sri Lankan government isn’t exactly squeaky clean as it pertains to human rights.)
“[Casey] has almost become a mouthpiece for the remnant LTTE cadre who are donning the ‘Diaspora Garb’…But Mr. Casey wholeheartedly (sic) support to incarcerate civilians indefinitely under military custody without charges and trial, a measure Sri Lanka will never ever entertain in its thoughts,” the paper writes.
As we noted last week, Casey, 16 Democrats and most Republicans (including PA Sen. Pat Toomey) voted against an amendment—offered by Democrat Mark Udall—that would have taken a provision out of the National Defense Authorization Act allowing the indefinite incarceration of American citizens by the U.S. military. Republican Sen. Rand Paul offered a similar amendment, which was also crushed by a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats.
The provision was eventually swiped for more lackluster language that removed “U.S. citizens” from those who can be incarcerated without charges after criticism of the bill. We wrote last week how Sen. Lindsey Graham was all about the bill, saying it turned the U.S. into a “battlefield”—and framing it like that was a good thing. Since then, he told the New York Times, citizens who are suspected of joining Al Qaeda are opening themselves up “to imprisonment and death … And when they say, “I want my lawyer,” you tell them: “Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer. You are an enemy combatant, and we are going to talk to you about why you joined Al Qaeda.”‘
President Obama has threatened a veto, though, as the Asian Tribune also pointed out, last Thursday saw Obama Administration lawyers reaffirming their backing for state-sponsored assassinations of U.S. citizens who take up arms with al-Qaeda overseas, so, really, who knows? Sweet Nobel Peace Prize, dude!
Gawker notes how detaining U.S. citizens indefinitely isn’t necessarily that new, but still: “’Dirty bomb’ plotter Jose Padilla spent three-and-a-half years as an “enemy combatant” until he was finally charged,” writes Lauri Apple. “But Padilla’s detention was unusual and sparked a huge outcry; the new provisions would standardize his treatment and enable us all to become Jose Padillas.” And Glenn Greenwald has written at Salon that the law will really just “formally codify” the powers the government’s been using since 9/11.
So really, it’s just the silly U.S. government getting tough on crime for the good of 9/11, forever. And it should be interesting to see how Sen. Casey’s dealings in Sri Lanka are affected by this, if they are at all.