It looks as if the federal government has screwed-up again. For three -years we all thought that Jose Padilla was being held as an enemy combatant, with no legal rights as declared by the president, because he had planned to ignite a “dirty bomb” in the streets of an American city and blow-up apartments buildings. The public was led to believe that he was such a serious threat that he could not be trusted in the American criminal justice system. Rather, fearing what would happen in our court system, the Bush Administration fought bitterly through the courts to keep Padilla held as an enemy combatant with no legal rights even though he is an American citizen showing their contempt for the courts in the process.
From the beginning everyone who was watching closely knew this case was about precedent; Bush wanted to show us that he had the right to hold American citizens with no due process if he deemed them to be enemy combatants. No need for all of the formalities and precedent it was time to go back to the days of the Wild West where the sheriff could be the judge, jury and executioner. While critics thought that this action was draconian and un-American, we at least thought that Padilla was being held on strong evidence and the media had all but convicted him of the dirty-bomb plot. Well, it turns out that the Padilla case belongs right along with the WMD case in Iraq and other blunders of this administration.
Having its hand forced by the prospect of an upcoming negative court ruling the federal government finally issued an indictment against Padilla and gave him his day in court. Strangely, this man who was supposedly dining with bin Laden, a full fledged al-Qaeda member, and a dirty bomber was not charged with any of those things.
What was he charged with? Padilla was charged with training in a camp in Afghanistan to go and fight against the brutal Russian invasion of Chechnya; that is hardly terrorism, maybe naive and foolish, but not terrorism. A major difference exists between those who seek to physically defend oppressed Muslims by military means from invading armies and those who seek to bomb and kill innocent civilians.
The government also alleges that Padilla was a part of a cell, and what did this so-called cell supposedly do? They raised money to give to charities helping suffering Muslims in Chechnya, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Since when did donated to those in need become terrorism? Of course the government alleges (more than likely falsely based on the evidence) that some of the charities had connections to terrorism, and some have been shut down; but since when did the onus come on the donator? Donations sent to these charities were given with the intention of helping orphans, widows and the distressed; the Muslims who I know that donated to these charities didn’t even connect their giving to the political situations in these areas or any political groups. Will all of the hundreds of thousands of American-Muslims who donated to these charities be prosecuted?
If this is all the government has then a great injustice has been committed against Padilla, and those around him, and this will only add to the growing amount of injustices that this government has perpetrated against its Muslim citizens. However, living in the climate we are in (where men such as Sheikh Ali al-Timimi are serving life in prison for having a unique opinion) I have no doubt that if Padilla and the rest of the brothers go to trial they will be convicted; that is American justice under the Bush Administration.
Let this also be a lesson to all American-Muslims; beware of the knock at the door in the middle of the night. We are no longer safe and we are no longer free. We are living under siege.
On a final note it is interesting to see why Padilla was charged with this and not John Walker Lindh. Lindh kept his white privilege even as he fought alongside the Taliban (whom I despised). Americans said he was naïve and misguided (hardly the case, but he was no terrorist either) and Padilla is a Puerto Rican ex-gang member that could strike the fear into white Americas hearts and be so easily vilified in the mainstream media and was made into an unsympathetic character. The media looked at Padilla and decided not to give him any benefits of the doubt and the Bush Administration knew that is precisely what would happen. Call Padilla the anti-Chalaby; call the media duped twice.