Freedom of speech... that's the motherfukin bullshit... you say the wrong thing they lock u'r ass up quick!-- Ice T, from Freedom of Speech
Ashcroft and Bush have decided to prosecute people who protested against the Iraq war by becoming human shields.
Evidence suggests Faith Fippinger has been targeted because of her choice to speak out about the recent Iraq War. Already under heavy criticism - in part for its failure to produce the weapons of mass destruction that were a major justification for the war - the Bush Administration cannot be happy that Fippinger and others are drawing on their firsthand knowledge of the war to add to the chorus.
If so, then Fippinger is facing criminal charges largely because she availed herself of her First Amendment rights. Accordingly, she may be able to convince a court to dismiss these charges on the ground that they violate the Constitution.
During the war, Fippinger spoke out against it. She told a reporter from The Christian Science Monitor , "The biggest shock is that America continues to pursue war in this way, and that's just impossible to believe: to choose war, to choose death, to choose murder ... killing hope, killing future." And she told another reporter, "I may die here. But my death is no more or less important than the Iraqi lives that will be lost."
Being a "human shield" is a form of nonviolent political protest, in the tradition of sit-ins, and non-violent resistance generally. As such, it typically sends a symbolical political message. Fippinger's message, for instance, was the one she subsequently voiced: "[M]y death is no more or less important than the Iraqi lives that will be lost."
Such a message is inherently political. It threatens governments' distinctions between citizen civilians (who must be protected at all cost) and noncitizen civilians (who can't be directly targeted, but might be acceptable "collateral damage").
Thus, becoming a human shield is virtually always a form of symbolic speech. It is also an exceptionally powerful one: One's very life is literally at stake, and that forces the media, and hopefully also the government, to take notice.
Nevertheless, because the human shield's adversary is the military, and under U.S. law, the military almost always wins, the outcome of this First Amendment argument is a foregone conclusion: It's a loser.
That doesn't mean, however, that Fippinger has no First Amendment case. To the contrary, she may have a strong one.
Even worse - from the government's perspective - is that, in addition to speaking out as a human shield in Iraq, Fippinger kept right on speaking to the media even after she returned to her home in Sarasota, Florida. In her interview with The Washington Post , she talked about conditions at Baghdad hospitals: "It's just sobbing doctors," she said, "because there was so much death, so much horror. . . . It was just death after death after death. From babies to old men and women, the whole range. Amputees. Arms gone, legs gone. Children filled with shrapnel from cluster bombs." She remarked, "I've never seen in all my life such horrors . . . . But I'm sure I'll see them for the rest of my life."
More evidence that Fippinger is being targeted for speaking out comes from the poor fit between the sanctions invoked to go after her, and what she actually did. Whenever the government invokes a law that so poorly fits the crime alleged, you can be sure that something else is going on.Posted by tstubbs at August 14, 2003 01:24 PM | Trackback