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A Victory for All of Us

Posted on May 18, 2012
AP/Mary Altaffer

Iraq War veteran Sgt. Shamar Thomas leads a demonstration in New York’s Grand Central Station to call attention to a law signed by President Barack Obama that granted extraordinary powers to the military.

By Chris Hedges

In January, attorneys Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran asked me to be the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that challenged the harsh provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We filed the lawsuit, worked for hours on the affidavits, carried out the tedious depositions, prepared the case and went to trial because we did not want to be passive in the face of another egregious assault on basic civil liberties, because resistance is a moral imperative, and because, at the very least, we hoped we could draw attention to the injustice of the law. None of us thought we would win. But every once in a while the gods smile on the damned.

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U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, in a 68-page opinion, ruled Wednesday that Section 1021 of the NDAA was unconstitutional. It was a stunning and monumental victory. With her ruling she returned us to a country where—as it was before Obama signed this act into law Dec. 31—the government cannot strip a U.S. citizen of due process or use the military to arrest him or her and then hold him or her in military prison indefinitely. She categorically rejected the government’s claims that the plaintiffs did not have the standing to bring the case to trial because none of us had been indefinitely detained, that lack of imminent enforcement against us meant there was no need for an injunction and that the NDAA simply codified what had previously been set down in the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act. The ruling was a huge victory for the protection of free speech. Judge Forrest struck down language in the law that she said gave the government the ability to incarcerate people based on what they said or wrote. Maybe the ruling won’t last. Maybe it will be overturned. But we and other Americans are freer today than we were a week ago. And there is something in this.

The government lawyers, despite being asked five times by the judge to guarantee that we plaintiffs would not be charged under the law for our activities, refused to give any assurances. They did not provide assurances because under the law there were none. We could, even they tacitly admitted, be subject to these coercive measures. We too could be swept away into a black hole. And this, I think, decided the case.

“At the hearing on this motion, the government was unwilling or unable to state that these plaintiffs would not be subject to indefinite detention under [Section] 1021,” Judge Forrest noted. “Plaintiffs are therefore at risk of detention, of losing their liberty, potentially for many years.”

The government has 60 days to appeal. It can also, as Mayer and Afran have urged, accept the injunction that nullifies the law. If the government appeals, the case will go to a federal appellate court. The ruling, even if an appellate court upholds it, could be vanquished in the Supreme Court, especially given the composition of that court.


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We had none of the resources of the government. Mayer and Afran worked for weeks on the case without compensation. All of us paid for our own expenses. And few people, including constitutional lawyers of Glenn Greenwald’s caliber, thought we had a chance. But we pushed forward. We pushed forward because all effort to impede the corporate state, however quixotic, is essential. Even if we ultimately fail we will be able to say we tried.

This law was, after all, not about foreign terrorism. It was about domestic dissent. If the state could link Occupy and other legitimate protest movements with terrorist groups (US Day of Rage suffered such an attempt), then the provisions in the NDAA could, in a period of instability, be used to “disappear” U.S. citizens into military gulags, including the government’s offshore penal colonies. And once there, stripped of due process, detainees could be held until, in the language of the law, “the end of hostilities.” In an age of permanent war that would be a lifetime.

Human existence, as I witnessed in war, is precarious and often very short. The battles that must be fought may never be won in our lifetime. And there will always be new battles to define our struggle. Resistance to tyranny and evil is never ending. It is a way, rather, of defining our brief sojourn on the planet. Revolt, as Albert Camus reminded us, is the only acceptable definition of the moral life. Revolt, he wrote, is “a constant confrontation between man and his obscurity. … It is not aspiration, for it is devoid of hope. That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it.”

“A living man can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object,” Camus warned. “But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.”

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By CanDoJack, May 18, 2012 at 11:41 pm Link to this comment

I understand your query. I think it is more evidence
that “if your momma says she loves you, check it

The long list of Obama actions which have made us all
shake our heads only provokes us to ask if POTUS is
getting more than one paycheck and whether he has
more than one employer and are those other employers
more important to answer to than “we the people.”

Young Sir, as a septuagenarian of voting age I
applaud your statement.

In the sixties we had a statement: “suppose they gave
a war and nobody came.” The only way to underscore
the fact that voting is a sham is to say “suppose
they gave an election and nobody came.”

But, it is like Bart Simpson’s response to the
teacher’s question, “Bart, what is a paradox?” to
which Bart replied, “Well ma’am I suppose that is
when you are damned if you do and damned if you

And don’t you know, the Gooddamned Obstructionist
Pissartists (GOP) are just waiting for such an

Good work, all of you, for having our back on that
suit. And hats off to that judge. That took crust in
the current environment.

Constitutional scholar, my arse!

who went along with that sick NDAA
your Mormon backers like Vanderslut must be so proud
of you.

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By kimsarah, May 18, 2012 at 11:38 pm Link to this comment

Here’s how I see what lies ahead. Now the ball is back in Obama’s court, where it began with his signing on a New Year’s Eve day that I won’t soon forget. Heck, now I think of Barack, not Dick Clark or Ryan Seachrist, when I think of the formerly festive New Year’s holiday.

He could do the right thing and let this court’s correct ruling stand, and win back the support of some progressives. After all, he can say he did all he could to pass the “bipartisan” bill, but a federal judge, whom he appointed, wisely gave clarity and struck down the vaguely worded indefinite detention clause, that is already being construed to link U.S. citizens to terrorist organizations. He could say he did his best, and got most of the Patriot Act extensions he wanted in order to increase the erosions of our constitutional protections in the never-ending war on terror.

Or, he could appeal, knowing that it will then get to the fascist-friendly Supreme Court where it will be overturned. He would win and his contempt for freedom and liberty would be solidified.

Regardless, if he appeals (I repeat, if he appeals) it will cement the wall he has erected between the White House and the “f*ing retarded” progressives and prove once again and more-so that he has no interest in representing a large segment of younger Americans and those young at heart who helped get him elected four years ago.

The ball’s in his court.

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By Gulam, May 18, 2012 at 11:31 pm Link to this comment

Hope? What more in the world do the people of the world hope for more than the
crash and burn of the United States and the still colonial Europeans? The rising
nuttiness of the Americans is bringing real hope to billions. Things are moving
along very well right now to the thinking of most of South America and Asia,
because the Americans are letting Israel lead them into unspeakable crimes that
they can never wipe away, pushing them to attack recent allies, all the countries
that they had not previously, violently subdued. And, the Americans are
destroying themselves from within with dizzying speed, gutting the savings of
the masses, pushing on with ludicrously inefficient infrastructure, and building
financial debt bubbles and private prisons at great speed..

Were America worth saving, had she not gone way beyond recovery into debt,
debauchery, fraud, and mass murder, these attempts of Mr. Hedges to score legal
points in the usual way might be laudable. It is certainly refreshing to
occasionally see a member of the clergy actually embrace moral issues and public
concerns. Moves like this, however,  may well simply lull the well-meaning into
thinking that the system is slow but still working. It may well prove to have been
very wrong to even suggest at such a time that we can still believe in the federal
government at any level. This can lead people who should flee to stay. And,
fleeing may not always be an option in such a police state as America has already
most definitely become.

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By Drew Canada, May 18, 2012 at 10:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Congratulations Hedges. Inspiring even if you will fail you never stop the fight.

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By Diane Emerson, May 18, 2012 at 10:10 pm Link to this comment

I would like to know how to make a gift to help cover the costs of Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran. They have done a huge service for me, and for all of us,  and I wish to show my gratitude. Can you tell me how, please?

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Mark E. Smith's avatar

By Mark E. Smith, May 18, 2012 at 10:05 pm Link to this comment

gerard, amending the Constitution is a long drawn out process and there is no guarantee that it will succeed.

There is a much better, quicker, and easier way to overturn Citizens United, and if implemented it is guaranteed to succeed.

The corporations, as they always do, are spending billions of dollars funding the election campaigns of their wholly-owned Democratic and Republican puppets. They don’t do this out of the kindness of their hearts. They donate in almost equal amounts to both parties so that no matter who wins the election, they can be assured of getting a return on their investment in the form of government defense contracts, bailouts, subsidies, and deregulation. As long as sufficient numbers of people vote for the corporate puppets to be able to claim the consent of the governed, the graft and corruption can be said to be the will of the people.

So the mass media from now until November will be saturated with political ads, urging people to vote for this candidate or against that candidate, for this issue or against that issue, or even to cast protest votes, because as long as people vote the billions of dollars spent by corporations funding the election campaign will be well spent.

But if nobody votes, or so few people vote that the government becomes a laughing stock because it obviously no longer has the consent of the governed, the corporations will not have earned the return on their multi-billion-dollar investment that they expect. And they’ll never do it again—their boards of directors wouldn’t allow it.

Corporations spend a lot of money advertising other unhealthy things, such as toxic pharmaceuticals that kill more people than they cure, or toxic foods that are banned in more sensible countries, but those of us who are informed won’t buy things just because corporations spend a fortune advertising them.

You don’t have to get a Constitutional amendment to stop corporations from funding election campaigns—all you have to do is not buy what they’re selling. Don’t vote and let them explain to their shareholders why they spent billions of dollars and only got a 10% turnout for their political puppets.

Simple, easy, and guaranteed to succeed.

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By gerard, May 18, 2012 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment

The next “victory for all of us” could well be a Constitutional Amendment to reverse the recent Supreme Court decision that legalized unlimited corporate contributions to election campaigns under their purely arbitrary split-decision ruling that allows corporations to legally qualify as “persons”
amd as such donate unlimited money to election ads.
  An active and well organized effort of citizens mounting a “Move to Amend” campaign to reverse this disastrous decision can be found at Move to  It already has many regional headquarters where ordinary citizens are working hard to bring about this much-needed return to democraatic government.
  A series of regional information meetings is in process, with the April meeting already passed.  Others are:
April 20-22: Move to Amend Northwest (Eugene, Oregon)
July 27-29: Move to Amend Nor-Cal (Oakland, Calif.)
August 24-26: Move to Amend Midwest(Milwaukee,Wisc.)
September 28-30: Move to Amend (New England-West
October 19-21: Move to Amend So-Cal(Los Angeles,Ca.)
November 9-11: Move to Amend Southwes (Denver,Colo.)
December 14-16: Move to Amend South(Gainesville,Fla)
  The Amendment Process is Constitutionally provided.
  This Supreme Court ruling has enabled corporations with tons of money to literally “buy” elections, which is just about the most un-democratic procedure you can imagine.  They did it all for the rich folks, and hung the 99% out to dry.
  Move to Amend is working somewhere near you.  Get in touch, and volunteer whatever you can in organizing, participation and/or contribution.
  THIS IS DO-ABLE—IN FACT ESSENTIAL and will serve to vastly strenghthen all our other efforts to restore national and local and fair democratic rule.

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By prisnersdilema, May 18, 2012 at 9:44 pm Link to this comment

Yes, but… I would love to hear something more about, how this bill was signed
into law, by a lawyer, a graduate of Harvard, winner of the Nobel Peace prize,
expert on constitutional law, who must have known that the law as a violation of
the constitution, and direct abrogation of his responsibility….

He swore an oath to protect the constitution of the United States of America, from
all enemies foreign and domestic..until he became one himself..

So why in the Hell, did you Mr. Hedges have to do it for him?

If I could have my way, Chris Hedges would be president of the United States, for
even though Mr. Hedges swore no oath to defend the constitution of the United
States, he did so.. at great personal risk to himself… while Obama played it safe…

And Mr. Obama, what would he be if I could have my way…... he needs to go back
to school starting in Kindergarten, and repeat all the grades through,
college….just like Billy Madison…. because he didn’t learn anything, accept how to
act as if…

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By amunaor, May 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm Link to this comment

Keep on snapping at their heels Chris! And who gets the peace prize?

“It riles them to see that you perceive the web they weave” Keep on thinking free!

From all of us, thanks for your sacrifice!

Peace, Best Wishes and Hope

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By Mark E. Smith, May 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm Link to this comment

afterallthat refers to, “...more than 150,000,000 people of voting age who will not be voting because politics bores them…”

No, boredom isn’t why people don’t vote. People don’t vote because, as Chris Hedges puts it, “We have to stop asking what is reasonable or practical, what the Democratic Party or the government can do for us, what will work or not work. We must refuse now to make any concessions, large or small. We must remember that the lesser of two evils is still evil. We must no longer let illusions pacify us.”

In other words, we have to stop doing our civic duty to a government which has not only failed to secure our unalienable rights, but which has become destructive of those rights. It is our duty to alter or abolish any government that becomes destructive of our rights, not to continue granting it our consent of the governed by continuing to vote to delegate our power to such a government.

Chris Hedges points out that this decision could be overturned by the Supreme Court, an unelected body with the Divine Right of Kings, a power that the Declaration of Independence said we would no longer submit to—the power to issue edicts which cannot be appealed. The Constitution which vested supreme power in the hands of a Supreme Court instead of in the hands of the people, was a counterrevolutionary document and was never intended to secure our rights. It was intended to secure the right of those who owned the country, the 1%, to rule the country.

People who vote are too apathetic to care about what the government does. Even while protesting government policies like war, bailouts, and environmental destruction, they continue to vote to delegate war powers, fiscal powers, and regulatory powers, powers that should reside with the people, to a government that has no respect for human rights.

White middle class US citizens are beginning to understand that the capitalist imperialist US government has no more respect for them than it had for Native Americans, African-Americans who have still received no reparations for slavery, and the millions of innocents it has slaughtered in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, so that private corporations could steal their resources. It is voters who are apathetic, who couldn’t care less, and who continue to grant their consent of the governed to a government that has become as destructive of their rights as it has always been of the rights of others.

The rest of us, those of us who care, will continue to resist in every way that we possibly can, including refusing to vote and even by what Chris Hedges thinks are cancerous means of resistance, such as refusing to passively allow ourselves to be beaten, arrested, and indefinitely detained, or to obediently show more respect for property than the government shows for people. It is our responsibility to resist, our duty to resist, and without resistance we can make no claim to honor. We’re not bored—we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more.

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By Blast Dorrough, May 18, 2012 at 9:09 pm Link to this comment

Truly “A Victory For All of US”—-especially for all
American New Guards rising against Corporate tyranny
pursuant to their ordainment as such under the
Declaration of Independence.  That includes all in
the trenches—CH and the other plaintiffs, the
Occupiers and a federal judge of judicial integrity,
The Honorable Katherine Forrest.  But we must expect
the worst on appeal if decided by lawless GOPers
appointed to the bench in light of the evil decisions
reached in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United. What
ever the case the great decision will always be a
part of American history for true patriots.

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By Ruthie, May 18, 2012 at 9:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you Chris Hedges! Most Americans cannot comprehend what you just accomplished or what it all means. I thank you and worlds to come will thank you.

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By themanyareone, May 18, 2012 at 8:49 pm Link to this comment

Mr. Hedges, there should be millions of comments to
this post, all thanking you and thanking those who
worked with you to stand for freedom and justice. Be
that as it may, it is the select few who have the
courage and moral conviction that step up to lead the
way, and this one action alone defines you as a man of
destiny. There is nothing more rare in the world today
than the courage to defy tyranny with personal
strength, spiritual power, and intellectual might.
There is nothing we can truly say that you have not
already said, except to point out that you know in
your heart and soul what you stand for, and when a
human being is truly authentic that is reason enough
to do good works.

There is much ahead of all of us, and while the
victory can be viewed as up-for-grabs in the long run,
as long as we refuse to surrender our bodies and souls
we shall not be owned.But we must declare that we are
born free: we must act free because we ARE free. You
have shown the way. May you be blessed, may we all
join together for the sake of humanity’s future and
our own. There is no escape from this avalanche of
darkness unless we create one.

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By Dr Bones, May 18, 2012 at 8:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I am shocked by how angelic President Nixon was compared to the past five most recent Presidents.  All of whom are mass murderers and war criminals.

Impeachment is surly called for of this Professor of Constitutional Law who failed miserably to live up to his oath of office, to defend the Constitution.

Eric Holder is shockingly corrupt and Obama is worse for not forcing him to resign.  We all knew justice was lost and the legal system a farce when war crimes were swept under the table.

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By afterallthat, May 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm Link to this comment

I see the term, “corporatist” in many comments on various sites.  This must be the
new politically correct description of the influence of the arms, banking,
insurance, medical, Wall Street, etc. concerns.  Alas, the U.S. has slipped into a
Plutocracy, pure and simple.  And it’s global.  What comes next is fascism.  And
with more than 150,000,000 people of voting age who will not be voting because
politics bores them, this country will continue the slippery slope to who knows

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By ghostofwatergate, May 18, 2012 at 8:09 pm Link to this comment

Bravo! and a vote of appreciation to Hedges et al for a job well done.

Illegitimi non carborundum!

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By DVECLWD, May 18, 2012 at 7:53 pm Link to this comment

To Gary Mont:—Just noticed your post, and although I
was just recently awakened to Obama’s duplicity, mainly
thru Chris Hedges writings, I will say you are right on
in your post, absolutely correct.  Obama is no
different than Romney in any fundamental way.  They are
both beholden to the corporatists and care little to
nothing about the common citizen.

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By gerald, May 18, 2012 at 7:50 pm Link to this comment

I lose hope—I read Chris Hedges—I have hope again. A stronger hope with this article.

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By DVECLWD, May 18, 2012 at 7:47 pm Link to this comment

Thank you Chris Hedges for you actions on this matter,
which have given me a little hope, or at least the
absence of despair

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By DVECLWD, May 18, 2012 at 7:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Rock On Chris Hedges, thank you for your actions on
this matter which have given me just a little hope, or
at least a lack of despair.

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By Gary Mont, May 18, 2012 at 7:40 pm Link to this comment

Thank you Mr. Hedges. We are in your debt.

However, I’m just dying to see how the Obamapologists that post here try and spin this one.

You now have solid proof that Obama is not in any way a Democrat, save that it wears the label.

The Fascist; Adolf Hitler, wore the label of National Socialist, in exactly the same way and for exactly the same reason.

Note to Godwin quoters - Fascist apologists - you may silently shove it right back up your fascist asses, where it orignated.

Your president, in order to protect you from the imaginary Bin Laden Army, just sold all your asses down the river, signing a bill into law that would make all US citizens simply terrorists at large, awaiting legal expeditious rendition, legal torture and permanent legal incarceration, or execution, in some secret foreign prison, turning your Constitution; with the flick of a pen, into used ass-wipe, and flushing your collective futures down the legal shitter.

Amazingly, most of those who praise and support Obama no matter how many times he publicly shits on their shoes, will simply choose to de-activate the thinking part of their brains once again and pretend once again that people like Chris Hedges are evil and that Obama is the Messiah, come to lead the US into the promised land.

Might as well begin the exercise in futility with the one rationale that nobody will ever post.

Obama signed this bill into law because:

1)...he’s really just a well-trained, silver-tongued puppet who was placed in office through a completely compromised election system, to help lay the legal ground-work for the total conquest and exploitation of the USA and its assets by the organized crime cabal of Fascists who have already infiltrated the upper levels of American government, finance and industry.

For a partial list of known participating fascists in your area, look to the active and recently resigned membership of ALEC, who are working behind the scenes to rewrite American law to support the fascist regime change.

Your turn….


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By Dean Libey, May 18, 2012 at 7:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you all for the courageous effort and victory
which you/we achieved. Thank you also for the words
of caution and inspiration. I’m not familiar with
Camus (the source of his quotes might lead me hither)
however I’ve read “Man Without a Country” by Vonnegut
wherein he confesses shame of the country he fought
for. He became a prisoner of war in Dresden, during
WW II. Soldiers he states are the toys of the rich.
We the people have become such.
Does a man who commits such actions as seen over the
last 12 years not reveal what is important to him, it
is surely not you and I.

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By Textynn, May 18, 2012 at 7:13 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


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By Mike Boddington, May 18, 2012 at 7:06 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think that the criterion by which we set course in this world is to attempt what we
know to be right rather than what is possible.  If we set out to do what is right,
even in the face of impossible odds, we will move the needle.  Sometimes, it will
go right across the dial, as in this case. 

Many congratulations to Chris Hedges and his colleagues in this landmark
decision .

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By ReadingJones, May 18, 2012 at 6:58 pm Link to this comment

Remember, when you peer into the abyss, the abyss looks

Mr. Hedges you are a stand up man.

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By Bill Perdue, May 18, 2012 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment

Thank you very much.

This a huge victory for supporters of the Bill of Rights and an equally big slap in the face for Obama, Boehner and Reid.

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By gina, May 18, 2012 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I get tired of people saying you can’t fight the system. Thanks for your soul and spine, Chris.

The reality is there are plenty of resources if we manage them right. There is more than enough food to feed the world (and contain carbon) when we grow food in alignment with nature. Ask any sustainable farmer. And more people need to have the guts to talk about Free Energy, which doesn’t require oil, gas or coal. So the fear of scarcity and the fear to speak up are the #1 evils.

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By Alan Stewart, May 18, 2012 at 6:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Truly a magnificent effort and accomplishment Chris and Colleagues.

I salute you as will countless others down through the generations.

Alan Stewart

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By Night-Gaunt, May 18, 2012 at 6:40 pm Link to this comment

Now here is a battle you would not hear or see on most CMSM networks and on the front page above the fold. But it is important all the same to all of us, even those who would dislike such rulings and support the NDAA that President Obama  signed without waiver. To the extremists he is looked upon wrongly as a Socialist. He isn’t even really Liberal he just plays one to the masses. Remember semper vigilis “Always vigilant.” We can never sleep in relation to liberty. Never because the forces who naturally don’t trust it for us but for use by themselves against us. We must always have one eye open. Whether governmental or private they want to take it from us to do it “better” than us to us.

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By n/a, May 18, 2012 at 6:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you Chris Hedges!

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By agelbert, May 18, 2012 at 6:24 pm Link to this comment

Thank you, Chris Hedges. You are a man of honor.

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By Fleep Van Der Bleep, May 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Camus quotes should be carried in our hearts at all times. Thanks for struggling.
Feck the Queen and God Save America…please.

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By Lauren B. Davis, May 18, 2012 at 6:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Proud of you.  Keep going.

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