Enemy Combatants

I have no right to an attorney...

Enemy Combatant 1 (2007)

“Put it all together, and last week’s passage of the Military Commissions Act is ominous for those in the US. As Bruce Ackerman noted recently in The Los Angeles Times, the legislation ‘authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any protections of the Bill of Rights.’ The vague criteria for being labeled an enemy combatant (taking part in ‘hostilities against the United States’) don’t help either. Would that include anti-war protestors? People who criticize Bush? Unclear.”
–Heather Wokusch, “Now That You Could Be Labeled an Enemy Combatant,” CommonDreams.org

I have no right to a speedy trial...

Enemy Combatant 2 (2007)

“KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST OF COUNTDOWN WITH KEITH OLBERMANN: I want to start by asking you about a specific part of this act that lists one of the definitions of an unlawful enemy combatant as, quote, ‘a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a combatant status review tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the president or the secretary of defense.’

Does that not basically mean that if Mr. Bush or Mr. Rumsfeld say so, anybody in this country, citizen or not, innocent or not, can end up being an unlawful enemy combatant?

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR: It certainly does. In fact, later on, it says that if you even give material support to an organization that the president deems connected to one of these groups, you too can be an enemy combatant.

And the fact that he appoints this tribunal is meaningless. You know, standing behind him at the signing ceremony was his attorney general, who signed a memo that said that you could torture people, that you could do harm to them to the point of organ failure or death.

So if he appoints someone like that to be attorney general, you can imagine who he’s going be putting on this board.

OLBERMANN: Does this mean that under this law, ultimately the only thing keeping you, I, or the viewer out of Gitmo is the sanity and honesty of the president of the United States?

TURLEY: It does. And it’s a huge sea change for our democracy. The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the president. In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn’t rely on their good motivations.

Now we must. And people have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values.

It couldn’t be more significant. And the strange thing is, we’ve become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. I mean, the Congress just gave the president despotic powers, and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to, you know, Dancing with the Stars. I mean, it’s otherworldly.”
–Excerpt of a transcript from Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 10-18-2006

I have no right to confront my accusers...

Enemy Combatant 3 (2007)

“Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said that enemy combatants won’t be released until the War on Terror is over — and that the war won’t be over until no terrorist organizations of potentially global reach are left in the world. ‘We’re going to cure the common cold before we extirpate political violence from the face of the globe,’ says [Georgetown University law professor David] Cole. ‘And in today’s world, everyone has potentially global reach. So Rumsfeld is essentially claiming that the war on terrorism will last forever — and that they have the authority to keep people forever, without any hearing, without any trial, even without any access to a lawyer.’ “
–Miles Harvey, “The Bad Guy,” Mother Jones

Habeas corpus doesn't apply to me...

Enemy Combatant 4 (2007)

“Even in the face of a federal court order insisting on an accused being allowed to meet with a lawyer in order to challenge his enemy combatant status, ‘the government maintains that no court has the authority to review that classification.’ ‘To say that the Executive Branch on its own determination can pick somebody up and hold them indefinitely without any procedure or access to a court or counsel or the press is an absolutely staggering thought,’ says Stephen Schulhofer, a law professor at New York University. Meanwhile, the Attorney General insists that misses the larger point. ‘There are no civil liberties that are more important than the right to be uninjured and to be able to live in freedom,’ Ashcroft recently told Time.


This arbitrariness of designating someone an enemy combatant simultaneously opens the door to illegal searches, indefinite incarcerations, cruel and unusual punishments, confessions by torture, and most any other reprehensible act you can think of that might arise from an evil and misguided regime. One striking example is the extension of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which created secret courts to review applications for domestic wiretaps and searches in the name of national security. This has now reached the level of the feds checking a suspect’s library and Internet usage — and simultaneously prohibiting a library employee from revealing to anyone [including local law enforcement agencies] that a patron is under suspicion.”
–Dan Sewell Ward, Library of Halexandria

How long before I am disappeared...?

Enemy Combatant 5 (2007)

“It would be easy to dismiss the harm that has been done to our civil liberties in the past year. Most of us do not know anyone whose rights have been seriously curtailed. The 1,200 detainees rounded up after Sept. 11 and held in secret were mainly Muslim men with immigration problems. So were the people the government tried to deport in closed hearings. The two Americans who were labeled ‘enemy combatants,’ hustled off to military brigs and denied the right even to meet with a lawyer, are a Saudi-American man captured in Afghanistan and a onetime Chicago gang member.

There is also no denying that the need for effective law enforcement is greater than ever. The Constitution, Justice Arthur Goldberg once noted, is not a suicide pact.

And yet to curtail individual rights, as the Bush administration has done, is to draw exactly the wrong lessons from history. Every time the country has felt threatened and tightened the screws on civil liberties, it later wished it had not done so. In each case — whether the barring of government criticism under the Sedition Act of 1798 and the Espionage Act of 1918, the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II or the McCarthyite witch hunts of the cold war — profound regrets set in later.

When we are afraid, as we have all been this year, civil liberties can seem abstract. But they are at the core of what separates this country from nearly all others; they are what we are defending when we go to war. To slash away at liberty in order to defend it is not only illogical, it has proved to be a failure. Yet that is what has been happening.


As the Bush administration continues down its path, the American people need to make clear that they have learned from history and will not allow their rights to be rolled back. The world has changed since Sept. 11, but the values this country was founded on have not. Fear is no guide to the Constitution. We must fight the enemies of freedom abroad without yielding to those at home.”
–Editorial, “The War on Civil Liberties, The New York Times (9-10-2002), seen on The Freedom of Information Center


As I argued on an earlier blog post, I believe that fractals can be used as activist art. This post is prompted by today’s “Virtual March Against Escalation” — a national Internet protest designed to curb surging escalation of the Iraq War. I’m well aware that some of you will not agree with my point of view. And that’s cool. Fortunately, the Constitution gives you the right to disagree with me and to say so — unless, of course, you are declared an “enemy combatant.”

Images 1 and 2 were made with Sterling-ware. Images 3, 4, and 5 were made with Vchira. All images were imported into various graphics programs and post-processed.

Please click on any image to see higher resolution.



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11 thoughts on “Enemy Combatants

  1. Scary… A co-worker who recently returned from ten years working in Brazil says he’s astonished at how this country has changed during that time, especially with respect to basic liberties.

    Those of us living here, and I include myself, haven’t picked up on it so much because it’s all been so gradual. But when I compare how things were in the ’70s to today – Wow. And each little encroachment is made to sound so logical and for our own good.

    I’ve heard you can boil a frog to death without the frog knowing it’s happening if the water temperature is raised slowly enough.

    The heat’s been getting slowly turned up for about 30 years now, and most people don’t realize it’s getting hotter..

  2. I don’t have comments on the text content
    of the post (it seems important but ,being
    Italian, I don’t have a strong opinion about this subject). I find the image content very interesting. It is a case when less is more. Taking away color can change completely the meaning of an image giving to it a dramatic tone completely missing in the original.

  3. On the Critical Attitude

    The critical attitude
    Strikes many people as unfruitful
    That is because they find the state
    Impervious to their criticism
    But what in this case is an unfruitful attitude
    Is merely a feeble attitude.
    Give criticism arms
    And states can be demolished by it.

    Canalising a river
    Grafting a fruit tree
    Educating a person
    Transforming a state
    These are instances of fruitful criticism
    And at the same time instances of art.

    Bertolt Brecht

    The text from Terry brought this poem to my mind. I belong to a generation of brazilians that fought against dictatorship. People in US don´t have idea what means a totalitarian state. Basically means that you have no confidence to your friends, to the doorman of your building, to the girl who cames twice to clean the house, to your barber, to the partenrs at your office: they are all potential spies.

    In Argentina during the so called “dirty war” against the terrorists of ERP and Montoneros, all building´s doormen were declared spies of the militar system. The first consequence of that: the wave of denounces fired innocent people without political participation on the fight agaisnt the tirany. The denouces were given just to solve private questions among neighbors.Hundreds of persons have been taken in prison and tortured for nothing. The worst consequence of a authoritarian regimen is the prepotence of the policeman at the street. They use it to guarantee a parcel of power to get previleges from the ordinary people. This is already a classic recipe when you split a nation into good and bad people.

  4. I had a much longer reply prepared in response to this post, but I think instead I’ll pose a simple question.

    What is the purpose of this blog?

    Is it to actually post on topics related to fractal art? Or, is it to post on any topic that interests the poster as long as fractal art is included in the post?

    IMO, this post, and the one by Guido that follows have nothing at all to do with fractal art other than the fact that fractal art is included in the post. If this is the criteria, then I think it would be nice to let readers know, and perhaps change the tag line on the blog so people know what to expect.

  5. Hi Ken, I’m one of the moderators. As I think you’ve suggested, the purpose of this blog is different from that of other fractal art venues. The reason for that is to encourage creativity and experimentation. We do require a fractal “connection” but we’ve left it up to individual authors to make that judgement.

    There isn’t much fractal related blogging that goes on, and hopefully this blog will encourage more of it, and possibly inspire the creation of other blogs that are more focussed and specialized, along the lines of what I think you’re thinking of.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    -Tim Hodkinson

  6. Ken,

    I wish you had put up your longer reply. Maybe I would better understand your remarks.

    The tag line of this blog merely notes that the material “revolves around fractal art.” Why is a post where fractal art is presented in tandem with creative writing or social commentary somehow less relevant than a post where fractal art is presented while reflecting on marketing work or writing formulas?

    Are you suggesting the blog should be limited to discussion of the mechanics of fractal art but ignore its broader applications for society, culture, politics, aesthetics, and other artforms?

  7. Tim,

    Yours is a very diplomatic non-answer.

    I’d like to hear the opinions of you and the other moderators on the issues I raise below. As a reader, I’m curious to what the moderators intend for this blog.


    IMO, your post is a blatant political post, with fractal images included to make it relevant to Orbit Trap. The only relevance to fractal art is your statement, “I believe fractals can be used as activist art.”. Now, that statement could be discussed and debated.

    However, your post does not address that statement, it just declares it as fact. The post doesn’t discuss anything related to fractal art. It doesn’t discuss fractal art applications for society, politics, or any other subject. It doesn’t tie in the images to the text. It’s a long post consisting mainly of quoting other commentators. It is certainly culturally and politically relevant, but there is no connection to fractal art that I see.

    As a reader, when I view this blog, I expect to see posts that are discussing some aspect of fractal art. The images would be used to provide examples, or otherwise enhance the text. I don’t consider political posts, religious posts, posts about the Super Bowl, etc. that have no relevance to fractal art other than an included fractal image, appropriate. I’m not a moderator or contributor, so I have no say in what is appropriate or not. I’m merely offering the opion of a reader.

    I’m not saying that making the connection to fractal art is easy, but if the text of a post has nothing to do with fractal art and the only tie in to fractal art are the images included, then yes, I would consider those posts not appropriate. There was at least one other person who voiced an objection to your last political post here. That one was marginally more appropriate, IMO.

    I see a difference between discussing the applications of fractal art in the areas you mention and using fractal art in a political or cultural post. The latter is easy, and is what you and Guido did. The former is the challenge and what I believe is intended by this blog.

    Every one of the contributors has their own political, religious, cultural, etc. views. Image what this blog would look like if each contributor started making posts like yours on any subject they chose. It would quickly cease to be a blog revolving around fractal art and be a collection of personal views smattered with fractal images.

    As a reader, I can choose to read or not regardless of what is posted. I’m just inquiring as to what I should expect because a couple of your posts and Guido’s are the only ones that I recall that, IMO, are really not relevant to fractal art and appear to have purposes other than discussing fractal art and/or it uses.

  8. Ken, I said, “encourage creativity and experimentation” and, “a fractal ‘connection’ … (left) up to individual authors”.

    You responded, “I’m curious to what the moderators intend for this blog”.

    Doesn’t that answer your question?

    Me and Terry, (the only moderators) want to let contributors do their own thing while we limit our influence to matters only of a technical or administrative nature. There are no editors here. The blog belongs to the contributors, not the “moderators”. We don’t want to impose our own definitions of what is “fractal” or what is “artistic”, because we want to encourage a broad spectrum of thinking and because most of the contributors know as much and possibly even more, about these things than we do.

    “not relevant to fractal art and appear to have purposes other than discussing fractal art and/or it uses” Is illustration, or even ornamentation, not a worthwhile use of any type of art, fractal or whatever? Personally, I like to just browse through images and start writing when something inspires me. Guido and Terry stick to real events; I consider them to be very conservative!

    -Tim (the evasive diplomat) Hodkinson

  9. Tim,

    I misunderstood you. Thanks for clarifying.

    “Is illustration, or even ornamentation, not a worthwhile use of any type of art, fractal or whatever?”

    Sure, this is a use for art. Worthwhile could be debated. But, it begs the question of whether or not any particular post “revolves around fractal art”.

    But, at least I and other readers understand the criteria for posts.


  10. Ken,

    Thanks for responding. I think I understand your position better now.

    I probably envision a more expansive blog on fractal art than you do. You seem to want to favor the “fractal” over the “art.” Yes, this blog should cover fractals — in theory and in practice. I would expect posts on formulas, gradients, coloring, perspective, layering, programming, printing, marketing, and similar topics.

    But if fractals can be art, then fractals surely encompass all the possibilities of art and its many permutations — including social criticism, political commentary, personal narrative, textual illustration, and rubbing elbows with other art forms (like creative writing). Dante Gabriel Rossetti used to engrave his poems in the frames of his paintings. Would you consider him “blatantly poetical” for doing so?

    You may feel that using fractal art to illustrate commentary begs being “worthwhile,” but to argue that posts like mine and Guido’s “have nothing to do fractal art” seems only true if one completely ignores all context. The texts and images are not randomly tossed together but are intended to complement one another — to “correspond,” using a term that Baudelaire preferred. If someone makes a fractal in the shape of a cross or a football, then why shouldn’t he or she feel free to post texts associating those images to subject matter like religion or the Super Bowl?

    Of course, juxtapositions of text with images may fall flat and political content might put people off. If so, I am sorry, but both displaying art and publishing writing inevitably run the risk of being disliked. I don’t mean to chase anyone away, but I don’t want to be hounded off either. You chide me for treating activist art “as a fact,” when I merely expressed an opinion that fractals could be used in a political framework, and then set about explaining my reasoning in one earlier post before offering a second example here. You are certainly free to ignore my posts and to question my opinions, my methods, my politics, and even the validity of my art — and, well, I can respond in kind. That’s why this blog allows comments from both readers and contributors.

    But why bother to have a blog at all if discussions of fractal art will be limited to topics like rendering techniques and marketing strategies? Why not just hang out at one of the many fine on-line discussion forums devoted to fractals. Blogs have their roots in diaries and often focus on the social, personal, even intimate connections shared between writer/artist and reader. As Tim noted, neither of us want to set boundaries on the distinctive correlations made by our contributors.

    So why not have a big tent for fractal art rather than a small booth? Isn’t there more to fractal art than mechanical reproduction and decorative ornamentation? Isn’t it time fractal artists cast off their inferiority complexes and start insisting their work is art with a capital A — and begin applying it in all of the ways artists have been using art since someone first employed berry juice to draw a mammoth on a cave wall?

  11. I think the bottom line for me is simply that I don’t care to read commentary type posts here. You have a personal blog. You can post all the commentary on any subject you want there. I expect to read posts addressing some aspect of fractal art. If the posts are technical, great. If the posts are theoretical, great. If the posts are commentary with fractal images, post them somewhere else. If that limits the size of the tent, then I think that is what is necessary to establish a foundation that will ultimately result in a larger tent.

    If the posts are addressing how fractal images can enhance an article, great. If the posts are addressing how fractal images being included in commentary articles are advancing the cause of fractal art, great.

    I fail to see how commentary articles are advancing the cause of fractal art. Especially this one, because most of the post isn’t even your words. It mostly consists of quotes from other commentators.

    I realize this is simply one reader’s opinion. But, I know others agree even if they don’t say so. And, the commentary posts are causing me to lose interest in the blog, and I suspect others too.

Comments are closed.