A Sad Day For America

September 28, 2006 at 5:30 pm | Posted in American politics, Democracy, King George, Republicans, Torture, War on Terror | 4 Comments

Today is the day the United States Senate votes to give the President of the United States full authority to detain whomever he pleases for however long he pleases, to do what he pleases to them, including American citizens, with no ability for that individual to challenge his detention. This is one of, if not, the saddest days in American history. How many of our children will never forigve us for the world we give to them?

Dan Froomkin says it best:

Today’s Senate vote on President Bush’s detainee legislation, after House approval yesterday, marks a defining moment for this nation.

How far from our historic and Constitutional values are we willing to stray? How mercilessly are we willing to treat those we suspect to be our enemies? How much raw, unchecked power are we willing to hand over to the executive?

The legislation before the Senate today would ban torture, but let Bush define it; would allow the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant; would suspend the Great Writ of habeas corpus; would immunize retroactively those who may have engaged in torture. And that’s just for starters.

It’s a red-letter day for the country. It’s also a telling day for our political system.

The people have lost confidence in their president. Despite that small recent uptick in the polls, Bush remains deeply unpopular with the American public, mistrusted by a majority, widely considered out of touch with the nation’s real priorities.

But he’s still got Congress wrapped around his little finger.

Today’s vote will show more clearly than ever before that, when push comes to shove, the Republicans who control Congress are in lock step behind the president, and the Democrats — who could block him, if they chose to do so — are too afraid to put up a real fight.

This Time, Congress Has No Excuse!

Of all the stupid, lazy, short-sighted, hasty, ill-conceived, partisan-inspired, damage-inflicting, dangerous and offensive things this Congress has done (or not done) in its past few recent miserable terms, the looming passage of the terror detainee bill takes the cake. At least when Congress voted to authorize the Iraq War legislators can point to the fact that they were deceived by Administration officials. But what’s Congress’ excuse now for agreeing to sign off on a law that would give the executive branch even more unfettered power over the rest of us than it already has?

New York Times Editorial

The Republicans have made it clear that they’ll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won’t remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.

They’ll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts

The White House Warden

BURIED IN THE complex Senate compromise on detainee treatment is a real shocker, reaching far beyond the legal struggles about foreign terrorist suspects in the Guantanamo Bay fortress. The compromise legislation, which is racing toward the White House, 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 other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.

This dangerous compromise not only authorizes the president to seize and hold terrorists who have fought against our troops “during an armed conflict,” it also allows him to seize anybody who has “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” This grants the president enormous power over citizens and legal residents. They can be designated as enemy combatants if they have contributed money to a Middle Eastern charity, and they can be held indefinitely in a military prison.

Not to worry, say the bill’s defenders. The president can’t detain somebody who has given money innocently, just those who contributed to terrorists on purpose.

But other provisions of the bill call even this limitation into question. What is worse, if the federal courts support the president’s initial detention decision, ordinary Americans would be required to defend themselves before a military tribunal without the constitutional guarantees provided in criminal trials.

What are Republicans so afraid of that they are willing to be known throughout the rest of American history as the party who gave up Habeas Corpus?

4 Comments »

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  1. Daniel, I’m reading a book called The Faithful Spy. I’m worried about the premise it presents of the detaining and withholding of civil liberties. I’m conflicted about it.

    I don’t have any answers.

    Daniel, how much credence do you give to the dismissal of things occurring in our world as being a fulfillment of prophecy? My former friend is devoutly Republican and rejoices at the prospect of war in the middle east. I am not so quick to jump on that bandwagon.

    But the idea of fulfillment of prophecy cannot be ignored, either. We believe it. We’ve heard it preached, all that is happening.

  2. Anne,

    Fulfillment of prophecy does not justify actions to try and quicken that prophecy to life. To those who rejoice at the prospect of the destruction of a people, any people, I remind them of the words of Nephi, when he saw the destruction of his own people, and then of Mormon and Moroni when they saw the fulfillment of that prophecy. Did they rejoice that prophecy was being fulfilled? No. Why not? Because human beings, sons and daughters of God, were dying.

    No man of God should rejoice at the death of another human being, more importantly at the death of many.

  3. Have you actually read the MCA bill? All of the above criticisms are wholly unfounded.

    Re Habeas: The Constitution does not guarantee habeas corpus– that guarantee comes via federal statute which Congress is is permitted to amend whenever and however it chooses. The MCA bill does not treat habeas because habeas rights were already outlined in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 which was a response to the Hamdi decision of the Supreme Court. Rest assured the DTC lays out quite specific and rigorous habeas rights for detainees. In addition, the Constitution has always only applied to citizens and resident aliens within the borders of the US and its territories.

    Re the definition of unlawful combatant: The definition is actually quite narrow. The bill defines several categories including “unlawful combatant”, “alien”, “lawful combatant”, and “co-belligerent”. Taken together these definitions sufficiently constrain who can be detained and why. On top of that the bill outlines legal procedures that allow one to challenge one’s declared status all the way to the Supreme Court.

    Re torture: The definition of “torture” is not left entirely to the executive. The MCA provides for judicial review of interrogation methods such that they not be cruel nor inhumane.

    Re detention of US citizens on US soil: The MCA is completely silent on this issue. Besides any US citizen seized anywhere in the world is subject to the already existing civil habeas corpus act so declaring a citizen an enemy combatant would serve little purpose under the law.

    Re no protections of rights: The MCA provides for all legal procedures to follow the USCMJ which fully recognizes all the protections afforded regular citizens in the Bill of Rights.

    All of the rants going on about this bill, including the one’s you cite, are being made by those who: a) haven’t read the bill; b) have read it but don’t understand it; or c) are making a slippery slope argument that is entirely unjustified.

    BTW, read your history. What was the first party to suspend habeas corpus? And when? If you can’t answer that question then you’re unqualified to make your closing comment.

  4. EN,

    Re Habeas: The Constitution does not guarantee habeas corpus– that guarantee comes via federal statute which Congress is is permitted to amend whenever and however it chooses.

    uh, when was the last time you read the Constitution of the United States of America? Please reread Article 1 Section 9.

    The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

    As to the rest, sorry, but I think my sources are quite accurate in describing the full potential of this law. It is okay though, Democrats are coming to power in November and we will change it, remove the immunization of those who have already broken the law, and prosecute accordingly.


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