Monday, October 02, 2006

Constitution Bushwhacked

In the most significant betrayal of values for politics in my memory, a significant number of Democrats joined Republicans of both Houses in passing legislation that authorizes an obnoxious abridgement of human and Constitutional rights in the so-called War on Terrorism. This legislation is not worthy of this country, its people, the way we represent ourselves to the world and is clearly inconsistent with our own Constitution.

Here are some major provisions, as I understand them:

  • It establishes military commissions to try the so-called “enemy combatants,” based on evidence that can be obtained without search warrants and that does not have to be revealed to the person charged in order to be rebutted.
  • It assigns the definition of acceptable interrogation techniques to the President and does not require that these be made public.
  • It eliminates the right of habeus corpus so people can be imprisoned indefinitely without charge with no recourse to any court and not knowing, even, the reason that they are being held.
  • It was made retroactive to a convenient time to avoid complication with the scandals of our earlier treatment of detainees and has no sunset clause so it is now in place indefinitely with no established review or point of reconsideration.

Now, what in the behavior of this administration would suggest that this kind of latitude is appropriate to be given them? This is a government that habitually lies, distorts, manipulates, conceals and recriminates. It’s record of corruption is the worst in modern history. It’s notoriety of cronyism over competence is already legendary. It’s stance of aggression and the brutality of the practices it has unleashed are what has promoted the calls for caution in the first place.

What happened to the Congress? Major military figures, the former Secretary of State (and Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell), former President Carter…dignified and respected figures from all stripes and backgrounds opposed this. Just this past week the National Intelligence Estimate established what the common public already knew…that the War on Terror and occupation of Iraq, in particular, are creating more and more dangerous terrorists. Likewise, adopting measures such as those contained in this bill will further the recruitment logic of terrorist networks by clearly showing that we practice our own brand of terror…and try to legitimize it by actually placing it into law.

These are quite indescribable occurrences. We are not in the overheated atmosphere of the few days and weeks of the aftermath of 9/11. This is cold, calculated, state-sponsored curtailment of basic human rights and is showing a dark underbelly of this country that I, for one, had hoped we had moved beyond. Are doing these things simply because we can?

We are the world’s only superpower. We can do whatever we please to whomever we please. Why not adopt a more measured, reasonable, effective set of policies that have a chance of creating a sense of responsibility and good will, rather than more hatred and retaliation?

In the long run, I believe we will pay a significant price. We are shrinking by the moment on the world’s stage. Witness the willingness of small countries to berate Bush in the United Nations and defy him with their policies and programs. As our moral authority evaporates, and our military prowess shows itself to be hopelessly inept as it is in Iraq, as our sheer scale contracts in contrast to other nations and our economic power is counter-balanced around the world—we will begin to re-pay those who suffered from our arrogance and misuse of power.

Bush speaks of the “Long War”, knowing that it is nothing more than a political rationale. I hope for the long peace but it’s onset is being protracted by these enormous mistakes and I am deeply disturbed that so many are complicit in it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forogt one provision of the bill that resolves the upper exexcuave branch (ie the president) of any responsibility if war crimes are committed. This means that Bush can set the policy on torture, command that it be enacted, and if there are ever charges of war crimes, only the millitary personel following orders get charged. This clause is also retroactive, absolving the president of any past war crimes he may have committed (that is if they come to light). Why do you think he would need retroactive immunity for war crimes? Hmmmmmm.

1:29 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Oh my, I've written a fair amount on this subject. Most recently, in response to this sign here:

In that piece, there are links to 3 other pieces of mine, all of which are directly related. This is a very serious subject and I don't think the law is as bad as you make it out to be. Nor do I think we're doing as good a job with it as we could. For example, you may recall from previous discussions that I'm in favor of public trials for terrorist detainess for very specific reasons.

Frankly, I don't see any language that permits any president, or any person to commit war crimes as "anonymous" suggests (ie issue unlawful orders to members of the armed forces).

I address the issue of the law being made retroactive and point out of some other provisions that your examination of the law missed.

7:52 PM  

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