"The truth is that casting aside the time-honored protection of Habeas Corpus makes us more vulnerable as a nation because it leads us away from our core American values. It calls into question our historic role as a defender of human rights around the world." --Democratic Senate Judiciary Chair, Senator Patrick Leahy today (AP, 09.19.2007).
'[Habeas corpus] "is a constitutional right that has existed since the Magna Carta in 1215.' --GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, seeing the writing on the wall. (AP, 09.19.2007)
Washington D.C.--It all began before the first big washout in the November 2006 midterm elections--the one where everyone was watching too-closely, so they (the GOP) couldn't steal it. The offending piece of legislation: The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which bars 'foreign combatants' from the right to due process, or to challenge the charges against them.
What most of the media isn't reporting right now is the fact that it also effectively impairs all of our rights domestically as well, and that it sets a precedent if it stands. Guantanamo is "Act One" in suspending all of our constitutional rights, but another vote should bring cloture (no more debate, and a filibuster and veto-proofing ending the MCA). If the GOP is good for anything, it's blocking the will of the American people and the majority in the Senate.
The only other president to do this was president Abraham Lincoln, and the Supreme Court of that time ruled against him, even in-the-midst of the American Civil War. Of course, we also know what happened to Lincoln on April 15th of 1865, though it's unlikely that George W. Bush will face a similar fate--he's not worth martyring, nor worth the effort. That's got to hurt, considering his sky-high image of himself. Has he spoken with God lately? Perhaps the line is busy, or the Red Bat phone is malfunctioning. Maybe Commissioner Gordon is on vacation.
The vote was just four-away from ending the suspension of Habeas Corpus (56 yeas-43 nays), so it's likely that the next attempt will be successful. But we need to start isolating the Republican incumbents who are voting against an end to the Military Commissions Act, and writing and communicating our feelings about their votes. It's time they explained themselves, and this banging of the same drum of "fighting the war on terrorism" isn't valid. It never was. 800-years of political and legal tradition aren't endangered by foreign terrorists--they're endangered by the enemies of America within the press, Congress, and the White House.
They are the enemy within. Being the good lapdogs that they've been throughout much of this embarrassing political era, AP gives us the headline, "Senate Rejects Expanding Detainee Rights." The New York Times has done a responsible editorial, but then we get this headline: "Senate Blocks Detainees’ Rights Bill." I think we all know it's about much more than just the rights of detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison--and all the secret CIA prisons around the world that are still in-operation.
No genuine adherent of classic democratic principles should doubt the right of the detainees to adequate legal representation, but what about the rights of Americans? How do you know someone is truly guilty without reasonable due process? Our rights are impaired by the Military Commissions Act too. If we dispose of habeas corpus, then the 9/11 hijackers accomplished more than they could have ever dreamed possible, being ostensible "contractors" of the Saudi ruling-class. Reactionary politicians who used the attacks are America's real weakness, and it's time to remove more--if not all of them--in the next elections of 2008.
Their expediters are institutions like SAIC, Halliburton, Mitre, Blackwater, and individuals like the Ronald Rougheads of the world--the employees of profiteers who do the actual dirty work in the shadows. Five out of a total of forty-eight Republican Senators co-sponsored the bill to suspend the Military Commissions Act of 2006--Arlen Specter, who voted for it originally, was a primary co-sponsor with Sen. Leahy and Chris Dodd. At least Specter's learned his lesson, but could we have any more obvious indication that as a party, the GOP is against the time-honored traditions of democracy and justice that make us all 'Americans'?
Besides Mr. Specter, five other Republican Senators supported the measure. They were Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire. Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont, also voted for it. (New York Times, 09.19.2007)What most Americans aren't being told is that they--we--are all in danger of being legally held without any charges as long as the MCA stands. Habeas corpus is not simply applicable to "foreign combatants," but is now a deeply-impaired right for all Americans outside of the executive branch.
The Supreme Court has yet to debate and/or rule on much of this, though it's likely that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 will be voted-down on the next round in the Senate. Indeed, much o this is about ending any remaining political capital that Republicans grabbed in an obvious case of opportunism after the attacks of September 11th, 2001.
Too many Americans bought into it out of cowardice and fear. To still do so is worse than cowardice. Fortunately, we have institutions and social structures rooted in protecting our unique democratic traditions, and they've been fighting this trend before it even began in 2006. They've been on the front-lines over several decades:
The US Supreme Court agreed in June to examine the demands of war on terror suspects held without charge at Guantanamo jail. In May, more than 70 lawyers for terror suspects and academics urged lawmakers to restore the writ of habeas corpus to detainees. Critics say that the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which rolled back habeas corpus provisions, is so broad that it might apply not only to terror suspects, but also to any legal resident of the United States, if the president declares them to be an "enemy combatant." (AFP, 09.19.2007)The scoundrels' window is almost completely closed, and their political games are beginning to evaporate. Americans are finally awaking from their fearful-stupors and understanding that few threats are so great as to give away their rights to a handful of American demagogues who thought they were so close to seizing total power.
This should be the last time anyone is allowed to get so close, and therefore, handing-out sentences to the offenders is crucial. Unlike their victims, they should be afforded due process. The irony will be understated by the press, but obvious to nearly all Americans. The world is watching.
All that said, we are hardly out of the woods yet, and the clean-up job is just beginning. Every would-be tyrant who has either suspended or attempted to end habeas corpus has met a bad end, or suffered the fate of a cursed historical judgment as a scoundrel. The right to know why one has found themselves imprisoned, what the charges against them are, and who's charging them, is a human right. It has been a beacon to countless millions throughout the world who thirst for liberty.
Now we know that the GOP's incumbents have no regard for what is uniquely American (or Anglo-American), and that they are the enemies of humanity. This should have been obvious a very long time ago, but greed tends to blind people in all societies, at any given point in human history. The enemies of liberty know this and are always waiting for their chance, their opening.
Article One, Section Nine of the Constitution of the United States is clear on the suspension of Habeas Corpus: "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." We're not experiencing rebellion or invasion, except from within--from the people demanding the suspension of habeas corpus. Any real external threats are both vague and hypothetical, which hardly warrants the suspension of habeas corpus. It's time to call the politicians who stalled the suspension the Military Commissions Act what they are: traitors.
“Today’s vote was a victory for those seeking to restore both the rule of law and our nation’s Constitution,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The Military Commissions Act of 2006 stripped away one of our most fundamental rights - to challenge your imprisonment by the government. While the amendment ultimately was not filibuster proof, a majority of senators have made it clear that they want to restore the right of habeas corpus. The ACLU has worked diligently, leading a coalition of support for the restoration of habeas corpus. That tireless work is beginning to pay off and will be vindicated once habeas is signed back into law.”The MCA stripped the constitutional right to habeas corpus from persons the president alone designates as enemy combatants. (CommonDreams.org, 09.19.2007)Are you an "enemy combatant"? You could be if the president decides you are under the MCA. Will we find more of the supporters of the MCA in the phone records of Deborah Jeane Palfrey? We already have--Senator David Vitter voted against the reinstatement of habeas corpus, and there will be others in both houses of Congress coming. Spooks like Ronald Roughead, however, are the ones to really watch and "out." They all need the spotlight put on them brightly, and harshly, as sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Sen. Larry E. Craig--a man who likes cruising for ass with men in public bathrooms--voted "nay," as did Sen. David Vitter who prefers sex with women who aren't his wife. Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia (a Republican) appears not to have voted on the measure. Senator Christopher Dodd was one of the Democrats leading the charge on this measure--and a victim of a break-in of his own campaign offices this year. All of this trumps Nixon, and handily.
The Constitution of the United States of America: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data/constitution/article01/
The New York Times today on the blocking of restoration of Habeas Corpus: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/19/washington/19cnd-detain.html?hp
The Actual Vote tally: http://www.firedoglake.com/2007/09/19/habeas-restoration-cloture-vote-tally/
Common Dreams on the ACLU's statement today: http://www.commondreams.org/news2007/0919-13.htm