Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mr. Bush, why do you hate freedom?

The New York Times is running an editorial (reg. req'd) that calls the new terrorist interrogation bill "a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts". Here's some more:

These are some of the bill’s biggest flaws:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

230 years ago, our patriotic and religious predecessors raised a successful rebellion to deprive the government of the power to impose exactly such injustices. (It was a Congregational clergyman with a radical Unitarian theology, Jonathan Mayhew, who preached what was called "the sermon that started the Revolution", Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers.) By the 1830's, however, the French political analyst Alexis de Tocqueville marveled that American freedom and democracy had thus far been able to resist being corrupted by what he called "the tyranny of the majority", and wondered how much longer it would be able to continue to protect the liberty of minorities against popular passions.

M. de Tocqueville, vous avez votre réponse aujourd'hui. However, today the word "tyranny" has become an abstract cliché rather than the call to the barricades that it once was, so it may be more pertinent to call the same phenomenon by another, more recent and more emotionally charged, term. What we are witnessing in this bill today, quite literally, is the substitution of liberty with fascism in the United States.

Mr. Bush, why do you hate freedom?


At September 29, 2006 at 9:36:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What gets me through this dark night of the soul? Sometimes, watching my video of the musical "1776" helps restore my belief that this country still has the spirit to overthrow the tyranny of King George.

At September 30, 2006 at 6:09:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We got past that mad king George; we'll get past this one, too.

At October 14, 2006 at 10:19:00 PM EDT, Anonymous kimrdhbsms said...

I am very saddened by all this. The American Dream is ending.

Somewhere I saw a letter supposedly written in the future about President Hillary Clinton and her use of this law giving the President essentially absolute power. I wish I could find it again. I'd send it out to all and sundry....

At October 30, 2006 at 8:01:00 PM EST, Blogger fausto said...

Frankly, I expect the courts to knock down this law as soon as they get the first chance.

Nevertheless, it still says something alarming about the fragile state of our democracy and the tenuousness of our constitutional freedoms.


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