Friday, September 15, 2006

Power Run Amok

The Patriot would love to take a day off from chronicling the systematic attempt by this administration to dismantle our civil liberties, but as he was told be a boozy friend last night, “People lose interest if you don’t post every day”. So here goes:

The New York Times did a great job of crystallizing the second anti-freedom bill worming its way around Congress this week. Seemingly unsatisfied with its dismantling of our own Constitution, the administration is sharpening its long knives in preparation for the ritual gutting of a few choice sections of the Geneva Conventions, namely, the pesky provision that prohibits “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.” The President says that he finds this language “too vague”, and I find his legal analysis wanting. The President is uncharacteristically opposed by his military lawyers as well as the usual array of civil libertarians and peaceniks. His military lawyers fear that United States soldiers could be subjected to the same treatment if captured as the torture we are currently inflicting on untold numbers of prisoners held at secret CIA bases around the world. As the Times noted in its editorial, “The idea that the nation’s chief executive is pressing so hard to undermine basic standards of justice is shocking.” Not all that shocking to those of us who were warning about this slippery slope when the President was given carte blanche in his “war on terror” shortly after 911. Of course, one can take the position that a certain amount of secrecy and latitude should be permitted the chief executive in these matters since the enemy is unlikely to be a regular army and any American servicemen unlucky enough to be captured in Iraq would probably end up meeting the grisly fate of Danny Pearl irrespective of any Geneva convention. One could argue this position. However, the administration, as usual, is not looking to confine its legislation to the jihadists captured on the fields of battle. Rather, the “White House bill also includes anyone who gives “material support” to a terrorist group or anyone affiliated with a terrorist group. Legal experts fear this definition could cover people who, for example, contribute to charities without knowing they support terrorist groups, or that are not identified as terrorist fronts until later. It could be used to arrest a legal resident of the United States and put him before a military commission.” (Again from the Times). This President is obsessed with spying on Americans and for the life of my I don’t understand why. All most of us do is eat, shop and watch television anyway.

I guess the most disturbing effect of both this White House sponsored Bill and the Arlen Specter Bill discussed yesterday is the denigration of the separation of powers these Bills represent. By shoving this totalitarian nightmare of a Bill in Congress’s face the President is essentially usurping the legislative function of Congress and paralyzing the body into inaction. Why is the White House sponsoring legislation? Why is Congress seriously considering it? Well, Congressmen and Senators are tripping all over themselves to not look soft on terror for the fall elections and the Bush administration has, once again successfully set the terms of the debate on the issue by the use of fear and intimidation. Believe me, the alternative Bill being floated by Senators Warner, McCain and Lindsey Graham (all Republicans, btw) while keeping the Geneva convention intact draws the definition of “unlawful enemy combatant” so broadly that it could cover almost anyone that the particular administration decides is a threat, leading to his removal from the judicial system and subject to a military trial.

A well placed kick in the ass of the spineless Democrats is also warranted. Despite the threat to civil liberties, not to mention the erosion of commonly accepted standards of decency that this Bill represents, the Democrats, as usual, caved into administration demands. Many military lawyers appeared before the House Armed Services Committee and testified that they strongly opposed the rules of evidence and other due-process clauses in the White House’s bill. The committee passed it anyway with only eight of the 28 Democratic members voting “no.” Is it any wonder the foxes rule the hen house? I am starting to come full circle on my regret for voting for Nader in 2000. What is the purpose of an opposition party if they fail to oppose?

Finally, stripping the federal courts of the power to review the detentions of Guantánamo Bay, which the Bush Bill proposes is another assault on the judiciary, the third co-equal branch of government. The entire piece of legislation is specifically designed to circumvent earlier Court rulings by getting Congress to declare legal what the Supreme Court did not. This is an abuse of power of the most egregious sort. Unfortunately, the Congress has been bought and paid for and the legislators crave power more than they are interested in preserving our way of life. Folks, what we are witnessing here is nothing less than the potential end of the American experiment. Our civil liberties are what make this country different from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, as we become paranoid and aggressive on a diplomatic level at the same time we espouse the free flow of goods and ideas on an economic level, we come across as inconsistent and deranged to our quickly diminishing circle of allies.

It kills me to think that 230 years of progress can be destroyed in six years by 19 morons from Saudi Arabia and one jack-ass from Texas. Unbelievable.

Anyway y’all have a nice week-end. Feel free to flame, disagree and/or support anything I say. And write your legislators to tell them how much they suck.

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