How did we sink so low in just 6 years?
By Mike Whitney
“This is how a nation loses its moral compass, its identity, its
freedom.” Rep Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
Clearing House" -- -- How did things get this bad? The “Military
Commissions Act” which passed the Republican-led Congress
yesterday is a bigger blow to the Constitution and our core
values than any piece of legislation in our 200 year history. It
is 100 times worse than Bin Laden's crimes on 9-11.
In a 253 to 168 “party-line” vote, the congress repealed habeas
corpus and approved the torturing of prisoners in American
custody. It is breathtaking assault on human rights and personal
liberty and puts the United States well-outside the community of
civilized nations. It will ultimately be up to the Supreme Court
to decide whether to strike down this "affront to democracy" or
let the law stand as is.
If the bill passes the Senate, the administration will be able
to arrest whomever it chooses and lock them up indefinitely
without due process. Suspects in Bush’s war on terror will no
longer have the right to challenge the terms of their detention
or to even know why they have been incarcerated.
The congressmen who supported this mockery have put their
contempt for freedom on full display. They have rescinded the
oldest and most treasured principle in American jurisprudence
dating back 800 years to the Magna Carta. Habeas corpus is the
fundamental protection that the one has from the tyrannical and
erratic actions of the state.
The proposed legislation allows the president to apply the
moniker of “enemy combatant” to any terror “suspect” taken into
US custody and strip him of all his human rights. The president
is under no obligation to file charges or provide evidence of
guilt. The arrest is completely arbitrary and depends entirely
on the discretion (whims?) of the executive. It is a flat
rejection of the basic belief that “men are innocent until
Here’s what Winston Churchill said about habeas corpus, “The
power of the executive to cast a man into prison without
formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to
deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree
odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government
whether Nazi or Communist.”
The bill is another example of Bush's lawyerly “hairsplitting”
which is aimed at gutting the clearly articulated provisions of
the Geneva Conventions so that he can carry out his
torture-regime with impunity. There is nothing “vague” about
“cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment. It is a standard that
has never been challenged in its 57 year history. Until now.
According to the Washington Post the bill “would give the
executive branch substantial leeway in deciding how to comply
with treaty obligations that fall short of ‘grave breaches’ of
Geneva was designed to protect prisoners from physical or
psychological harm. It is intentionally broad to prevent any
punishment that involves the inflicting of pain on detainees.
Bush has turned Geneva on its head in an effort to maximize
detainee suffering while complying with the letter of the law.
To that end, the administration has said that “the term ‘cruel
and inhuman’ should only apply to techniques resulting in
‘severe’ physical or mental pain….The abused detainee’s symptoms
would have to include ‘serious and non-transitory mental harm.”’
There’s no reason for Bush to pursue this particular track
except to expand his personal power and put himself above the
law. Injustice only fuels radicalism and undermines the stated
goals in the war on terror.
The congress fully understands the implications of their
support. They’re giving Bush a free pass to torment and abuse as
he sees fit while providing him with the legal cover he needs
for his “alternative techniques” (“outrages to human dignity”)
Their vote makes them equally complicit in the inevitable
hooding, sense deprivation, hypothermia, stress positions,
isolation and water-boarding of countless victims of Bush’s
deplorable war of terror.
Like Lady Macbeth the Congress’ avers:
“I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.” (Macbeth 3. 4)
The country is in the advanced stages of moral decay. The
Military Commissions Act is not a law at all; it is an
expression of Congress’ intention to carry out war crimes
against defenseless victims in their charge. The men who
supported this bill should be held accountable for its
inevitable and appalling consequences.
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