Monday, June 16, 2008
Liberty Is A Scary, Scary Thing
A combination of a slightly hectic schedule and my Internet connection being hit with some strange wasting disease that reduces it to sub-DSL speeds has left me probably the last person to comment on the recent Boumediene v. Bush decision, where the Supreme Court found 5-4 that the right to habeas corpus extends to detainees. Keep in mind that the Supreme Court is not making new law here, but effectively reasserting old law by declaring the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which codified the denial of habeas corpus to detainees, to be unconstitutional.
I want you to remember that word -- "detainees." Because, as has been mentioned again, and again, and again, the prisoners at Guantanamo are not prisoners of war. They are placed into a special category created by the Pentagon that puts them somewhere between common criminals and prisoners of war, but denies them the full rights of either. Unlike criminals, they are denied the right to fair representation and the right to a speedy trial, with some having been in Guantanamo for six years without charges brought against them. Unlike prisoners of war, there is no rock-solid guarantee that they will not be tortured. The executive branch attempted to create a new category for them, the legislature backed them up at points, and the judicial branch has, once again, restored some of their rights.
So, how are the cheerleaders of this great plan taking the recent decision? They are throwing what could best be described as a shit fit. John McCain, who stood up for the rights of detainees until he decided it wasn't politically expedient, declared the ruling "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country". Newt Gingrich answers the inevitable question McCain's opinion raises -- "What, worse than Dred Scott?" -- with the answer that yes, it is worse than Dred Scott, and will likely cost us a city. But this is nothing compared to Lindsey Graham, who has honestly suggested proposing a constitutional amendment that would derail the decision.
Just look at some of the rhetoric on display. "Smugglers with nuclear bombs." "They get better treatment than the Nazis did." There is again, as always, this attempt to cast the detainees at Guantanamo Bay as boogeymen that must be locked in the deepest, darkest closet, all in the name of freedom. This rhetoric ignores the fact that the Nazis had the rights they did because those rights were codified by international law instead of existing in some sort of legal limbo, and that hundreds of the detainees at Guantanamo were likely innocent men set up by tribal leaders and local authorities in the name of rewards and revenge. But all those who follow the current administration's dogma want you to know that they're truly dangerous men, so dangerous that we must lop off a piece of the Constitution to make sure that they never harm us again.