The legislation that passed the senate yesterday, which legalizes torture, suspends habeas corpus, strips judicial oversight, and includes war crimes immunity in an effort to turn this proud nation into a Potemkin democracy, is in my opinion the saddest moment of our national history post-9/11. My favorite analyses:
- New York Times: “ Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.”
- Salon: “ The Senate’s rush to judgment underscores the dangers of negotiating with the Bush administration once the White House takes an extreme position. The three GOP dealmakers (Graham, John McCain and Senate Armed Service Committee chairman John Warner) succeeded in their effort to get the president to retreat from his deliberate attempt to eviscerate the Geneva Conventions and undermine the Supreme Court decision in the Hamdan case. The Senate Republican troika were aided in their headline-making efforts to outlaw torture by an army of former military lawyers and such high-profile recruits as former Secretary of State Colin Powell. But history may judge this to be a Pyrrhic victory. In exchange, the White House was allowed to blatantly rewrite the pending legislation in regard to habeas corpus and the definition of enemy combatants.”
- From the Salmon: “These prisoners will have no legal recourse to challenge their imprisonment, and should the president ever decide to bring them before a military tribunal, they can be convicted using secret evidence and evidence obtained through coercion or hearsay. And since we can’t afford accountability while we’re at war, we’ve also made these changes retroactive, to absolve the executive branch of past criminal acts.”
- The Baltimore Chronicle & Tribune: “The Republican senators flinched, and in last week’s so-called “compromise” chose Bush over the Constitution. In doing so, they turned their backs on a rule of law that stretches back over nearly eight centuries to an epic moment in 1215 on a meadow by the River Thames in the United Kingdom.”
- Alexander Hamilton: “The establishment of the writ of habeas corpus … are perhaps greater securities to liberty and republicanism than any it [the Constitution] contains. …[T]he practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. …To bereave a man of life, … or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore A MORE DANGEROUS ENGINE of arbitrary government.”
- Thomas Jefferson: “… trial by juries in all cases, no suspensions of the habeas corpus… These are fetters against doing evil, which no honest government should decline.”
Well, we’re now about a month from the accountability moment, as Bush called the 2004 election. I think it’s time that all Americans who care about whether we preserve the principles on which this country was founded stand up and show the Congress what we think of this hollowing out of our democratic heritage.