Sunday, November 13, 2005

Weakening the Foundation

Below are five names you should mark in your little book. You may not need them this year or next but it won't be too many years before you can point to them and say with authority that these were the Senators that sold our most fundamental right down the river. These are the Senators that spat on the civil right considered so important by our founding fathers that it alone was embodied in the Constitution where the others were attached in the Bill of Rights.

These are "opposition party" Senators that voted with the Republican majority that threw out the right of Habeas Corpus for the foriegn nationals being held in Guantanamo that was so recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

Kent Conrad - North Dakota
Joe Lieberman - Connecticut
Mary Landrieu - Louisiana
Ben Nelson - Nebraska
Ron Wyden - Oregon

Why should we be concerned that this fundamental right to grievance was eliminated for these "so called" enemy combatants? They are not citizens. The right still applies to citizens.

One of our founding principles is that "all men are created equal" and the right of habeas corpus which dates back to the Magna Carta is fundamentally intertwined with that concept. Any action by government that weakens or moves away from this fundamental principle is setting a dangerous precedent that will make it that much easier to weaken its application to ordinary citizens.

The right of habeas corpus is our protection from unfair imprisonment by the majority... if you are arrested under false pretenses or without charges you have a right to petition a court to have the charges against you spelled out and justified with respect to the laws of the country. If the state cannot justify its right to hold you lawfully, you must be set free.

While this new Senate law only applies to foriegn nationals it is asking us to accept some mighty big assumptions and with the latest revelations on torture, false imprisonment, lying and general lousy and untrustworthy behaviour they are mighty assumptions indeed.

One, the Senate wants us to assume that the our govenment is "doing the right thing" without supervision of the courts or other outside monitor. No thanks.

Two, we are supposed to believe that everyone being held is absolutely guilty and doesn't deserve any other legal consideration. No thanks.

Three, we should trust the military tribunals to completely address all of the constitutional issues with respect to the detainees especially considering how they have had little or no legal counsel. No thanks.

Four, we are to just blindly agree to accept one standard of justice for ourselves and another for foriegners. No thanks.

Five, we are supposed to assume that just because we do not honor our acceptance of the Geneva Conventions and the Annex to the Hague Conventions we expect other govenments to do so when handling our citizens. No thanks.

It is these little "nibbles" at our civil rights that we must be most diligent about. They don't individually seem to amount to much but each one takes a stone or two from the foundation of our civil liberties. Each stone removed from the foundation weakens it and sooner or later the structure of our democracy will collapse because of it.

ReddHedd over at Firedoglake has done an excellent job of discussing this and since she is a lawyer has a much better take on it than I.

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