Friday, October 13, 2006

Why Does Habeas Corpus Hate America So Much?

Near the end of September, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006. George Bush, Jr. had previously declared the Act critical for our country’s protection; but he did not sign the Act immediately, perhaps because a scandal erupted over a Congressman from Florida who had sent sexually charged internet messages to Congressional pages.

The Military Commissions Act raises a two-fold defense of the United States; so of course, it was opposed by Democrats. The first provision permits the torture of captives by enabling George Bush, Jr. to define torture as non-torture. After World War II, for example, the U.S. prosecuted Japanese war criminals for “water-boarding” Americans. Now that we are water-boarding prisoners, it’s clear that the practice isn’t really so bad. Besides, we need every technique at our disposal to save the nation.

Incredibly, during debate over the Act, Senator Hillary Clinton dredged up our own Revolutionary War, when George Washington led his troops across the Delaware River. Insurgents held by Britain had been tortured and murdered. Washington faced a decision on the treatment of troops captured by his own rebel forces. He issued this order —

Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren.

In the post-9/11 world, we can only wonder why George Washington hated America so much.

The second defense created by the Military Commissions Act is the elimination of habeas corpus — the silly notion codified in 1215 that a prisoner has the right to appear in court and demand the state show cause for his imprisonment. The Act does away with that pre-9/11 nonsense, prompting Keith Olbermann of M.S.N.B.C. to ask why habeas corpus hates America so much.

Alas, there is a problem. An obscure document called the Constitution permits suspension of habeas corpus only in the event of domestic insurrection or foreign invasion. But let’s face it, 9/11 changed everything. If we support the Constitution now, then the terrorists have won.


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