Nov 11, 2005

Senate votes 49-42 to strip habeas corpus rights of detainees

What is this country coming to? The Supreme Court startled court watchers by ruling 6-3 in 2004 to allow detainees in Guantanamo, the so-called "enemy combatants" to get their day in court as a function of habeas rights afforded via the Constitution. Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of my least favorite states in the Union for a whole multitude of reasons, pushed an amendment across the Senate that just passed on a slim margin. What this, in effect, does, is strip persons being held in the United States of one of the fundamental rights that our Constitution gives to all people, regardless of citizenship or other status: the right to procedural due process, as afforded by the 14th amendment. Prof. Neal Katyal, who is preparing arguments for the Hamdan case, and speaking on this topic recently, said that the use of the word "persons" in the particular clause of the 14th Amendment, instead of "citizens," was deliberate by the drafters at the time, and remains a critical link to maintain a fragile balance between the questionable selective enforcement of our own laws in the United States and the world community that continues to move forward in a more developed understanding of human rights and international law.

But even leaving all of that on the side for the moment, the real kicker for me was this:

"Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and one of four Republicans to vote against the measure, said the Senate was unduly rushing into a major legal shift without enough debate. "I believe the habeas corpus provision needs to be maintained," Mr. Specter said.


In addition to Mr. Specter, Republicans voting against the bill were Senators John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. The five Democrats voting for the bill were Senators Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon."

Dude - it's time to cut some of these people loose. First, I hate Joe Lieberman. I've never liked him, I think that he's a disgrace as a Democrat, and he should just switch aisles officially, because his votes are so far right that he makes Specter look like a flaming liberal. Joe Lieberman should be defeated as soon as possible: if it means running a really aggressive campaign to knock him out at the primary stage, so be it. He should not remain at the table - he makes Clinton look like a revolutionary. I think that liberals should mobilize the way that the crazies did to try to knock Specter out of PA with a hard-right guy. They lost, and I'm thankful, considering, but I think that Lieberman should be shipped off as an ambassador to the moon and left on the history books as an also-ran. I hate Lieberman so much that it makes me glad that I didn't vote for Gore in 2000. I think Lieberman was the reason, actually - he's a disgrace to his forebears in the country, who built many of the progressive organizations that remain fighting for true democracy, and the many who fought for true democratic values - not pseudo-morality, war-mongering, or whatever else Joe stands for. Connecticut may still love him, but Connecticut has to wake up. Moneyed state that it is, I'd rather have a moderate Republican than a hyper-Conservative Democrat. VOTE LIEBERMAN OUT!

That goes for the other four. Why isn't the Democratic leadership reeling in these people? Why do Nebraska, North Dakota, and Louisiana get to weigh in this significantly? Yet another reason why we should have more of a proportional democracy than we do, and why people in the midwest have more relative political power than those of us on the Coasts.

But enough of my hating - I don't know enough about the folks on the other side of the aisle, save for Specter, but I think that if you're from one of those states, you should give their office a call to find out why they voted it down... and if it's not because they think it should be harsher (you know - "I won't approve of this amendment unless they pledge to kill all them foreigners!"), but because they, like Specter, believe that a fundamental function of our justice system is being gutted by legislative fanatics and isolationists who can't understand that this ridiculous idea of closing off the system of justice to non-citizens held as "enemy combatants" will haunt our soldiers in the future, as it did during WWII, when American pilots carpetbombing Japan were captured by the Japanese military, claimed that they had rights as per the Geneva convention and even Japanese military commissions, denied those rights as "enemy combatants" and executed. We don't live in a world where these things don't happen, and I can't believe that people can be so shortsighted as not to see the ramifications of these regressive policies to strip away the rights of suspects. For more on that historical tip, check out this great article by Jess Brevin of the Wall Street Journal.

Frankly, I don't have faith that many of these folks who are in captivity are more than tertiary or even secondary sources, if anything at all, but with all the time that's passed, the snippets of information that indicates that conditions are less than humane, and the expectation that something should come from all of the heat that the administration has taken for keeping folks there for so long without access to justice or the means to prove that they are not complicit in this amorphous "war against terror," I think that the heat is on for the Administration to make something appear out of it all. If they don't have anything that they can show for this situation in Guantanamo, they're heading down a very difficult path, and histrionics of Rush "Club Gitmo" Limbaugh and Michelle "can't-sing-enough-songs-for-the-white-man" Malkin notwithstanding, they may start getting desperate to show that they aren't the bad guys in all of this, and that they "have the bad guys locked up."

Maybe I have more faith in the American public than to believe that they will just sit there and not care that their government has perpetrated fraud and lies in their name, and in the name of the country that they seem to value so much. But Americans are so insular. So closed off and clueless about the world. So smug about "America," even in their true ignorance about the nation itself. But perhaps I just mean middle-America, wherever that is. Maybe I just mean white America, whatever that is. Maybe I just mean anyone but me, though as an American, I'm also pretty limited in my scope sometimes. But at least I can admit that, enit? And somewhere in that, perhaps, lies the hope that others can break out of the coma that the nation wrapped itself into after the assassinations of the 60s and move on with the world. The world is growing up... shouldn't we too?

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