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Friday, June 13, 2008

The Jewel of Liberty

Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings -- give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else!... Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel.
-Patrick Henry

I went Constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald's blog at Salon to get the skinny on yesterday's Supreme Court decision ruling that prisoners at Guantanamo have habeas corpus rights. That quote comes from his post. It pretty much says it all. If we give up everything this nation stands for in order to protect it, what are we protecting? Once again, the idea that we're "fighting for freedom" is shown to be a bunch of crap. We're fighting for authoritarianism, which has much more in common with modern day China than those original thirteen colonies.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that you don't get to lock people up forever without having to prove you've got a damned good reason to do it. That's it. They didn't set anyone free, they didn't keep anyone from being arrested, they didn't order Gitmo burned to the ground. All they did was require that the military and the administration give some good reason for keeping people in a dungeon.

The reaction on the right has been predictable. The BS flies fast and furious. The one response that really got to me while I was looking for reactions was Sen. Lindsey Graham's. "I am deeply disappointed in what I think is a tremendously dangerous and irresponsible ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court," Graham said. "The court has conferred upon civilian judges the right to make military decisions. These judges have virtually no training in military matters yet civilian judges, in some of the most liberal district courts in the country, will have an opportunity to determine who is a threat to the United States."

It's that "in some of the most liberal district courts in the country" that gets me. For the record, Lindsey Graham's a freakin' prick. What he's saying is that liberal judges aren't real judges and paints them as terrorist sympathizers. There aren't many people in government that I actually hate -- Lindsey Graham just made that short list with this divisive and stupid statement.

The second worst reaction came from the Supreme Court itself. In writing the dissenting opinion, Antonin Scalia decided to fearmonger and demagogue from the bench. "The game of bait-and-switch that today’s opinion plays upon the Nation’s Commander in Chief will make the war harder on us," Scalia wrote. "It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."

What BS. What laughable, ridiculous BS. Again, all the decision does is require that government prove it has a reason to imprison these people. If they've got a good reason, they should be able to prove it easily. If they can't prove they've got a good reason, then they don't have one. Scalia knows this, but is an authoritarian ass who's not very protective of Patrick Henry's jewel of liberty. Scalia sounds like he's writing for the White House press office. It's pathetic and insulting to have a Justice propagandize from the bench like this.

Other reactions have been more admirable, more thoughtful, and more sane. The aforementioned Greenwald writes, "Our political and media elite were more than willing -- they were eager -- to relinquish [habeas corpus rights] to the President in the name of keeping us Safe from Terrorists. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court, in what will be one of the most celebrated landmark rulings of this generation, re-instated that basic right, and in so doing, restored one of the most critical safeguards against the very tyranny this country was founded to prevent."

The argument that we have to give up some freedom to save it died a little bit yesterday. Good riddance, it's a stupid argument. If we give up freedom to fight an enemy, what exactly is it that we're protecting? The neocons keep telling us that "terrorists hate our freedom," then argue that we should give up freedom to fight them. I'm sorry, who hates freedom again?

The fact is that the Bush administration has been using the excuse of a "War on Terror" to consolidate power in the executive branch. In claiming the powers of a "wartime president," Bush has become a dictatorial president who insists no law applies to him or anyone in his administration. Like any dictator, he's the only one guaranteed freedom. When someone takes your rights from you, it's foolish to believe that they'll give them back when it's safe for you to have them again. And, since Bush argues that his war is open-ended (read, unending), he gives himself and future executives the same power any time they want. If a president wants to limit freedom and expand their own power, all they need to do is start a stupid, brutal, and needless war and they get to do any damned thing they want to. Commander in Chief of the Military becomes the Commander in Chief of Everything.

"Today's Supreme Court decision is yet another stinging rebuke of the Bush administration's extreme views on executive power..." said Sen. Russ Feingold. "It is a testament to our system of government that the Court has rejected the habeas-stripping provisions of the Military Commissions Act and reaffirmed that the government does not have the power to detain people indefinitely and arbitrarily without judicial review. The writ of habeas corpus provides one of the most significant protections of human freedom against arbitrary government action ever created. We can and must fight terrorists without abandoning the principles on which our country was founded.”

The neocon right's argument is the opposite of Feingold's; that we must not "fight terrorists without abandoning the principles on which our country was founded." That we must give up everything this country stands for to fight an ephemeral and poorly-defined foe. Terrorism is using fear to affect political change; by that definition, Graham and Scalia and Bush and the rest of these neocon morons are terrorists. They use your fear of terrorism to get you to give them whatever it is they want.

And what they want is that jewel of liberty. What they want is authoritarianism. What they want is personal power and a population so terrified they'll give up anything to feel just a little safer.

They act as if the Supreme Court stole something from them yesterday, but what the court really did was give something back to you.

It's about damned time. It was no one's to take.


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1 comment:

Sven said...

Good Job! :)