A Day of National Shame
Thursday 28 September 2006 will be a day that future U.S. schoolchildren will learn as a day of national shame, one of the lowpoints in the history of our national morality. Why? 1) First, the U.S. Senate joined the House in passing a bill on detaining, interrogating, and prosecuting terrorist suspects. While it rules out direct torture, this bill will allow “harsh interrogation” (read: secret detentions and “torture lite”) by the CIA, it will allow evidence so gathered and hearsay evidence to be used in the military tribunals, it allows the President almost complete unilateral power in deciding who gets interrogated and by what methods, and it denies habeas corpus (the ability to force the govt. to show a judge probable cause for their detention) to all foreign nationals designated as terrorist suspects. As Molly Ivins reminds us, the right of habeas corpus has been a part of our legal tradition since 1215 C.E. when English nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. Congress has just traded that away and Bush is set to set back our legal protections 800 years! (The Bush admin. has pointed to Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus in holding suspected traitors during the Civil War, but this argument completely fails to mention that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Lincoln’s actions unconstitutionl in Ex Parte Milligan (1866). It also points to the fact that prisoners of war captured in WWII were held for the duration of the war and had no habeas corpus. That argument is also irrelevant since that was a declared war with recognizable soldiers in uniform and would come to a definable end. The so-called “war on terrorism” is not a real, declared war against another nation. Terrorist suspects are suspected to be guilty of crimes and therefore need to be charged and tried under fair rules or released.) It is likely that this bill will be declared unconstitutional when it reaches the Supreme Court, although this particular Court is now so rightwing that one can never be sure.
In an article in Slate, the question is asked whether the Abu Ghraib photos, so shocking at the time, allowed U.S. citizens to “get used to ” torture and so the inhumane treatment of prisoners by Americans morphed from “scandal” to “declared policy,” to “law.” Thus, we little-by-little come to justify evil in the name of fighting evil–and so destroy from within the democracy we claim to want to save.
2) The shame continued as the House of Representatives voted to approve the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, overturning the 1978 FISA law and, more importantly, the 4th Amendment.
In each case, some few Democrats joined a majority of Republicans in these evil moves. Find out how your Representative and Senators voted and be sure to express your outrage in the voting booth in November!
Since President Bush pushed hard for both these shameful anti-human rights laws, there is little chance that he won’t sign them. But maybe we can hope for a miracle: If THOUSANDS OR HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people, especially Christians, flood the White House Comment Line and demand that he veto these bills he has so wanted, we might redeem this day. Call 202-456-6213 and, if you are a Christian, say so. Say so as well if you are a Republican. Our only chance now is for the base to desert the president on this issue. We also must flood media outlets with letters expressing our extreme disapproval.
“I fear for my nation when I remember that God is just.” Thomas Jefferson.
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