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(DV) Sanders: Enemies of Democracy







Enemies of Democracy
by Ken Sanders
November 14, 2005

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In yet another disturbing example of our leaders' contempt for such antiquated notions as democracy and the rule of law, on November 10, 2005, the U.S. Senate voted to prevent suspects detained at Guantanamo Bay from challenging their detentions. The Senate's decision (which will surely be adopted by the facile House) would eviscerate the 2004 Supreme Court decision which held that the detention centers at Guantanamo were not outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law. 

As a result of the Senate's vote, Guantanamo detainees would no longer be able to challenge the very basis for their detention. In other words, they would no longer be entitled to demand that the U.S. demonstrate that it has good reason (hell, any reason) to suspect an individual of terrorist activity. Detainees, who are only suspected of terrorism, would no longer have access to any legal proceedings (not even the sham proceedings they are currently afforded) in order to demand some kind of legal and factual foundation for the allegations leveled against them. 

"So what?" you ask. Why should anyone care whether or not a bunch of Islamo-fascists, enemy combatants, and subhuman terrorists get anything resembling due process? Well, first of all, other than the highly questionable word of our feckless government, there is no evidence that those detained at Guantanamo have done anything wrong, much less threatening to the United States. Indeed, since the inception of the "war on terror" and the Bush administration's extra-judicial detention of "enemy combatants," more than 200 detainees have been released from Guantanamo. Why? Because they had not done anything wrong. In short, they were innocent. 

Several of those released from Guantanamo were released following the administrative hearings into their detention -- hearings which occurred only because they were required by the Supreme Court. The Senate now wants to eliminate the very hearings that have resulted in the liberation of hundreds of wrongly suspected, detained, and interrogated individuals. The Senate wants to give the Bush administration unfettered discretion to detain anyone it chooses to label as the enemy, regardless of that person's actual innocence. 

There is nothing just about the baseless detention of innocent people. Indeed, it is emphatically unjust to indefinitely detain innocent people without charge and without legal recourse. It is not merely unjust, but indefensible. It is outrageous and contrary to everything for which this country, its government, and its people profess to stand. 

The Senate's recent vote is further horrifying in that it grants the Bush administration the absolute and extra-legal authority it had previously granted itself -- an authority the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional. Thanks to the Senate, the Bush administration once again has the authority to determine who is an enemy combatant, detain them without charge or evidence, and throw away the key. Put differently, the Senate has effectively placed the Bush administration above the law and has eliminated the judiciary as a check on the administration's actions. 

That the Republican Senate (soon to followed by the Republican House) seeks to exempt the Republican administration from the constraints of the Constitution and the rule of law should be offensive to all Americans. It should be particularly offensive to those who claim to be conservatives. Long the champions (even if in word only) of holding the government to the parameters originally envisioned by the Founders, so-called conservatives decry anything that deviates from the original intent of the Constitution. By granting the Bush administration the unfettered and unchecked authority to detain whomever it wants for however long it wants, Congress has obliterated the limits and safeguards required by the Constitution. As such, those who call themselves conservatives ought to be up in arms over the Congress' subversion and perversion of fundamental Constitutional principles. 

Of course, since most of the self-described conservatives are merely Republicans in principled clothing, they applaud a Republican Congress' granting of absolute power to the Republican President. That the Constitution is reduced to a collection of inspirational phrases is a worthy sacrifice. After all, the continued dominance of the Republican party vastly outweighs the continued validity of the Constitution. 

Through their vote to vest Bush with an emperor's authority, the Senate has betrayed its hatred and contempt for the Constitution, the U.S., and fundamental democratic principles. By exempting the Bush administration from the quaint requirements of the Constitution, the Senate has made great strides toward completing this country's transformation from democracy to dictatorship.

Ken Sanders is a lawyer and writer in Tucson whose publishing credits include Op Ed News, Z Magazine, Common Dreams, Democratic Underground, Dissident Voice, and Political Affairs Magazine, among others. All of his articles may be found at:

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