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
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.
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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