Friday, September 29, 2006

They Know Not What They Do

It's pretty rare you're hear this blogger quoting Jesus on any subject. But I'd imagine the man would have some pretty choice words on the issue of torture specifically, and being railroaded to "justice" without cause generally. And while I am optimistic that the courts will enjoin at least some of the more appalling provisions, it is every person's duty stand up and oppose this hideous blot on our nation's character and conscience.

The bill itself is, to put it gently, indefensible. The Washington Post sums up just a few of its naked violations against the civil rights we've expected since the era of the Magna Carta:
The Senate joined the House in embracing President Bush's view that the battle against terrorism justifies the imposition of extraordinary limits on defendants' traditional rights in the courtroom. They include restrictions on a suspect's ability to challenge his detention, examine all evidence against him, and bar testimony allegedly acquired through coercion of witnesses.

It's important to note that the most horrifying portions of this bill are how they eviscerate protections at the procedural level. One can believe that we should treat illegal combatants differently than POWs--I agree. But as was pointed out by Stanford Law Professor and detainee expert Jenny Martinez, it is an inversion of basic principles of justice to apply said punishment as part of the procedure for determining who deserves the punishment itself. Or to use her rhetoric:
Holding military commission trials that do not afford basic due process saying that the best way to deter street crime is by subjecting street criminals to kangaroo courts. The necessary deterrence ought to be provided by the ultimate punishment imposed, not by the process itself. [emphasis added]

Or in otherwords, "you're a terrorist, so you can't challenge whether you're a terrorist, because that would give terrorists rights." It's unreal.

It seems there are two minds among commenters opposed to this radical abuse of power. The basic question is whether or not the Senators and Representatives really recognized the gravity of what they've done. Two of the most respected legal scholars in America today could barely contain their shock over the bill's provisions:
University of Texas constitutional law professor Sanford V. Levinson described the bill in an Internet posting as the mark of a "banana republic." Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh said that "the image of Congress rushing to strip jurisdiction from the courts in response to a politically created emergency is really quite shocking, and it's not clear that most of the members understand what they've done."

On the one hand, it seems impossible that anyone could dispassionately look at these provisions, realize they are essentially disregarding the basic panoply of rights that have been protected since the 13th century, and still vote in favor of the bill. I can't believe that there are over 60 senators that really have that little respect for basic legal protections. On the other hand, this debate was public, open, and it seems equally impossible to believe that our elected representatives wholly ignored the huge cry of alarm that arose from those who recognized this bill for what it was. What exactly have they been doing over these past few weeks?

My own belief is that the people who voted for this bill deluded themselves. They are vaguely aware of how awful it is. But they have managed to convince themselves (by any number of intellectual gymnastics that I can't even fathom) that the bill is necessary, or not so bad, or that these are terrorists and we can do whatever we want to them, or soemthing. And thus they vote "yea", because they don't want to look weak (or they want to make Democrats look weak). After all, for all the desperate attempts for our constitutional guardians to sound the alarms, this bill went off with a whimper, not a bang. Whatever the reason, these people are not living in reality.

And as far as I can tell, I'm not living in America.


Trickish Knave said...

"...just a few of its naked violations against the civil rights we've expected since the era of the Magna Carta."

Therein lies the real debate: How can a government grant civil rights to terrorists who are not, in and of themselves, civil?

Why do we as a nation feel obligated to treat people who perceive kindness and appeasment as weakness and use those sentiments against their enemies?

It is much more than, at a risk of using scripture myself, a "Do unto others" philosophy. That doesn't work with radical Islamists. The new Testament subjugates the OT with weapons of peace and tolerance but it is dangerous to play the WWJD? hpyotheticals when dealing with Islamofacists. It is dangerous because the conclusion ends up being,"Turn the other cheek- and let them follow through with their rusty butterknife."

Why are we supposed to give terrorists trial rights? Because we are a civilized society? Because it is the right thing to do?

I am not promoting a system of trials for terrorists consistent with those of Nuremburg but I don't think they should enjoy the same judicial process as American citizens who break our laws.

Anonymous said...

Trickish knave, did you even read the post?

We don't know someone is a terrorist until there is a fair trial. If we simply assume that someone is a terrorist because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, (or because they offended the wrong official) and then take away their right to a fair trial, that is a great injustice. It is wrong, and it is not what our nation stands for. This injustice must not stand.

If you call yourself a Christian, then you cannot think of WWJD as a "hypothetical." Jesus surely didn't think that dying on the cross for your sins was a hypothetical proposition. To suggest that you would not follow Christ's teachings simply because your enemy does not follow them suggests that you are a moral coward.

May your God forgive you.

Anonymous said...

Hey, sorry being a troll, but I'd like to point out something that makes it very obvious why many Americans treat this bill as Not Such A Big Deal or perhaps, It Can't Happen To Me.

The reason? Stereotypes.

EVERYONE knows Islamic terrorists wear turbans. They also have beards. They have dark skin. They smell funny. They babble constantly in a gibbering language, and they hoot and whoop as if they were Howler monkeys. They give praise to a heathen god. Their eyes are always alight with a demonic zeal, and they can barely contain their sheer hate for Jews and Caucasians in their loathsome bodies.

See how obvious and easy it is to spot a terrorist? Such creatures obviously don't deserve freedoms or mercy. So why object to torturing them?

After all, it's not like they're human.

Anonymous said...

What people are missing here is that anyone can be labeled a terrorist, strictly at the whim of the president, and there is absolutely no recourse. Habeas Corpus is no more. It can happen to anyone, anyone at all.

Anonymous said...

I honestly can't get my head around McCain's blessing of this monstrosity. I just can't get past it. I can't find a word in english that describes my feeling about his involvement.

I'm not a "supporter," but I've met him on a couple of occasions, "Faith of My Fathers" has a place on my bookshelf, and I've always respected his credibility on these issues.

How could he allow this to happen on his watch - and provide the most damaging cover for it?

Is this John McCain's legacy?

jack said...

anonymous: Short answer: yes.

McCain has never been a real maverick. He just manages to play the media like a fiddle and has the occasional not-so-conservative position. But through and through he's just an opportuntist. He still wants to be president and the Republican Party won't nominate someone who opposes this shit. Unfortunately for him everyone is realizing the emperor has no cloths.

Meanwhile the Republican Party is actually batshit insane. These are seriously the most mentally derranged people to ever run a country. The Party Leadership is basically made up of Christian death cultists, self-hating pedophiles and sociopathic power mongers straight out of 1984. The careerists and robber-baron class warriors are the best ones in the bunch!

And here I sound like some moonbat radical. Seriously, once upon a time I wanted to vote for John McCain. I said I would have supported him over Al Gore.

Anonymous said...

Hey, what do you think of this?

Here's the link:

Here's the entire text, in caseyou don't have access to the Post:

Legislating Violations of the Constitution

By Erwin Chemerinsky

With little public attention or even notice, the House of Representatives has passed a bill that undermines enforcement of the First Amendment's separation of church and state. The Public Expression of Religion Act - H.R. 2679 - provides that attorneys who successfully challenge government actions as violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment shall not be entitled to recover attorneys fees. The bill has only one purpose: to prevent suits challenging unconstitutional government actions advancing religion.

A federal statute, 42 United States Code section 1988, provides that attorneys are entitled to recover compensation for their fees if they successfully represent a plaintiff asserting a violation of his or her constitutional or civil rights. For example, a lawyer who successfully sues on behalf of a victim of racial discrimination or police abuse is entitled to recover attorney's fees from the defendant who acted wrongfully. Any plaintiff who successfully sues to remedy a violation of the Constitution or a federal civil rights statute is entitled to have his or her attorney's fees paid.

Congress adopted this statute for a simple reason: to encourage attorneys to bring cases on behalf of those whose rights have been violated. Congress was concerned that such individuals often cannot afford an attorney and vindicating constitutional rights rarely generates enough in damages to pay a lawyer on a contingency fee basis.

Without this statute, there is no way to compensate attorneys who successfully sue for injunctions to stop unconstitutional government behavior. Congress rightly recognized that attorneys who bring such actions are serving society's interests by stopping the government from violating the Constitution. Indeed, the potential for such suits deters government wrong-doing and increases the likelihood that the Constitution will be followed.

The attorneys' fees statute has worked well for almost 30 years. Lawyers receive attorneys' fees under the law only if their claim is meritorious and they win in court. Unsuccessful lawyers get nothing under the law. This creates a strong disincentive to frivolous suits and encourages lawyers to bring only clearly meritorious ones.

Despite the effectiveness of this statute, conservatives in the House of Representatives have now passed an insidious bill to try and limit enforcement of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, by denying attorneys fees to lawyers who successfully challenge government actions as violating this key constitutional provision. For instance, a lawyer who successfully challenged unconstitutional prayers in schools or unconstitutional symbols on religious property or impermissible aid to religious groups would -- under the bill -- not be entitled to recover attorneys' fees. The bill, if enacted, would treat suits to enforce the Establishment Clause different from litigation to enforce all of the other provisions of the Constitution and federal civil rights statutes.

Such a bill could have only one motive: to protect unconstitutional government actions advancing religion. The religious right, which has been trying for years to use government to advance their religious views, wants to reduce the likelihood that their efforts will be declared unconstitutional. Since they cannot change the law of the Establishment Clause by statute, they have turned their attention to trying to prevent its enforcement by eliminating the possibility for recovery of attorneys' fees.

Those who successfully prove the government has violated their constitutional rights would, under the bill, be required to pay their own legal fees. Few people can afford to do so. Without the possibility of attorneys' fees, individuals who suffer unconstitutional religious persecution often will be unable to sue. The bill applies even to cases involving illegal religious coercion of public school children or blatant discrimination against particular religions.

The passage of this bill by the House is a disturbing achievement by those who seek to undermine our nation's commitment to fundamental freedoms laid out in the Constitution. Should it come up for a vote, it is imperative that the Senate reject this nefarious proposal. The religious right is looking for a way to get away with violating the Establishment Clause and is now one step closer to this goal. The Establishment Clause is no less important than any other part of the Bill of Rights and suits to enforce it should be treated no differently than any other litigation to enforce civil liberties and civil rights

Erwin Chemerinsky is the Alston & Bird Professor of Law and Political Science, at Duke University.

Glad to see people are reading your blog. Keep it up!

Trickish Knave said...

Trickish knave, did you even read the post?

No, Adam, I just read the first 5 1/2 lines of a post then make comments about it. Or am I not supposed to expound on the author’s post?

/sarcasm OFF

We don't know someone is a terrorist until there is a fair trial.

Did you read my post? It appears you have taken my statement regarding fanaticism and wrapped in a holier-than-thou blanket statement concerning people who 'might be' terrorists.

At the risk of offending you further with another WWJD comment, how can you seriously stand behind a passive wall of guilt and not take a stand against radical jihadists, of which my comments referred?

Spare me your pitiful attempt at self righteousness by calling me a moral coward and asking Almighty to 'forgive me'. I'm already forgiven, or didn't you read that part in Sunday school? Attacking religious beliefs instead of my original question appears more cowardly than me not turning the other cheek when it comes to Islamofacists.

If we simply assume that someone is a terrorist because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, (or because they offended the wrong official) and then take away their right to a fair trial, that is a great injustice.

If it looks like a turd, if it smells like a turd…

If you call yourself a Christian, then you cannot think of WWJD as a "hypothetical." Jesus surely didn't think that dying on the cross for your sins was a hypothetical proposition.

You really need to reread my post and not let emotion dictate your responses. My WWJD had nothing to do with the hypotheticals of Christ’s divinity, only the hypotheticals of playing the what-if game with terrorists, or more specifically, turning the other cheek. It is shameful that people like you believe that defending yourself against evil is breaking the code of Jesus’ teachings. We are allowed to defend ourselves and our families; I leave the research of those verses to you.

dicconzane said...

My personal view is far too many people are easily led without knowing enough. People either don't have the time or the will to get to know a lot about what is actually going on happy to accept what is fed them on anything that is unlikely to effect them directly. Throughout history politicians have been able to pass many things by feeding just enough information, or misinformation, or making things too confusing or unclear for most people. And it is getting worse. Apathy about anything remotely political is being reflected in voting figures so it getting easier to target the few and make sure you get the message YOU want across to those that have influence.


dicconzane said...

That should have read it was my view on how it got passed. My personnal view on torture is... dun dun dah, It depends. Having studied philosophy for a degree I came out with a view that almost anything can be justified in extreme circumstances. If you can save millions of lives by torturing one then you might have a case. But the complexity around the theory is about making sure innocents are not tortured and the point where torture may be deemed necessary and where not. Neither are necessarily easy to establish.