9.29.2006

Fight the dictatorship

It's finally happened after 217 years. The Congress has voted to give the president dictatorial powers. Under the antiterrorism legislation passed yesterday, Bushius Caesar now has the right to arrest anyone and hold them indefinitely, without charges or a trial or letting them see evidence against them or chance for appeal -- and to torture them, simply by calling them "illegal enemy combatants." If that's not the definition of a dictator, what is? Is that not Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini? We now have a legal framework for gulags for dissenters. Game, for the time being, over. Any of our lawyers care to comment on this? How scary is this?

There is a diary on this by a lawyer at DailyKOS. Here's a summary from the NYT:

Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.

The Geneva Conventions: The bill would repudiate a half-century of international precedent by allowing Mr. Bush to decide on his own what abusive interrogation methods he considered permissible. And his decision could stay secret — there’s no requirement that this list be published.

Habeas Corpus: Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

Judicial Review: The courts would have no power to review any aspect of this new system, except verdicts by military tribunals. The bill would limit appeals and bar legal actions based on the Geneva Conventions, directly or indirectly. All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial.

Coerced Evidence: Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.

Secret Evidence: American standards of justice prohibit evidence and testimony that is kept secret from the defendant, whether the accused is a corporate executive or a mass murderer. But the bill as redrafted by Mr. Cheney seems to weaken protections against such evidence.

Offenses: The definition of torture is unacceptably narrow, a virtual reprise of the deeply cynical memos the administration produced after 9/11. Rape and sexual assault are defined in a retrograde way that covers only forced or coerced activity, and not other forms of nonconsensual sex. The bill would effectively eliminate the idea of rape as torture.

Step One has to be taking the Congress away from these disgusting traitors. Now is the time to give money if you ever thought about doing that, as tomorrow is the deadline for this Quarter.

Contribute to DNC to help win the mid-term election and change course.
Volunteer to call voters to convince people to turn away from disaster.
Join/give to the ACLU because they will have to fight this unconsitutional law in the courts.

5 comments:

cj said...

I don't know enough -- about the statute, or about constitutional law -- to give the lawyerly perspective here. But my civic instincts tell me that a lot of that statute is plainly unconstitutional, and that everyone who voted for it knows that and expects it to get struck down. Getting re-elected is obviously more important than the Constitution, and besides, that's what judges are for. Those "activist judges" actually come in handy sometimes! (Er, unless we succeed in divesting them of their powers of review...)

The sad thing is that we live in a country where someone could rationally calculate that supporting dictatorial powers might actually *attract* voters, rather than repel them. I suppose we can hope that it's a miscalculation. It's not as if they have anything else to campaign on, after all.

Iowa Citians: Doesn't this drive home the point that it's not enough to vote against the bill if you're the one who voted to put the bill's supporters into power in the first place? Down with Jim Leach!

cj said...

I should say, I don't know for a fact that Leach is going to vote against the bill. I'm just assuming that we'll see the usual charade: Leach will break with the party hierarchy, at apparent great political risk to himself, on an issue of high principle -- all of which will have Karl Rove's stamp of approval in advance. What better way to keep the GOP in power?

Grendel said...

I hope that's the case -- but only because there are still only 4 solid Bush votes on the Supreme Court. Were there 5, then stuff like this would be permanent law. I do feel better after reading your comments, though, CJ.

I think Leach voted against the bill, under circumstances similar to what you describe, no doubt. At least he's not on this list of (R)s who voted for it.

cj said...

Notice that McCain voted for the bill. Some people I know who were planning on supporting him for President are now making other plans.

cj said...

Also, I'm not so sure that anyone on the Supreme Court is going to sign off on this one. The one thing even the right-wing justices like better than Bush is their own power. If anything, I think they might see the bill as an affront: "We used our aggrandized sense of our institutional role to install you in power, and now you have the gall to try to take our power away from us?"