I turned about and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but opportunity and happenstance befall them all. For man does not know his lot: as the fishes caught in an evil net, and as hunted birds caught in a snare; so are the sons of man caught in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them.
– Ecclesiastes, 9:11-12
In all that we do, we should strive to show the decency, the civility, the respect for human dignity that ought to characterize a free people. It is not our way to answer hate with hate. But we are a people conscious of our God-given right to live in peace and without fear. And it is our duty to make clear to all those who seek to deny that right that we are willing and able to answer war with war. (from the column “Remember who we are”)
Regarding those foreigners who are actually accused, or might be accused, of a crime under American law, the Constitution clearly indicates that due process must be followed – not just for citizens, but for all persons. For this reason, I believe that it would not be justified to try foreigners captured in America – even those accused of terrorist acts – outside the normal course of our legal procedures simply because they are foreigners.
What is also unclear is whether enough people in our citizenry and government understand that no degree of executive branch confidence in the guilt of a citizen can justify the suspension of that citizen’s constitutional rights.
Such suspension would indeed be a powerful government weapon against terrorists. But it would be a more dangerous threat to the liberty of American citizens. The Washington Post last week carried a story about a former Boston cab driver, once identified by authorities as a major terrorism suspect, who was kept in solitary confinement for more than eight months without seeing a judge or being assigned a lawyer.
This war, like all previous noble American wars, is being fought against those who don’t respect the basic right of due process, including the right of citizens to defend themselves against the charges brought against them. From the Revolutionary War to the mountains of Afghanistan, American fighting men have given up their personal security to die on battlefields around the world, because they thought freedom was more important than physical security. What would they say of Americans who are unwilling to accept risks in order to hold on to that freedom? (from the column “The dangers of physical safety”)
By definition, military tribunals combine executive and judicial power in a way that is dangerous to civil liberty. Recourse to such tribunals apart from theaters of war, and the exigencies of war, will destroy the constitutional distinction between the judicial and the executive power. (from the column “Taking advantage)
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 – S.1867 – crafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., would declare the entire United States of America as a military battlefield, where individuals – American citizens and non-citizens alike – are subject to arrest and indefinite detention by the president without the right to step into a courtroom. (“Unconstitutional bill declares U.S. a ‘battlefield for the military'”)
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the American people have been among “the sons of man caught in an evil time.” On that day the state of incipient war between America and the adherents of terrorism broke dramatically onto the stage. Ever since, I and others like me have warned against giving in to the false, self-contradictory logic that makes it obligatory to sacrifice liberty for safety. Ironically, the U.S. Congress is poised to enshrine this sacrifice in law. I say unequivocally that if the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (H.R.1540 and S.1867) wins congressional approval with the provisions proposed by Sens. McCain and Levin, on the day it passes into law America’s liberty effectively passes out of existence.
What is as ominous as the bill itself is the way even professed opponents of the bill have argued against its de facto imposition of martial law throughout the United States. They decry it as unconstitutional because it will effectively deprive American citizens of their Fifth Amendment right to due process of law. Proponents of the proposed act claim that American citizens are exempt from its provisions. But, as I pointed out in the article quoted above, (“The dangers of physical safety,” June17, 2002) and again in an article on my blog some weeks ago, “the Fifth Amendment’s words do not restrict the due process requirement of the government’s dealings to citizens of the United States. They apply to ‘any person,’ with nothing said about that person’s citizenship status.”
By debating a distinction the Constitution does not permit, all the participants in the discussion end up cooperating in an effort to use a legislative act as a vehicle for amending the Constitution, effectively disregarding the amendment process it imposes. It also effectively abandons the principle of just government stated in the Declaration of Independence, which makes clear that the just use of government power must respect the unalienable rights with which God has endowed all human beings, not just those who carry an American passport.
The two parties in control of Congress wear different labels, but they now appear to work openly together, in arrogant defiance of right and the explicitly contrary provisions of the U.S. Constitution, to fashion instruments of legalistic intimidation, intended for no purpose but to repress the assumption of liberty in America, and the respect for unalienable rights associated with it. After all, the Obama faction long since quietly eliminated references to the “war on terror” from the U.S. government’s vocabulary. So how can American soil be the current battlefield of a war that’s obsolete?
It is especially telling that John McCain (the GOP’s last nominee for president) and the GOP leadership in Congress are co-conspirators in this climactic bipartisan assault on American liberty. Faced with this fact, I find it impossible to understand why anyone who seeks to restore and preserve our constitutional republic wastes time, resources and hope on either cohort of the sham two-party system.