There are so many outrages in the world and so little time to write about them and expose them for what they are. But every so often a really vicious one comes forward and you just have to do your duty to, as my blog title says, “make the world a better place” (or at least a place that’s a little less bad).
The New York Times reports that such an outrage occured tonight when 49 senators (including 5 Democrats who we’ll get to later) voted to strip the Guantanamo Bay enemy combatants of the right to access U.S. courts. So they will no longer be able to make appeals based on habeus corpus violations or any other injustice regarding their detention or incarceration. Their only appeal will be to the military tribunals which President Bush has provided for harsh and quick justice. These are the same tribunals which many military lawyers are refusing to participate in because even they recognize that they contravene every standard of American justice.
Emily Bazelon of Slate.com eviscerates the reasoning Graham uses in advocating the proposal. He claims that no enemy combatant in U.S. history has ever had habeus corpus recourse in U.S. courts and that U.S. troops do not have such access when tried before military courts. Bazelon points out that both contentions are flat out wrong. It is breathtaking that the Senate would enact this radical reveral of constitutional precedent using such specious arguments as its basis.
How could these senators do this? How could they attempt this end around the U.S. constitution? It simply boggles the mind? I hesitate to hope that this is one of those stupid, ill-conceived legislative ideas which will simply go away once the blog world, media and American people begin to realize what their august solons have done.
What is even more egregious about this bill is that it is a direct slap in the face to the Supreme Court, which has already ruled against the government in its contention that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over Guantanamo detainees. The Court also just this week accepted a Guantanamo prisoner appeal seeking to quash the military tribunals. Either Lindsay Graham (remember, he’s the “moderate” Republican member of the Gang of 14) is afraid the justices may dismantle Bush’s proposed system for dealing with enemy combatants and he’s trying to head this off; or he realizes he can’t do this but is merely sending a shot across the bow of the Court so they understand what the “will” of the Senate is in this matter before they begin deliberating on the case.
The four Republicans who voted “no” deserve a special badge of courage for bucking their party on this one. And the five Democrats who voted “yes” should be ashamed of themselves:
In addition to Mr. Specter, Republicans voting against the bill were Senators John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. The five Democrats voting for the bill were Senators Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon.
How in God’s name could Ron Wyden have voted for this piece of crap bill? What’s goin’ on, Ron? And what about you, John McCain. It’s great that you’re opposed to torturing U.S. detainees and that you’re in favor of applying the Geneva Conventions to this matter. But why shouldn’t they be entitled to a day in a U.S. court. Just think, John, you weren’t entitled to appeal to any North Vietnamese court to protest your own incarceration and torture. Isn’t that what sets this great country apart from nations like that? Isn’t that part of what we as Americans should be proud of about our country and its values?
David Cole, writing at Slate.com also points out that the Graham amendment at least partially nullifies legislation sponsored by John McCain and passed by the Senate by a 91-9 vote which outlaws U.S. use of torture on Guantanamo detainees:
And just when Congress appeared to be on the verge of doing something about it [the McCain bill], Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the principal co-sponsors of the McCain Amendment, convinced the Senate to undercut the amendment by making it unenforceable—at least for the hundreds of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On Thursday night, the Senate approved Graham’s proposal, which would selectively suspend the writ of habeas corpus for foreign nationals held at Guantanamo, denying them any access to a court for violations of constitutional or international law—even if they are being subjected to precisely the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment that the McCain Amendment prohibits.
Here’s the roll call vote from the Senate’s website.
This is one of the more pernicious pieces of legislation to come out of Washington in say a week or two (you see, there are so many). If your senator voted wrong on this, set him or her straight. If they voted right, then congratulate them and tell them how outraged you are by this attempt to eviscerate the U.S. Constitution.