There's been a lot of buzz in the news of late about a big compromise on what i've come to think of as the "torture bill"; the bill which clarifies to what degree the Geneva Conventions apply to people held as enemy combatants. I've ignored most of it; it's been about negotiations on a bill which hasn't been settled on yet, and the details have changed from day to day. And, besides, on this issue alone I trust John McCain: he won't let people be tortured. It's just not going to happen.
But the lads at Balkinization point out that there is more to the bill than just torture, and the compromise agreement on those issues is a disaster. The bill, as expected, denies habeas corpus (essentially, the right to sue to challenge your detention) to anyone classified as an unlawful enemy combatant. What wasn't expected is the way the term "unlawful enemy combatant" is defined:
(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or (ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.
Yes, that's right: the Republicans in Congress have agreed on a 'compromise' which allows a tribunal established under the authority of the President, using whatever criteria or definition it wants (because the law, while it refers to the Military Commissions Act of 2006 does not apply its rules to the tribunal) to declare anyone to be an enemy combatant for any reason it desires, and takes away that person's right to sue to challenge their detention.
If the Democrats had an ounce of political courage or any belief in the founding principles of our country, they would filibuster this. But they won't, because they don't.
And so the Republic will die; the Congress is voluntarily handing over to the executive the power to detain anyone, at any time, forever.
"Game over, man."
Update [2006-9-28 1:49:49 by aphrael]:: OK, so apparently it's not as bad as I first thought. The version of the law passed by the House today only bars habeas claims for alien unlawful enemy combatants. So if you're a non-US citizen, the House has given the executive the power to pick you up arbitrarily and hold you indefinitely without legal recourse. But US citizens are still safe. Still ... it's less personally frightening, to be sure, but that doesn't make it much better. Freedom was always supposed to be a universal human right, not one conditioned on citizenship. And freedom from arbitrary imprisonment by the executive is a fundamental founding principal of all anglo-saxon political systems. This may not be the end of the Republic, as I think it would be if it applied to citizens; but it's still a damned dark day, either way.
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