Sunday, November 13, 2005

Veterans Day

Editor's note: This post was lost last night after being posted, so I am attempting a recreation of it. Anyone who read the original, forgive me if it's not the same.

So, on a day where we should be honoring our brave men and women in uniform, we are instead tearing down more civil liberties. The Senate passed an amendment to the defense spending bill that would ban detainees from using habeas corpus, a right the Supreme Court ruled last year the detainees had. Under this amendment, even Jose Padilla, an American citizen, can be held forever without trial, a clear violation of Sixth (correction from Eighth...thanks, Em) Amendment rights. We are seriously conniving at our own destruction. We have let fear create one of the worst curbings of our rights in history. Would any of these own congressmen waive their right to trial? Hell no. But for people we captured in combat, fighting without a nation, or Americans who allegedly consipired to commit terrorist acts, we've just said they don't have rights.

It has become quite evident that those in power in Washington, D.C. have forgotten what it is that makes America great. It is our respect for law, for individual rights, for a fair court process even for the worst of society that earned us respect and admiration worldwide. It is those things that allow us to be the greatest nation on earth. And because a group of fanatics managed to strike us here, on our territory, we have suddenly succumbed to fear. The only time that habeas corpus was suspended in our history was during the Civil War, when Lincoln made a decision that was tough, and only made that decision because our nation's survival was at stake. That is not the case here.

It's quite simple, really. The roles have reversed. The liberals now want government out of our lives, and the conservatives (not all, but most) are all for the government having the ability to poke and prod into anything they want, and want rights stripped from those accused of plotting terrorism. Keep in mind that even traitors such as Aldrich Ames and Ronald Pelton recieved a fair and speedy trial, but yet a terrorist, someone who has less ability to damage our nation than someone with vital information about our innermost secrets, is denied the right to trial.

It's clear to those who look at it in a clearminded way that the terrorists' real victory was not killing 3,000 Americans, but by putting fear into our lawmakers enough that they have slowly but surely began signing away our rights, eating away at the Bill of Rights to allegedly prevent more deaths. Is it really working? Is our safety worth the loss of liberty? I think not. Ben Franklin's adage that those who would trade their liberty for safety deserve neither rings true here. I would rather be free and dead than alive and living in an authoritarian society. That is the sad lesson of Veterans Day this year. The freedoms that our soldiers are fighting to win for Iraqis are the freedoms that our own government is stripping from us. The sacrifices of the soldiers in the Revolution are being lost to the fear of politicians today. How sad. How incredibly tragic. Remember this next year on Election Day.


Blogger E. M. Zanotti said...

Actually a denial of habeus corpus is a denial of SIXTH Amendment rights, and Jose Padilla and other American citizens do not fall under this law. Most of those captured on American soil are not American citizens. They are on visas, and stay at the discretion of the American government. The Bill of Rights does not protect them.

Also, all detainees are given a hearing by military tribunal within a very short time of being captured, contrary to popular belief. The Judge Advocate General conducts the hearings, and the detainees are afforded both counsel and due process rights, though they do not get those under the Geneva Convetions.

Habeus Corpus applies only to American citizens. The civil liberties of those who are not citizens are governed only by the skeletal provisions of the Geneva Convetion, and the International Treaty on the Protection of Prisoners and Conduct of Captors.

Aldrich Arms and Ronald Pelton were American citizens.

The Eight Amendment is cruel and unusual punishments and fair sentencing.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Thad said...

Yes, but if an illegal immigrant commits murder here, do they not go on trial? Do they not go before a court? And please, give me some details on these tribunals, because the "popular belief" you cite seems to be more dead on. I remember a story last year stating that Guantanamo was getting crowded, because so few tribunals had been held. The hearings they get, if they get them, are not trials.

12:56 PM  
Blogger E. M. Zanotti said...

JAG gives each detainee in a declared detention center at least one hearing in a military tribunal. This is used for our protection under the Geneva Convention. Technically, we do this so that we can determine whether they were captured as an armed combatant, which means that they need to be deemded a Prisoner of War under Geneva. That comes with an entirely different set of qualifications. Because we operate some detention facilities in countries do not subscribe to the Geneva Convention or extradite some detainees to those countries, that determination comes at a military tribunal as well. These are private: there are no public record, and they are not available, as the military is not responsible to the public for its actions, as is the nature of the tribunal and all JAG proceedings.

Those detainees who are not classified as enemy combatants (no uniform, mark of country when captured, military designation, etc.) are directed to GTMO, or other facilities that are not governed by Geneva. As we ascribe to treaties on the treatment of captured terrorists (though we are a persistent objector to almost all international treaties on this matter), those prisoners have rights, and there is significant access to them for ICRC, and AI, especially after the rumors earlier this year. Becaue our own military affords greater protection to our detainees than Geneva, there is little concern that they are mistreated.

Illegal immigrants that are captured ON OUR SOIL, are afforded the right to a lawyer, to confrontation, to speedy trial, because we afford them that through our own discretion. We do not have to. Technically, the only obligations we have to migrants and illegal immigrants are those that are contained in our treaties with Mexico. We do not have to give them trials, but as they are captured as private citizens, we afford them the protections of American citizens. Suprisingly, the United States is very kind to those who are not legitimately citizens of their country. The reality is that we know extraditing these immigrants back to their own country will only result in their return. We find it far easier to take justice in our own hands. Technically, Mexico could demand the return of their nationals, or even object to our conduct in prosecuting them, but strangely enough they do not.

Those who are credible threats to our nation are immediately referred to the military, as we, as a country, consider them to be miltiary threats. Its is far easier, as well, to keep information about those accused of terrorism confidential in military courts, since the proceedings are not open to the public, and any and all confidential material is not released to the press if national security is an issue. This benefits the government, and it is acceptable under the terms of our agreements.

We don't owe these people trials. Thats the end of it. We owe them a fair hearing to deterimine their status for purpose of international law, for our own protection. Under our laws they do not get a "trial," a consideration that has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

8:44 PM  
Blogger Thad said...

The Supreme Court ruled they do have habeas corpus rights last year in Rasul v. Bush, in a 6-3 decision. I don't know as much about international law, but I do know that as a matter of common sense, a hearing that simply establishes they were captured as an armed combatant doesn't do a whole lot for a detainee. If he's ruled an enemy combatant, then he's held as long as we wish, because this is a war with no nation, but with a group of people.

Look, I know we have a need to capture terrorists, but we need to try them, and we should do it as transparently as possible, and here's why. No one doubted us after World War II, because the Nazis were tried in Nuremburg, in the open, where the world could see the enormity of their crimes. Because we are so secretive, and we have people in Guantanamo who have been held for four years, with no trial as to their innocence or guilt, the world is distrustful of us.

And lest we forget, what happened to the people of Arab descent who were arrested after 9/11? We still haven't heard anything about them, the media has forgotten about them, and we don't know how many of those people were citizens or not. What if it were you, arrested and imprisoned, denied access to counsel, held for four years, as an American citizen? Padilla has been held for three years now. He's an American, and he has yet to go to trial over his innocence or guilt, because he's an alleged terrorist, and the government is holding him in the Navy Brig in Norfolk instead of a federal prison. I mean, we tried Moussaoui already, and he's not a citizen.

My point here is that we should do more than the little that is required of us, because as a nation that is devoted to the rule of law, we shouldn't make exceptions to that law based on fear (Padilla) and we should do our best to demonstrate we aren't being arbitrary on holding detainees. By the way, the Senate agreed with that, allowing them to appeal to the D.C. appeals court in the amendment passed to the defense bill. If we do these things, it betters our image as the good guy, because right now, most of the world thinks we aren't, and that just isn't a good thing. This isn't 1900. We aren't self-sufficient anymore. We have to know that, and act like it.

1:41 PM  

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