Thursday, June 12, 2008

About Fucking Time

The Supreme Court ruled today that detainees in Guantánamo Bay can challenge their charges in civilian courts. Basically we've given them the right of habeas corpus, which they should have had from the beginning as they're being held in an institution controlled by the US government.

I'm sure that this doesn't feel like a big deal, and I'm sure that our shitty ass media won't talk much about it, but this is a huge deal. Basically, the Supreme Court told the present administration that you can't just suspend basic constitutional rights simply because times are tough. In fact, the Constitution is designed to weather tough times as the opinion so eloquently states:

The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system, they are reconciled within the framework of law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, part of that law.
Habeas corpus is so important, and was so important to the framers that it is included in the Constitution. In other words, they didn't need to sit around and think about whether or not the government should be able to imprison you for no reason. They knew that the government should not be able to right from the start.

Make no mistake, the part of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that this ruling strikes down is exactly that, the government imprisoning people for no reason. This might seem all well and good when it's some dude from thousands of miles away taken in the dead of night and imprisoned with no knowledge of the charges against him, but what if it's you? What if your kid starts hanging out on message boards online with no real understanding of what they're espousing and gets flagged as a possible enemy combatant? There is no piece of legislation that says that "enemy combatants" can't be US citizens. There was nothing in the law struck down today saying that the government couldn't come into your house, seize you, an American citizen, and deny you the most basic of Constitutional rights that this country was built on. I'm not so naive as to think that every detainee in Guantánamo Bay is completely innocent of the charges brought against them, however suspicion of guilt is not enough to deny them a fair trial, even if they are guilty of crimes against US citizens. We, as Americans, are better than that. We have to be. The underlying principals that our country was founded upon demand that we be better than that. If these detainees are guilty, then let them have their trials so that we can have justice. If not, then for Christ's sake, let these people go. It's been seven years since the detention center opened.

One more thing to consider before I get off of my soapbox. Three of the Justices who sided with the majority, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter are all expected to retire during the term of the next president. Obama has stated that he favors Justices in the mold of Souter and Ginsburg whereas McCain favors the kind of Justices in the minority, Sam Alito and John Roberts specifically, none of whom are expected to go anywhere any time soon. This statement only serves to emphasize just how important this next Presidential election is, and how the decisions made during the next Presidency will have effects that will last for decades. Supreme Court appointments are life long appointments. It doesn't take a master detective to determine who I'll be voting for in the fall, but if you think that you don't need to vote because it's all meaningless, I can assure you that it is not.

1 comment:

Greg said...

I'm with you 100%. This is good. It seems like our country may just be beginning to swing back towards the center. It's been way right for too long. Of course, future administrations will be blamed for the results of the current one's mistakes, but hopefully it all works out in the end.