“The practices of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny.” ─ Alexander Hamilton
Since the events of 9/11/2001 particularly, but even before that, the shepherds of the Nanny State in Washington, D.C. have been insisting that our safety requires that the shepherds have ever greater authority over us. To keep us safe they need to know every detail of our financial, personal and private lives. We can never be safe until our bank, tax, telephone, internet, credit card, and medical records are fully available to the authorities.
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), you see, can show up anywhere. They can be smuggled into the very heart of the homeland by terrorists at any moment. The danger that terrorists might even posses WMDs (let alone use them) is sufficient to justify a preemptive invasion of a country thousands of miles away.
Americans seem to have bought into the notion that the shepherd needs to know all and that starting a war is the best defense against a few suicidal fanatics. Without much in the way of protest we’ve meekly submitted to a series of laws each of which has shown more contempt for fundamental human rights and the rule of law while seizing ever greater power over each and every one of us. The latest and by far the most dangerous of these pronouncements is the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
The MCA suspends habeas corpus rights (your right to know the charges against you) for anyone designated as an “enemy combatant.” The act also authorizes secret trials and the friendlier forms of torture. You might observe that the law only applies to “enemy combatants” and thus continue to feel safe. You probably think that to become an “enemy combatant” you would have to be caught with a bomb, or a gun, or plans for poisoning a reservoir or something. But that’s not it. You become an “enemy combatant” when a panel of presidential appointees decides, in a closed door meeting, that you are one. You don’t get to participate in the decision in any way.
Consider this process in light of recent reports of Department of Homeland Security initiatives to examine data for “unfavorable” opinions of the Bush administration and its policies.
The MCA opens the door to official “disappearances” of political opponents, protestors or simply people someone in power doesn’t like. The MCA gives power to politicians that no one can be trusted with, power that has nothing to do with fighting the bogus “War on Terror” and everything to do with crippling legitimate political processes. The purpose of the MCA is to back with real terror the specious notion that any opposition to the whims of those in power amounts to “giving comfort to the enemies of the United States.”
A failure to stand loud and long against this law now will assure that sooner or later it will be too late for peaceful protest. The MCA is an issue that is beyond the usual sham of two party politics. We must take our allies where we can find them. Standing up now might mean joining shameless apologists for past political hacks, or even those who have been leading the recent war monger chorus. But even if a liberal blow-hard like Ted Kennedy or the execrable HILLARY herself were to announce a determination to repeal the MCA I would jump in with them with both feet. (They would never get a vote from me, but they’d get my support on this.)
In considering where real danger lies in the world, we should not forget that just 17 years ago the most powerful enemy the US had ever had, a nation with millions of men under arms and thousands of nuclear weapons went down to defeat without firing a shot. The fall of the Soviet Empire did not require that we give up or rights or submit to anything like the constant surveillance and disarmament that the current administration insists is necessary to defeat a few hundred religious fanatics.
The unchecked governments of Stalin’s Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Hitler’s Germany and Pol Pot’s Cambodia and many others less famous, used power gained in times of real or imagined danger to kill hundreds of millions of their own citizens. In every case the consequences of trading freedom for safety were far more dangerous than the initial dangers ever were. The most devastating Weapon of Mass Destruction that can be used against any nation is the unrestrained power of its own government.
The time has come to restrain our own government and restore the blessings of liberty and rule of law that made the United States a shining island of freedom and prosperity in the world. Repeal of the Military Commissions Act is a necessary first step.