October 01, 2006

Duly Elected U.S. Congress Passes "Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Homeland"

Detainee bill lifts Bush's power to new heights
President now has legal authority even courts
can't challenge
-- San Francisco Chronicle, September 30, 2006
With the final passage through Congress of the detainee treatment bill, President Bush achieved a signal victory Friday, shoring up with legislation his determined campaign against terrorism in the face of challenges from critics and the courts.

Rather than reining in the formidable presidential powers that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have asserted since Sept. 11, 2001, the law gives some of those powers a solid statutory foundation. In effect it allows the president to identify enemies, imprison them indefinitely and interrogate them -- albeit with a ban on the harshest treatment -- beyond the reach of the full court reviews traditionally afforded criminal defendants and ordinary prisoners.

Taken as a whole, the law will give the president more power over terrorism suspects than he had before the Supreme Court decision this summer in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld that undercut more than four years of White House policy. It does, however, grant detainees brought before military commissions limited protections initially opposed by the White House. The bill, which cleared a final procedural hurdle in the House on Friday and is likely to be signed into law next week by Bush, does more than allow the president to determine the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions; it strips the courts of jurisdiction to hear challenges to his interpretation.

And it broadens the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant" to include not only those who fight the United States, but also those who have "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." The latter group could include those accused of providing financial or other indirect support to terrorists, human rights groups say. The designation can be made by any "competent tribunal" created by the president or secretary of defense.

In very specific ways, the bill is a rejoinder to the Supreme Court's Hamdan ruling, in which several justices said the absence of congressional authorization was a central flaw in the administration's approach. The new bill solves that problem, legal experts said.
In Case I Disappear -- Williams Rivers Pitt, September 29, 2006
It seems almost certain that, at some point, the Supreme Court will hear a case to challenge the legality of this legislation, but even this is questionable. If a detainee is not allowed access to a fair trial or to the evidence against him, how can he bring a legal challenge to a court? The legislation, in anticipation of court challenges like Hamdi and Hamdan, even includes severe restrictions on judicial review over the legislation itself.

The Republicans in Congress have managed, at the behest of Mr. Bush, to draft a bill that all but erases the judicial branch of the government. Time will tell whether this aspect, along with all the others, will withstand legal challenges. If such a challenge comes, it will take time, and meanwhile there is this bill. All of the above is deplorable on its face, indefensible in a nation that prides itself on Constitutional rights, protections and the rule of law.

Underneath all this, however, is where the paranoia sets in.

Underneath all this is the definition of "enemy combatant" that has been established by this legislation. An "enemy combatant" is now no longer just someone captured "during an armed conflict" against our forces. Thanks to this legislation, George W. Bush is now able to designate as an "enemy combatant" anyone who has "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States."

Consider that language a moment. "Purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" is in the eye of the beholder, and this administration has proven itself to be astonishingly impatient with criticism of any kind. The broad powers given to Bush by this legislation allow him to capture, indefinitely detain, and refuse a hearing to any American citizen who speaks out against Iraq or any other part of the so-called "War on Terror."

If you write a letter to the editor attacking Bush, you could be deemed as purposefully and materially supporting hostilities against the United States. If you organize or join a public demonstration against Iraq, or against the administration, the same designation could befall you. One dark-comedy aspect of the legislation is that senators or House members who publicly disagree with Bush, criticize him, or organize investigations into his dealings could be placed under the same designation. In effect, Congress just gave Bush the power to lock them up.

By writing this essay, I could be deemed an "enemy combatant." It's that simple, and very soon, it will be the law. I always laughed when people told me to be careful. I'm not laughing anymore.

In case I disappear, remember this. America is an idea, a dream, and that is all. We have borders and armies and citizens and commerce and industry, but all this merely makes us like every other nation on this Earth. What separates us is the idea, the simple idea, that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are our organizing principles. We can think as we please, speak as we please, write as we please, worship as we please, go where we please. We are protected from the kinds of tyranny that inspired our creation as a nation in the first place.

That was the idea. That was the dream. It may all be over now, but once upon a time, it existed. No good idea ever truly dies. The dream was here, and so was I, and so were you.
Ashcroft: Critics of new terror measures undermine efforts -- CNN.com, December 7, 2001
Attorney General John Ashcroft lashed out Thursday at critics of the administration's response to terrorism, saying questions about whether its actions undermine the Constitution only serve to help terrorists.

"To those who pit Americans against immigrants, citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve," Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil."
Rumsfeld: Criticism at Home, Abroad Harms War on Terrorism -- Washington Post, September 8, 2003
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, concluding a four-day trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, said today that critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy are encouraging terrorists and complicating the ongoing U.S. war on terrorism.

"We know for a fact . . . that terrorists studied Somalia and they studied instances where the United States was dealt a blow and tucked in and persuaded themselves they could, in fact, cause us to acquiesce in whatever it is they wanted us to do," he told reporters aboard his plane.

"The United States is not going to do that. President Bush is not going to do that. Now, to the extent terrorists are given reason to believe he might, or if he is not willing to, the opponents might prevail in some way . . . and they take heart in that, and that leads to more recruiting . . . that leads to more encouragement, or that leads to more staying power. Obviously that does make it more difficult."

Rumsfeld made clear that he was talking about both the international press, such as reports on the Arab al Jazeera television network, and critics in the United States.
Administration Critics Keeping Mum -- Power Line, February 2, 2005
Jimmy Carter isn't just misguided or ill-informed. He's on the other side.
Instapundit, numerous entries
They're not antiwar. They're just on the other side.
Hitler's Enabling Act
On March 23, 1933, the newly elected members of the German Parliament (the Reichstag) met in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin to consider passing Hitler's Enabling Act. It was officially called the 'Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich.' If passed, it would effectively mean the end of democracy in Germany and establish the legal dictatorship of Adolf Hitler.


Just before the vote, Hitler made a speech to the Reichstag in which he pledged to use restraint.

"The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures...The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one." - Hitler told the Reichstag.

He also promised an end to unemployment and pledged to promote peace with France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. But in order to do all this, Hitler said, he first needed the Enabling Act.

A two thirds majority was needed, since the law would actually alter the German constitution. Hitler needed 31 non-Nazi votes to pass it. He got those votes from the Center Party after making a false promise to restore some basic rights already taken away by decree.

However, one man arose amid the overwhelming might. Otto Wells, leader of the Social Democrats stood up and spoke quietly to Hitler.

"We German Social Democrats pledge ourselves solemnly in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No enabling act can give you power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible."

This enraged Hitler and he jumped up to respond.

"You are no longer needed! - The star of Germany will rise and yours will sink! Your death knell has sounded!"

The vote was taken - 441 for, only 84, the Social Democrats, against. The Nazis leapt to their feet clapping, stamping and shouting, then broke into the Nazi anthem, the Hörst Wessel song.

They achieved what Hitler had wanted for years - to tear down the German Democratic Republic legally and end democracy, thus paving the way for a complete Nazi takeover of Germany.
See also: "Thus the World Was Lost"