George Bush vs. The Constitution

Salon's Glenn Greenwald has quickly become one of my very favorite bloggers for his terrific ability to deconstruct complex arguments and issues down to their essence.  His recent post on the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision denying George Bush to simply name anybody an “enemy combatant” and deny them all Constitutional rights brilliantly breaks down just what is so wrong with the administration position.  The extended highlights:

Although its ultimate resolution is complicated, the question raised by Al-Marri
is a clear and simple one: Does the President have the power — and/or
should he have it — to arrest individuals on U.S. soil and keep them
imprisoned for years and years, indefinitely, without charging them
with a crime, allowing them access to lawyers or the outside world,
and/or providing a meaningful opportunity to contest the validity of
the charges?

How can that question not answer itself? Who would possibly believe
that an American President has such powers, and more to the point, what
kind of a person would want a President to have such powers? That is one of a handful of powers which this country was founded to prevent.

Al-Marri was in the U.S. legally, studying at Bradley University,
living with his wife and 5 children, and sitting at home in Peoria,
Illinois when he was detained and then ultimately charged, in a court
of law, with committing various crimes. He was set to have a trial in
July 2003 when the President suddenly and unilaterally decreed him to
be an “enemy combatant,” ordered him put into military custody, had his
trial cancelled, and then proceeded to imprison him for the next four
years — including many months where he was denied any contact at all
with the outside world, including lawyers — all without charging him
with any crime.

Does that even sound remotely like the United States? If the
President has the power to do that to al-Marri — to arrest him from
his home inside the U.S. and keep him locked up forever without due
process — then, by definition, the President can detain anyone in
exactly the same way. And all of the high-minded and oh-so-civil
lawyerly rhetoric in the world cannot mask the radicalism and
profoundly un-American vision which proponents of such powers embrace…

(6) Finally, the fact that al-Marri is “merely” a legal
resident of the U.S. rather than a U.S. citizen should not obscure the
fact that the reasoning of the administration and its followers in this
case would apply equally to American citizens. Indeed, it is vital to
emphasize that the court in this case was constrained by a prior Fourth
Circuit ruling which was binding on this court that upheld the
due-process-less detention of American citizen Jose Padilla, a decision
which was set to be reviewed by the Supreme Court when the Bush
administration finally transferred Padilla to a civilian court and
charged him with a crime in order to render Padilla's case “moot.”

Thus, the administration does not argue that it has the
power to imprison al-Marri in a military prison forever, with no
charges, because he is merely a legal resident, rather than an American

Instead, it argues — and a prior Fourth Circuit court has concluded — that it has the power to so detain anyone,
U.S. citizens included, whom the President deems to be an “enemy
combatant.” Those who believe the President has and should have this
power with regard to al-Marri have no reasonable means to confine that
power to non-citizens (and, indeed, the administration argued and the
Supreme Court in Hamdi accepted the premise that the
administration can detain U.S. citizens captured on a foreign
battlefield as “enemy combatants”). Their tyrannical vision — whereby
the Leader can order people imprisoned forever with no trial — is the
very one which the Founders of this country sought first and foremost
to avoid.

The whole thing is well-worth five minutes or so of your time.  If you really want to understand why Bush's “war on terror” policies are such a radical threat to American democracy as we know it, this is about as good a summary as you'll find.

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