Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dark clouds over America - the Supreme Court rules detainees are not persons

One of the blogs I read for insight into the economy is Humble Student of the Markets by Cam Hui. Here I read of an alarming development in his post Two more steps toward Argentina. The original story is this, as told by Chris Floyd at Empire burlesque:

While we were all out doing our Christmas shopping, the highest court in the land quietly put the kibosh on a few more of the remaining shards of human liberty.

It happened earlier this week, in a discreet ruling that attracted almost no notice and took little time. In fact, our most august defenders of the Constitution did not have to exert themselves in the slightest to eviscerate not merely 220 years of Constitutional jurisprudence but also centuries of agonizing effort to lift civilization a few inches out of the blood-soaked mire that is our common human legacy. They just had to write a single sentence.

Here's how the bad deal went down. After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president's fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a "suspected enemy combatant" by the president or his designated minions is no longer a "person." They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever -- save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials.

Cam Hui asks what happened to ‘inalienable rights’ and compares the road that the US is now taking to that taken by Argentina:

This Supreme Court ruling sets up the preconditions for a Dirty War that Argentina saw in the late 1970s and early 1980s, where government forces made suspected left-wing guerrillas and their sympathizers “disappear”. Just as the repeal of the Glass-Steagall did not result in immediate consequences, I don’t believe that we will see the effects of this ruling overnight but the long term effects are potentially disastrous.

What about ‘Land of the free, home of the brave’? What about the Constitution?

This ruling tramples on the Constitution and one of the most powerful symbols of America. Just understand this - that Constitution was paid for by blood, not only of the Founding Fathers, but by every American soldier. Every G.I. that ever enlisted swore an oath, not to the president of the day, but to the Constitution of the United States.

When the Supreme Court of the nation that champions freedom and justice in the world comes out with a ruling like this, at the fervent request of the President of the nation, one has to take note and wonder where this is all going to lead.
Some may say that in war there are no rules. Certainly Churchill made it clear to Hitler that if he invaded Britain, the British would use all means available to them to defend themselves, the implication being biological weapons would be used. But where is the threat to the US today that faced Britain in her darkest hour?
I would say this: war can be waged without rules but the nations that wage war without rules always lose in the end. War can be waged without rules but philosophy teaches that life cannot. Such victors sow the seeds of their own ultimate destruction. Remember: sincerity is the treasure of a land and by sincerity we also understand integrity and the moral life. The US has a proud record of going to war to defend those values, now it must look in the mirror. The US does not need such a ruling, it is an act of weakness, an act of fear, and it is a shame and a disgrace to all the American men and women who have given their lives so we can enjoy freedom and justice, not just Americans but the whole world.

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism points out that Romans of 2,000 years ago now enjoyed more rights than Americans today:

Roman citizens enjoyed a right to a trial, a right of appeal, and could not be tortured, whipped, or executed except if found guilty of treason, and anyone charged with treason could demand a trial in Rome. We have regressed more than 2000 years with this appalling ruling.

I am reminded of my recent reading of ‘The Peloponnesian War’ by Donald Kagan. The Athenians were blessed with a noble and capable leader in the form of Pericles of whom Plutarch says:

For whereas all sorts of distempers, as was to be expected, were rife in a rabble which possessed such a vast empire, he alone was so endowed by nature that he could manage each one of these cases suitably, and more than anything else he used the people's hopes and fears, like rudders, so to speak, giving timely check to their arrogance, and allaying and comforting their despair. Plutarch

While Pericles lived the Athenians kept to the noble path and could hope for victory. When he died, the war became more desperate, more brutal and hope receded. I can’t help but think that the US is in need of a Pericles today.

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Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond