The Military Commissions Act Should Be Repealed
Having tried and failed to suspend habeas corpus for two American citizens, Jose Padilla and Esam Hamdi (Hamdi v. Rumsfield), the Congress passed, and George W. Bush, on Oct. 17, 2006, signed HR-6166, a bill, the Military Commissions Act, that authorizes the government to try non-resident alien terror suspects by military tribunals and to suspend their rights of habeas corpus.
Why should we care?
Habeas corpus, from the Latin, you have the body, goes all the way back to the Magna Carta, of 1231, when kings could throw anybody in prison, keep them there indefinitely, and torture them at will without any court interference. All this changed with habeas corpus. Over the centuries it’s come to be a common understanding of civilized nations that a prisoner has a right to know why he’s been imprisoned, to face his accusers, to know what the charges are, and to have some form of due process.
So now the US government has decided to set aside provisions of a law that has been considered accepted common law, and standard legal practice, by the civilized world for almost 800 years. George W. Bush said he needed the new law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, so that he could protect us from the terrorists.
But was this really true?
Back in 68 BC, according to Robert Harris in his NY Times article (9/30/2006), Rome faced its own 9/11, an attack by a loose affiliation of pirates. And Rome, under the influence of a power-hungry leader, Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, or Pompey the Great, panicked and agreed to a new law to protect the citizens of Rome. The Romans passed the Lex Gabinia and gave up their citizens’ rights in order to support Pompey, who said he needed this law to protect Rome from a new kind of enemy. But the new law set into motion the destruction of the Roman constitution and brought into play the powerful moneyed interests of a new Roman Military Industrial Complex. Then, less than two decades after the passage of Lex Gabinia, the Roman republican system collapsed.
So we should now, We the People of the United States of America, rise up in protest against this assault on the principles behind habeas corpus and demand the repeal of the Military Commissions Act! The Bush Administration, representing our government’s official position, said “we are at war,” and defined our prisoners as "unlawful enemy combatants" in a blatant attempt to contravene the legal principles set forth in the Geneva Convention and habeas. Then, they set up secret prisons, tortured people, sent prisoners to foreign countries to be tortured, and murdered a few, all without any due process, in the name of the United States of America.
Why did we allow it?
Perhaps it is because Bush’s “war on terror” was defined as a case of “us” versus “them” -- “They hate us because of our freedom!” But was this justification enough for us to decide that suspected “enemy combatants” needed to be hidden in secret prisons and tortured until they confessed?
George W. Bush asked Americans to trust him, to believe that he would protect us from the terrible terrorist Islamic Jihadists.
But we should not have trusted him!
Based on all the news reports I have read, if we follow the money trails, we will discover that Eisenhower’s warning should have been heeded, that while the country has suffered from the loss of blood and treasure, the corporations of the Military Industrial Complex have profited from this war. And I would add that, though the danger of another terrorist attack is real, we need not be ruled by fear, and that we can deal with this new kind of enemy, these terrorists, these religious “pirates” without giving up our rights to due process. The Military Commissions Act with its suspension of habeas corpus is a grave concern. It is a loud warning that something has gone seriously wrong. As Benjamin Franklin put it when asked, after the Constitutional Convention, what type of government had we built, a Republic or a Monarchy, he replied, "A Republic, madam, if you can keep it."