Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How the President Undermined Civil Liberties

Just look at how the president has destroyed our civil rights. A few examples, below, should suffice to make you understand we no longer live in a free and democratic country.

Bypassing congress, the president issued an Executive Order to try eight individuals, two of them citizens and the rest former residents of the country, as “enemy combatants” by military tribunals. The same “executive order” prohibited the courts, with their broader protections for the rights of the accused, from hearing habeas corpus petitions from the defendants, denying them a basic constitutional right—especially as the administration brought political pressure on the Supreme Court not to take the case. The eight were found guilty and sentenced to death.

In a blatant case of racial profiling, the president ordered the incarceration of American citizens who were of the same ethnic heritage as the “enemy,” without trial or recourse to the courts. The incarceration was indefinite, and they were not accused of a crime. Many also lost their property as well.

In a clear attempt to undermine the first amendment, the president urged Congress to pass, and signed into law, a bill that made illegal “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the government, flag or armed forces during war.

The president suspended the constitutional protection of habeas corpus for anyone deemed to be undermining the war effort, and ordered American citizens reported to be “enemy combatants” to be held, without trial, by the military, and to be tried by military tribunals for violations of the “laws of war,” without recourse to the protections of the civilian courts.

If you are wondering how even a dastard like George Bush got away with all of this without you knowing, it’s because you slept through history class. The first two examples were from the presidency of liberal icon Franklin Roosevelt, who ordered Nazi saboteurs tried by tribunals, and who also ordered the incarceration of Japanese Americans during the war.

The third example was from liberal icon Woodrow Wilson, during WWI. And the last was, of course, from Abraham Lincoln, who famously declared, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” The Civil War was a near-run thing, and without these measures the nation might have been lost and slavery extended for decades. Imaging the chaos of trying tens of thousands of confederate prisoners in federal court, with their captors required to leave the front to testify and under criminal rules of evidence!

Despite these abuses, we muddled through their administrations with our liberties intact. Despite the hand-wring in the press for the last eight years, it appears we have survived George Bush as well. Let us hope we can say the same after four years of President Obama.

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