HempIsCool.com News

Bush Seizes Dictatorial Power


November 15, 2001
electronic transmission permitted
http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/15/opinion/15SAFI.html?ex=1006841502&ei=1&en=8815ebd619a71040WASHINGTON --

Misadvised by a frustrated and panic-stricken
attorney general, a president of the United States has just
assumed what amounts to dictatorial power to jail or
execute aliens. Intimidated by terrorists and inflamed by a
passion for rough justice, we are letting George W. Bush
get away with the replacement of the American rule of law
with military kangaroo courts.

In his infamous emergency order, Bush admits to dismissing
"the principles of law and the rules of evidence" that
undergird America's system of justice. He seizes the power
to circumvent the courts and set up his own drumhead
tribunals - panels of officers who will sit in judgment of
non-citizens who the president need only claim "reason to
believe" are members of terrorist organizations.

Not content with his previous decision to permit police to
eavesdrop on a suspect's conversations with an attorney,
Bush now strips the alien accused of even the limited
rights afforded by a court-martial. His kangaroo court can
conceal evidence by citing national security,
make up its own rules, find a defendant guilty
even if a third of the officers disagree, and execute the
alien with no review by any civilian court.

No longer does the judicial branch and an independent jury
stand between the government and the accused. In lieu of
those checks and balances central to our legal system,
non-citizens face an executive that is now investigator,
prosecutor, judge, jury and jailer or executioner. In an
Orwellian twist, Bush's order calls this Soviet-style
abomination "a full and fair trial."

On what legal meat does this our Caesar feed? One precedent
the White House cites is a military court after Lincoln's
assassination. (During the Civil War, Lincoln suspended
habeas corpus; does our war on terror require illegal
imprisonment next?) Another is a military court's hanging,
approved by the Supreme Court, of German saboteurs landed
by submarine in World War II.

Proponents of Bush's kangaroo court say: Don't you
soft-on-terror, due-process types know there's a war on?
Have you forgotten our 5,000 civilian dead? In an emergency
like this, aren't extraordinary security measures needed to
save citizens' lives? If we step on a few toes, we can
apologize to the civil libertarians later.

Those are the arguments of the phony-tough. At a time when
even liberals are debating the ethics of torture of
suspects - weighing the distaste for barbarism against the
need to save innocent lives - it's time for conservative
iconoclasts and card-carrying hard-liners to stand up for
American values.

To meet a terrorist emergency, of course some rules should
be stretched and new laws passed. An ethnic dragnet
rounding up visa-skippers or questioning foreign students,
if short-term, is borderline tolerable. Congress's new law
permitting warranted roving wiretaps is understandable.
But let's get to the target that this blunderbuss order is
intended to hit. Here's the big worry in Washington now:

What do we do if Osama bin Laden gives himself up? A proper
trial like that Israel afforded Adolf Eichmann, it is
feared, would give the terrorist a global propaganda
platform. Worse, it would be likely to result in widespread
hostage-taking by his followers to protect him from the
punishment he deserves.

The solution is not to corrupt our judicial tradition by
making bin Laden the star of a new Star Chamber. The
solution is to turn his cave into his crypt. When fleeing
Taliban reveal his whereabouts, our bombers should promptly
bid him farewell with 15,000-pound daisy-cutters and
5,000-pound rock-penetrators.

But what if he broadcasts his intent to surrender, and
walks toward us under a white flag? It is not in our
tradition to shoot prisoners. Rather, President Bush should
now set forth a policy of "universal surrender": all of Al
Qaeda or none. Selective surrender of one or a dozen
leaders - which would leave cells in Afghanistan and
elsewhere free to fight on - is unacceptable. We should
continue our bombardment of bin Laden's hideouts until he
agrees to identify and surrender his entire terrorist

If he does, our criminal courts can handle them
expeditiously. If, as more likely, the primary terrorist
prefers what he thinks of as martyrdom, that suicidal
choice would be his - and Americans would have no need of
kangaroo courts to betray our principles of justice.

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company

©2002 hempiscool.com
Site created & updated by