The New American Unity

From the New York Times:

Once President Bush signed the new law on military tribunals, administration officials and Republican leaders in Congress wasted no time giving Americans a taste of the new order created by this unconstitutional act.

Within hours, Justice Department lawyers notified the federal courts that they no longer had the authority to hear pending lawsuits filed by attorneys on behalf of inmates of the penal camp at Guantánamo Bay. They cited passages in the bill that suspend the fundamental principle of habeas corpus, making Mr. Bush the first president since the Civil War to take that undemocratic step.

I don’t think “undemocratic” is the correct word, particularly in light of our profoundly undemocratic system of government. Indeed, it has never been less democratic, as the courts have methodically worked to prevent the will of the people from being expressed either by their legislatures or by referendum.

As with most successful expansionist acts, the immediate consequence of the new military tribunals law is a trivial one. No one would have cared if the men at Guantanamo had been shot instead of captured, and indeed, given the experience of Israel, Italy and other countries that have captured terrorists, there is some real question about the utility of capturing terrorists in the first place.

It often turns out to be a catch-and-release game anyhow, since sooner or later hostages will be taken, an exchange will be negotiated at 100-1 or 1000-1 and a surprisingly high percentage of the captured terrorists will be released. At least, this has been the continuing pattern seen with the Red Brigades, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and now Hamas.

But the devil always lurks in the details. I haven’t been a fan of Keith Olbermann since he left Sportcenter, but he and Jonathan Turley managed to nail it for once in pointing to the definition of an enemy combatant. The definition is an open one liable to expansion, and as with the definition of income taxpayer that once applied only to a very small percentage of the populace, probabilities are with the likelihood that it will expand over time.

While Cedarford is correct to point out that there have been many past violations of significant Constitutional concepts before that have not been disastrous, he neglects to take into account both the “two-steps-forward, one-step-back” nature of those historical actions as well as the most ominous aspect of the situation; the administration’s drive toward political union with Canada and Mexico.

One can at least argue that post-Lincoln and post-FDR America were still America. (Some would, with no little evidence on which to make their case, disagree vociferously.) But regardless of whether the Neue Amerikanische Einheit makes its first appearance post-Bush II or post-Clinton II, one will no longer be able to make that claim.