Thursday, October 19, 2006
Habeas Corpus Delicti
corpus de-LIC-ti (n) -- The material evidence in a homicide, such as the discovered corpse of a murder victim, showing that a crime has been committed; a corpse.
“This is not a time of rebellion,” points out John D. Hutson, dean of the Franklin Pierce Law School in New Hampshire and former judge advocate general of the Navy, referring to the Bush regime's suspension of the habeas corpus guarantee. “There has not been an invasion, and there's no evidence the `public safety' requires it. Let's not kid ourselves. This is not about an invasion. It is about the embarrassment of holding people who, if they got to court, could show they should not have been held.”
Hutson's assessment alludes to the fact that the U.S. Constitution does permit Congress to suspend habeas corpus “when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” The newly enacted Military Commissions Act (MCA) effectively destroys the habeas corpus guarantee for non-citizens within the United States accused of being “unlawful enemy combatants,” and undermines that guarantee for any US citizens thus designated by a “competent tribunal” appointed by, and accountable only to, the president.
Habeas corpus is the principle of law, innate to the Anglo-Saxon tradition of due process, protecting individuals from arbitrary imprisonment without trial or other judicial recourse. The fact that the Constitution provides for the suspension of that guarantee by Congress, under specific circumstances, is one of the three major disfiguring weaknesses of that noble text (the others being the Eminent Domain “takings” provision and the original language outlining the compromise on chattel slavery).
What happened on October 17, when Imperator Arbustius Minimus scrawled his childish signature on the MCA, could be considered an example of a “revolution within the form,” Aristotle's description of the process through which tyrants determined to acquire total power subvert the institutions of a relatively free society through deception, rather than demolition – using legal means and established institutions.
In our constitutional system, checks and balances only operate if those in whom political sovereignty resides – the public – are alert and jealous of their liberties. Most of the American public has either been anesthetized by the corporatist media, or intimidated into compliant silence.
The sound of liberty dying, pace Senator Amidala, is not necessarily “thunderous applause”; in our case, it's the amorphous babble of a terminally distracted population that has been indifferent to the fate of their freedoms.
Dean Hutson's analysis of the MCA underscores the fact that the MCA retroactively pardons Bush and his henchmen for illegally imprisoning and torturing innocent detainees rounded up and imprisoned at Gitmo and various “black sites” after 9-11. This explains why Bush was so anxious to get the measure passed before the mid-term elections. This presents us with a fascinating spectacle – the passage of a law that is itself evidence of a crime (that is, a corpus delicti).
But is it possible that immunizing Bush and the others who went to what Darth Cheney calls “the dark side” was the central purpose of the MCA?
This would certainly be in character – if we can wring from that word an applicable meaning – for Bush and his cohorts.
After all, as military affairs analyst William Lind points out, Americans and Iraqis continue to die in a war Washington knows is lost for the purpose of preserving George W. Bush's historic reputation.
“The `battle for Baghdad' is going nowhere,” Lind observed a few days ago. “A Marine friend just back from Ramadi said to me, `It didn’t get any better while I was there, and it’s not going to get better.” Virtually everyone in Washington, except the people in the White House, knows that is true for all of Iraq.”
“Actually, I think the White House knows it too,” Lind continues. “Why then does it insist on `staying the course' at a casualty rate [dead and wounded] of more than one thousand Americans per month? The answer is breathtaking in its cynicism: so the retreat from Iraq happens on the next President’s watch. That is why we still fight. Yep, it’s now all about George. Anyone who thinks that is too low, too mean, too despicable even for this bunch does not understand the meaning of the adjective `Rovian.' Would they let thousands more young Americans get killed or wounded just so George W. does not have to face the consequences of his own folly? In a heartbeat.”
From this perspective, Incurious George and his handlers just demolished seven centuries of due process protections, and are presiding over the needless slaughter of thousands, simply to protect themselves from the consequences of their own corruption.
Lind, in a phrase I devoutly wish had been birthed at my keyboard, predicts: “When history finally lifts it leg on the Bush administration, it will wash all such tricks away, leaving only the hubris and the incompetence.”
And CNBC commentator Keith Olbermann, in the most recent of the “Special Comment” segments he has devoted to chronicling our descent into a Bushevik dictatorship, chides Bush for not thinking things through as he signed the MCA.
Striking exactly the proper tone in addressing the Bushling – the weary condescension and tightly controlled anger of a disgusted adult trying to explain a rudimentary concept of logic to a spoiled, bratty child who has just burned down the family home – Olbermann inquired:
“Did it ever occur to you once, that in just 27 months and two days from now when you leave office, some irresponsible future President and a `competent tribunal' of lackeys would be entitled, by the actions of your own hand, to declare the status of `Unlawful Enemy Combatant' for… and convene a Military Commission to try… not John Walker Lindh, but George Walker Bush?”
Bush the Much Lesser is indeed a poster child for not thinking things through, and it would be delectable to see him hoist by his own petard. But it looks like someone has already established a ratline for Bush and his cohorts: According to a report in the Latin American press, the Bush Family has been looking into the possibility of purchasing land and settling down in northern Paraguay.
The corpse of our constitutional republic lies cold at our feet; her murderers have chosen an escape route, and the getaway car is idling in the driveway.
at 10:56 AM