Archive for the ‘Guantanamo Detainees’ Category

Was the Bush-Cheney Regime Guilty of Torture?

Written by Robert Justin Lipkin on March 24th, 2009

Occasionally, a literary piece emerges that provides poignant insight into some troubling issue in politics or culture.  Mark Danner has written such a piece that every American should read before embracing any position of whether the United States under Bush-Cheney was guilty of flagrant war crimes, including torture. Here’s the introductory paragraph:

We think time and elections will cleanse our fallen world but they will not. Since November, George W. Bush and his administration have seemed to be rushing away from us at accelerating speed, a dark comet hurtling toward the ends of the universe. The phrase “War on Terror”—the signal slogan of that administration, so cherished by the man who took pride in proclaiming that he was “a wartime president”—has acquired in its pronouncement a permanent pair of quotation marks, suggesting something questionable, something mildly embarrassing: something past. And yet the decisions that that president made, especially the monumental decisions taken after the attacks of September 11, 2001—decisions about rendition, surveillance, interrogation—lie strewn about us still, unclaimed and unburied, like corpses freshly dead.

Thus compelling narrative should be read, reread, and then invoked whenever the subject of Bush-Cheney torture arises. To read further click here.

Three Cheers for Due Process, Democracy, and Gosh Darn it, The Constitution!

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on September 11th, 2008

This summer, I spent a lot of time engaged in one of my guilty pleasures, reading about King Henry VIII and his wives. It’s fun to read about the pageantry, and the drama and intrigue of the British court. In reading about how the monarchy used to function, I can’t help but be reminded about how great it is to live in a democracy and be protected against the arbitrariness of our leaders by our due process clause and other constitutional protections.

If the King got mad at you, he could put you in prison without leveling any charges against you, and you could rot away there for years, even die, without ever having a chance to defend yourself. Today we are protected from being imprisoned without being charged by the due process clause and the Great Writ of habeas corpus.[1]

In jolly old England, the King governed in secret, and no one but his closest advisors knew how he made his decisions or with whom he consulted while making them. In our democracy, government is transparent and leaders are held accountable for their actions.[2]

It used to be that if you made the King angry, he could fire you, and anyone else who refused to follow his orders. In today’s democracy, we require our leaders to articulate good reasons for their actions, and retaliating against our enemies is not a good enough reason.[3]

It used to be that in order to get a good position in the government, you had to make the King happy and tell him what he wanted to hear. Today, our Constitution requires our leaders not to discriminate on the basis of viewpoint.[4]

Back in the day, you didn’t have any right to criticize the King, and if you did, he would send out his soldiers to subdue you with force. Today, the First Amendment protects our right to dissent.[5]

Reading about King Henry VIII reminds me that the Constitution is not just a paper document that is interpreted by courts. It is the foundation of our government and our individual rights. We The People are protected by the Constitution, and it is our responsibility, not just the responsibility of the Courts, to insure that our leaders comply with it.

So, three cheers for Due Process and the Constitution. Thank goodness we live in a democracy, where our leaders are required to respect the Constitution. Let’s do what we can to make them fulfill this promise.

[1] Unless you are in Guantanamo Bay Prison, of course .Counter Terror with Justice[2] Unless you are the vice president.Watchdog group sues Cheney over records

[3] Unless you are the governor of Alaska.
Another Controversy for Sarah Palin
Palin Focus of Probe In Police Chief’s Firing

Mayor Palin: A Rough Record

[4] Well, except when you want to be a US attorney. See

White House Backed U.S. Attorney Firings, Officials Say

[5] Unless you are protesting at the Republican National Convention.

Republican Convention protests turn violent as 250 arrested

Guantanamo: The Court Has A Chance to Prove That It Matters

Written by Rebecca Zietlow on December 11th, 2007

Last week, the Supreme Court heard the case of Boumediene v. Bush, in which the Court considered whether detainees held in the United States military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have a constitutional right of access to federal courts to challenge their internment. This case provides the Court with a chance to show that it still matters to folks seeking to vindicate their constitutional rights. Since Marbury v. Madison, the institution of judicial review has been justified by the role that courts play in protecting the constitution, and individual rights, from the tyranny of the majority. However, in the past thirty years, the Supreme Court has shied away from that role and made it harder for individuals to obtain access to courts to vindicate their rights.

From cases narrowing the Private Right of Action doctrine, to those rigorously enforcing the justiciability requirements of Article III; from rulings making it harder for public interest lawyers to win attorneys’ fees as compensation for their law reform efforts, to those reviving the doctrine of sovereign immunity and imposing strict limits on congressional power to abrogate that immunity, the Rehnquist Court limited access to the courts as a forum for protection of constitutional rights. The Court has also limited its own jurisdiction, now hearing the fewest cases per year of any Court in the modern era. Finally, the Court has made it harder for Congress to vindicate equality rights and has narrowly interpreted congressional statutes protecting those rights.

This case represents a different scenario. Here, Congress has limited access to the federal courts of the Guantanamo detainees by enacting the Military Commissions Act (MCA) in the spring of 2006. The MCA was Congress’ response to the Court’s ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, in which the Court ruled that the military tribunals established by the Bush administration military tribunals illegally conflicted with an earlier federal statute authorizing military tribunals. The MCA purports to authorize the Bush administration’s military tribunals and eliminate habeas corpus review of tribunal proceedings.

Now, the Court has to decide whether it will allow Congress to make it irrelevant or whether some constitutional right of access to the federal courts still exists, even to those who are held in military prisons outside the territorial United States. Does the Court still have a role to play in protecting “discrete and insular minorities“? Does the Court still carry out the function of protecting the constitution from lawlessness and tyranny? The Court’s decision in Boumediene will go a long way towards answering that question.