Thursday, October 26, 2006

Democrats for Congress

This will be the first election for federal and state-level offices in which I haven't voted. I hate the thought of that, as I'm someone who even votes in local elections in my college town, but I was moving overseas and then travelling during most of September and October, and by now I figure it's too late to vote absentee. However, I will take this opportunity to encourage everyone to support a Democratic takeover of Congress, regardless of the candidates in their races.

I have exactly one reason for this, a reason which blots out every other issue I normally care about. It is the Military Commissions Act of 2006. I grew up hearing about the "Evil Empire," where the government could come and take people away and you'd never hear from them again. This legislation gives the President the power to do just that, with no possibility of review. As Juan Cole says:
"In other words, we have to be confident that George W. Bush is so competent, all-knowing, and inherently just that we can just trust him. If he says someone is an enemy combatant, then he or she is. No need to check with a judge about why he or she is being held. And then Bush can have the suspect tortured to make him confess, and can convict him on the basis of the coerced confession, all in secret.

"Basically, Bush can issue them what the French kings used to call lettres de cachet.:

"'In French history, lettres de cachet were letters signed by the king of France, countersigned by one of his ministers, and closed with the royal seal, or cachet. They contained orders directly from the king, often to enforce arbitrary actions and judgements that could not be appealed. . .'

"We Americans made a revolution against such arbitrary practices of the French and other Empires."

I can think of words better than "interesting" to put in this Ed Furey quote:
"It is interesting that the current administration and Congress are descending into barbarities so ancient and so grotesque that most Americans have never heard of them. They reside banned in obscure corners of the Constitution because the Founding Fathers knew them well enough to forbid them. Nevertheless, they are there, and as Casey Stengel liked to say: You could look it up.

Let us assume that President Bush's intentions are good. Can we say that of every future President who will have this right to disappear people? Part of the American Revolution was about setting up a government of laws, not of people, yet now we as a nation seem complacent about tossing that overboard and taking a significant step along the road to tyranny, which often begins with popular demagogues who abuse their powers in the name of some emergency to the thunderous applause of their supporters.

A line must be drawn, and this is the time to do it, or we'll eventually be in for something that makes the Palmer raids look like the actions of an overzealous traffic cop at a speeding checkpoint.

UPDATE: Maybe I'll get to vote after all.


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