Abu Ghraib and the recent Supreme Court decisions have brought attention to the Bush Administration’s horrible civil liberties record, but I think that the picture never quite gets talked about as a whole, and is worse than anyone realizes. (The fact that they went beyond what Justice Scalia was willing to accept tells you a lot).
Consider the following propositions in their combined effect. All of them have been asserted by the administration or its defenders.
1. The Geneva Conventions do not apply to anyone but uniformed troops of a signatory.
2. American law does not apply to Guantanamo, which is controlled by the U.S. but is Cuban territory.
3. Illegal combatants essentially have no rights. The definition of “illegal combatant” is not restricted by the conditions of the single precedent case from WWII.
4. During the War on Terror, extraordinary wartime measures can be taken by the Commander in Chief.
5. There needn’t be a declaration of war in the War on Terror, and the enemy isn’t any specific group, much less a nation, but simply all terrorists. All enemies in the War on Terror are by definition illegal combatants.
6. The Congressional authorization of the first Iraq War remains in effect, and no further Congressional authorization is necessary. If not, then the authorization of the Afghan War remains in effect, with the same significance.
7. No one will be able to know when the War on Terror has ended. “The duration of the war” or even “the heat of battle” can last for years.
8. “Torture” is a meaningless word, and international agreements forbidding torture are quaint.
8. American citizens are not exempt from the above principles, even if arrested within the U.S.
9. Americans acting overseas in support of American policy are exempt from prosecution by any foreign government or international body, and the application of American law to their actions is limited.
10. Actions taken under these principles are not subject to American judicial review, nor does any international body have any authority over them.
If you add it all up, it amounts to a completely free hand for the executive branch, the police, and the military.
In the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and in American common law, you will read about “star chamber proceedings”, “cruel and unusual punishment”, the refusal of habeus corpus, “bills of attainder” and the like as the crimes of George III which justified the American revolution. But our present ruler, George the Fourth, doesn’t see what the fuss was all about.
I keep repeating this, but it remains true. Libertarians who still are considering voting for George Bush are pornographic human units with no redeeming social value.
The social value of libertarians comes from their dedication to liberty, pretty much by definition, but if they vote for Bush they obviously have none, and thus are pornographic according to the Supreme Court definition: “In Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), Justice Brennan, writing for the Court, said for the material to be obscene, it must be ‘utterly without redeeming social value.’” (Link)