Friday, June 13, 2008


Freedom from arbitrary imprisonment

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court once again — it’s three times now — handed down a decision saying that the political prisoners being held in the Guantánamo Bay prison must be allowed to challenge their detentions. The 5-to-4 vote makes it seem like a closer decision than it is: the dissenters are King George’s hand-picked sycophants (Justices Roberts and Alito) and the court’s two ultra-reactionary wingnuts (Justices Scalia and Thomas). There was no doubt there. But the five with any sense of reason told us that they won’t tolerate the indefinite detention of anyone on the president’s say-so alone, with no judicial oversight.

Not surprisingly, the Lame Chimp himself doesn’t like it. Somewhat surprisingly, though, he claims he’ll go along with it, saying, during his visit to Rome, “We’ll abide by the court’s decision. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it. [...] It was a deeply divided court, and I strongly agree with those who dissented.”

Perhaps, though, that doesn’t really mean anything. NPR’s report this morning said that Attorney General Mukasey says it will change little. So maybe the Bush regime won’t be abiding by it as much as he says.

Opinions are in from the two major presidential candidates, and it’s also not surprising that they disagree, and that Senator McCain is on Bush’s side. His reasoning is a perfect example of the problem with the situation:

Mr. McCain said here Thursday morning that he had not had time to read the decision but that “it obviously concerns me,” adding, “These are unlawful combatants; they’re not American citizens.”
No. They are not unlawful combatants. They are accused of being unlawful combatants, and that’s not the same thing at all. Their citizenship isn’t relevant; it’s a basic human right, as we reckon things in the United States, that no one can just be thrown into a dungeon at the emperor’s word. And the military tribunals don’t fix that, being too close to the situation and too much under the emperor’s thumb.

As Justice Kennedy puts it in his majority opinion:

Security subsists in fidelity to freedom’s first principles. Chief among these is freedom from arbitrary imprisonment.

No one thinks we should let all these people go. It’s just that if you claim they’re Bad Guys, we’re saying that you have to convince someone else — an impartial judge — of that claim. Simple. Basic. One of freedom’s first principles.

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