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U.S.: foundations of a totalitarian government- in progress

 
 
Reply Tue 15 Nov, 2005 04:24 pm
Published on Monday, November 14, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Losing Habeas Corpus - "A More Dangerous Engine of Arbitrary Government"
by Thom Hartmann

About a year ago, an op-ed article on Al Jazeerah's website by Fawaz Turki titled "For Bush, A Hot Line To Churchill" opened by noting that Tony Blair had given George W. Bush a bust of Winston Churchill, which sits in Bush's Oval Office. Turki then quotes Churchill:

"The power of the executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious, and the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

The oldest human right defined in the history of English-speaking civilization is the right to challenge that "power of the executive" through the use of habeas corpus laws. Habeas corpus is roughly Latin for "hold the body," and is used in law to mean that a government must either charge a person with a crime or let them go free.

And last week, U.S. Senate Republicans (with the help of five Senate Democrats) passed a bill that would begin to take down that right.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, in proposing the legislation, said, "It is clear to me from Abu Ghraib backward, forward, and other things we know about, that at times we have lost our way in fighting this war." Few would disagree. "What we are trying to do in a series of amendments," Graham added, "is recapture the moral high ground and provide guidance to our troops."

But destroying habeas corpus will not "recapture the moral high ground" or "provide guidance for our troops." It may, however, throw our troops (and citizens) into a living hell if they're captured by other governments that have chosen to follow our example.

This attack on eight centuries of English law is no small thing. While their intent was to deny Guantanamo Bay Concentration Camp detainees the right to see a judge or jury, it could just as easily extend to you and me. (Already two American citizens have been arbitrarily stripped of their habeas corpus rights by the Bush administration - Jose Padilla is still languishing in prison incommunicado and Yasser Hamdi was deported to the police state of Saudi Arabia where every Friday they conduct public floggings and executions.)

Section 9, Clause 2, of Article I of the United States Constitution says: "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

Abraham Lincoln was the first president (on March 3, 1863) to suspend habeas corpus so he could imprison those he considered a threat until the war was over. Congress invoked this power again during Reconstruction when President Grant requested The Ku Klux Klan Act in 1871 to put down a rebellion in South Carolina. Those are the only two fully legal suspensions of habeas corpus in the history of the United States (and Lincoln's is still being debated).

The United States hasn't suffered a "Rebellion" or an "Invasion" Lincoln's and Grant's administrations. There are no foreign armies on our soil, seizing our cities. No states or municipalities are seriously talking about secession. Yet the U.S. Senate wants to tinker with habeas corpus.

The modern institution of civil and human rights, and particularly the writ of habeas corpus, began in June of 1215 when King John was forced by the feudal lords to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Although that document mostly protected "freemen" - what were then known as feudal lords or barons, and today known as CEOs and millionaires - rather than the average person, it initiated a series of events that echo to this day.

Two of the most critical parts of the Magna Carta were articles 38 and 39, which established the foundation for what is now known as "habeas corpus" laws, as well as the Fourth through Eighth Amendments of our Constitution and hundreds of other federal and state due process provisions.

Articles 38 and 39 of the Magna Carta said:

"38 In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.
"39 No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land."

This was radical stuff, and over the next four hundred years average people increasingly wanted for themselves these same protections from the abuse of the power of government or great wealth. But from 1215 to 1628, outside of the privileges enjoyed by the feudal lords, the average person could be arrested and imprisoned at the whim of the king with no recourse to the courts.

Then, in 1627, King Charles I overstepped, and the people snapped. Charles I threw into jail five knights in a tax disagreement, and the knights sued the King, asserting their habeas corpus right to be free or on bail unless convicted of a crime.

King Charles I, in response, invoked his right to simply imprison anybody he wanted (other than the rich), anytime he wanted, as he said, "per speciale Mandatum Domini Regis." Mad

This is essentially the same argument that George W. Bush makes today for why he has the right to detain both citizens and non-citizens solely on his own say-so: because he's in charge. And it's an argument now supported by Senate Republicans and five Democrats. Shocked

But just as George's decree is meeting resistance, Charles' decree wasn't well received. The result of his overt assault on the rights of citizens led to a sort of revolt in the British Parliament, producing the 1628 "Petition of Right" law, an early version of our Fourth through Eighth Amendments, which restated Articles 38 and 39 of the Magna Carta and added that "writs of habeas corpus, [are] there to undergo and receive [only] as the court should order." It was later strengthened with the "Habeas Corpus Act of 1640" and a second "Habeas Corpus Act of 1679."

Thus, the right to suspend habeas corpus no longer was held by the King. It was exercised solely by the people's (elected and hereditary) representatives in the Parliament. Rolling Eyes

The third George to govern the United Kingdom confronted this in 1815 when he came into possession of Napoleon Bonaparte. British laws were so explicit that everybody was entitled to habeas corpus - even people who were not British citizens - that when Napoleon surrendered on the deck of the British flagship Bellerophon after the battle of Waterloo in 1815, the British Parliament had to pass a law ("An Act For The More Effectually Detaining In Custody Napoleon Bonaparte") to suspend habeas corpus so King George III could legally continue to hold him prisoner (and then legally exile him to a British fortification on a distant island).

Now, Congress is moving to similarly detain people or exile them to camps on a distant island. Except these people are not Napoleon Bonapartes. As The New York Times noted in a November 12, 2005 editorial, "according to government and military officials, an overwhelming majority [of the Guantanamo concentration camp detainees] should not have been taken prisoner in the first place." Shocked

It may well be that the only reason these Republicans are so determined to keep our Guantanamo prisoners incarcerated is to avoid the embarrassment and negative political fallout that would ensue if they were released and told the world's media their stories of false arrest, torture, illegal imprisonment, and hunger strikes. Cool

The Founders must be turning in their graves. As Alexander Hamilton - arguably the most conservative of the Founders - wrote in Federalist 84:

"The establishment of the writ of habeas corpus ... are perhaps greater securities to liberty and republicanism than any it [the Constitution] contains. ...[T]he practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been, in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny. The observations of the judicious [British 18th century legal scholar] Blackstone, in reference to the latter, are well worthy of recital:
"'To bereave a man of life,' says he, 'or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore A MORE DANGEROUS ENGINE of arbitrary government.''' [Capitals all Hamilton's from the original.] Evil or Very Mad

The question, ultimately, is whether our nation will continue to stand for the values upon which it was founded. Question

Early American conservatives suggested that democracy was so ultimately weak it couldn't withstand the assault of newspaper editors and citizens who spoke out against it, or terrorists from the Islamic Barbary Coast, leading John Adams to pass America's first PATRIOT Act-like laws, the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. President Thomas Jefferson rebuked those who wanted America ruled by an iron-handed presidency that could - as Adams had - throw people in jail for "crimes" such as speaking political opinion, or without constitutional due process.

"I know, indeed," Jefferson said in his first inaugural address on March 4, 1801, "that some honest men fear that a republican government cannot be strong; that this government is not strong enough.
But, Jefferson said, our nation was "the world's best hope," and because of our strong commitment to democracy, "the strongest government on earth."

The sum of this, Jefferson said, was found in "freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation.
"The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civil instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."

When I was working in Russia some years ago, a friend in Kaliningrad told me a perhaps apocryphal story about Nikita Khrushchev, who, following Stalin's death, gave a speech to the Politburo denouncing Stalin's policies. A few minutes into Khrushchev's diatribe, somebody shouted out, "Why didn't you challenge him then, the way you are now?"

The room fell silent, as Khrushchev angrily swept the audience with his glare. "Who said that?" he asked in a reasoned voice. Silence.

"Who said that?" Khrushchev demanded, leaning forward. Silence.

Pounding his fist on the podium to accent each word, he screamed, "Who - said - that?" Still no answer.

Finally, after a long and strained silence, the elected politicians in the room fearful to even cough, a corner of Khrushchev's mouth lifted into a smile.

"Now you know," he said with a chuckle, "why I did not speak up against Stalin when I sat where you now sit."

The question for our day is who will speak up against Stalinist policies in America? Who will speak against the man who punishes reporters and news organizations by cutting off their access; who punishes politicians by targeting them in their home districts; who punishes truth-tellers in the Executive branch by character assassination that even extends to destroying their spouse's careers? And why is our press doing such a pathetic job that in all probability 95 percent of Americans don't even know that the U.S. Senate voted last week to begin the process of suspending habeas corpus?

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Number 8:

"The violent destruction of life and property incident to war; the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty, to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they, at length, become willing to run the risk of being less free."
We must not make the mistake that Jefferson and Hamilton warned us against. Contact your U.S. Senators (the Capitol's phone number is 202 225-3121) and tell them to stop this assault on eight hundred years of legal precedent by leaving our habeas corpus laws intact and quickly moving to ensure that the captives in our Guantanamo Bay Concentration Camps (and other, overseas, secret prisons) have the fundamental human rights of habeas corpus our Supreme Court has already ruled they should be accorded.

Thom Hartmann [thom (at) thomhartmann.com] is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show carried on the Air America Radio network. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books include "What Would Jefferson Do?" and "Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK" co-authored by Lamar Waldron.


Note by EM: And the end of the Republic as you know it.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 1,651 • Replies: 27
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DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2005 08:54 am
That right is already gone. Haven't you heard of Jose Padilla?
0 Replies
 
englishmajor
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2005 09:28 pm
YUP.

So, what're you Americans going to DO about it? Where's the protests? Have you all given up? Do you even have the right to protest?
0 Replies
 
Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2005 12:07 am
Englishmajor,

I am getting worried about you. This is bordering on obsession in my opinion. What are you Americans going to do about it? YOU ARE AN AMERICAN!
0 Replies
 
flushd
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2005 12:29 am
english,
You're an American?
I knew it! Laughing

BTW: Have you gotten a passport yet to go down to Seattle or what-have-you? That is what irritates me about Yanks! :wink: Making me go and get that ridiculous passport picture....*muttering inaudibly
0 Replies
 
talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2005 02:29 pm
The United States is becoming the government of the FEW, for the FEW and by the FEW. FEW could be the corporate psychopaths.
0 Replies
 
englishmajor
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 01:01 am
flushd wrote:
english,
You're an American?
I knew it! Laughing

BTW: Have you gotten a passport yet to go down to Seattle or what-have-you? That is what irritates me about Yanks! :wink: Making me go and get that ridiculous passport picture....*muttering inaudibly


Here's a new word for you: EX-PAT. It entails quite a lot of time, energy, money, determination and enough love of another country to commit to such an endeavor. You have no idea what I/we have had to go through to get into Canada, being as we aren't filthy rich and can buy our way in. Does northern BC Indian Reserve mean anything to you? If you are from Manitoba then you know what minus 35-40 weather feels like. Living on a Reserve is like living in Hell. We definitely paid our dues to live here and are proud to be Canadian, after paying taxes for a home we built 9 years ago - we finally get to actually live in it for more than 6 months out of every year! I know some Canadians, however, that would be better off in the States. :wink: They are much more Americanized than I will ever be. You know what they say - more Canadian than the Canadians!

And I knew you were a female, too........

Passport to go to Seattle? Why would I want to go to Seattle? I have everything I need in Canada. I HATE going thru American Customs. They are such prigs. I mean pigs. Especially since they know we don't like America anymore. Hey, we might be that "T" word, ya know!
0 Replies
 
englishmajor
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 01:07 am
Momma Angel wrote:
Englishmajor,

I am getting worried about you. This is bordering on obsession in my opinion. What are you Americans going to do about it? YOU ARE AN AMERICAN!


Oh brother. Why don't you bugger off? You seem to be obsessed with me and my posts. Get a life, American.

I am Canadian. My PR card says so. Place of birth does not mean where one's world view is oriented or where one's heart lies. Mine, obviously, lies with Canada and her people.
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 01:42 am
What happened to the Booty Babe in the fishnets?

Whoa!

Now Englishmajor is all cosmic like.
0 Replies
 
Lord Ellpus
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 02:13 am
Englishmajor, the topic of this thread should be ringing alarm bells loud and clear to any USA citizen that has read it. However, it seems that, to some, more importance should be placed on whether you are being patriotic.
This is exactly the tactic employed by the GWB cohorts when faced with any type of dissent.

Any PATRIOTIC U.S. American should be doing their utmost to persue this matter with their elected representative, in an effort to prevent any "amendments" that tinker with basic freedom and liberty.

Blair tried to push through a change to our law a couple of weeks ago, which would have meant that a person could be held in custody without charge for 90 days.
There was uproar in Parliament, and he ended up losing the vote, as his own party members rebelled against him.

Hopefully, the same thing will happen to GWB......


Keep it up, EM......I, for one, find your topics very interesting. You could be any nationality you like, as far as I am concerned. I would still read your topics with great interest.
0 Replies
 
englishmajor
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 02:27 pm
Lord Ellpus wrote:
Englishmajor, the topic of this thread should be ringing alarm bells loud and clear to any USA citizen that has read it. However, it seems that, to some, more importance should be placed on whether you are being patriotic.
This is exactly the tactic employed by the GWB cohorts when faced with any type of dissent.

Any PATRIOTIC U.S. American should be doing their utmost to persue this matter with their elected representative, in an effort to prevent any "amendments" that tinker with basic freedom and liberty.

Blair tried to push through a change to our law a couple of weeks ago, which would have meant that a person could be held in custody without charge for 90 days.
There was uproar in Parliament, and he ended up losing the vote, as his own party members rebelled against him.

Hopefully, the same thing will happen to GWB......


Keep it up, EM......I, for one, find your topics very interesting. You could be any nationality you like, as far as I am concerned. I would still read your topics with great interest.



Well, thank you. And you are correct - an American claiming to be 'patriotic' should be reading this article with much alarm. However, patriotism seems to be whether or not one supports the 'war' in Iraq. I do not Laughing as you guessed.

Red herrings are something GWB's cabal is very good at. So, while the Americans are kept in fear of a bird flu, or whatever the current fear mongering issue is, America will quietly slip into being a dictatorship/totalitarian gov't.

Sure, I don't like America. But, who does, except the notoriously ignorant Americans?! Even some of them are now, though too late, getting the idea that maybe they were lied to. Duh. If it has taken over 5 years for that to partially sink in, how much longer do you think issues in this article will take to sink in?

That I was born in America and have chosen to move to Canada permanently does not change my anger at the government and the apathy I see in 99% of the people in the U.S. They are lulled by lies and too lazy to check out the truth. They will believe that they are a superpower, right up until the end. (Like Rome, eh?) Whether I am patriotic or not, as you say, does NOT MATTER. What DOES matter is what are YOU Americans going to do about this? I don't live there anymore, but you do! Take it back from those who would turn it into what was just overthrown in Iraq. What's the saying - I have seen the enemy and it is us'?
0 Replies
 
englishmajor
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 02:30 pm
Finn d'Abuzz wrote:
What happened to the Booty Babe in the fishnets?

Whoa!

Now Englishmajor is all cosmic like.


Ooohhhhh, Finn. I'm so disappointed in you. Didn't you read the article? Think it might give you nightmares?

Yeah, I like being all cosmic. Those fishnets were uncomfortable.

Did you read Lord Ellpus' reply to me? He is right, you know. Red herrings will get you nowhere.
0 Replies
 
Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 02:35 pm
Englishmajor,

I understand what you are saying. You have your right to believe as you do. I guess my real question to you is, why, since you take no ownership of being an American, or even as a citizen of another country, do you feel you have the right to seemingly demand from Americans to do something?

Aren't you yourself accusing America of sticking their noses in places where it does not belong? So, aren't you in essence, doing the same? I realize you are not literally at war with the US, but is the intent not the same?

I really am trying to understand your obvious fervor for this. It is obviously very important to you so I am attempting to try to understand it.

I'm just not very receptive to being called things like notoriously ignorant. And patriotism is having love or devotion for one's country. It says nothing about if you support this or that then you are not patriotic. None of us support every single thing this country, nor any other country for that matter, does.

Englishmajor, I met a different side of you in another thread, so, I know there is a different side to you than what I can see right now. I really would like to understand you.
0 Replies
 
englishmajor
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 03:11 pm
Englishmajor,

I understand what you are saying. You have your right to believe as you do. I guess my real question to you is, why, since you take no ownership of being an American, or even as a citizen of another country, do you feel you have the right to seemingly demand from Americans to do something?

Aren't you yourself accusing America of sticking their noses in places where it does not belong? So, aren't you in essence, doing the same? I realize you are not literally at war with the US, but is the intent not the same?

I really am trying to understand your obvious fervor for this. It is obviously very important to you so I am attempting to try to understand it.

I'm just not very receptive to being called things like notoriously ignorant. And patriotism is having love or devotion for one's country. It says nothing about if you support this or that then you are not patriotic. None of us support every single thing this country, nor any other country for that matter, does.

Englishmajor, I met a different side of you in another thread, so, I know there is a different side to you than what I can see right now. I really would like to understand you.
Quote:


Read the article. That's all I can say. If you don't understand it, ask Lord Ellpus for help. Or me.

Yes, fervor. Something lacking in America. Are you all too afraid? I would say I am trying to send wake up calls that mostly go unheeded. I am trying to save my relatives from living in a totalitarian society. Soon I will give up and turn my attention to more interesting things than trying to alert Americans that America is, as far as a Republic, GONE. (Yes, I do have lots of hobbies I actually enjoy!) This is more like teaching a special education class; short attention spans, throwing out red herrings, (diverting the topic). You guys just don't get it, do you?

You may be lulled by religion, MA, but in the end you'll be living in a hell worse than what Saddam gave his people. If you think it can't happen in America, ask the Germans. They had Hitler. You have Bush.

Now, read the entire article and let me know what you think. Or, if you 'can't get into it' for whatever reasons, please do not post to me again. I cannot explain myself further. I am politically oriented, you are not. Don't quite know why you're here. Is the abortion thread getting boring?
0 Replies
 
Sturgis
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 03:18 pm
Yawn...once again EM presents one sided conversations... really much too boring.
0 Replies
 
Arella Mae
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 03:20 pm
Englishmajor,

I think for the sake of harmony, I will just bow out of this thread and I will refrain from posting behind you or in direct response to you.

I honestly was trying to understand you. I get the impression you do not believe that. That is fine.

I did read the article. I have read all the stuff you have posted. I have looked at the links you have posted. I know this is important to you.

But, just because someone may not agree with you completely does that mean that we are ignorant? Does that mean we have short attention spans? It just means we all have different understandings of things. That's all it means. We have differing views. I do not feel you are any of the things you have implied Americans to be because you don't agree with me.

It's not what you say so much as how you have said it. I enjoyed the conversations with you where you didn't feel the need to label anyone ignorant, etc. I actually enjoyed those conversations! You can be very charming.

So, with that said, I won't be posting in threads you start, directly behind you, or in direct response to you.

As I have told you before, I wish you no ill will and do not want to argue with you for any reason.
0 Replies
 
englishmajor
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 03:31 pm
Lord Ellpus wrote:
Englishmajor, the topic of this thread should be ringing alarm bells loud and clear to any USA citizen that has read it. However, it seems that, to some, more importance should be placed on whether you are being patriotic.
This is exactly the tactic employed by the GWB cohorts when faced with any type of dissent.

Any PATRIOTIC U.S. American should be doing their utmost to persue this matter with their elected representative, in an effort to prevent any "amendments" that tinker with basic freedom and liberty.

Blair tried to push through a change to our law a couple of weeks ago, which would have meant that a person could be held in custody without charge for 90 days.
There was uproar in Parliament, and he ended up losing the vote, as his own party members rebelled against him.

Hopefully, the same thing will happen to GWB......


Keep it up, EM......I, for one, find your topics very interesting. You could be any nationality you like, as far as I am concerned. I would still read your topics with great interest.


Too many people don't fully understand the issue presented here, Lord Ellpus. One side-edness (is that a word?!) is an understatement!! Too bad they don't address the article, and not whether or not I'm an American citizen. Which, as you wisely pointed out, does not matter. Oh well, you can lead a horse to water........
0 Replies
 
flushd
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 10:12 pm
Well, it is of interest where someone grew up. And what country they are from. It gives some context to their comments.

English, you are living on a northern B.C. reserve now? Okay. Yes, I know what freezing weather is like. Laughing I personally love it! I also find it interesting that you are living on a res. I'm sure your own personal history and ideas would fascinate me, but this is not the place to ask you all those q's eh?! Razz

Have you checked out http://www.rabble.ca/babble/ ?
It is a political forum I think you would enjoy.
cheers!

Very Happy
0 Replies
 
goodfielder
 
  1  
Reply Fri 18 Nov, 2005 11:37 pm
Quote:
Yes, I know what freezing weather is like. I personally love it!


Is it true they call it Winterpeg? Shocked
0 Replies
 
flushd
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 04:26 pm
Yeah, goodfielder Smile

We've got a lot of names for this joint. And people love to talk about the weather. As I type, it is a winter wonderland outside.

What's it like right now in your neck of the woods? :wink:
0 Replies
 
 

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