Thursday, June 29, 2006

A sigh of relief

A few days ago I was listening to an interview with Joe Margulies, the lawyer who won Rasul v. Bush in the Supreme Court and author of an excellent new book with the self-explanatory title Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power. As he explained the implications of the upcoming decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, I began thinking about how to respond if the ruling went in favor of the current regime.

It was hard even to face the possibility, because it would mean we'd officially, explicitly become a dictatorship. It's one thing for Congress to cave in to rule by particular men rather than by law. At the moment that branch is controlled by our would-be-dictator's party, hopelessly corrupted by criminal leaders and their sleazy slush funds. But those Senators and Representatives can, in theory, be voted out, even if the alternatives on offer seem only marginally more likely to put some needed restraints on a power-grabbing executive.

Supreme Court rulings, on the other hand, take a long, long time to reverse. If the last branch of government failed to stand in the way, it would send the chilling signal that voters are powerless to reverse the regime's policies. It would intimidate almost everyone who might get the courage to stand up in opposition. And it would raise the serious prospect of extra-constitutional methods of regime change.

But {whew!} we dodged that bullet. So to speak.

Today's Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan reaffirms that the president is bound by laws and treaties, and cannot simply set them aside when inconvenient. The most basic protections of the Geneva Convention are available to all persons detained by our government, wherever they are held and in whatever situation they were captured. And we are still ruled by laws, not men.

Now let's get to work to get rid of the craven empty suits who should have made this ruling unnecessary years ago.



At 7:29 PM, June 29, 2006, Blogger Gary Farber said...

I'm suspecting you meant to paste in a link, rather than suggest, by default linking to yourself, that you are a craven suit.

Call me crazy for this suspicion.

At 10:51 PM, June 29, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Link fixed, to refer to the particular craven empty suit I had in mind.

At 5:51 PM, June 30, 2006, Blogger Gary Farber said...

Some interesting quotes from Margulies (and others) here:

"Today, much of the mania over Gitmo in factual human rights reporting is overblown -- and this is from Margulies, the author and plaintiff's attorney. He dismisses the comparison of Guantanamo to the gulag by a prominent human rights group as 'irresponsible.' Perhaps 450 men remain at Guantanamo's prison camps, which have existed for just over four years. Even if the treatment of inmates in 'Road' is accurate -- short shackling, hoods and goggles, blaring music, isolation -- it simply doesn't compare in magnitude or severity to the prison camps of lasting notoriety.

That said, 'knowing that we aren't up there with the worst that history has managed to create doesn't bring a lot of comfort,' he says. 'The whole intent was to get these people to a place where the law didn't apply. . . . In the history of American armed conflict, we had never created a prison system like the black sites in Eastern Europe, like Guantanamo.'"

At 5:58 PM, June 30, 2006, Blogger Thomas Nephew said...

Agreed, Nell. I had been starting to think about "what if Hamdan loses" too.

While I hope that others are wrong who think nothing much will come of the Hamdan win, I know a Hamdan loss would have been devastating. We only barely dodged that bullet. We need a new Senate and a new President who understand that.

At 6:54 PM, June 30, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Thanks for that link, Gary. I'm reading Margulies' book. There's one hell of a lot of chilling and deeply disturbing abuse being carried out by our government, even if one fastidiously forgoes the use of the word 'gulag'. The quote cited gives an idea of why Margulies is so respected.

In particular, I'd recommend listening to the very end of his interview with Terry Gross (linked in the post).

At 7:03 PM, June 30, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Oh, hell, the gin and tonics are taking effect, I'll say what I think about Gary's Washington Post link: The classic Style Section treatment, a huge disservice to the issue, as per standard operating procedure at the Post. Knowing, yet dismissive.

Feh! Read the Margulies book (ask your library to get it, it's truly the best of its genre).

At 8:41 PM, June 30, 2006, Blogger janinsanfran said...

I carry not only the fear that the SCOTUS would not stand up for the rule of law -- but also the even deeper fear that the US people do not give a rat's ass about the principles that this country has in better times aspired to.

Yesterday was a good day. Glenn Greenwald gets it right I think -- the opinion matters even if Congress "fixes" the law.

At 12:45 AM, July 02, 2006, Blogger Gary Farber said...

"There's one hell of a lot of chilling and deeply disturbing abuse being carried out by our government,"

Obviously. I'm always big, though, on perspective, as regards, well, everything.

This drives some people crazy, to be sure, and I sympathize at times, but, still, it's what I think and who I am. But I'd rather understate than overstate, and I'd, generally, rather present facts, or multiple POVs, and let people draw their own conclusions, more than not.

I don't, however, feel that everyone needs to do that; please don't think I'm implying that; I think there is a place for a wide range of voices and perspectives; I'm just saying that's mine. (I actually do also think there's often a place for people I'd consider extremists, to push envelopes, much though I may disagree with specific people at specific times; and, of course, there's plenty of valid space between someone often understating like me, and a true extremist. Etc., etc.)

At 10:16 AM, July 02, 2006, Blogger Nell said...

Gary, as a fan of perspective you ought to disdain the Post review, which is a great example of obliterating same. It diminishes the issue of state-sponsored kidnaping and torture, implies that Margulies' book as well as the movie and novel twist the facts, and distorts what Margulies says. He has never expressed the view that "Human rights reporting is overblown". He has criticized the use of the word 'gulag', period. The Post owes him a review of the book.


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