Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What Did The Founding Fathers Know?

The U.S. House of Representatives, in a gesture empty of all but symbolic meaning, has passed a $50 billion war funding bill that is a direct shot at the White House. It would set timetables for bringing troops home, requires the White House to certify to Congress that a unit is 'fully mission capable' 15 days before the unit goes onto the line, and require all government interrogators (including other branches of service and civilian interrogators such as CIA officers) to use the guidelines in the Army Field Manual. The last is nearly as big a sticking point with the White House, it would appear, as the timetable for troop withdrawals. You see, the Army Field Manual's rules for interrogations are based on the Geneva Convention and specifically forbid torture of any kind. In 2006 the manual was updated to specifically forbid 'aggressive interrogation techniques' that the White House insisted were not torture, like water-boarding. Now, John McCain thinks water-boarding is torture and he's someone who has some experience in that area so I trust his judgement. Considering the widely differing war records of Senator McCain and President Bush, I consider McCain the greater authority on this matter.

The White House said, in its official response to the passage of the bill, that the Geneva Conventions should not apply to "captured terrorists who openly flout the law."The phrase "who openly flout the law" makes it sound like the White House wants to pass the capture of Iraqi guerillas off as a law enforcement matter instead of recognizing them as prisoners of war. Let's forget for a moment that the U.S. military invaded and is occupying Iraq and that, while the White House officially claims the Iraq war is over and this is merely the 'mopping up', the Iraqis and foreign jihadists fighting the United States military certainly believe they are at war. Let's say that this is a police action and that the jihadists are criminals. If we accept this argument, then the White House is correct and the Geneva Convention doesn't apply. Instead, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 forbids the military from participating directly in "search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in said activity is otherwise authorized by law." When the U.S. Army occupied Japan and Germany after WWII, the occupation authority set up separate police forces authorized directly by Congress. If the fighting of insurgents in Iraq is truly a law enforcement matter, then the government should do the same now. Due process, habeas corpus, and other basic law enforcement practices should be followed. Prisoners would be suspects innocent until proven guilty rather than "captured terrorists who openly flout the law." If this is not done, if the current guerilla actions in Iraq are a military matter, then Iraqi insurgents are prisoners of war and the Geneva Convention applies. The White House would like to create a shadowy middle ground, exclusively for those they label terrorists, in which they can do as they please with no consequences.

Neither the Geneva Convention nor the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 existed during the American Revolution. Yet the military occupation of the colonies by the British army, the use of the British army as a police force to politically control the populace, illegal search, seizure, and arrest by the British army, and the suppression of public protests by the British army were all explicit grievances of the Founding Fathers. Protection from illegal search, seizure, and arrest, protection from self-incrimination, and the right to legal representation were all specifically envisioned by the Founding Fathers and enshrined in our Constitution.

Stop, you say. We're not talking about the United States, we're talking about Iraq. These aren't American citizens. They don't have constitutional rights.

We are, according to Giovindini Murty (co-founder of the Liberty Film Festival, columnist, and Fox News Expert Interviewee), "a just America spreading freedom overseas." A just America spreading freedom overseas would start by spreading the rights Americans enjoy under the U.S. Constitution. They would start by obeying the treaties they had signed, such as the Geneva Convention, and by following their own laws, such as the Posse Comitatus Act. They would act with integrity, justice, and mercy toward their friends and their foes in order to bravely spread the ideals of a free and pluralist society.

Maybe the White House thinks the Founding Fathers were full of crap.

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