An attorney for the White House recently described the president’s powers granted him by the constitution and congress during a “time of war” as “awesome power.” The context of this statement was a discussion concerning the executive branches’ alleged right to detain “enemy combatants” during a time of war, including those combatants who are detained within the borders of this country, and specifically including those individuals who happen to be citizens of the good old US of A. What is the basis of the executive branches’ decision to detain these individuals? Why, it’s their interpretation of available intelligence. What intelligence, you may ask? Well, in the interests of national security, you don’t have the right to know that; neither do the detainees, nor their attorneys, nor any civil authority (local, state, or federal Judges for example). “Well”, you might say, “bad things happen in times of war.” “The important thing is that we remain safe.”
Four words: weapons of mass destruction.
Do you remember when the president wanted to invade Iraq? Do you remember when we were told we needed to act sooner rather than later because Iraq was working on the bomb? Do you remember when we were told about mobile weapons labs working on clandestine plots to unleash chemical and biological nightmares on the Christian people of the world? Do you remember when it was suggested that Iraq was working closely with Al Qaeda to plot a reign of terror on America? Do you remember when we found out it was all exaggerated? Do you remember when it was revealed that there was no reliable intelligence for any of it?
A funny thing happens when people start to look over the proverbial shoulder, the truth is eventually revealed. Some people call it accountability. What happens when the executive branch of government is accountable to no one? What happens when walls are erected to prevent anyone taking a peek? Some people wonder what the big deal is. What are a few people’s rights where national security is concerned? Just be careful what you read in the library.
And one more thing, what do you think the framers of the constitution would think of an essentially permanent state of war? 43 said that the war in Iraq was over, didn’t he? When do you suppose the war on terror will be over? Will it ever? I thought the surrender of individual rights was originally supposed to be a temporary thing in times of crisis. It was bad enough the powers of the executive were abused in other, relatively short times of war; like the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. Now it seems a state of war will exist until we have a new chief executive. Does anyone care? Am I imagining all of this? Am I overreacting?
Author’s note (added 4/29/04): Here’s my point… I wasn’t terribly clear yesterday. American citizens can be held, essentially without evidence (for all we know), for as long as the government likes. No one has the right to learn why. As long as the U.S. is “at war”, these people can be held indefinitely. If the U.S. is “at war” with “terror” for the next 20 years, does this mean that these people just “disappear?” This is the state of affairs as I type this entry. Does anyone else find this the least bit scarry?