Tuesday, September 26, 2006

the article speaks for itself, now will your senators speak for you?

The Washington Post has a front page article that, in part, says the following:

Republican lawmakers and the White House agreed over the weekend to alter new legislation on military commissions to allow the United States to detain and try a wider range of foreign nationals than an earlier version of the bill permitted, according to government sources.

Lawmakers and administration officials announced last week that they had reached accord on the plan for the detention and military trials of suspected terrorists, and it is scheduled for a vote this week. But in recent days the Bush administration and its House allies successfully pressed for a less restrictive description of how the government could designate civilians as "unlawful enemy combatants," the sources said yesterday. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of negotiations over the bill.

The government has maintained since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that, based on its reading of the laws of war, anyone it labels an unlawful enemy combatant can be held indefinitely at military or CIA prisons. But Congress has not yet expressed its view on who is an unlawful combatant, and the Supreme Court has not ruled directly on the matter.

As a result, human rights experts expressed concern yesterday that the language in the new provision would be a precedent-setting congressional endorsement for the indefinite detention of anyone who, as the bill states, "has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States" or its military allies.

The definition applies to foreigners living inside or outside the United States and does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant. It is broader than that in last week's version of the bill, which resulted from lengthy, closed-door negotiations between senior administration officials and dissident Republican senators. That version incorporated a definition backed by the Senate dissidents: those "engaged in hostilities against the United States."

Go ahead and read the entire article—it is mind-boggling.

Let me amend that: It is not really that mind-boggling that this White House would be seeking such sweeping and unilateral powers, but it is still mind-boggling that any Senator, especially the Democratic ones, would allow this to pass.

And yet, as I write this, that is exactly what seems likely. Why is this new language not the top story on the broadcast news? Why is this not the stuff that causes every patriotic American to howl? Why is this not the place where Democrats in the leadership like Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, or presidential hopefuls like Hillary Clinton and Evan Bayh say, "enough is enough"?

Perhaps they need reminding that American voters have morals and standards. Perhaps they need reminding that if they want your vote in 2008, they need to take a stand in 2006. . . right now. . . with meaningful votes, not just nice words.

A “no” vote on the detainee detention and tribunals bill is nice, but it won’t butter the biscuit in a Republican dominated Senate. This bill demands a loud and principled filibuster.

To reiterate: this language allows the President to designate anyone he chooses, even a US citizen, as an unlawful enemy combatant, and it allows that person to be picked up and detained indefinitely without any right to challenge the detention in court. I don’t mean to sound hyperbolic, but it seems to me that this is by definition a law that creates a totalitarian state.

If Democrats cannot stand in unity against this bill, then I honestly have to wonder what they stand for.

Call Harry Reid and your Senators and any others you feel like giving a piece of your mind, and tell them how you expect them to stand up for our Democracy and the Constitution of the United States.

In this case, that means a filibuster.


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