Bush and Civil Liberties

I got an email from the Democratic Party urging me to help Jim Webb craft a response to Bush’s State of the Union address. Unusually for me, I obliged, offering my two cents on Bush’s record on civil liberties. Needless to say, it’s weaker than it would’ve been without the constraint of not criticizing legislation like the Patriot Act, which the Democrats backed.

I wrote,

President Bush’s repeated attacks on our civil liberties are a grave concern. He has turned a blind eye to gross atrocities committed by American soldiers in Iraq. While Denmark responded to accusations of torture on the part of its troops by immediately recalling the base commander pending an investigation, Bush’s America contented itself with prosecuting a few enlisted men.

He has relied on fringe legal opinion in crafting a theory of a unitary executive, unbounded by any Congressional statute or Supreme Court ruling. Based on that theory, he ignored legislation requiring him to get warrants for wiretaps. That legislation is very lenient on the executive; while British counter-terrorism officers have to submit warrant requests to the same court regardless of whether the matter is terrorism or a petty crime, American ones can submit requests to a special FISA court, which only refuses a request in 3,600 and modifies one in a hundred. Despite that lenience, President Bush flouted the law and engaged in unsupervised, warrantless, unaccountable wiretapping.

His assault on civil liberties causes inmates in Guantanamo Bay to be held without charge and with barely if any access to legal counsel. Three days ago, the Attorney General appeared before Congress and said, “There is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution.” When called on that remark, he resorted to legal sophistry, saying that the Constitution “simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.”

President Bush’s defenders will say that giving the detainees of Guantanamo rights is absurd, because in World War Two the Allies kept German prisoners of war interned until the war ended. But in World War Two, the US Armed Forces did not randomly kidnap German civilians. They did not send people to Germany where they would be tortured for draft evasion or defection; the repatriation of Soviet prisoners of war is widely considered a murderous mistake. Domestically, Roosevelt did not intern German-Americans or Italian-Americans except those who members of Nazi or Fascist organizations; the interning of Japanese-Americans is considered one of the darkest moments in American history, together with slavery and segregation.

The President has repeatedly shown contempt for Constitutionally protected freedoms. His administration has deported people to countries where it knew they would be tortured. It ignored FISA and the Geneva Conventions, and then dragooned Congress to pass legislation retroactively legalizing its actions. It has made a mockery of the writ of habeas corpus. The Bush administration has become the very definition of the phrase “weak on civil liberties.”

18 Responses to Bush and Civil Liberties

  1. I wrote something last weekend comparing The Bush Administration’s disdain for civil liberties and the justifications that Pinochet used for “disappearing” people. I think that the difference is only a matter of degree.

    http://tuibguy.blog-city.com/pinochet.htm

    And the majority in America is saying “Please, Sir, may I have another?”

  2. Bush imagines himself to be a confrontationalist in the league of Winston Churchill and Harry Truman. He sees himself as a messianic world leader taking on a great evil that has been appeased for too long. Churchill confronted Hitler, Truman confronted communism, and he’s confronting the nebulous “terrorism” with the utterly quixotic goal of “ending tyranny in our world.” Of course naturally he considers himself above the constraints of the Constitution because the ends justify the means. One doesn’t need a genuine understanding of the contingencies of history and political context when you’re expecting a miracle to occur and save your presidency.

  3. Bushbaptist says:

    Hey Hey! Leave Georgie alone. He was appointed by god to do ‘god’s work’. Appointed to lead the ‘Free World’ against tyranny and oppression and deal to those dark heathen infidels who taketh god’s name in vain and worship another god called allah.
    He’s the world’s bastian against all that is evil in the world and by golly, he’s going to save those infidels even if he has to kill 100,000’s to do so.

  4. MTran says:

    Tyler,

    I think you were a little too generous about Bush’s motivation when you said: Of course naturally he considers himself above the constraints of the Constitution because the ends justify the means.

    It seems to me that he considers himself above the Constitution because he is better than the Constitution and because he is entitled to act “above the law.” In the past he has characterized the US Constitution as “Just a piece of paper.” It’s a meaningless document to him. You see, even though he is supposedly sworn to uphold the Constitution, he is a compulsive liar about valuing or upholding anything beyond his own ego. IMNSHO

  5. whig says:

    Well said, Alon.

  6. SLC says:

    Born-agains like the coke snorting, pot smoking, draft dodging, lying drunk in the White House believe that the Hebrew and Christian bibles take precedence over the Constitution or any other document authored by man.

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