Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Defending the Constitution

The Constitution of the United States cannot defend itself. It exists only so long as there are enough people to stand up for it.

I wonder how many people that would be.

I would like to find out how many people are willing to raise a voice in protest of such actions as torture, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, unchecked executive power, cruel and unusual punishment. I would like to ask for a “Resist Tyranny Day” in which bloggers devote the day to discussing a common topic – a statement of protest against the arbitrary and capricious rule that has come to govern this country.

November 6, 2007 – the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November – I would like to see how many blog writers, discussion-group posters, and others who use this new medium of communication called the Internet, are willing to write with two demands.

(1) A serious investigation in the House of Representative on the possibility of impeaching Vice President Cheney - the person who has done more to destroy the Constitution than any other man in history.

(2) The establishment of a court system with powers that the Executive Branch cannot hide from.

Two articles are relevant to day's post.

I found one at Think Progress, a posting titled Charlie Savage: Cheney Plotted Bush's Imperial Presidency 'Thirty Years Ago'. This posting contains a clip of a CSPAN interview where Charlie Savage presented a case that Vice President Cheney came up with a blue print for a monarchical Presidency 30 years ago.

The second, as reported in a New York Times article, Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Torture Appeal, the US Supreme Court decision not to hear the case of man who alleges to have been kidnapped, hauled off to a prison in Afghanistan, and tortured, and then released four months later when his captors (the United States) realized they had the wrong person.

As the New York Times article points out, the Executive Branch has blocked judicial review of this policy by claiming that such a trial will expose important state secrets.

Before Cheney came into power, the “state secrets’ defense had been used only six times. In one case, it was used to block a lawsuit from the spouses of military officials who died in an Air Force air plane crash. The government claimed that the plane was on a secret mission and the trial would reveal state secrets. The government, apparently, lied – the mission became declassified recently and there was no ‘secret mission’ – only a failure on the part of the Air Force to sufficiently maintain its airplanes. That was the ‘state secret’ that the government could not let be revealed in trial.

Cheney’s administration (and, yes, it is more Cheney's administration than Bush's) has used the State Secrets act 36 times so far, as a part of a campaign to create a Presidency that is more like a monarchy than a Constitutional Republic. It has used this as one of several weapons to destroy the system of checks and balances established in the Constitution, by severing the power of the courts to check and balance the power of the executive.

Charlie Savage presented a case that Cheney began this process of destroying the Constitution the instant the Bush Administration took over power. On the first meeting of the White House Legal Team following the Inauguration, Cheney gave the team their marching orders – that whenever any opportunity presented itself to destroy the system of checks and balances that the founding fathers had established, that they (his team) were to cease the opportunity to do so.

Of course, Cheney would not phrase it in exactly these terms. He claims that the Constitution itself was written to create an unchecked executive branch – an elected monarchy. Of course, interpreting the Constitution as establishing an elected monarchy makes as much sense as interpreting the Declaration of Independence was a letter of apology to King George for the rude and obnoxious behavior of the American colonists.

At the same time, we do not see any movement on the part of the Democrats to resist tyranny. I wonder if there is not a reason for that. I wonder how many Democratic Senators, running for President, are salivating at the thought of what they can do with unchecked executive power – the newfound ability to ignore the legislative and judicial branches of government and to do whatever they please to whomever they please.

One of the biggest threats of the next administration is the threat that we will endure a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress. History has shown that whenever both branches of government are under the control of the same party, that their top priority will be to cooperate to give themselves to grab more power for themselves. A Democratic Congress will almost certainly fail to provide the level of oversight and control over a Democratic president as a Republican Congress did for Cheney. This means another 4 years (or, at best, another 2 years) to further entrench the idea that the Executive Branch is a true monarchy, whose occupant can do whatever she pleases to whomever she pleases.

However, we still have a democracy. We still live in a state where we have the right and the power to dictate to those who serve in Government how they will behave, and to take peaceful, political action to affect change. It would be far better to do so while we still have the power to do so, then to discover that we have created a situation where we no longer have that option.

Please be aware that the greatest threat to your child’s or grandchild’s future is not some Al-Queida agent with a bomb. The biggest threat is a Hitleresque President with unchecked authority, using the power to act without judicial or legislative oversight to do whatever he pleases to whomever he pleases, invading countries at will and creating a state of national emergency that is simply too unstable for national elections.

If we have a government where the Executive Branch has unlimited powers in times of war, “Well, I guess we’re just going to have a war, won’t we?”

So, it is time to say that we will not tolerate a form of government that is such a threat to our future safety and happiness. It is time to say that we will not tolerate people in public office who make it a top priority to destroy the system of checks and balances that has kept us free for over 200 years.

In any institution, there are rules that people obey, not because they are formally written into the bylaws, but because they have a sense of right and wrong that prevent them from abuse. However, sooner or later somebody comes along and abuses those rules, and then everybody has to suffer the consequences.

One of the unwritten rules that Cheney has decided to abuse is the ‘state secrets’ exemption. And so it is now necessary to provide some way of better securing lives and liberty from this abuse. Otherwise, we risk laying the foundation for a tyrannical executive that is far more of a threat than the revelation of any state secrets – particularly the ‘state secret’ that those who occupy the White House are seeking to establish tyranny.

There is, of course, a legitimate concern against having state secrets revealed in a public court room where it is possible to do so. In this case, those reasons for action suggest the establishment of a court of judges capable of seeing those secrets, empowered to determine whether the government is actually protecting state secrets or merely lying to defend criminal conduct or an unconstitutional abuse of power. Where state secrets are in play, even this does not preclude the possibility of the government being found guilty of wrongdoing and providing the victims with some measure of compensation.

Otherwise, we live in a country where any one of us can be snatched up, hauled off to a foreign prison, tortured for months, without any opportunity to protest these violations. None of us can truly be free as long as we must live in the fear that the government has this type of power over us.

Let us not forget, tyrants do not maintain power by doing harm to the people. They maintain power by exercising the threat to do harm. That threat is properly defeated only where one lives in a society that is willing to remove from any potential tyrant the power to exercise such a threat.

So, I am wondering if there are people left in America who are willing to state that we are not willing to tolerate the likes of Dick Cheney in government, that we exercise our right to remove from power those who abuse their station, and that any future leader who should try any similar stunts should expect the same result. Or is it the case that Americans are people who really do not care what type of government they live under, where all of the boasting to the contrary turns out to be nothing more than so much hot air.

4 comments:

Hume's Ghost said...

I'm in favor of impeaching Bush and Cheney, as well as full and vigorous investigation and accounting for everything they and their administration has done.

I don't care if it's their last day in office, I will still be in favor of impeaching them so as to reject the precedent they have created.

If we can get the large audience blogs to participate it might be able to generate media coverage.

heather said...

Excellent post, very good idea.

If you've ever seen the movie V you might choose November 5th rather than 6th.

Vincent said...

I strongly agree with your sentiments, but I'm a little concerned that you seem to think that no Americans care about these issues. Obviously you don't think that but from the plain reading of your words ('if there are people left in America, I wonder how many people,' etc) it makes it sound like the burden is on people to prove they care.

I say that burden has been met which can be shown by doing some simple search engine searches and discovering that there are blogs and organizations and people writing to their Congressmen all over the country on these issues. Just because Congress has not done anything about it doesn't mean that people don't care.

G-man said...

"Before Cheney came into power, the “state secrets’ defense had been used only six times."

Hmm, I read sources saying that it had been used more like 65 times.

I also read that the Bush Admin. has used it 39 times rather than 36.

Just nitpicks I think, which don't take away from the essence of the story - and please correct me if I'm wrong.