I do not know how it happened, and when it became OK, but in the last several years our government has forgotten the words that our country was founded on. It seems like our fears have been exploited to a point where the American people will allow our senators to pass clearly unconstitutional acts. I would love to say that the Democrats have tried to fight these acts, but in fact, many of the Democrats with the majority of the Republicans have passed a bill that is clearly unconstitutional and clearly un-American.
Recently, President George W. Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which was passed last week by the Senate. This law allows President Bush to interpret the third article of the Geneva Conventions, which states that no outrages against humanity shall be committed, and would take away the right for detainees in Guantanamo Bay to have a fair trial. So what does President Bush consider an outrage against humanity? Well, his first attorney general, John Ashcroft, wrote that it is anything that does not cause death or organ failure. While President Bush has claimed that the term “outrage against humanity” is a “vague” term, the definition given by Ashcroft is not only vague but blunt as to how this administration feels about the treatment of detainees.
Last year John McCain, a Republican who was tortured in Vietnam, fought hard to add an amendment to the Dept. of Defense spending bill to make it illegal for the United States to torture people. Many Americans rallied with him, and so did the Senate. The bill passed overwhelmingly. When the Defense bill came to the president, he was forced to sign it. However he did not sign it the way we would expect him to. He issued a signing statement along with the bill that basically stated that he was going to ignore that provision. As we learned with Nixon, line-item veto is unconstitutional. The American Bar Association, which is, for the most part, conservative, found that these signing statements are unconstitutional.
Last week, when that Military Commissions Act came up to vote, McCain, along with Arlen Specter and John Warner, were ready to fight it. In the end, they gave up. Arlen Specter put up the biggest fight, trying to add an amendment that would strike the part of the bill that took away the right for detainees to have trials. Unfortunately he failed, 48 to 51. Sadly, both Warner and McCain voted against Arlen Specter. In the end, all three senators voted for the final version of the bill. 53 Republicans voted yes – one voted no and the other did not vote – along with 12 Democrats.
The ACLU claimed that this law is “one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history.” “The president can now, with the approval of Congress, indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.
As Nov. 7 comes closer, who will you support – our country or the 65 Americans that forgot the document that our founding fathers held dear?
David Sforza is a first-year political science major.