Friday, June 30, 2006

The Silver Lining...

June 30, 2006 -- "So it turns out that the Constitution is a suicide pact after all.

At least, that's how five justices of the United States Supreme Court justices would have it.

In the much-anticipated Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld decision, the high court yesterday ruled 5-3 (with Chief Justice John Roberts recusing himself) that military tribunals for Guantanamo detainees would be illegal.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan was Osama bin Laden's driver - that is, a bona fide al Qaeda terrorist - when he was snatched off an Afghan battlefield in the fall of 2001. He's presumptively too dangerous to be released, but prior Supreme Court rulings declared him to be entitled to legal consideration of some sort.

So the administration charged him with conspiracy to commit terrorism and scheduled a military trial. This is unsettled territory, jurisprudentially speaking, but it didn't seem at all nuanced to the court's majority.

Writing for the majority, veteran liberal Justice John Paul Stevens concluded that "the military commission convened to try Hamdan lacks power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949."

But the UCMJ is meant to apply to U.S. military personnel, and the Geneva Conventions to uniformed forces of an established nation. Hamdan falls into neither category.

So, as a matter of law, yesterday's ruling was breathtakingly expansive.

Practically speaking, it means that the masked thugs who sawed Nicholas Berg's head off while the vidotape ran are entitled to the same procedural protections as a Marine who goes AWOL.

What's next? Miranda warnings and a public defender for Osama himself, if the happy day ever comes when the master murderer is led shackled from the cave he now calls home?

Bottom line: The court has severely limited the power of the executive to wage war on a form of international terrorism that has shown itself willing - indeed, eager - to harness sophisticated technology to kill thousands in the blink of an eye.

The majority opinion, wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in dissent, "openly flouts our well-established duty to respect the [president's] judgment in matters of military operations and foreign affairs."

What's to happen now?

Happily, Stevens conceded that Congress has the power to make things right.

Almost immediately, there were signs that it would. Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) declared: "We believe the problems cited by the court can and should be fixed . . . We intend to pursue legislation in the Senate granting the executive branch the authority to ensure that terrorists can be tried by competent military commissions."

That's a start.

Now it's up to Congress as a whole unambiguously to vest in the president the authority to wage what amounts to World War III in a manner that takes realistic account of the nature of the deadly enemy that brought war to America's shores - to New York - five years ago in September.

The UCMJ for Osama & Co.?

The Geneva Conventions?

That's mad.

Utterly mad."

True. Nothing in the UCMJ or Geneva Conventions mention anything about terrorists, wait...yes, the Conventions pretty much state that if you don't wear a uniform you may be summarily executed as a spy so let's take the Court at it's word and kill as many of these ragheads as we've ammunition for.

Time for Congress to now step up and make some neat new laws permitting a President to off these motherless scum who'd destroy US without a second thought.

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