Sunday, October 08, 2006

On Congress' Retreat from American Values

Garrison Keillor has an impassioned Op-Ed in the Chicago Tribune this week. Entitled "Congress' Shameful Retreat for American Values," he raps Congress for passing legislation to repeal habeas corpus and authorize torture. Here's an excerpt:

I would not send my college kid off for a semester abroad if I were you. Last week, we suspended human rights in America, and what goes around comes around. Ixnay habeas corpus.

The U.S. Senate, in all its splendor and majesty, decided that an "enemy combatant" is any non-citizen whom the president says is an enemy combatant, including your Korean greengrocer or your Swedish grandmother or your Czech au pair, and can be arrested and held for as long as authorities wish without any right of appeal to a court of law to examine the matter. If your college kid were to be arrested in Bangkok or Cairo, suspected of "crimes against the state" and held in prison, you'd assume that an American foreign service officer would be able to speak to your kid and arrange for a lawyer, but this may not be true anymore. Be forewarned.

The Senate also decided it's up to the president to decide whether it's OK to make these enemies stand naked in cold rooms for a couple of days in blinding light and be beaten by interrogators. This is now purely a bureaucratic matter: The plenipotentiary stamps the file "enemy combatants" and throws the poor schnooks into prison and at his leisure he tries them by any sort of kangaroo court he wishes to assemble and they have no right to see the evidence against them, and there is no appeal. This was passed by 65 senators and will now be signed by President Bush, put into effect, and in due course be thrown out by the courts.

. . .

If, however, the court does not, then our country has taken a step toward totalitarianism. If the government can round up someone and never be required to explain why, then it's no longer the United States as you and I always understood it. Our enemies have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They have made us become like them.

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