Sunday, July 02, 2006

Editorial: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld -- what matters

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, finding in a 5 to 3 vote, that the Bully Boy had overstepped the rule of law and circumvented treaties that US is a signatory to. (5 to 3 vote because Roberts had to recuse himself since the Court was hearing an appeal from a lower court that Roberts had served on. He found in favor of the administration while serving on that court and while being wooed for the Court by the Bully Boy.)

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights was quoted in Friday's New York Times saying of the verdict, "It doesn't get any better." Barbara Olshansky, also with the Center for Constitutional Rights, appearing on Democracy Now!, spoke of the verdict:

You know, for us, I think it was a tremendous reaffirmation that -- of the institutions and how they can work in the country. The fact that the judiciary was willing to step up to the plate and look at what the executive is doing and do the right thing, take the action to make sure that the executive complies with the law. And for me, although it sounds so basic, it's something that we were watching erode over the last five years, and so that was, you know, probably the most heartening part of it, and that they were willing to look at it in its entire scope. And what this decision says in very sort of calm, rational, historical terms is that the entire structure of the war on terror is unlawful, that it was based on a premise, an idea of an enemy combatant, which is a status that was created by the President, that it was intended to take place on an island that was outside the law somehow, and that the President could create all of the laws that applied there, like it was his own constructed universe. And what this decision does in a very rational way is say you can't do that. No piece of what you have done is lawful. And it's quite an astounding decision for that reason. It really goes to, as you said, every part of the war on terror.

They're speaking of the verdict itself. The verdict is and was a clear win.

But what happens now?

There are several levels of concern. The most basic being, as the Center for Constitutional Rights would be the first to note, Guantanamo was only one prison. Others exist under the radar, some in secret. This is a verdict on Guantanamo and should apply to all but, more than likely, will be applied only to Guantanamo.

As Juan Gonzalez pointed out in the interview he and Amy Goodman conducted with Olhshansky on DN!, Congress is talking about actions -- if the administration didn't have the power to do what they did, as the Court found that they did not, let's pass some laws to give them that power. And some consultants and gas bags are urging Dems to go along with that so they look 'tough on terror.'

The Democrats, as a group, in Congress were no friends to these issues. They refused to address them repeatedly, they stalled and ignored. Lawyers working on these cases have made that point repeatedly and publicly. So with Republicans in the Senate spitting out "Weak on terror! Weak on terror!" are the Dems going to have enough guts to scream back: "Law breaker! Law breaker!"?

Somehow we doubt it. They've caved too often and too early too many times for us to have any faith in them on this. Olshansky told Goodman and Gonzales that she thinks Arlen Specter's proposed hearings will allow the case to be aired. Possibly. But we're not feeling optimistic.

The third issue of concern is the Bully Boy himself whom, The Christian Science Monitor reported, "said he would honor the decision in the case called Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, but do it in a way that did not jeopardize the safety of Americans."

What was that?

It sounds like some sort of verbal equivalent of his infamous signing statements only this time he's saying, "I know what the Court said, now I'll do what I want." The verdict isn't open to interpretation. It's very straightforward. As Linda Greenhouse noted in The New York Times, "an important part of the ruling" rested on Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions:

The provision requires humane treatment of captured combatants and prohibits trials except by "a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people." . . . The flaws the court cited [in the kangroo courts created by the administration] were the failure to guarantee the defendant the right to attend the trial and the prosecution's ability under the rules to introduce hearsay evidence, unsworn testimony, and evidence obtained through coercion.

That's only one aspect of a very clear ruling by the Court. It should be "honored." How to honor it is very clear. There's no need for the executive branch to attempt to 'intrepert' the verdict, they just need to act on it. Forgive us if we don't have a great deal of faith in Bully Boy's ability to execute the laws of the land.
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