The Democrats and Civil Liberties


Unless November’s new blood improves the Democratic Party’s civil liberties pedigree, the Democrats will have failed even before they are sworn in next January.

In its disregard for truth, public opinion, the separation of powers, the Geneva Conventions, the US Constitution and statutory law, the Bush administration has been more of a regime than an administration. The Bush/Cheney executive branch has operated independently of all the constraints that provide accountability and prevent despotism.

The Bush regime was able to evade these restraints, because Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and because Republicans wielded 9/11 as a weapon to forestall political opposition.

With signing statements and other unilateral declarations of presidential authority, the Bush regime asserted executive branch powers beyond the reach of Congress and the judiciary.

The Bush regime was a coup d’etat against the Bill of Rights and the jurisdictions of Congress and the courts. Unless Democrats roll back this coup, Americans have seen the last of their civil liberties.

Judging by Democrats’ statements in the flush of their electoral victory, Democrats have little, if any, awareness of this critical fact. Democrats are anxious to get on with their agendas and have shown no recognition that the first order of business is to repeal the legislation that permits torture, warrantless detention and domestic spying.

If Bush threatens to veto the resurrection of US civil liberty, the Democrats can impeach Bush as a tyrant as well as for pushing America into an illegal and catastrophic war on the basis of lies and deception.

Bush is the most impeachable president in American history. However, the incoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has declared impeachment to be “off the table.” Obviously, this means that Bush will not be held accountable and that the Bill of Rights is a casualty of the vague, undefined, and propagandistic “war on terror.”

Do Pelosi and the incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have the intellect and character to deliver the leadership required for Americans to remain a free people? Instead of bemoaning the damage Bush has done to civil liberty, Democrats are up in arms over one child in five being raised in poverty. The more important question is whether children are being raised as a free people protected by civil liberties from arbitrary government power.

Do Democrats share the delusion of Bush supporters that it is only Middle Eastern terrorists who are deprived of the protection of the US Constitution? One can understand the reluctance of Americans to extend constitutional protection to terrorists who are trying to kill Americans. However, without these protections, there is no way of ascertaining who is a terrorist.

Currently, a “terrorist” is anyone given that designation by any of a large number of unaccountable government officials and military officers. No evidence has to be provided in order to detain a designated suspect. Moreover, designated suspects can be convicted in military tribunals on the basis of secret evidence not made available to them or to any legal representation that they might be able to secure. In other words, you are guilty if charged.

As the case of US citizen Jose Padilla makes clear, these gestapo police state proceedings apply to Americans. Padilla was declared to be an “enemy combatant.” He was held in a US prison for three and one-half years with no charges and no warrant. He was kept in isolated confinement, tortured, and denied legal representation.

In order to avoid US Supreme Court jurisdiction over the case, the Bush regime filed charges after stealing three and one-half years of Padilla’s life. However, the charges have no relationship to the Bush regime’s original allegations that Padilla, an Hispanic-American, was an al Qaeda operative who was going to set off a radioactive dirty bomb in an American city. The US government no longer designates Padilla as an “enemy combatant.” The dirty bomb charge has disappeared, and US Federal District Judge Marcia Cooke has criticized the government’s indictment as vague with sketchy evidence “weak on facts.”

The reason that the Bush regime wants to detain people indefinitely without evidence is that it has no evidence. The reason the Bush regime passed torture legislation is in order to produce the missing evidence by torturing a suspect into self-incrimination. “Evidence” procured by torture has been illegal in civilized societies for centuries. But the Bush regime has resurrected the medieval rack and substituted it for the Bill of Rights.

If Democrats cannot bring themselves to rectify the inhumane and barbaric practices that now pass for US justice, then they, too, have failed the American people.

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com



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Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

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