Crime and Punishment Government

With Liberty and Justice….Yadda, Yadda, Yadda

Pledge of Allegiance - by Corbis

“The President’s Prison”
is what the New York Times called Guantanamo in Thursday’s blistering and dead on editorial.

“George Bush does not want to be rescued,” it begins.

“The president has been told countless times, by a secretary of state, by members of Congress, by heads of friendly governments — and by the American public — that the Guantánamo Bay detention camp has profoundly damaged this nation’s credibility as a champion of justice and human rights. But Mr. Bush ignored those voices…”.

And there are new voices. The president’s new Sec Def, Robert Gates, has told him that Guantanamo has to got to go. Now. That it’s really, really hurting the country. Even Bush’s top yes-girl, Condi Rice has said the same thing for a long time. .

Of course it’s not just Guantanamo that’s trashing American credibility (and it’s soul, if we are to be honest). Let’s see, there’s extraordinary rendition…and the kidnapping and torture of a Canadian citizen who later turns out to be quite innocent. Then, there’s the refusal, by the Bush administration to allow the tortured Canadian, and a number of others like him, to bring suit for the beatings and abuse, citing—wink-wink–“state secrets” as the reason. Now, there are the just-started Guantanamo detainee tribunals, which no one expects to be much more than kangaroo courts.

We are witnessing nothing less than the shredding of American norms of justice.

Yet, there is one very small possible glimmer of light on the horizon. (Possible being the operative word here.)

In a private conference today, the Supreme Court will decide whether to take up a case that would look at whether the Guantánamo procedures authorized by the (odious) the Military Commissions Act, passed last year, are legal and constitutional. The suit is brought by two groups of detainees who have been held in Git’mo since early 2002. Did I mention that none of the dozens of prisoners involved in either law suit have been charged with any crime?. In fact, only 10 out of the 386 people held at the navel base have been charged with anything at all.

“At issue in this case is nothing less than this country’s commitment to the rule of law,” reads the brief filed for one group of detainees, according to today’s New York Times.

Well, yes. That is exactly what is at issue here.

Loosely defined, the rule of law embodies the principle that all government officials, whether elected or non-elected, should act within the law and the Constitution. . The principle goes back to Aristotle who said that the best government involves the “rule of laws, not of me.”

It’s a concept we Americans made of point of insisting that both the Afghanis and the Iraqis built into their respective constitutions.

It’s even embedded in that funny little thingy recited by school kids all across the country every morning. You know what I’m talking about: The Pledge of Allegiance, specifically the final four words. “….And justice for all.

In fact, the principles are a matched pair. justice requires the rule of laws, not of me.

George Bush clearly doesn’t get it. Let’s hope the Supremes do.


  • I had a little bit to say about this administration and the Rule of Law elsewhere. Let us say that, given the composition of the current court I’m not going to hold my breath.

  • I quit reading this post after some point. Maybe “justice for all” applies to our citizens and not enemies trying to kill us. Oh, those poor Nazi soldiers in WWII being imprisoned by us with no judge to save them. As usual, the left-wing cares more about hurting Bush’s war on terror than for the people who are being targeted for death by the terrorists.

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