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A President Beyond the Law

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by Foo Fighter, May 7, 2004.

  1. Foo Fighter

    Foo Fighter Benched

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    May 7, 2004
    OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
    A President Beyond the Law
    By ANTHONY LEWIS

    CAMBRIDGE, Mass.

    The question tears at all of us, regardless of party or ideology: How could American men and women treat Iraqi prisoners with such cruelty — and laugh at their humiliation? We are told that there was a failure of military leadership. Officers in the field were lax. Pentagon officials didn't care. So the worst in human nature was allowed to flourish.

    But something much more profound underlies this terrible episode. It is a culture of low regard for the law, of respecting the law only when it is convenient.

    Again and again, over these last years, President Bush has made clear his view that law must bend to what he regards as necessity. National security as he defines it trumps our commitments to international law. The Constitution must yield to novel infringements on American freedom.

    One clear example is the treatment of the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The Third Geneva Convention requires that any dispute about a prisoner's status be decided by a "competent tribunal." American forces provided many such tribunals for prisoners taken in the Persian Gulf war in 1991. But Mr. Bush has refused to comply with the Geneva Convention. He decided that all the Guantánamo prisoners were "unlawful combatants" — that is, not regular soldiers but spies, terrorists or the like.

    The Supreme Court is now considering whether the prisoners can use American courts to challenge their designation as unlawful. The administration's brief could not be blunter in its argument that the president is the law on this issue: "The president, in his capacity as commander in chief, has conclusively determined that the Guantánamo detainees . . . are not entitled to prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Convention."

    The violation of the Geneva Convention and that refusal to let the courts consider the issue have cost the United States dearly in the world legal community — the judges and lawyers in societies that, historically, have looked to the United States as the exemplar of a country committed to law. Lord Steyn, a judge on Britain's highest court, condemned the administration's position on Guantánamo in an address last fall — pointing out that American courts would refuse even to hear claims of torture from prisoners. At the time, the idea of torture at Guantánamo seemed far-fetched to me. After the disclosures of the last 10 days, can we be sure?

    Instead of a country committed to law, the United States is now seen as a country that proclaims high legal ideals and then says that they should apply to all others but not to itself. That view has been worsened by the Bush administration's determination that Americans not be subject to the new International Criminal Court, which is supposed to punish genocide and war crimes.

    Fear of terrorism — a quite understandable fear after 9/11 — has led to harsh departures from normal legal practice at home. Aliens swept off the streets by the Justice Department as possible terrorists after 9/11 were subjected to physical abuse and humiliation by prison guards, the department's inspector general found. Attorney General John Ashcroft did not apologize — a posture that sent a message.

    Inside the United States, the most radical departure from law as we have known it is President Bush's claim that he can designate any American citizen an "enemy combatant" — and thereupon detain that person in solitary confinement indefinitely, without charges, without a trial, without a right to counsel. Again, the president's lawyers have argued determinedly that he must have the last word, with little or no scrutiny from lawyers and judges.

    There was a stunning moment in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address when he said that more than 3,000 suspected terrorists "have been arrested in many countries. And many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: They are no longer a problem for the United States."

    In all these matters, there is a pervasive attitude: that to follow the law is to be weak in the face of terrorism. But commitment to law is not a weakness. It has been the great strength of the United States from the beginning. Our leaders depart from that commitment at their peril, and ours, for a reason that Justice Louis D. Brandeis memorably expressed 75 years ago.

    "Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher," he wrote. "For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself."

    Anthony Lewis is a former Times columnist.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/07/opinion/07LEWI.html
  2. AtlCB

    AtlCB Active Member

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    The writer made a poor case of any illegal activities by Bush. I would think that this would be the most important piece of this article, since his main point resides on this one accusation. Overall, this is a very poorly thought-out article.
  3. Foo Fighter

    Foo Fighter Benched

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    That's not what the article is about. It's about the presumption of the administration that the laws do not apply to them.
  4. Cajuncowboy

    Cajuncowboy Preacher From The Black Lagoon

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    More useless pablum. With no foundation of facts to support it's hypothesis. Normal for those on the left. On the other hand this guy may have a future with Air America. Ooops, they can't make payroll and are one breath shy of being defunct.
  5. Foo Fighter

    Foo Fighter Benched

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    1) You didn't read the article.
    2) You gave your usual dogmatic response.
  6. Cajuncowboy

    Cajuncowboy Preacher From The Black Lagoon

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    I did read it. I see nothing to support this theory that the Administration is a rouge administration. There are no facts, just suppossition. And when you have the usual pablum you get the usual response. See that's how it works. The left spews vitriol and the right corrects them. You need to have facts before you call a President a person who feels the law doesn't apply to him and that is what this article is saying.
  7. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    Only wanted to say you do not need facts to say that about a president....if it is your opinion. And I took that as an opinion piece littered with some facts here and there to spin the writers ideas.

    And even though I think the article is silly in some requards and ok in others....I have to say that IMO I think that MOST presidents probably do think they are above the law at one time or another.
  8. Foo Fighter

    Foo Fighter Benched

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    Why don't you just say that the absence of a tribunal to determine the POW status of prisoners (or lack thereof) at Guantanamo Bay is not a violation of the Geneva Convention?

    Before I'm dismissed as a liberal, which somehow passes for a compelling argument these days, keep in mind that I understand that many of these people are indeed criminals. In fact, it was the brilliant idea of this administration to release some of them so they could return to Iraq and fight against our troops again. My problem is with the arrogance of this administration that doesn't see fit to comply with an established diplomatic treaty that has been in place for over 50 years.

    And it's not just applicable to foreigners. The fact that any citizen of this country can be determined an "unlawful combatant" and have their constitutional rights taken away is pretty disturbing to me.

    Or as Jose Padilla's lawyer says: it's the "because-we-say-so doctrine."
  9. Cajuncowboy

    Cajuncowboy Preacher From The Black Lagoon

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    Maybe but I have seen nothing to evidence the fact that this President feels that way. Also, the "facts" in this article does not draw a direct correlation to the Presidents feeling that he is above the law. Also, while it is true you don't need facts to voice an opinion, it help to be taken seriously when you do voice them.
  10. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    How long has the RICO law been on the books....Now I know it has nothing to do with this war and this prisoners....however in some ways the process seems similar.
  11. Cajuncowboy

    Cajuncowboy Preacher From The Black Lagoon

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    After 9/11 it's a whole new ball game and I for one do not care if these Gitmo prisoners get a tribunal or not. They were taliban fighters defending the jerks that attacked us so I couldn't care less about their "right". And if there are people in this country who claim to citizens who have evedence pointing out that they have a desire to see harm done to our nation then lock them up. I can't believe that after 9/11 people are so concerned with those who want to hurt us. As far as I am concerned they have renounced their citizenship of this country ans are now devoid of the rights and priveleges thereof. As for the administration "releasing" some of these morons it was after pressure from the left to do so. Remeber the claims of poor conditions and treatment at Gitmo? It was over populated there. Anyway, we will not agree on this but as for the prisoners, I don't care what happens to them as long as they are not turned loose. Maybe putting them on an airplayne and crashing it on a deserted Island somewhere. Then they can have the same terror that they caused for those men, women and children on the planes.
  12. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    So you say to hell with the Geneva Convention code? The same code that we have tried to use for years and years? The code that is set up to try and keep us a decent country when dealing in war and POWs?

    Part of me hopes that some of these guys rot in jail...but at the same time there is the geneva convention code that THIS COUNTRY has agreed to abide.

    Now I have hated the idea that we were part of the code while some other countries did not or do not...however if we are going to say we are going to do it...then do it.

    I can see some soldiers breaking that while in the mist of combat and to save the troops (dressing in the enemies clothes and other areas)....however the terrorist should be considered POWs and I think it is silly not to call them that....after all we do have a war on terrorism...and they are claiming these people are terrorist.

    Wait...let me ask...these people we have confined are considered terrorist right?
    And we have pledged a war agains terrorism right?

    And since they are considered terrorist captured in the war against terrorism...them shouldn't they be considered POWs?
  13. Cajuncowboy

    Cajuncowboy Preacher From The Black Lagoon

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    There is not one thing you just said that I disagree with in principle. Here is the problem. We are the only country that we are engaged with that adheres to the Geneva Convention. Do you think that if one of our soldiers was captured by Al-Queda that they would get visits from the Red Cross, food or even humane treatment? Remeber, the Pictures of our soldiers that were killed and then paraded around like slabs of meat. That is when the rules go out the window. I am sorry, but we have to forget about rules when we are fighting against those who don't play by them. If all things were equal then I would be lined right up with you on this one Brain. But the way things have gone in the last 3 years with the terrorists I have no concern for their welfare of their so called rights. We are not systematically killing these goofs or torturing them and if we can make their life miserable before the mamby pamby kook left get's them released then fine by me.
  14. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    I have no problem if you want to get rid of the geneva convention code...but as long as you are currently a nation that claims to be a member that abides by those rules...then it is wrong to do certain stuff.

    THAT is the point....if we got rid of the geneva convention code in order to level the playing field then I would have no problem at all...in many many ways it would actually help the US Soldiers...we would not have to wait out those fighters led by the cleric radical who is using the temple. He is doing that because he knows that the US is bound to the geneva conventon code and part of that code deals with protecting religious buildings.....but once again if we are going to say we are a member that abides by those rules...then do it or say we will no longer be a member that follows the code.....don't say we still follow the code and yet at the same time not follow it.
  15. Cajuncowboy

    Cajuncowboy Preacher From The Black Lagoon

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    Then what would be your solution to this current problem then with respect to the Convention?
  16. Cajuncowboy

    Cajuncowboy Preacher From The Black Lagoon

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    Here is a perfect example of why I feel some people loose their rights as citizens. THis guy's finger prints were found in Madrid Spain on a bag that held detonators like those that were used in the bombings.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,119282,00.html
  17. BrAinPaiNt

    BrAinPaiNt Brotherhood of the Beard Staff Member

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    There are very good points in the geneva convention code (as I remember it from years back) that do help the soldiers...it is set in place to have some set of order while in battle....problem is (as we both have talked about) not all countries follow the geneva convention code.

    My solution would be to either renounce the Geneva Convention code....OR (this is my preference) change the Geneva Convention code to suit the needs of the soldiers better. I like the last option better because it would still keep a standard for the soldiers and country to follow, it would change to give the soldiers better options in some areas, and while other countires may not follow it...the world would see that the US still does and that will be in our favor.
  18. Eric_Boyer

    Eric_Boyer Well-Known Member

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    IF he is found guilty then his rights will be severely stripped.

    The problem is that shrub doesn't care about due process.
  19. Cajuncowboy

    Cajuncowboy Preacher From The Black Lagoon

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    You are so full of hatred that you can't even look at this in a non partisan basis. You have to attack the President. Who by the way will be re elected in a landslide so be prepraed to be in the microscopic minority. Again. I cares about one thing. That is protecting this country. We had shsrill Hill screaming What did the president know and when did he know it", we have people on this board saying Bush knew before hand. All of that is crap and anyone with a half of a brain knows that. As I said before, if these guys are playing with fire they deserve to get burnned and we don't have time for the looney left to baby this scum. Due process will be given, but already you are attacking Bush on something that hasn't even been in the news for more that a couple hours. Typical.
  20. Eric_Boyer

    Eric_Boyer Well-Known Member

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    Once this country allows citizens to be incarcerated without due process then it is no longer worthy of our support.

    I attack scrub because he deserves it. He is making the unpatriotic act a part of his campaign platform.

    I find it funny that you accuse me of being partisan. I don't have a political party, you do. Which is obvious based on how you label anybody that disagrees with shrub as the "looney left". That is a partisan term but you don't seem to realize it.

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