"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Federal Court Ruling Does Great Damage to Critical Features of U.S. Government

A federal court has done immense damage to one of the most critical features of our nation’s system of government with a ruling that violates a key feature of our Constitution.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled this month that the federal government has the power to order the detention of U.S. citizens indefinitely without any criminal charges. The court held that such authority is necessary during wartime to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.

The decision came in the case of Jose Padilla, a former gang member who was arrested in 2002 in Chicago. Padilla was labeled an “enemy combatant” and has been held in a U.S. naval brig for more than three years without any charges being sworn against him. Government officials allege Padilla trained at al-Qaida camps and planned to blow up buildings in this country. Without due process, officials have not been required — and they haven’t volunteered — to show any proof of their allegations.

This ruling is simply wrong. Our courts should never deny U.S. citizens the right of due process guaranteed by our Constitution, regardless of whether or not this nation is at war. Such authority only makes it easier for officials to round up people opposed to their actions and policies, and only lowers us to the level of the Stalinist and Castro regimes who raised vehement protests from U.S. officials for doing this very thing. If it’s bad for other leaders to incarcerate people without valid, and properly declared, charges, then it’s just as bad for us to do it.

Not to mention the fact that it destroys our standing when we criticize foreign leaders who jail dissidents without just cause. We must practice what we preach.

If any person is denied his freedom, then it must be for good cause, and the person must know the reasons for his or her incarceration, and given a chance to defend himself or herself against those reasons.

We’ll dispense with the argument that the court’s justification is invalid because we’re not technically at war (no formal declaration of war has been made). The fact is that we’ve invaded another country and American military and Iraqi military and non-military people are getting killed and maimed daily as a result. That’s war.

It’s also a time when frank discussion of our nation’s policies is most important. This remains a nation of the people, and the people should always be free to comment on, and even criticize, its government’s actions — especially in times of war.

Legal experts expect this case to continue on to the U.S. Supreme Court. We hope that court, which has made some questionable ruling of its own recently, will recognize that the right of due process is one of the few legal provisions that sets the United States apart — and places us above — other nations. Without it we are no better than those regimes that subjected their people to some of the most horrific treatment imaginable, solely in the name of maintaining order or quashing valid dissent that thin-skinned officials equated with sedition.

This one ruling threatens to change the very nature of our government, from a bottom-up authority sanctioned by the people, to top-down rules that continues to drift toward autocracy if unchecked.

The Brownsville Herald



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