Arthur Silber is back (well, actually, he’s been back for about two weeks now); his new blog can be found here: Once Upon A Time.
His latest entry, Three Strikes and We’re Out: Destroying America is blistering, and worth a read, because he’s hitting points which I think we can’t afford to forget. And this is one topic where liberals, progressives and civil libertarians (and hell, maybe even some honest conservatives) can find solid common ground.
I began writing this at about 3 AM this morning. I thought that, after several hours’ sleep, I might decide the tone was too harsh. Reviewing the first part of this mid-morning, I’ve decided to leave the beginning essentially the way I initially wrote it. It may be very harsh, but the facts justify at least this degree of condemnation, and much more. I expect that some liberals, genuine civil libertarians and assorted others who take the protection of civil liberties seriously will agree with the major points. On the other hand, mere Democratic partisans will not. Too bad. (The Republicans are entirely hopeless and not worth mentioning in this context.) With only one or two exceptions, all members of Congress — Democrat, Republican or otherwise — have abdicated all responsibility with regard to these attacks on fundamental constitutional principles. So, too, have the “libertarian interventionists.” As far as I’m concerned, and to be very blunt about it and setting aside a very few exceptions, every single one of the politicians in Washington can go straight to hell.
The ‘three strikes’ he’s talking about go right to the heart of American civil liberties and the rights we have always taken for granted. But these rights are being eroded out from under our feet in the name of the “war on terror” — a convenient excuse for the Bush Administration to do whatever they want to anyone they want, without oversight or regard for the Constitution they are claiming to defend.
As profoundly disastrous as the Bush foreign policy has been and continues to be, what will determine the future of our country is whether the basic constitutional principles which have maintained the United States for over 200 years continue to be maintained domestically. The foreign threat (real or not, accurately identified and assessed or exaggerated) is intimately tied to the developments here at home that ought to concern us: the enemy outside is always used to restrict and undermine liberty at home. But it is those restrictions and outright attacks here in the United States — the ways in which individual rights and personal freedom are being fatally undermined — that are being largely ignored.
(My emphasis in the above)
The three strikes are: the almost certain renewal of the Patriot Act, that basically allows law enforcement to demand records and personal data on any of us, with little or no court oversight, or without us even knowing about it; the easy confirmation of Roberts as Chief Justice, a man whose record is deeply slanted to supporting an imperial presidency, and the landmark Jose Padilla case, an American citizen being held in direct violation of the Bill of Rights and American law.
It is vital that everyone understand what that power means: in terms of the constitutional principles involved and their implications, it is the power of an absolute dictator. The power is that of the president to declare that you, or I, or any other American citizen is an “enemy combatant,” the power never to have to present his reasons for making that declaration, and the power never to have to charge anyone with any crime at all. And we can be locked up for the rest of our lives….
I will repeat the central point about the Padilla case. If the Supreme Court hears the current appeal (which I am almost certain it will), and if the Supreme Court upholds the president’s “right” to throw any American in jail for the rest of his life simply on the president’s word, then liberty and freedom in this country are dead. The rest is simply a matter of time. The president will have the same fundamental power that any other absolute dictator has: the only questions will be whether he chooses to use it, and whether he chooses to use it against you.
And that, at the core, is the great danger we face — Roe v. Wade is but part of this, as is Griswold, an important part to be sure, but the deeper Constitutional issues lie beneath it. This Administration, with the assistance of a mostly compliant Congress, has been methodically undermining the Constitution and the Bill of Rights from the beginning, in the name of “national security” — and entangling us in a war they have no exit plan for, because they have no plans to end it — because it is the state of war that gives them the authority to overturn civil liberties in this country and retain power, and get that overturning accepted, because after all, “we’re at war,” and because God forbid we might appear “weak” or “soft on terrorism.”