Bush signs "Torture and Throw Them into a Black Hole" Act

“This is how liberty dies — with thunderous applause.” –Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman), Star Wars: Episode III

Yesterday President Bush signed the un-American military commission bill, and the reactions are rolling in. From ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero:

With his signature, President Bush enacts a law that is both unconstitutional and un-American. This president will be remembered as the one who undercut the hallmark of habeas in the name of the war on terror. Nothing separates America more from our enemies than our commitment to fairness and the rule of law, but the bill signed today is an historic break because it turns Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. facilities into legal no-man’s-lands.

The president can now – with the approval of Congress – indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions. Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act.

Meanwhile, this was in my inbox this morning from The Shalom Center:

In Philadelphia on September 18, 1789, a Mrs. Powel anxiously stood outside the Constitutional Convention. As Benjamin Franklin emerged from the last session, she asked him: “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”

“A republic — if you can keep it,” said Franklin.

In Philadelphia today, October 17, 2006, in a cold and driving rain, on 24 hours notice, at noon on a workday, 44 people came to the Federal courthouse to mourn the signing of the Act to Legalize Torture and Suspend Habeas Corpus. We don’t know yet whether it is also the Act to Suspend the Republic. It certainly puts the tools to do so in the hands of any President who chooses to use them.

Andy in Harrisburg

4 thoughts on “Bush signs "Torture and Throw Them into a Black Hole" Act

  1. When I saw “Star Wars,” I cried when that line was uttered, because I could see it coming in our own time. George Lucas called it exactly right.

    I just don’t understand our society any more. We’re surrounded by people who think as long as it’s “for our own good,” it’s perfectly fine to do things like this. “If you don’t do anything wrong, you won’t have to worry,” they say.

    The problem is that law enforcement is *already* using “terrorism” as a catch-all for any kind of violence they can’t control (like gangs), and we *know* the government is watching peaceful groups that oppose the war and his administration.

    I know people get all up in arms when anyone mentions this, but this is exactly how things started in Nazi Germany. Hitler never usurped power. It was given to him, by people who thought he was doing what was best for them. The ultra-patriotic, unquestioning followers who knew he could do no wrong.

    And he kept them in fear, and kept being given more and more power. All the while supported by people who blindly accepted his word, because he was their leader. While the opposition was systematically eliminated through intimidation and imprisonment.

    It doesn’t sound familiar at all, though, does it?

    Only a few weeks until we learn if enough people have learned their lesson yet. The evangelicals haven’t… polls show they’re going to vote for “God’s party” regardless of what happens.

    Let’s hope there are enough of us out here to tip the balance to sanity again.

  2. ath-quo,

    I had the same reaction to the line in that film.

    The polls show the Ohio senate and governor’s races to be increasingly favoring the Democratic candidates. While i’m no giant fan of that party either, i do want something to be done to reign in the Republicans.

    PS. I checked out your ‘quotes’ sight and enjoyed it enough that it inspired a discussion of some of the quotes on my own blog. I gave your site a plug in the post :-).

    For the blog owner: What a day this is for America. I wonder sometimes if we are not on an unavoidable course, but i believe that organizations like the ACLU are an important part of any future course correction. Thanks for working on behalf of people who sometimes have no one else to champion their rights. I suspect your organization will be part of any movement that gets this act over-turned.

  3. I’ll third that reaction to the line in Star Wars.

    AQ, you’re right about people getting “up in arms” about the Nazi comparison. Debate coaches generally encourage people to avoid it. It can work well if the comparison is made with other examples in history, too. I did a panel discussion on the PATRIOT Act last year where a 14-year-old kid rattled off a list of examples of how governments became totalitarian, which was in response to a US Attorney claiming that the “slippery slope” argument doesn’t hold water. It was fun watching a US Attorney get punk’d by a 14-year-old.

    RP, thanks for the props. I’m totally with you. To give you an idea of how important I feel this work is, I recently opted not to pursue another opportunity to work for another organization on an issue I care very much about. One of the big reasons why I decided not to pursue it is because, with everything going on in the country right now, I don’t know if there is a more important organization than the ACLU.


  4. What has astounded me so far is that since Bush’s signing of the Military Commissions Act, I’ve seen very little comment in the main stream media or the blogosphere about the bill now becoming law. Only Keith Olberman on MSNBC seems to have addressed it in any way with a conversation with Jonathan Turley of Georgetown University Law School last night (very critical of Bush and the act) and an extended commentary on it tonight (very, very critical). Even Jim Lehrer has ignored it so far, yet this is probably the worst federal act since at least the Civil War with regard to civil liberties.

    Now that Bush has signed the act—at least two weeks after passage—I’m waiting for the other shoe, his signing statement to drop. I fully expect him to state that all constraints on executive power in the act can be overidden by the president at will.

    How do we, the citizens, sue this man to compel him to follow the Constitution and 800 years of legal precedence?

    Are there any suits in the works, already filed or in preparation to be filed?

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