Posts Tagged ‘US Constitution’

Don’t ignore Constitution during election season

October 23, 2008

by Kathleen Taylor | The Capital Times, Oct 22, 2008

America is in the midst of an election season, nearing an Election Day with what likely will be far-reaching consequences. Public interest is extraordinarily high, and candidates are debating many critical issues. Yet we have heard little or nothing about the Constitution and its Bill of Rights — the touchstone of our individual freedoms.

The most significant words of the U.S. Constitution may be the first three: “We the people.” Not “I the King,” not “I the Grand Religious Leader,” not even “I the elected President.” Our governing structure was created by the people, and ensuring that it works for the people is a continuing legal, moral and political journey.

All through the centuries, arguments about the Constitution’s meaning have persisted: What does it mean that only Congress can declare war (Article I)? What constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors” (Article II)? Is taking an oath of office with your hand on the Bible a “religious test” (Article VI)? Under which conditions, if any, should explicit sexual language not be considered free speech (Amendment 1)? Is a urine test for drugs an “unreasonable search” (Amendment 4)?

The remarkable characteristic of the Constitution is that it offers bedrock principles — checks and balances, procedures, freedoms, responsibilities, protections — while at the same time responding to the needs of contemporary society. It’s not an accident; the founders wrote it that way on purpose. The Constitution is our civic compass. It points the way for courts, legislatures and executive administrations. It guides us in times of war and of peace, of boom and of bust, and of everything in between. It keeps us on the path of fair play, equal treatment, liberty and security.

Or it does if we’re constantly vigilant.

Over the last two centuries, through activism, dissent and dedication, citizens have expanded the scope and depth of our liberty. And today, more Americans enjoy the “blessings of liberty” than at any time in history.

Yet, in recent years, our federal government has grown more powerful and secretive, assuming powers it does not rightfully have. Our government has: spied on Americans without the approval of Congress or the courts; allowed the CIA to torture and abuse hundreds of people, including Americans, in secret prisons throughout the world; held prisoners indefinitely without charge; placed hundreds of thousands of Americans on terrorist watch lists without an explanation or opportunity to appeal; and restricted the free flow of scientific information and set up barriers to the use of scientific materials.

No matter who wins the election, we must remember that the Constitution applies to everyone. It applies to the least desirable among us and to those with whom we vehemently disagree on matters of politics, religion or ethics. That’s the tough part. We need to be vigilant for all people, not merely the ones whom society favors.

This election season is an opportunity to think about what the Constitution has given us, as well as what we ourselves can do to make sure it survives — not just in letter, but in spirit. We can consider whether what’s been going on is consistent with the Constitution. We shouldn’t fall into the trap of “Well, it’s not me; it’s that awful other person who’s being tortured/spied upon/denied an attorney/discriminated against/harassed.” Any of us could be that person in the future.

Kathleen Taylor is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state.

Advertisements

The Failed Presidency of George W. Bush: A Dismal Legacy

October 20, 2008

[PART I]

“The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”Plato (427-347 B.C.)

“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” Aesop (620–560 B.C.)

“When fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.” H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), American author

“We’ve got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we’ve got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can’t even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, ‘Stay the course.’ Stay the course? … I’ll give you a sound bite: Throw all the bums out!” Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Chrysler Corporation (book: Where Have All the Leaders Gone?)

Whoever is elected president in the coming November 4 American election will inherit a most miserable situation on nearly all fronts. This is because George W. Bush has been one of the worst presidents the U.S. has ever had, if not the worst. It is widely recognized that he was a below average politician who led his country on the wrong track, both domestically and internationally. Today, only a meager 9 percent of Americans dare to say that their country is moving in the right direction.

As a matter of fact, a very large majority of Americansboth Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and of rural areas, high school graduates and college-educated— all say that the United States has been headed in the wrong direction under George W. Bush’s stewardship. Bush’s approval rating reflects the lack of confidence that Americans have in him and his administration. In fact, George W. Bush has recorded the lowest approval rating of any president in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll. And, around the world, the United States has never had a leader who commands so little respect and confidence. Most people in the U.S. and abroad will find satisfaction in seeing his term come to an end.

This is a terrible indictment of the Bush Administration that has presided over America’s destinies for the last eight years. What is more disconcerting, this all came after George W. Bush won the presidential election in 2000, with fewer popular votes than Democratic candidate Al Gore, after a one-judge-majority decision of the Supreme Court, in effect, gave him the presidency. Therefore, this is an administration that had no widespread democratic mandate to do what it has done. And it has done a lot of things wrong. In fact, many people think this has been a morally bankrupt administration.

International disaster: An Illegal and Immoral War of Aggression

At the center of this fiasco, is the fact that the Bush-Cheney administration and its neocon cohort rushed to exploit the 9/11 terrorist attacks and used this as a pretext to implement a preconceived pro-Israel and pro-oil plan in the Middle East. This led them to adopt a simplistic response to Islamist terrorism, barging into complex Middle East societies on elephant feet. But in the process, they have only succeeded in making matters worse and in encouraging more hatred against the U.S. and more terrorism.

Indeed, George W. Bush will be remembered above all as the man who launched an illegal and immoral war of aggression against another sovereign nation, on false pretenses and forged documents, destroying in so doing the entire country of Iraq, and damaging perhaps irreparably the U.S. reputation in the world. As Scott McClellan, Bush’s former Press Secretary during seven long years, stated, Bush and his advisers [in launching the Iraq War] “confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candour and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war”.

Bush’s deception and lies about Iraq in order to initiate a war of aggression, an aggression that is a war crime under the Nuremberg standard established by the U.S., are well documented. Thus, historians will have no difficulty in establishing the fact that the United States, under Bush, acted as a lawless international aggressor.

In initiating a war of aggression, Bush did violate the United Nations Charter, which “prohibits the use of military force” against any nation without the specific approval of the United Nations Security Council. The Security Council never approved the American-led military invasion of Iraq. Therefore, Bush and his crew had no international legal basis to invade Iraq. And they cannot pretend that Congress gave them such an authorization, since it is well known in law that no domestic law can override a signed international treaty in good standing.

In a domestic parallel, George W. Bush and his administration have set up what is probably the most widespread war profiteering system in modern history, through which billions and billions of dollars were misappropriated and wasted. At the same time as they were adopting a permanent war posture abroad, they were irresponsibly calling at home for a 674 billion dollar tax cut for their rich supporters and pushing up the deficits, of which a large proportion was financed by borrowing abroad.

Illegality and Immorality

On the legal front, this is an administration that has shamed the United States with its illegal actions, with its deliberate and dishonest lies, with its war crimes, its disregard for international treaties, and with its overt disregard of constitutional government.

On the question of lawlessness, the list of missteps the Bush-Cheney administration took outside of the law is too long for a short article as this one. But there are numerous documents to be consulted and it is possible to attempt a short summary.

From the very beginning, the Bush-Cheney administration has dismissed international law and disregarded domestic law. They began by either repudiating or refusing to honor the United States’ international commitments and obligations, thus showing indifference, if not outright hostility, toward international law. They opted out of five important international treaties and commitments: the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty and the International Criminal Court. In so doing, the United States, under the Bush-Cheney administration, has betrayed its international commitments and has moved away from being a moral state, and more and more toward the status of an international rogue state.

This was all confirmed when the Bush-Cheney administration adopted, in September 2002, the Bush Doctrine of preventive war, an internationally illegal and immoral program. Indeed, under existing international law, no country may attack another under false pretenses, nor use military force unilaterally.

This was followed by the even more dangerous and hairy Cheney Doctrine (or the One Percent Doctrine) which is anti-human rights, anti-rule of law and anti-Constitution, because it posits that if there is even a 1% chance American interests are in jeopardy somewhere in the world, unilateral American military interventions are justified, and this without conclusive evidence or extensive analysis. Such hubristic and shoot-from-the-hip foreign policies are a true recipe for international anarchy and thus render a great disservice to humanity.

Domestically, President George W. Bush has introduced the unconstitutional practice of adding signing statements to new laws, stating that he has the right, as President, to violate any section of a law, should he deem it in the national interest to do so. For example, on January 28, 2008, Bush signed into law the repeal of the “Insurrection Act Rider” in the 2006 defense appropriations bill. That rider had given the President sweeping power to use military troops in ways contrary to the Insurrection Act and Posse Comitatus Act and authorized the president to have troops patrol American streets in response to disasters, epidemics, and any “condition” he might cite. But in signing this repeal, Bush attached a signing statement that he did not feel bound by the repeal, thus opening the possibility he could ignore the law any time he saw fit to do so.

Disrespect for Liberty and the U.S. Constitution

As if this were not enough, there was the attempt by the Bush-Cheney regime to suspend and even permanently abolish the more than eight centuries old right of Habeas Corpus. And when the Supreme Court, in a far-reaching decision on June 12, 2008, rebuked the B-C administration’s argument that it had a right to establish concentration camps on U.S.-run properties around the world and hold prisoners indefinitely with no legal recourse, especially at the Guantánamo Bay detention center, President George W. Bush had the gall to criticize the Supreme Court’s decision while on a trip to Europe.

Then Bush embarked upon a program of domestic spying on Americans never before seen in a democracy. He, indeed, removed most of the safeguards that had been erected to protect citizens from illegal and warrantless spying activities by government, thus making a mockery of the U.S. Constitution. In particular, the Bush-Cheney administration did not respect key parts of the U.S. Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. It must said, however, that some Bush Democrats, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democratic House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D – MD) have also willfully and enthusiastically collaborated with George W. Bush in enlarging the government’s spying powers over citizens. On his own, however, George W. Bush did his utmost to make permanent the President’s War Powers, thus making sure that the United States could remain on a permanent war path and be in a position to suspend at will basic constitutional rights.

On top of everything, George W. Bush will be remembered as a politician who authorized torture and indefinite detention of prisoners. Indeed, after Bush willfully suspended the rights accorded prisoners of war by the Geneva Conventions, he was, in fact, officially turning the United States into an immoral nation that openly and unashamedly resorts to torture, thus violating basic rules of morality, international law and a host of international treaties adhered to by the United States. In fact, the Geneva Conventions in its article 3 does not only prohibit torture, but also any cruel, inhuman, degrading, and humiliating treatment of a detainee “in all circumstances.” However, it is not only on the issue of torture that the United States under Bush has become an international pariah.

The Bush-Cheney administration has also operated concentration camps in many countries, holding captive tens of thousands of detainees and hiding them from the Red Cross, the body empowered to monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions. The Bush-Cheney administration has placed itself outside the civilized world and was nearly alone, last May (2008), in trying to undermine a treaty banning cluster bombs, a type of bombs which have killed so many civilians, when 111 countries signed a treaty outlawing these inhuman weapons. On this occasion, the United States, under Bush-Cheney, sided with a handful of weapons makers and users, none of them known as great defenders of human rights and democracy: Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan. The Bush-Cheney administration has truly been a shamelessly immoral administration.

(PART II on Global Research next week)

Rodrigue Tremblay is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Montreal and can be reached at: rodrigue.tremblay@ yahoo.com.

He is the author of the book ‘The New American Empire’.

Visit his blog site at www.thenewamericanempire.com/blog.

Author’s Website: www.thenewamericanempire.com/

Check Dr. Tremblay’s coming book “The Code for Global Ethics” at: www.TheCodeForGlobalEthics.com/

The Bush Administration Is an Ongoing Criminal Conspiracy Under International Law and U.S. Domestic Law

September 4, 2008

Justice Robert H. Jackson Conference:

Planning for the Prosecution of High Level American War Criminals
Massachusetts Law School
September 13-14, 2008

Andover, Massachusetts

Since the impeachable installation of George W. Bush as President in January of 2001 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Gang of Five, the peoples of the world have witnessed a government in the United States that has demonstrated little if any respect for fundamental considerations of international law, human rights, and the United States Constitution.

What the world has watched instead is a comprehensive and malicious assault upon the integrity of the international and domestic legal orders by a group of men and women who are thoroughly Machiavellian and Straussian in their perception of international relations and in their conduct of both foreign policy and domestic affairs. Even more seriously, in many instances specific components of the Bush administration’s foreign policies constitute ongoing criminal activity under well-recognized principles of both international law and U.S. domestic law, and in particular the Nuremberg Charter, the Nuremberg Judgment, and the Nuremberg Principles, as well as the Pentagon’s own U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 on The Law of Land Warfare (1956), all of which apply to President Bush himself as Commander-in-Chief of United States Armed Forces under Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitution.

Depending upon the substantive issues involved, those international crimes typically include but are not limited to the Nuremberg offenses of crimes against peace: For example, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and perhaps their longstanding threatened wars of aggression against Iran and now Pakistan.  Their criminal responsibility also concerns Nuremberg crimes against humanity and war crimes as well as grave breaches of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and of the 1907 Hague Regulations on land warfare:  For example, torture at Guantanamo, Bhagram, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere; enforced disappearances, assassinations, murders, kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, “shock and awe,” depleted uranium, white phosphorous, cluster bombs, Fallujah, and the Gitmo kangaroo courts.

Furthermore, various members of the Bush administration have committed numerous inchoate crimes incidental to these substantive offences that under the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles as well as paragraph 500 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 are international crimes in their own right:  planning and preparation—which they are currently doing today against Iran and Pakistan—solicitation, incitement, conspiracy, complicity, attempt, aiding and abetting.

Finally, according to basic principles of international criminal law set forth in paragraph 501 of U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, all high level civilian officials and military officers in the U.S. government who either knew or should have known that soldiers or civilians under their control (such as the C.I.A. or private contractors), committed or were about to commit international crimes and failed to take the measures necessary to stop them, or to punish them, or both, are likewise personally responsible for the commission of international crimes.

At the very top of America’s criminal chain-of-command are President Bush and Vice-President Cheney;  former U.S. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s Deputy Paul Wolfowitz; Secretary of State Rice; former Director of National Intelligence Negroponte; National Security Advisor Hadley; his Deputy Elliot Abrams; former U.S. Attorneys General Ashcroft and Gonzales, criminally responsible for the torture campaign launched by the Bush Jr. administration; and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs along with the appropriate Regional Commanders-in-Chief, especially for U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).

These U.S. government officials and their immediate subordinates are responsible for the commission of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes as specified by the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles as well as by U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10.  Today in international legal terms, the Bush Jr. administration itself should now be viewed as constituting an ongoing criminal conspiracy under international criminal law and U.S. domestic law because of its formulation and undertaking of serial wars of aggression, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in violation of the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles that are legally akin to those perpetrated by the former Nazi regime in Germany.

Of course the terrible irony of today’s situation is that six decades ago at Nuremberg the U.S. government participated in the prosecution, punishment and execution of Nazi government officials for committing some of the same types of heinous international crimes that the members of the Bush administration currently inflict upon people all over the world. To be sure, I personally oppose the imposition of capital punishment upon any human being for any reason no matter how monstrous their crimes, whether they be Bush Jr., Tony Blair, or Saddam Hussein.

As a consequence, American citizens possess the basic right under international law and United States domestic law, including the U.S. Constitution, to engage in acts of civil resistance designed to prevent, impede, thwart, or terminate ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by Bush administration officials in their conduct of foreign affairs policies and military operations purported to relate to defense and counter-terrorism.  Today’s civil resisters are the sheriffs!  The Bush administration officials are the outlaws!

We American citizens must reaffirm our commitment to the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles by holding our government officials fully accountable under international law and U.S. domestic law for the commission of such grievous international and domestic crimes.  We must not permit any aspect of our foreign affairs and defense policies to be conducted by acknowledged “war criminals” according to the U.S. government’s own official definitions of that term as set forth in the Nuremberg Charter, Judgment, and Principles, U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10, the U.S. War Crimes Act, the Four Geneva Conventions and the Hague Regulations.  The American people must insist upon the impeachment, dismissal, resignation, indictment, conviction, and long-term incarceration of all U.S. government officials guilty of such heinous international and domestic crimes.  If not so restrained, the Bush administration could very well precipitate a Third World War.

In this regard, during the course of an October 17, 2007 press conference, President Bush Jr. terrorized the entire world with the threat of World War III if he could not work his illegal will upon Iran.  It is my opinion that the Bush administration is fully prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons against Muslim and Arab states and peoples in order to break the taboo of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  After the terrible tragedy of September 11, 2001 the United States of America has vilified and demonized Muslims and Arabs almost to the same extent that America inflicted upon the Japanese and Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor.  As the Nazis had previously demonstrated with respect to the Jews, a government must first dehumanize and scapegoat a race of people before its citizens will tolerate if not approve their elimination: witness Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In post -9/11 America we are directly confronted with the prospect of a nuclear war of extermination conducted by our White Racist Judeo-Christian Power Elite against Peoples of Color in the Muslim and Arab worlds in order to steal their oil and gas.  The Crusades all over again.  But this time nuclear Armageddon stares all of humankind right in the face!

We American lawyers must be inspired by the stunning example set by those heroic Pakistani lawyers who led the successful struggle against the brutal Bush-supported Musharraf military dictatorship in Pakistan.  We American lawyers must now lead the fight against the Bush dictatorship and empire! This is our Nuremberg Moment!

Thank you.


Francis A. Boyle is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
Global Research Articles by Francis A. Boyle


%d bloggers like this: