Now, you all know what I'm going to post about this morning, right?
There's a reoccurring theme in many movies and TV shows that is absolutely guaranteed to elicit hysterical laughter from my lovely wife: i.e. the patented Hollywood "Kick in the Nuts" (tm). When some jerk takes a shot in the family jewels my wife just cracks right up. She finds it especially funny if the blow is delivered by a small child or an angry woman. As a man, I cringe at such scenes, cover my crotch with my laptop, and manfully endure the five minutes of cackling from the other end of the couch. I rarely, if ever, find the "Kick in the Nuts" funny because I think it's often used gratuitously.
I also rarely find it funny, because as a man, I have been kicked in the privates once or twice and the pain is absolutely indescribable. I've been seriously injured on more than one occasion, and I'm sure that most men will agree with me when I say that I'd rather take a bullet than a kick in the balls.
But every once in a while, I admit to finding a good Kick in the Nuts hysterical.
Especially when it happens to somebody I despise.
Like this morning, for instance, when the Supreme Court kicked George W. Bush right square in his little shriveled Habeas Corpus.
They kicked him so hard that his feet came off the floor. He's somewhere in Europe right now, curled up in fetal position, clutching his crotch with both hands, sobbing and sucking air through his teeth in an effort to just keep breathing.
Bawahahahaha, now that's funny.
Clever guys, those Founding Fathers of ours, and my admiration for their genius and the system they designed for America has never been higher than it is right now.
For those of you not paying attention: Yesterday SCOTUS ruled 5-4 that it the President's high handed suspension of habeas corpus rights for those detained at Guantanamo Bay is unconstitutional. Detainee's now have the right to pursue habeas challenges to their detention in US courts.
The writ of Habeas corpus, the Great Writ, is one of the fundamental principles of US Constitutional law. When the US was founded, for the concept to be incorporated into the Constitution was so revolutionary that it sent shock waves throughout the world. Prior to that singular event, the rights of an individual to challenge his or her detention was solely at the whim of whatever ruler happened to be sitting on the throne at that time. Under the US Constitution, habeas corpus basically says that any prisoner, or prisoner's representative, may petition for relief from unlawful detention. Once issued, the writ is a summons, backed by the power of court order, directing the detaining authority to bring the prisoner before the court and provide lawfully obtained evidence sufficient to determine if the prisoner's detention is legal within the framework of US law. It means that the cops have to do their job correctly and within specific guidelines, it means that evidence must be obtained through specific methodology, it means that the government can't just arbitrarily decide to drop you into a deep dark hole like Edmond Dantes in the Count of Monte Cristo. The right to petition for a writ of habeas corpus is the single most effective defense against tyranny yet devised, and forms the principle bulwark of individual liberty. The great British constitutional theorist, Albert Venn Dicey, wrote that habeas corpus acts "declare no principle and define no rights, but they are for practical purposes worth a hundred constitutional articles guaranteeing individual liberty," and truer words have rarely be spoken.
One of the things that scared our Founding Fathers more than anything else, and justifiably so, was unlimited governmental authority. Above all, they prized individual liberty for all men. It is indisputable that they themselves didn't personally live up to that lofty ideal during their own time - more than a few of them were slave owners, and additionally when they said "all men," well, they meant "men," as in males and landowners in particular. However, the great genius of their design is that over time it changed the very fabric of the United States until all men, now defined as all human beings, were free. And habeas corpus is the cornerstone of that design. Under the US Constitution, habeas corpus applies to all prisoners. All of them. Every damned one, American citizens and otherwise. Period. Every single prisoner, indicted, convicted, detained, rendered, and etcetera has the fundamental right to challenge their imprisonment, not just entitled hereditary landowners. Not just wrongly accused citizens. Everybody. Even the terrorist shitheads.
And it matters. More than anything. Either the law applies to all equally - or it is no law at all. If individual liberty is determined solely by one man, solely by the whim of the current leader - then that leader is not a President, he's a King, the light of liberty has died, and the law is an arbitrary decree beyond the ken of the common citizen.
Presidential suspension of habeas corpus is unconstitutional. It is against every principle this country was founded on. It is dishonorable. It is cowardly. It is the first refuge of the tyrant. It is unAmerican. The President swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and the principles it embodies, and he sure as hell shouldn't need the court to explain that to him. This disregard for liberty, more than anything else, is what's wrong with this administration. The President's oath, his principle duty, is to support and defend the Constitution, all else is secondary - even terrorists.
Now, any Conservative coming into this post without knowing me will think, "Oh sweet baby Jesus, another hand wringing Liberal, whining about rights and the Constitution and blah blah blah. Pissing and moaning about the poor detainees. Don't you know, Jim, that these guys tried to kill us? They're terrorists, for the love of God, and you just want to let them go? God Bless America and George Bush and hot apple pie."
See, a couple of those shitheads are sitting in a cell in Gitmo because I helped put them there. I know full well how damned dangerous some of those men are. I know better than most just how much they'd love nothing better than to kill us all. And just to set the record straight, I have no love or sympathy for these men, none, Fuck them and the camel they rode in on. I would cheerfully take them out back and put a bullet in their collective heads and then go home and sleep soundly and without remorse of any kind - providing that they had a fair, public, and lawful trial first.
Because that's the whole point here - the end does not justify the means. Let me repeat that, it's important: The end does not justify the means. Period. Either we are a nation of law and liberty, or we are not. Either the law applies to everyone within our jurisdiction or it does not. You cannot have it both ways. Liberty is hard. It is contrary to human nature in many cases. We are self centered, greedy, vengeful creatures by and large and it takes a conscious effort to live up to high ideals. It took a civil war, and a century of sustained effort to extend liberty and freedom to all Americans, whatever their skin color, and it's still not over. It took a hundred years of suffrage movements to extend liberty and freedom to all Americans, no matter what their sex, and it's still not over. We fight every dammed day to maintain the vision of our founders, but if we begin to believe that the end does indeed justify the means, then we have lost sight of what that vision really means. Habeas corpus does not apply to the alleged terrorist detainees for their sake, but for ours.
SCOTUS's ruling does not grant new rights to the detainees, it simply reiterates what we should all know, our law applies to all equally. Period. And that's a good thing, it's a great thing, in fact, because it forces this President to finally confront the law, the Constitution, and his duty head on. This administration has always taken the easy road, it's the defining criteria of this president. It was a lot easier to attack Iraq instead of hunting down the real perpetrators of 911. It was a lot easier to read intelligence reports that said what the White House wanted to believe, rather than demand verification and supporting evidence from multiple sources. It was a lot easier to monitor Americans without having to do the legwork necessary to get a warrant, ditto for physical searches of their homes and property. It was a whole lot easier to create secret no-fly lists, without having to justify what amounts to an unassailable guilty conviction. And it's a whole lot easier to hold secret trials without regard for the law and the Constitution. It's a whole lot easier when the defendant can't defend himself. It's a whole lot easier when the government is right because the government says it's right and not because it actually has to prove its position before its citizens. SCOTUS's ruling requires that the White House finally has to do the proper work and follow the law, same as the rest of us. The administration now has to do exactly what any prosecuting attorney has to do, i.e. put their cards on the table. Either they've done the work and compiled the evidence and can prove that these men are guilty - or they can't. And that's the best thing that's happened in this whole idiotic 'War on Terrorism.' Put the evidence on the table for all to see, try these men publicly, fairly and in strict accordance with the rule of law so that the whole world can see beyond a shadow of a doubt who and what they are. Show the world that they are nothing but criminals and garden variety scumbags - not martyrs, not heroes, not freedom fighters, not holy warriors. Just another Timothy McVeigh, just another Unibomber, just another crazy-assed mass-murdering asshole who got caught.
Habeas corpus is the foundation of our freedom and the very core of liberty for all. Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, and Anthony M. Kennedy should be praised for keeping the founders' vision alive, for living up to their oath to the Constitution, and for taking the high road. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas should be ashamed for bowing to politics and personal bias and for failing to remember that their duty, their first and only duty, is to the Constitution and the principles upon which it was built.
And George W. Bush should start wearing a cup, he's going to need it.
For those of you who are not regulars here at Stonekettle Station, and you think you've stumbled into the den of a squealing bunny thumping liberal - before you decide that you know me from this post, you might try reading this one first. It has a direct relationship to the subject here, and it might help explain exactly who I am and what I believe in - and why.