By Mark David Blum, Esq.
To paraphrase my President in a speech given in prime time on September 11, 2006, “we are in the midst of the great ideological battle of the Second Millennium.” He called it the “battle for civilization.” I couldn’t agree more.
In fact, I would carry the President’s message one step further. I argue that we now stand at the precipice of change. However which way we leap forward, our next move will be drastic and our society will be changed forever. Are we living through what will be known to future generations as the early days of the American holocaust? As November approaches and we choose our next leaders, the question becomes one of whether we will continue forward with the attitude and behavior last seen in the 1930’s with the rise of the German National Socialists.
We have become the Generation that abandoned the American constitution and her principles of liberty, honor, and integrity because we so fear a terrorist bomb. The American heart now beats with the pulse of a coward’s blood. Our President and his party gave us this social transfusion of ideology. How quickly they convinced you to surrender your soul for some small amount of safety. Today, Americans are actually having a public debate on what is and is not torture. The so-called ‘Greatest Generation’ and every generation before them would never have that discussion. Like fresh bread, every true and honorable American knows torture and needs no further elaboration thereof. Americans treat human beings like human beings. The alleged Christian nation is obligated by its Lord to love every man.
How would you judge a society where American soldiers are by Executive fiat and consent, torturing prisoners at secret prisons throughout the world, where our own Government is engaged in willful, blatant, in-your-face illegal spying on Americans here at home, and where now we now constantly have to prove to police that we are doing nothing wrong and have nothing to hide.
Osama Bin Ladin and Al Qaeda destroyed buildings and murdered three thousand Americans in an unprovoked attack. Our nation responded. But then, the President and the Republicans turned the war against our own nation. They lied to us to expand the war. As of this writing, the Republican policies and our nation’s present leaders have killed more Americans and destroyed more buildings, and disrupted our own economy far worse than did our enemies.
What we are witnessing is not an accident. We were dragged into a war in Iraq against our will and based on a serious lies and intense marketing. Out of that war, we have engaged in activities that defy the American heart. The United States is now becoming isolated. Other nations are forming coalitions against us. Courts are seeking to prosecute our leaders and soldiers. CIA operatives are buying insurance.
All these abuses are willful acts perpetrated intentionally. We all share the blame. Our President planned it. Intelligence Services executed it both in Cuba and in Iraq. They brought in Chinese interrogation “experts” to show us how to get it done. Lawyers trained and guided the President how to end-run the law and avoid prosecution. Congress treated it like a big joke. The media hid the story. American doctors participated in the torturing of prisoners. One foolish lawyer suggested it was OK to torture; we just need “rules” for it. The outgoing Attorney General argued the Courts have nothing to say about it. We the People accept the Nuremburg Defense.
To most of the world, it is criminal. Our own government has declared it criminal. A soldier just went to prison for 3 years for shooting a badly wounded Iraqi. Lyndie England and her gang gave up substantial amounts of freedom for their sins.
Believe me, I understand the rage: The rage of September 11th, the Rage of Nick Berg, the Rage of Madrid, and 100 Tel Aviv bombings. I understand the Rage of war and the stress of combat. The only rule of war for the soldier is to kill the enemy; period. I get it. My heart hurts for the near 3,000 American soldiers now dead in Iraq and the families of the more than 20,000 wounded. Hundreds if not thousands more still stand to die or be wounded and my heart hurts for them as well.
But, the ends do not justify the means. Our government knows information gathered from these abuses cannot be used in a criminal prosecution. It is obviously not their intent. They clearly want this information for prosecuting the war. The War on Terror has changed the scenario where the bad guys are no longer criminals, they are not military opponents. Despite being human beings, captured ‘terrorists’ have no legal standing in any court. Right or wrong, this is the current U.S. policy.
Tell your concerns to the survivors of the Malmedy Massacre at the Battle of the Bulge. Share your fears with those who walked the Bataan Death March. It matters a lot how we treat people; whether they are civilian criminals or military targets. Every one is a human being. Americans do not build camps, interrogate by torture, and openly violate the law for the purposes of War. Our history is to the contrary. It would be considered “Un-American”. "Men who take up arms against another in public war do not cease on this account to be moral beings responsible to one another." (General Order 100 of the United States Army Field Manual of 1863).
Forget the enemy. Let him die. Let him suffer pain and angst ten thousandfold for what he has done to us. He made us kill him and for that, there is no mercy.
But my greater concerns lie with the soul of our nation and with the souls of my children. For my nation, it pains me that we no longer maintain the moral high ground. Ours is not the dream others seek. Nobody wants to live as a nation that would treat prisoners as such. The whole world condemns us now. Even the Russians sing in that chorus.
Try this; especially those of you with children. Close your eyes and wonder what the world looks like next time we have a war. In this war, there were no beheadings until Abu Ghraib and since then, heads have rolled nonstop. But remember also Jessica Lynch. She was not captured by insurgents but instead by Iraqi forces. Where will we stand next time if we saw another Jessica being treated as we treat our POWs?
I would be proud if my grandsons served in the military. I would worry every moment they were gone. But if they should be taken prisoner of some military conflict or if they should be discovered wounded by the enemy, I insist that they be treated humanely and be protected. I can demand such treatment only if I too grant such safety to theirs. My government puts all of that at risk.
None of this is going to change until we change our 1960’s attitudes and go back to our roots. The concept of “think globally, act locally” is wonderful in theory. In following that policy, our attention was always on our local politicians what they can do for us. Few if any of us really cared about the candidate’s party and were moreso focused on the individual.
I declare that such policy has got to stop; at least temporarily. Ignoring the global issues and delegating that discussion to others has left our nation in tatters. We are servient to a single political party which has a stranglehold on all three branches of government at the Federal and at every State and local level. Whether by fraud or honor, this party has been in control for the past 13 years and in union with the fundamentalist Christian evangelical movement, the Republicans have used the political pulpit to bring together the forces of messianic Christianity and the dogma of ‘Daddy’ politics.
My personal greatest fear is the damage Republicans have caused to the Courts. The passion du jour on judicial temperament is strict adherence to the letter of the Constitution and any judge failing to do so, is declared an activist judge. Truthfully, Republicans only call judges activist when said judges do not follow the religio/political tone being advance.
The “activist judge” is the one who rules against you. The Constitution of the United States gave way long ago to the Constitution of the Judiciary. Properly seen, a true activist judge is the one who goes against judge made law and precedent and instead, follows the Constitution.
Our current Supreme Court has been anything but strictly adherent to the Founders’ intentions or to the strict letter of the Constitution. The loudest voices for judicial temperament and strict interpretation have the dirtiest hands on the subject of strictly reading and applying only the text of the actual document. Justice Scalia is the most serious offender and does the most violence in his own preachings.
In the eleven years that elapsed between the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the drafting of the Constitution in 1787, several basic theories that joined us as a nation changed significantly. To this day, the overwhelming majority of Americans still operates under these discarded theories and ignored the change. That fundamental misunderstanding is at the core of every debate we witness.
Recall Thomas Jefferson’s penned brilliance. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
“Inalienable rights” are, by definition, rights that cannot be transferred or repudiated. You are stuck with them. “Life” is primary among those rights deemed incapable of surrender. To this day, this term is the magic language upon which the political right seizes to make their case against abortion, euthanasia, suicide, and drug use. They have attached themselves to what they believe is an inalienable ‘Right to Life’.
Yet, the signers of the Constitution recognized no such inalienable right. In the Constitution, the word “life” does not even receive a mention until the Fifth Amendment where the drafters said only that life cannot be taken by the government “without due process of law”; whatever that means. Our drafters changed our inalienable right to life to a conditional right to life. If it were inalienable, then no State could enforce a death penalty. Those who argue there is an inalienable right to life have no constitutional premise to their argument. A strict constructionist would never agree there is a “right to life”.
Likewise, the Eminent Domain decision, though barfed upon by the conservatives on and off the Court, was in every sense a strict read and application of the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states clearly that, “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”. So long as the State makes just compensation, it can take what it wants. Note there is no specific Constitutional limitation ANYWHERE that says, “No State shall take private property for public use”. There is no absolute right to property ownership to the exclusion of the State. Try refusing to pay property taxes. But the political right screamed that there is some unknown unstated inalienable right to property ownership to the exclusion of the State. Yet it was the Court’s liberal wing that held fast to the original text of the founder’s writings.
Hugh Downs, former host of the Today Show, said on March 31, 1997 that, “there is only one political party in the United States. Half of them are Republicans and half of them are Democrats. The Libertarians have all the good ideas.”
A Libertarian would say that the States and Federal governments should make haste in passing legislation and even a Constitutional Amendment that says, “[N]o State may take private property nor enter thereupon absent consent of the rightful owner.” Would you support such a change in American policy? All your life, I bet you believed that was already the standard. Justice O’Conner and the rest of the Court showed how there are vast gaps in our understanding of the Constitution. I concur that life should be an inalienable right. So too with a right to privacy: The question should never be, “do you have anything to hide?” Instead it should be, “why is it any of the business of government?” We all have something to hide -- our privacy.
Unlike the Republicans and our President, our Nation’s Founders were not afraid of the People. Instead, theirs was a fear of tyrannical government. Our founding documents were written specifically to diffuse and limit power of government; not the People. The constitution was a document of limitation and those powers enumerated therein are specific and finite. For the activist judges in the conservative wing of the current Court, all these founding principles do not apply and all power in the nation comes from government to the People. Their theory and perspective is flatly wrong. More importantly, it is dangerous.
Remember the Declaration of Independence’s famous line, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Our Founders’ radical change to the then current political theory was the recognition that “power for governing” arises from below; from the People. Authority does not come from the ‘State’ but rather from the governed. This did not change when the Constitution was written; the theory was codified AS the Constitution. It is the original compact between all the States and affirmed nearly every time the question came before the Supreme Court, that the Federal Constitution creates a set of minimum rights and protections available to every American. This was later codified in the 14th Amendment.
For me, strict construction should not be a factor. Asking 21st century Americans to live under rules crafted by the hands and hearts of 18th century philosophers is akin to asking a grown man to wear the clothes he wore as a child. Society changes. Thinking changes. So too do politics, economies, and science. We cannot today be held to centuries' old thinking and dogma. Our constitution was written to be a living document subject to changing theories and attitudes. We have to accept that. Failure to do so would bind us in slavery to our faults and mistakes and block our growth and maturation as a People and as human beings.
The danger, however, has not abated. This November, we as Americans have got to set aside our love for our individual representatives and focus on the nation as a whole. This is the moment in time when we can stake out a claim and declare who we are as a People.
It is time to end Republican control of government. Theirs is a failed policy. The party is the party of huge spending programs, massive government growth and public sector employment, and constantly seeking to remove privacy and other personal freedoms. As stated by one of their candidates in Florida, Republicans do not recognize a separation of Church and State and honestly believe that God belongs in our civil laws and in our State houses.
To garner support and maintain their base, they constantly bring up two words … “9/11” and “terrorism”. Well, I say neither word scares me any longer because of the greater threat posed by surrendering to the fear. Consider the Israeli model: In my opinion, it is OK to be a Jew, support the idea of a Jewish State of Israel and still be appalled and offended at the antics of the government of the State of Israel. Just as one can be an American and oppose American policy.
Israel gives us a prime example as to why we should NOT be following Republican policies in the Middle East. For 50 years, Israelis have answered their neighbors with bombs, bullets, and civil oppression. Nobody says Israel is totally to blame. I argue simply that they chose the wrong path to resolution. Founded because it was time to give Jews a safe place, that nation has since been constantly at war; first with its neighbors and then engaged in a civil war.
The problem is that in the process of isolating themselves and dealing with opposition with violence and anger, the nation has changed. It has become the very devil from which its founders ran. The nature of the conflict and the standard Israeli response has changed that society. They are a paranoid people who traded away most of their freedoms and civil rights to be protected. History shows that they are not protected and instead the situation has deteriorated. It is worse than ever. Today, being a Jew is synonymous with being an Israeli and Arab anger toward Israel is now directed at Jews. This is an intolerable situation.
President Bush and the Republican Party want America to follow this model. This ‘bring-a-gun-to-a-knife-fight’ attitude and response has brought on international condemnation. Our expansion of operations has angered and created more enemies than were extant at the beginning. The need for control and moderation of the private lives of our own citizens has cost us our most cherished freedoms.
The ideals embodied in the Constitution are greater than the life of a single citizen, or even three thousand of them, as these ideals have to last for 3,000 generations. Born in a time of great national strife, civil unrest, war, economic and political disarray, our constitution was written by men who despite all that hardship and risk, insisted that some rights remained inalienable and that no matter what, Congress shall make no laws.
It is time to rise up your fists. It is time to yell and shout and scream. America and all that She represents is at risk. Staying the course is about to send our ship of State crashing into the rocks. We must vote to cut the Republicans loose and run as fast as we can from their ideology.
Though you may love your local Congressperson or Senator, before you cast that vote, remember their #1 rule. Republicans live and die by Ronald Reagan’s decree; “thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.” That steadfast adherence to Party and God over Country requires our Nation free ourselves from their bondage and vote every Republican out of office.
The legacy you leave for your children demands nothing less.