Thursday, March 30, 2006

From Hamdan to Absurdity

Tuesday’s oral argument before the Supreme Court in Hamdan v Rumsfeld offered some interesting verbal sparring between justices and the solicitor general arguing on behalf of the BushCheney theory of unlimited executive power. Dahlia Lithwick presents a good summary of the arguments at Slate:

...Solicitor General Paul Clement...cites the executive's longstanding authority to try enemies by military tribunal. When Justice John Paul Stevens asks for the source of the laws that such tribunals would enforce, Clement replies that the source is the "laws of war." When Stevens asks whether conspiracy is encompassed within the laws of war, Clement says that the president views conspiracy as within the laws of war....

Souter takes a slightly different tack: If you accept that the military commissions apply the laws of war, don't you have to accept the Geneva Conventions? he asks. Clement responds that the commissions can "adjudicate that the Geneva Conventions don't apply."

"You can't have it both ways, " Souter retorts. The government can't say the president is operating under the laws of war, as recognized by Congress, and then for purposes of defining those laws, say the Geneva Conventions don't apply.

Sure it can. Clement replies that if a detainee has such a claim, he should bring it before the military courts. Even Kennedy seems alarmed now. He confesses that he's troubled by the notion of bringing challenges about the structure of the tribunal to the tribunal itself. "If a group is going to try some people, do you first have the trial and then challenge the legitimacy of the tribunal?" he asks incredulously.

Clement objects to his word choice. "This isn't just some group of people," he says. This is the president invoking his authority to try terrorists.

Breyer goes back to the [Detainee Treatment Act] and whether it stripped the court of jurisdiction to rule on Hamdan's claims. He asks how the court can avoid "the most terribly difficult question of whether Congress can constitutionally deprive this court of jurisdiction in habeas cases."

And Stevens serves up another can't-have-it-both-ways query: When Congress takes away the courts' habeas corpus jurisdiction, "Do you say it's a permissible suspension of the writ or that it's not a suspension of the writ?" he asks.

"Both," replies Clement.

"You can't say both," chides Stevens. So this is where Clement claims that Congress could have accidentally suspended the writ, the way you might accidentally drop your eyeglasses into a punchbowl. "Wait a minute," replies Souter, and I think he's angrier than I have ever seen him. "The writ is the writ. … You're saying the writ was suspended by inadvertence!"

Later Breyer will add: "You want to say that these are war crimes. But this is not a war. These are not war crimes. And this is not a war crimes tribunal. If the president can do this, he can set up a commission and go to Toledo and arrest an immigrant and try him." To which Clement's answer is the fail-safe: "This is a war."

And even as it starts to be clear that he is losing Kennedy—who asks whether Hamdan isn't "uniquely vulnerable" and thus entitled to the theoretical protection of the Geneva Conventions—Clement stands firm in his claim that the Guantanamo detainees are different from regular POWs because, well, they are.

At some point, it must begin to insult the collective intelligence of the court, these tautological arguments that end where they begin: The existing laws do not apply because this is a different kind of war. It's a different kind of war because the president says so. The president gets to say so because he is president....

In summary, Words mean what the president says they mean. I can’t find the exact quote but I believe Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen told Alice the same thing. I never expected to hear the same argument in a court of law but with BushCheney, everything is possible.

Bonus Question:

How likely is Congress to suspend one of the most fundamental Constitutional liberties (habeas corpus)inadvertantly?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

It's the Economy, Stupid

Michael Schwartz writes in Asia Times Online that BushCheney's messianic free market economic policies are the primary cause for the Iraqi insurgency, not as is commonly discussed, the poor post invasion planning. He describes a downward cycle of economic immiseration, resistance, repression and more resistance that gave an initially small insurgency substantial credibility.

...By focusing attention only on the lack of US (and Iraqi) military power brought to bear in the early days after the fall of Baghdad,...[the press] ignore[s] some of the deeper reasons why many Iraqis were willing to confront a formidable military machine with only small arms and their own wits. They ignore - and cause the American public to ignore - the fact that there was little resistance just after the fall of Baghdad and that it expanded as the economy declined and repression set in. They ignore the eternal verity that the willingness to fight and die is regularly animated by the conviction that otherwise things will only get worse. (emphasis added)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

War Comes Home

Radioactive hulks of damaged tanks are returning to the US from Iraq for disposal. In yet another demonstration of arrogance, indifference or ignorance (you choose), the military is exposing Americans to the dangers of depleted uranium.

Monday, March 27, 2006


The Washington Post reports on extreme conservative trends in Iran. With a little editing, the article would accurately reflect trends in America.

The presidents of both nations believe in a near term armageddon involving a second coming. Both have a direct line from God and both are doing what they can to create a confrontation.

One would like nothing more than to strike, to demonstrate his power and resolve. The other would welcome the attack to generate nationalist outrage and support for the regime.


Contempt of Congress

geprgia10 at Daily Kos reminds anyone willing to pay attention that BushCheney is thoroughly dangerous.

Laura Logan

A must-see video for anyone who thinks the press is skewing news coverage from Iraq.

If this link doesn't work, you can find it on the J-Walk Blog.

Real Time in Iraq

Zeyad at Healing Iraq:

Today it was all out war in Baghdad.

Please don’t ask me whether I believe Iraq is on the verge of civil war yet or not. I have never experienced a civil war before, only regular ones. All I see is that both sides are engaged in tit-for-tat lynchings and summary executions. I see governmental forces openly taking sides or stepping aside. I see an occupation force that is clueless about what is going on in the country. I see politicians that distrust each other and continue to flame the situation for their own personal interests. I see Islamic clerics delivering fiery sermons against each other, then smile and hug each other at the end of the day in staged PR stunts. I see the country breaking into pieces. The frontlines between different districts of Baghdad are already clearly demarked and ready for the battle. I was stopped in my own neighbourhood yesterday by a watch team and questioned where I live and what I was doing in that area. I see other people curiously staring in each other’s faces on the street. I see hundreds of people disappearing in the middle of the night and their corpses surfacing next day with electric drill holes in them. I see people blown up to smithereens because a brainwashed virgin seeker targeted a crowded market or café. I see all that and more.

Don’t you dare chastise me for writing about what I see in my country.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Never Mind Governing. We Have an Election to Run.

Last year was not a good one for BushCheney. The consequences of his baneful policies came back to bite him in New Orleans and Iraq. This year will be different. He will be focused on the one thing he does well. Elections. The Republicans will put governing on hold until they can shore up their control by whatever means possible, which means money (lots of it) and distortion. Already George W. Bush is out on the hustings smearing Democrats as unprepared to defend America. He and Dick Cheney are pumping the money machine hard, amassing a campaign war chest for Republican Congressional candidates. Cheney has spent 45 of this years’s 83 days hustling money. The money will go to distort Democrats as weak on defense, unprepared to protect America against the enemies of freedom besieging this nation. With enough money and control of the media, BushCheney may be able steal yet another election. That’s their plan.

Note that this plan does not address any of the real dangers facing America. Iraq will be resolved by a future president, not BushCheney. Rebuilding America’s economy, that can wait. Congress will be in session only 90 days this year. The rest of the time they will be campaigning and hustling money. That’s the Republican plan.

Here’s an example of how it works.

In Florida on Friday... Cheney portrayed the entire Democratic leadership as wobbly in the fight against terrorism.

"Leading Democrats have demanded a sudden withdrawal from the battle against terrorists in Iraq -- the very kind of retreat that Osama bin Laden has been predicting," Cheney said. "And with that sorry record, the leaders of the Democratic Party have decided to run on the theme of competence. If they're competent to fight this war, then I ought to be singing on 'American Idol.' "

Recent polls show a growing number of Americans questioning the competence of the Bush White House. Since the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Democrats have made the charge of incompetence the centerpiece of their attack on Bush, and many Republicans are worried that it is sticking. "The president and I welcome the debate, because every voter in America needs to know how the leaders of the Democratic Party view the war on terror," Cheney said.

And it has worked for over five years. Somehow these incompetents have convinced the nation that they actually have ideas and the capability to implement them successfully. The greatest con job ever pulled off.