Thursday, June 29, 2006

Activist Judges Strike Again

Conservatives winced on a day when activist judges struck consecutive blows to injustice and bigotry. Proving once again their grave threat to the United States, the Supreme Court ruled today that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees. In a move no-doubt motivated by morality and justice, the court handed down its ruling in a strong rebuke written by Justice John Paul Stevens.

Two years ago President Bush asserted that he had the authority to seize detain terror suspects, hold them indefinitely while denying them access to legal representation, and prosecute them in military tribunals. Today the court baffled and angered conservatives by saying the President of the United States had no such authority.

The court wrote, “We conclude that the military commission convened to try (Salim Ahmed) Hamdan lacks power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate the international agreement that covers treatment of prisoners of war, as well as US military laws.”

The ruling was concerned with Article 3 of the Geneva Convention which prohibits the passing of sentences and carrying out executions without proper and fair legal proceedings. The administration had previously argued that Article 3 did not apply because terror suspects were not affiliated with any particular nation-state.

But, as Justice Stevens explained, “The D. C. Circuit ruled Common Article 3 inapplicable…because the conflict with al Qaeda is international in scope and thus not a “conflict not of an international character.” That reasoning is erroneous.”

Conservative bloggers were quick to respond.

“Of course what this means, is that the Court has decided that America has a treaty with the terrorists, that they are somehow signatories of the Geneva Convention,” commented Zeropointblog. “We’re kind of fighting a war here, and there’s no time for playing footsie with the enemy.”

He has a point. Did we care about due process during the Civil War? How come Abraham Lincoln can suspend Habeas Corpus and not George W. Bush? Did we care about legal procedure when we rounded up thousands of Japanese-Americans and put them in camps in the California desert? No! And we won both those wars.

The blog JayRedding reasoned, “Applying Article 3 protections to members of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda essentially rewards the breaking of the Geneva Conventions. It destroys any real differentiation between legal and illegal combatant, thereby conferring a horrible sense of legitimacy to terrorist actions. There’s now no downside to being a terrorist rather than a soldier who follows the Conventions as far as the US legal system is concerned.”

Regardless of your opinion, this ruling will no-doubt become a lightning rod for conservatives and evangelicals as yet another example of judicial activism running amok and ruining our country. If those captured in war are granted rights then who is next? Gays? The poor?! It's reported that Pat Robertson leg-pressed 2000 lbs today just out of sheer contempt for the decision.

While many view this as a blow against America, just as many are rejoicing at the ruling. For those, apparently, people have rights, regardless of their national affiliation. I think the idea is that some principles transcend national lines; some rights are simply humane and are not to be restricted by national boundaries. To them, America is a nation founded on those inalienable rights, and is affirmed when they are upheld.

Of course those people are liberal bed-wetters, hippie flower people, pot-smoking, tree-hugging, GLBTQ, east coast, west coast, socialistic, college educated, Dixie Chick fans…easily shrugged off by the tough talking, red-state living, truck driving, hard-hat, over-taxed, aching back, flag waving, fun-loving conservative crowd. After the ruling Bush reiterated his commitment to protect America from “killers” and the 460 people held in Guantanamo without cause. Some breathed a sign of relief. Some applauded the defense of justice from Bush’s commitments. And some won the right to a fair trial.

The very same day a court in Arkansas struck a blow to bigotry by backing gay foster parents. Arkansas can now no longer ban homosexuals from becoming foster parents. The ruling pointed out that there was no link between parents' sexual orientation and a child's well being. This overturns a 1999 ban by the state's child welfare board saying children should be in traditional two-parent homes because they would be more likely to thrive.

"There is no correlation between the health, welfare and safety of foster children and the blanket exclusion of any individual who is a homosexual or who resides in a household with a homosexual," the court explained. "The driving force between adoption of the regulations was not to promote the health, safety and welfare of foster children but rather based upon the board’s views of morality and its bias against homosexuals.”

This, unintentionally, strikes right at the heart of the entire "sanctity of marriage" defense employed skillfully by marriage and family experts like James Dobson who believe gay marriage could destroy Western Civilization as we know it. Not only may it not destroy civilization, it may not even be bad for children.

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