“Who Are We Now?”
Jonathan Turley (Law, George Washington University), in a brief but passionate cable TV interview last night, first, on the President’s new power under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (unless the courts strike the Act down) to imprison without trial anyone whom a tribunal appointed by the President himself or the Secretary of Defense declares an enemy combatant:
It’s a huge sea change for our democracy. The framers created a system where we did not have to rely on the good graces or good mood of the president. In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn’t rely on their good motivations. Now we must. And people have no idea how significant this is. What, really, a time of shame this is for the American system. What the Congress did and what the president signed today essentially revokes over 200 years of American principles and values. It couldn’t be more significant. And the strange thing is, we’ve become sort of constitutional couch potatoes. I mean, the Congress just gave the president despotic powers, and you could hear the yawn across the country as people turned to, you know, “Dancing with the Stars.”
And on President Bush’s claim, repeated yesterday in connection with signing the act, that the United States does not torture:
That’s actually when I turned off my TV set, because I couldn’t believe it. You know, the United States has engaged in torture. And the whole world community has denounced the views of this administration, its early views that the president could order torture, could cause injury up to organ failure or death. The administration has already established that it has engaged in things like waterboarding, which is not just torture.
We prosecuted people after World War II for waterboarding prisoners. We treated it as a war crime. And my God, what a change of fate, where we are now embracing the very thing that we once prosecuted people for. Who are we now? I know who we were then.
Update (3/6/07): The video I link to above has been purged from Youtube. You can get the transcript and the video from this MSNBC page. Click “Launch” on the video box on the right of the page for the video. You are subjected to a half-minute advertisement before you get the video, which contains a little set-up before Prof. Turley appears.
Posted by Keith DeRose | Permalink
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