The Talking Dog

March 1, 2010, A munificent bequest in a pauper's will

It should come as no surprise to anyone at all that the Supreme Court decided to duck the question of whether or not Constitutional rights exist any longer, at all, by permitting the Government to duck the Kiyemba case, in which the Government argues-- I'm not making this up-- that habeas corpus is a dead-letter if the Government feels like it being a dead letter. To wit, even if the only available remedy to a federal judge to effectuate the writ is to admit the Guantanamo prisoner into the United States, but the Government doesn't want to... then too bad. The legislative or executive prerogative to pass immigration statutes takes precedence over the most fundamental constitutional right of them all. The Supreme Court, at least, vacated the horrible federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that actually expanded on the Government's dictatorial-enough-as-it-is position, finding reasons to deny prisoners' rights that the Government didn't even argue for! However... the beat (of unlawful imprisonment of acknowledged to be innocent men)... goes on... and on. Candace has more. (Short explanation: the Government offered resettlement, albeit on obscure Pacific islands, to Uighur detainees it acknowledges are completely innocent and is using this offer as a basis to moot an appeal of a case finding that even where a U.S. District Court Judge found that the only way to effectuate the habeas corpus writ was to admit the subject men into the United States because they could not be returned to China, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said "too bad, these completely innocent men are still Muslims terrrrrrrrorists." Today, the Supreme Court ducked that appeal.)

Way back in 2007 when I interviewed former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, he quipped that:

The illusion of habeas corpus was just something to hold on to. To quote, I believe it was Justice Kennedy, “Habeas corpus is a promise to the ear to be broken to the hope... a teasing illusion, like a munificent bequest in a pauper’s will.”

I remember this, that’s how the idea floats– habeas corpus means you get your day in court... But in reality, no one at Guantanamo in reality will ever get to court... this is a game, a charade, an illusion...

U.S. justice at Guantanamo is an oxymoron. The Supreme Court decides that there is a right to be heard– for detainees to present their case in court. And the government doesn’t afford that right. Anywhere else, the government would be in contempt of court. And yet, the court ruling is simply ignored, or sidestepped by the government.

And there is also the inconceivably long time it is all taking. Why is it taking so long? It became understood by detainees that this was all part of the sentence– another means of keeping us locked up... On paper we’re offering you the right to present your cases to court... but in reality, it is nothing but a munificent bequest in a pauper’s will.

One can see just what he means. Most Americans have no idea that the disappearance of the most fundamental right of them all-- the right to petition a court to demand that the Government show a lawful basis for incarceration, thereby at least checking the unbridled ability of the executive to consign whomever he (and its always a "he") to a dungeon is over 800 years old-- is effectively, our only real check on absolute dictatorial power. But that's what it's come down to, in the interest of short term political expedience and battling "terrrrrrrrorists", we are willing to flush all of our rights. (Of course, since the current dictator is "our guy," a Democrat, notice how little criticism he gets from so many on "our side," notwithstanding just how severe criticism flowed when Bush engaged in similar, and in many ways, less offensive conduct.)

Well... this is where we find ourselves. The frog is boiling... it happened so smoothly... with the proverbial whimper following the poverbial bang of 9-11.