by Jacob G. Hornberger
With congressional passage of the new military-detention bill, and President Obama’s unsurprising flip-flop decision to sign it into law, perhaps this would be a good time to review where we are as a country.
We now live in a country in which the military has the legal authority to arrest or round up Americans (and non-Americans), place them into military dungeons or concentration camps, torture them, and keep them incarcerated for life without a trial. All they have to do is label people as terrorists.
By the way, that’s the same legal authority that the U.S.-supported military dictatorship in Egypt has. In fact, it’s that authority that the Egyptian demonstrators have been trying to get lifted ever since the demonstrations began. The Egyptian military refuses to lift this extraordinary emergency authority on the same basis that U.S. officials insist on such authority — that it’s necessary to keep the people safe.
That’s not to say that the U.S. Constitution permits such extraordinary power. In fact, it expressly prohibits it in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. But U.S. officials claim that the president is not bound by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights because, they say, he is at war against the terrorists of the world.
Let’s face it: the war on terrorism is a much bigger bonanza than the war on communism and the war on drugs — perpetual, more power, more money, less freedom, and ever-growing budgets for the military-industrial complex and CIA.
Of course, they tell us that as soon as the war on terrorism is over, the emergency authority will be lifted. Unfortunately, however, they also tell us that it will be several generations before that will happen. In other words, those of us living under such authority will all be dead by the time the emergency will be over.
We also live in a country in which the president wields the authority to take the entire nation into war on his own initiative. He does not need a declaration of war from Congress. If he decides he wants to go to war, he just orders his military forces to attack, and his forces will loyally follow his orders.
That’s not to say, of course, that the law permits the president to do so. In fact, it doesn’t. The Constitution, which is the highest law of the land, delegates to Congress the power to declare war. Thus, the law prohibits the president from waging war without a declaration of war from Congress.
But U.S. officials say that the president is no longer required to comply with that section of the Constitution. They say that the reason is that past presidents haven’t complied with that section of the Constitution and, therefore, no presidents have to comply with that section of the Constitution.
But if the president doesn’t have to comply with one constitutional restriction, why does he have to comply with any constitutional restrictions? And if the president now has the authority to ignore constitutional restrictions on power, what’s the difference between that and dictatorship?
On the domestic side, we have long lived in a country in which the government wields the authority to jail people for ingesting substances that the government hasn’t approved. And, hey, we’re not just talking 30 days or so in the slammer. We’re talking about the authority to send people away for 30 years or more.
We also live in a country in which the government wields the authority to take money from us in order to give it to other people. They say that it’s in our best interests because it makes us good, caring, and compassionate. Otherwise, if we weren’t forced to share our money with others, they say, we would be no-good, worthless, selfish, self-centered people.
We also live in a country in which government officials have the authority to go into any country in the world and kidnap people and deliver them into the hands of brutal dictatorships to be tortured. They say that this is necessary to keep us safe.
Indeed, that’s where much of the money goes to that they take from us and give to others — to brutal dictatorships. They say that it’s necessary to maintain order and stability, which are supposed to keep us safe.
Of course, this was not the type of country our American ancestors lived in. It’s certainly not the type of country the Framers had in mind when the Constitution brought the federal government into existence.
Meanwhile, American statists, deluded that this is all just part of living in a free society, just keep singing to themselves, “Thank God I’m an American because at least I know I’m free” or “Back in the USSA.”
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.
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