Presidential Hubris

by Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, August 8, 2002

The Bush Administration is a lawless one, and there is no clearer example of this than its approach to the so-called American Taliban.

I'm not talking about John Walker Lindh. He's had his day in court.

I'm talking about Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi, who may never get theirs.

Hell, they can't even get to see a lawyer.

The U.S. military has seized Padilla and Hamdi and slammed them in a military prison, where they are being denied their basic rights as American citizens.

What's more, the Bush Administration says it is above judicial review on this matter. "Courts may not second-guess the military's determination that an individual is an enemy combatant and should be detained as such," it said in a brief in the Hamdi case.

Last week, the Justice Department stiffed U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar, who is presiding over Hamdi's request to obtain legal counsel. Ashcroft's team flat out refused the judge's order to provide additional documents justifying its labeling of Hamdi as an "enemy combatant." This is an extraordinary act of Presidential hubris, and it places the executive branch beyond any check and balance provided for in the Constitution.

And as the Hamdi and Padilla cases demonstrate, the president of the United States is now exercising the power to unilaterally determine whether a U.S. citizen is a military combatant and to throw that person into military detention, without criminal charge and without legal representation.

That's not how our legal system is supposed to work, at least that's not what Mr. Hayes taught me back in high school. None of us is safe if Bush can get away with this.

Padilla and Hamdi are U.S. citizens, and as such, deserve to have their full legal rights, including the right to counsel, the right to be charged if they are detained, and the right to trial in our civilian courts.

Come on! Zacarias Moussaoui, who is not even a U.S. citizen, is being afforded this opportunity.

Why not Padilla and Hamdi?

George Bush the Second is acting more and more like King George the Second. The American people ought to rebel against such authoritarian rule.


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