Thursday, October 19, 2006

OK. But What's Your Argument?

It seems that the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Bart Hinkle is at least giving aid and comfort to the Chicken Littles screaming about the use of military commissions to try enemy combatants, and the denial of the writ of habeas corpus. He writes:

Is conservatism

(a) Agreeing with anything President Bush says, or

(b) Upholding eternal verities and practices that have proven their worth over time?

Too many these days seem to think the answer is (a). It ain’t. And if the answer is (b), then the ACLU is not out of bounds to call itself in a recent ad “the most conservative organization in America” for opposing the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

That act, so eagerly sought by the Bush administration, weakens the constitutional guarantee of habeas corpus—a right whose recognition in common law goes back to before the Magna Carta of 1215. The ease with which some Republicans have been willing to cast aside almost eight centuries of legal tradition can be called many things, but it cannot be called “conservative.”

Hinkle asks a good first question (one might as vigorously questions the credentials of those who are "willing to cast aside ... centuries of legal tradition" about abortion and "substantive due process" as applied to economic rights, but I digress), but as I pointed out here, the Constitution specifically empowers Congress to suspend the writ, as follows:

"The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."
I suppose one can argue over whether it is appropriate in this case --- I might even agree with them --- but let's not pretend that even suggesting it is unconstitutional. Or that its scope is broader than it is. One incredibly foolish group is even suggesting that it "could allow the government to detain the attorneys themselves as 'enemy combatants.'"

It is equally foolish to challenge the "conservative" credentials of those who believe it to be justified under the circumstances. Unjustified? Perhaps. But please don't merely cite "almost eight centuries of legal tradition" as though the power of that statement alone were sufficient to overcome the threat posed by an enemy unlike any our nation has ever faced, potentially armed with weapons more destructive than any we have ever faced.

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