Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Compromise Too Far

The U.S. Congress, after withholding any input into the administration's prisoner abuse program, now sees fit to get involved.

The Senate has decided to deny habeas corpus--the right to seek access to the U.S. court system--to detainees held outside the United States. This is being presented by the media as a reasonable compromise between Republicans and Democrats:

By linking a provision to deny prisoners the right to challenge their detention in federal court with language restricting interrogation methods, senators hope to soften the administration's ardent opposition to McCain's anti-torture provision -- or possibly win its support.

It is a big mistake for the Congress to put their fingerprints anywhere near the administration's policies on detainees. This is because history is going to render a harsh critique on the men whose judgment was so flawed as to be intimidated by their fears (of terrorists or of being called weak on terrorism) into betraying the values that once inspired people worldwide. Lawmakers would be well-served to stay clear of this madness entirely, lest they be put into a worse position than the Democrats who voted to support the war itself.

The Congress' intervention at this late date means that the Supreme Court, which was on track to judge the legality of the Pentagon's military tribunal system for detainees this term, may be cut out of the process entirely.

In a unusually reasonable editorial today, The Washington Post misses the necessity for Congress to keep its nose clean on the issue of legitimizing any of the administration's policies on enemy detainees:

Preventing the justices from considering the commissions' legality will do nothing to address these problems; it will only sweep them under the rug. Congress needs to be making policy concerning Guantanamo, not shielding weak administration policy from judicial scrutiny.

The Court has historically been the force of reason when politicians have been too spineless to do the right thing. We are living in such a time.


Post a Comment

<< Home