Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.--Benjamin Franklin
Those words were quoted last night in Keith Olberman's commentary on the consequences of the Military Commissions Act, which is an evil piece of legislation if ever there was one. I thought his piece last night was particularly good because he put it into historical perspective by linking it to John Adam's Alien and Sedition Act, Woodrow Wilson's Espionage Act, and FDR's Executive Order 9066, the one that authorized the internment of Japanese American citizens during WWII. Each of these was subsequently repudiated or seen as a blight on the record of these presidents. It only remains to be seen whether in the case of the Military Commissions Act Americans will repudiate it or come to see it as the Bush Administration's crowning achievement.
Anyway, Oberman's piece last night should have been a speech given on the Senate floor not on Cable TV, and it's a must see or must read if for no other reason than at least one public figure has gone on the record to eloquently excoriate this bill:
We have handed a blank check drawn against our freedom to a man who may now, if he so decides, declare not merely any non-American citizens "Unlawful Enemy Combatants" and ship them somewhere — anywhere — but may now, if he so decides, declare you an "Unlawful Enemy Combatant" and ship you somewhere - anywhere.
And if you think this, hyperbole or hysteria… ask the newspaper editors when John Adams was President, or the pacifists when Woodrow Wilson was President, or the Japanese at Manzanar when Franklin Roosevelt was President.
And if you somehow think Habeas Corpus has not been suspended for American citizens but only for everybody else, ask yourself this: If you are pulled off the street tomorrow, and they call you an alien or an undocumented immigrant or an "unlawful enemy combatant" — exactly how are you going to convince them to give you a court hearing to prove you are not? Do you think this Attorney General is going to help you?
The sad thing is that the GOP and twelve Senate Democrats think this bill is a political winner with the American people. But then again these are the ones Franklin was referring to in the quote above--they neither deserver freedom or safety. The shame of it is they drag the rest of us with them. I'm not sure yet that those Americans are in the majority. But if they are, and if repudiation and repeal of this bill becomes a political impossibility, it means that the American idea, moribund now for some time, has finally died.
P.S. If I ever had even a shred of respect for the likes of McCain, Graham, Warner, and Specter, I have none now.