In case you haven’t heard, Debbie Stabenow voted for Bush’s centerpiece legislation in his war on terror (which is actually a war on American values). In his original version of the bill, Bush not only wanted prisoners to be tried only by military tribunals, but wanted to prevent them from seeing any evidence against them if it was classified. (In the Bush administration, almost everything is classified.) This would have allowed a jury to see evidence, but the defendant and his attorney would not be allowed to see it, even in a case where the death penalty was possible. This would have set aside 1000 years of Western law.
In presenting this bill, Bush used a ploy that has become standard practice over the past few years: make an outrageous proposal, fight tooth and nail to keep your proposal, but eventually give in and accept what appears to be a compromise even though what comes out of the compromise is what you really wanted in the first place. This is what we witnessed over the past couple of weeks as three “courageous” Republican senators wrestled the administration into a compromise. Curiously, the national media falls for this ploy every time.
What was the compromise? Bush can “interpret” (translation- set aside) Article 3 by simply saying that the prisoners of war don’t qualify for it. He can define what constitutes torture, and the Americans who are the torturers are also granted immunity from future prosecution. He can also define who is our enemy, and has the authority to “capture” and imprison anyone who (he says) is supporting terrorists even if that person is on American soil and has never left the country.
So whoever he deems to be an enemy can now legally be plucked off the street, held without charges being made, can be tortured (the bill states that even if evidence gained through torture is not allowed in court, the torturer can testify that “this is what he said” in court–so what is said about the evidence is allowed even if the evidence itself is not), and tried in a military –not civilian–court where his legal rights are greatly curtailed.
This is the bill that Stabenow voted for. Here is my letter to her:
I am extremely disappointed that you saw fit to vote for a bill that enables the President to not only torture, but also strip people of the most basic right of Western law that dates back to the Magna Carta: habeas corpus. The President can now define the third article of the Geneva Accords any way he wishes: your vote aided him in his quest to rewrite these long-standing agreements between nations.
Until the Bush administration, this was a nation of laws. He has taken upon himself the right to disregard and violate the common trust that people place in our government. This bill not only approves of his torturing of prisoners of war–an astounding thought in and of itself for a nation that has been a leader in prosecuting war criminals–but gives a free pass to the torturers. And you voted for it.
I will vote for your re-election this time because you have done good work for Michigan, and, frankly, because we need a Democrat in your seat. But your record becomes more troubling with each passing year. In addition to this latest vote that allows the President to disregard a bedrock law of civilized nations, you voted for a bankruptcy bill that benefits lenders while relegating decent, hard-working families to a lifetime of indebtedness. And you had no qualms about disregarding the First Amendment to the Constitution and making the American flag a holy object (only a sacred object can be desecrated): you chose personal feelings over a basic right of free speech.
My confidence in your judgment has been shaken, and I wonder what other democratic principles you will be willing to disregard in the future if they conflict with your desire for re-election or conflict with your personal feelings. As a long-time supporter, I am saddened that I can no longer automatically assume that you will be on the side of human rights and fundamental principles of justice.
As the saying goes, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” With this vote, not only did you do nothing to stop the evil that has stained the soul of our nation, but by your vote of affirmation you have shown that you have somehow lost your way in the moral morass that we know as politics.