EMAIL PAGE TWELVE
COLUMN SEVENTY-TWO, JUNE 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
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Heretofore, we were under the impression that Portside is the Internet's voice of the Left. But it turns out to be the Internet's voice of the fundamentalist Far-Left, which, like all fundamentalist organizations, adheres to an orthodoxy and consequently refuses to post dissident or differing opinions from within the Left---such as HATE YOUR GOVERNMENT BUT LOVE YOUR COUNTRY, available to be read in SECTION ONE of COLUMN SEVENTY. Fundamentalists, like fascists, will not tolerate any disagreements or variations from the fundamentalist orthodoxy.
* * *
BY ANTHONY LEWIS
* * *
OUR LIBERTIES ARE SUSPENDED
Taking Our Liberties
Date: Sat, 09 Mar 2002 18:48:45 -0500
war against terrorism will go on indefinitely, President Bush has warned,
seeking the enemy around the world. Already American forces are committed to the
Philippines, Georgia and Yemen. Iraq may be next. Heavy fighting continues in
without end is likely to have - indeed is already having " profound
consequences for the American constitutional system. It tends to produce the
very thing that the framers of the Constitution most feared: concentrated,
unaccountable political power.
framers sought in three ways to prevent that concentration. They divided power
in the federal government, so that one branch could check another if it grew too
mighty. They made government accountable to the people, who, in James Madison's
words, had "the censorial power . . . over the government." And, in
the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, they guaranteed specific rights
like freedom of speech and due process of law.
three of those constitutional bulwarks against concentrated power are now
inevitably produces an exaltation of presidential power. The president is
commander in chief of the armed forces " a distinctive feature of the American
system - and in wartime people tend to fall in behind the commander. The horror
of what happened on Sept. 11 intensifies that instinct. President Bush's high
level of public support is not surprising.
danger lies in political use of that wartime popularity. Last week the Senate
majority leader, Tom Daschle, offered a first mild question about President
Bush's plans to carry the war around the world. He was rebuked by the Republican
leader, Trent Lott.
dare Senator Daschle criticize President Bush while we are fighting our war on
terrorism?" Senator Lott asked. His crude attack showed how hard it will be
to maintain the Constitution's premise of accountable government, subject to
questioning and criticism, during a war without visible end.
is a second threat to the constitutional premise. The Bush administration is the
most secretive Washington has seen in years " and intensely so in the
Afghanistan war. The press has been kept at a distance much of the time. In
these conditions, how can Congress and the public perform their constitutional
function of holding the government accountable?
record since Sept. 11 raises grave civil-liberties questions. Most attention has
been paid to President Bush's order calling for military tribunals to try any
noncitizen suspected of terrorism " an order so thoughtlessly prepared that,
months later, operating rules have still not been issued. But out of sight,
other menacing things have been happening.
than 1,000 aliens, some of them lawful permanent residents with green cards,
have been detained for extended periods in secrecy. The few cases that the press
has been able to examine have disturbing features. One case has been before
Federal District Judge Shira A. Scheindlin in New York. Osama Awadallah, a green
card holder living in San Diego, was detained on Sept. 20. He was held as a
material witness because an old telephone number of his was found in a car used
by one of the Sept. 11 hijackers.
Awadallah said that in various places of detention across the country
Scheindlin is considering whether his treatment requires dismissal of the
charges. She has said that he may have been "unlawfully arrested,
unlawfully searched, abused by law enforcement officials, denied access to his
lawyer and family."
liberties have often been overridden in times of crisis and war - as in the
removal of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast in World War II. Those
occasions were followed by regrets and apologies.
how will we protect civil liberties in a war without end? The attorney general,
John Ashcroft, has given his answer. He told Congress in December that
"those who scare peace- loving people with phantoms of lost liberty . . .
only aid terrorists."
Lewis is a former Times columnist.
Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company ##
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