Monday, September 25th, 2006

Habeas corpus means that any person that has been arrested or detained MUST be brought before a court of law to see if the detention is just and lawful. In our legal tradition it stems from the Magna Carta. There is a discussion of the history of habeas corpus from the BBC here.

“The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.”
Churchill – November 21, 1943

Habeas Corpus, “you should have the body,” guarantees that a person can only be arrested pursuant to the law, and not simply at the will of some despotic governing authority. It is a legal procedure in the form of a writ that demands that a person be brought before a magistrate and charged under due process, or else that he be immediately released. It protects the people by preventing government from making arbitrary arrests.

Habeas corpus was critical to the founders of our nation. They put it in the Constitution, and it enforces the founding principle that this is a government of laws and not of men. Thomas Jefferson was particularly eloquent on the subject:

“The Habeas Corpus secures every man here, alien or citizen, against everything which is not law, whatever shape it may assume.” –Thomas Jefferson to A. H. Rowan, 1798.

“Freedom of the person under the protection of the habeas corpus I deem [one of the] essential principles of our government.” –Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural Address, 1801.

“[The] bill of rights [should provide] clearly and without the aid of sophisms for… the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1787.

This is what George Bush wants to destroy. And this is what the 3 Senators, McCain, Graham, and Warner, are willing to give away.

For values voters, or anyone who thinks they are a values voter, it is THE question. As David Niewert points out: torture is not “toughness.” It is in fact a sign of weakness — particularly the moral kind.

The baseline problem with torture, after all, is that it is prima facie immoral, a violation not just of the Golden Rule and basic Christian precepts, but of nearly any system of ethics. Even the most hard-nosed rationalist will come to this conclusion (see, e.g., Kant’s Categorical Imperative). It’s an obvious one if you’re a Christian.

All you have to present to any Christian, when it comes to torture, is their own favorite moral-guidepost aphorism: What Would Jesus Do?
. . .
The torturer is the enemy of mankind.

Does America want to become known around the world as the nation that tortures? Does America, which likes to think of itself as the “beacon of democracy” around the world, want to instead become known as “the enemy of mankind”?

This is a question that can be put to any American, regardless of their faith.

But for the Christians out there — including those who insist we are a “Christian nation” — the question can be put in much simpler terms: Given the chance, would Jesus attach the electrodes and pull the switch? Would he waterboard? Would he dangle them in chains and beat their feet? Would he stand by and watch while others do it in his name?

And a thank you to GOTV for spotting this article.

Billy Pustule, a 19 year old Diebold technician the surprise winner of the 2008 presidential election! The fact that the (vote) totals exceed 100% has been attributed by a Diebold spokesman to “a special kind of rounding”.