American Values

Thursday, 28 September 2006

Those champions of American (a.k.a. Christian) values, the Republican Senate, aided by a dozen Democrats as well (Sen. Chafee, R-RI, voted against the bill), have passed a law that redefines basic human rights for those people, citizens or not, unfortunate enough to fall into American hands. In 2004 the Republican Party defined itself as the party to which "values voters" would turn. What are the values that America now stands for, according to this bill?

  1. Torture. The bill gives U.S. officials the right to inflict "serious pain" on people it is interrogating. The Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment? Irrelevant, according to this piece of legislation. And the Geneva Convention's law outlawing torture? It's "quaint," according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
  2. Indefinite detention. The bill gives the U.S. the right hold anyone they want indefinitely, without ever filing charges against them. Once they are labeled an enemy combatant, their civil rights are gone. They can't even challenge their status as enemy combatants. The right to Habeas Corpus, guaranteed by the Constitution, is now a thing of the past.
  3. Exclusion of judicial review. The bill prohibits the courts from reviewing any of these cases, in a legislative maneuver known as court stripping. The principle of separation of powers has been set aside in favor of the Imperial Presidency and the Compliant Congress. Isn't this the system that Saddam Hussein had in Iraq?
  4. Use of coerced evidence. Evidence "coerced" from a defendant--read "extracted by torture"--can now be used against him or her at trial. You thought that the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination actually meant something? Think again!
  5. Use of secret evidence. "Yes, Mr. Kafka, you have been charged with serious crimes, but we can't tell you what they are, and we can't tell you what evidence we have against you. You have every right to try to respond to the evidence, if you can figure out what it is. But it really doesn't matter anyway, since we have already determined your guilt. Report to the firing squad tomorrow at sunrise." So you thought the Sixth Amendment gave you the right to be confronted with the witnesses against you? Not!

If only we had an opposition party that knew how to stand on principle rather than on polls! Alas, all we have is the Democratic Party, which can't even hold together to oppose legislation that is morally reprehensible. Apparently several incumbent Democrats think that getting reelected is more important than doing the right thing. If the Democrats won't represent real American values in Congress (which should be more or less synonymous with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim values), and we know the Republicans won't, maybe it's time to try to create a party that actually stands for something. We all know what the Republican Party stands for. Some of the things it stands for may be evil, but at least we know where it stands. The Democrats, on the other hand, are in desperate need of a moral center. Or maybe it's just time to start over.

By the way, if you want to find the full text of this charming piece of legislation, just go to the helpful congressional Web site ironically named Thomas (after Thomas Jefferson),, click on New Bills Search, and search for the phrase "serious pain." No joke, that's how you can find it.

© Copyright 2006, Progressive Theology

Progressive Theology