Who Needs Due Process? Not Us.


Sorry to say, I can’t think of a single way to make the gutting of the sixth amendment to the constitution funny.  This is not just ho hum, typical Washington, D.C. abuse and overreach.  The feckless republicans, aided and abetted by a weak president who folds like a two dollar suitcase, even on matters of principle, at the least sign of resistance, have gutted the sixth amendment.  What is especially galling is that congress acquiesced to pitching part of the Bill of Rights for no more compelling reason than that they wanted to get home for the holidays and party with their friends and families.  Party on Wayne!  Party on Garth!  What’s the loss of the right to due process when measured against holiday parties with all the goodies and booze to be savored?

The sixth amendment to the constitution is the one which codifies the right to due process, i.e. the requirement that no one can be imprisoned without being told why, given an opportunity to confront the accusers and a fair and equitable trial.  Congress curse its collective black soul, if it has one, sneaked our loss of civil rights into the budget bill.  How appropriate is it that one of the foundations of our laws and our claim to be a just society, was summarily thrown out as part of a budget bill?  That would be the one which only keeps the government running for two months.  This is short term expediency at an unthinkably absurd level.

But the right to be charged, confronted by one’s accusers and tried in a court of law goes back a lot further than the U.S. Constitution.  It is rooted in a notorious incident in the early 13th century in England.  King John, already a tyrant who had incurred the wrath of his nobles by summarily expropriating lands, stripping them of titles, and other abuses, went too far after a 1208 dispute with William DeBraose, 4th Lord of Bramber.  At the time it was commonplace for monarchs to demand that nobles send some of their children to court as hostages to ensure that the fathers would not revolt or otherwise fail to serve the monarch as good vassals.  John apparently asked for DeBraose to do so, but Maud DeBraose, William’s wife, made some snippy remark about how she wasn’t going to send her kids to a man who had murdered his own cousin (Arthur of Brittany).  Arthur had been named by Richard the Lionhearted as his heir but somehow the nobles supported John’s claim to the throne and Arthur mysteriously disappeared, widely believed to have been murdered by John.

Anyway, John was so mad at Maud DeBraose’s impudence, and her husband’s unknown transgression, that he had her and her eldest son, William, walled up and starved to death in Corfe Castle.  This event was actually one of the tipping points that sent the Barons right over the edge, ultimately resulting in them forcing King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215.  Clause 39 read “No man shall be taken ,imprisoned, outlawed, banished or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.”  I would love to see that fact pointed out somewhere in the media but, unfortunately, the tiny number of readers of my blog doesn’t seem to mitigate in favor of anyone outside that small group being reminded of how Americans and Brits came to have this liberty, this right of due process, for 800 years.  No biggie, right?  The media, and apparently our politicians, seem to have forgotten that document, the Magna Carta, in which our constitution was rooted.  Sigh.

Obama, has given in on the budget bill’s language and as usual caved on a matter of principle, blowing off a right which has been a linchpin of justice for almost 800 years!  The budget bill mandates that the military, and only the military, may detain anyone they choose to who’s accused–accused, not convicted–of being a terrorist, without due process, without being charged, and detain them where and for as long as they wish.  This needlessly weak president, who knows better, since he actually taught constitutional law, has, by agreeing not to veto this legislation, given away one of our most important constitutionally guaranteed rights.  If he won’t fight for that right, there’s nothing he will fight for except self-interest and expediency.  Yeah, there’s not enough of that already.

The legal implications are frightening for every person who might conceivably be accused of being a terrorist, whether justly or not.  Now they can be “disappeared” just the way it’s done in banana republics ruled by thuggish dictators.  If this bill stands, we will officially be a police state.  Uh, that’s a good thing, right?

Well, Obama the weak sure delivered on the “change” part of his campaign promises.  And I voted for him and did have hope that he would be a good steward of our rights, and lead us sagaciously.  And I do not want to hear that puerile argument that he ain’t weak, he got Bin Laden.  No, the Navy SEALs got Bin Laden.  It takes no courage to tell somebody else to go kill someone.  None at all.  Obama didn’t fight fir the health care bill and it wound up being a windfall profits bill for the insurance industry when the public option was pitched.  Similarly, he didn’t even try to make the supposed finance reform bill pull the reins in on an out of control banking system either.  Granted, it’s not his job to make legislation, that’s the corrupt, greedy and venal congress’ job, but nobody with a brain expects them to do the right thing.  They have no idea what “right” and “wrong” even mean.  So Obama’s threat of veto, and behind the scenes persuasion are the only current bulwarks against legislative excess.  And he caved on the sixth-amendment-gutting budget bill, knocking us back into the middle ages, legally speaking.  Profile in courage indeed.

Man, we are totally screwed.  I believed that this president, so smart and well educated, might actually restore some sanity to our collective public affairs.  Instead, we’re regressing to the 13th century and the president is too lame to lift that pen and veto the bill in defense of our freedom and right to due process.   And we talk about third world nations being backward!  That’s not exactly what I was hoping for, and I assume worse is to come.

Jeez, I need a nap and it’s not even 8 AM.

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