Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Yes, Osama gets habeas corpus

Anyone held in US custody has the right to challenge their detention in court. That is what the Supreme Court decided, and they are absolutely right. This applies to Osama Bin Laden too, if he were to be captured.

Predictably, some on the Right are going into full meltdown mode over comments that Obama has made on the subject (saying that he agrees with the SC decision), and McCain has tried to make an issue of it too, saying that it shows Obama has a "September 10th mindset". One of his campaign people said the following in a conference call this morning:

"If Sen. Obama did receive that 3 a.m. phone call," Scheunemann said of the call so often mentioned throughout the Democratic primaries, "I guess his response would be to call the lawyers in the justice department."

Well, we already know that Obama is the candidate of laws and following the constitution, and that McCain is the candidate for lawlessness and ripping up the constitution in order to get all the scary Arabs, but this debate uncovers another critical flaw in the Right wing argument.

Having legal rights does not imply innocence or leniency. Bin Laden could challenge his detention all he wanted, but that doesn't mean he'd escape the death penalty. As Obama correctly noted, most of the conspirators in the 1993 WTC bombing were tried and convicted in US courts, and they now reside in US prisons. Why should Bin Laden be any different? Why is it necessary to give him a show trial rather than a legitimate one? Are they afraid that the courts might actually rule in his favor? Ridiculous.

But the Right has dishonestly chosen to frame the debate (as they always do) in terms that suggest Obama is showing weakness in the face of the terrorists simply by having faith in the US justice system. In doing so, they confirm yet again how radical their views are on the rule of law and on essential human rights that have been sacred to Western civilization for centuries.

I must say that it's almost encouraging how McCain seems to be following the Bush playbook almost to the letter, talking a lot about September 11 and how dangerous the world is, accusing the Democrat of being soft on terrorists, etc., rinse and repeat. Luckily the electorate is in a very different mood from four years ago. And the Anonymous Liberal asks a good question:

As McCain's surrogates seem to acknowledge, the Supreme Court's ruling is now the law of the land and it will be binding on whoever ends up winning this election. Are McCain's surrogates suggesting that only Obama will follow the law? That McCain will disregard the Court's ruling? And if they're not suggesting that, then what exactly are they suggesting?

I think they are suggesting to anyone who is paying attention that they intend to demagogue this issue for all it's worth, even while knowing that everything they are saying is bullshit. Even a McCain administration would have to abide by the SC's rulings.

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