Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Necessity Knows No Bounds

In 1914, Germany invaded Belgium as a means of flanking the French defenses. The attack on a nation that had been declared permanently neutral by an international treaty to which Germany was a party outraged the world. Defending Germany's decision, the Chancellor, Betheman-Hollweg, said "Necessity knows no grounds." Bethman-Hollweg was actually a rather decent man and not a rabid nationalist as some in his nation were, but those words haunted him and stained his reputation for the rest of his life and beyond.

I thought of Bethman-Hollweg when I read that the "Justice" Department (we are going to have to put that in quotes as long as this administration remains in office) is arguing to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that immigrants picked up and designated "enemy combatants" by the President have no constitutional rights.

While the law that attempts to strip Guantanamo detainees of their rights is patently unconstitutional, using it--as the "Justice" Department is trying to do--to take rights from persons lawfully in the United States is, if anything, more obviously unconstitutional. No one has ever suggested that an alien--even an unlawful alien--arrested for a crime in the United States is not entitled to counsel and a jury trial. That due process rights apply to everyone within our borders has been a given since the Constitution was enacted. Yet this administration takes it upon itself to change all that, and says it is doing so to protect the nation. "Necessity knows no bounds."

Let's be clear: the United States government is a product of the Constitution. Everything it does must be allowed by that Constitution; no act that is not constitutional can be legal. It's as simple as that.

No comments: