Thursday, November 13, 2008

That crumpled document

"They're actually gonna retrieve that crumpled document in the corner of the Oval Office, carefully smooth it flat and reverently put it back in its frame."

A Huffington Post reader's comment on a Salon article that claims that Obama is planning to set up a nonpartisan commission to investigate the Bush administration's violations of the U.S. Constitution and international law (the torture of prisoners, the revocation of habeas corpus and other fundamental rights).

I'm not holding my breath that Bush and his cronies will be held accountable for their crimes, but it's heartening that they must be worried about it and that they will think twice before traveling to Europe for fear of being arrested like Pinochet was in London. The United States is, after all, a signatory to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. A couple of months ago, he said:

I have said repeatedly that there should be no contradiction between keeping America safe and secure and respecting our Constitution [...] What I have also said is this: that when you suspend habeas corpus — which has been a principle, dating before even our country, it’s the foundation of Anglo-American law — which says, very simply, if the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, ‘Why was I grabbed?’ and say, ‘Maybe you’ve got the wrong person.’  The reason you have that safeguard is because we don’t always have the right person. We don’t always catch the right person. We may think this is Mohammed the terrorist, it might be Mohammed the cab driver. You may think it’s Barack the bomb thrower, but it might be Barack the guy running for president. The reason that you have this principle is not to be soft on terrorism, it’s because that’s who we are. That’s what we’re protecting. Don’t mock the Constitution! Don’t make fun of it! Don’t suggest that it’s un-American to abide by what the founding fathers set up! It’s worked pretty well for over 200 years!