Posted by: N.S. Palmer | May 23, 2010

Why Respect Law and Human Rights?

By N.S. Palmer

People often make the mistake of thinking that if we respect human rights or due process rights, we are doing terrorism suspects a favor instead of giving them what they are due.

Human rights belong to every person regardless of nationality, religion, or combatant status. Respecting those rights means we are acting as a civilised society instead of acting as a bunch of bloodthirsty barbarians.

Due process rights, such as defendants’ rights to know the charges against them, to have legal representation, and to confront accusers, uphold the integrity of our legal system. They protect the innocent from false accusations and persecution by evil or irresponsible government officials. Their purpose is not to coddle “terrorists,” but to ensure that accused people are either proven guilty or cleared and released.

A big part of the problem is that we no longer follow the Constitution, which requires that wars be declared by Congress, not by the President. The Constitution also requires that wars be declared against clearly-defined adversaries, not against amorphous groups that might include anyone.

Legitimate prisoners of war can be held without charge because they’re not accused of any criminal offense. They must be treated humanely under international law and they must be released when the war is over. But “enemy combatant” is a bu–sh-t category that the Bush-Cheney regime invented so it could claim that it was exempt from the Constitution and international law: that law, civilization, and human rights didn’t apply to anyone it wanted to torture.

One lesson about life on earth: most so-called “enemy combatants” are either dead or still imprisoned, while Bush and Cheney walk free, living at taxpayer expense for the rest of their evil lives. The Obama administration hasn’t changed that, and isn’t going to change it.

Copyright 2010 by N.S. Palmer. May be reproduced as long as byline, copyright notice, and URL ( are included.

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