Commentary on the MCA

What the New York Times doesn’t say about the court ruling on habeas corpus
Published on Sunday, February 25, 2007.
Source: WSWS – By Joe Kay

The New York Times on Thursday published an editorial on this week’s appeals court ruling upholding the Military Commissions Act, which strips Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights. The commentary, entitled “American Liberty at the Precipice,” is a model of half-truths and evasions.

Typical of this leading organ of present-day American liberalism, the editorial denounces the ruling and the law it upholds while saying nothing about the complicity of the Democrats and ignoring the social reality underlying the assault on democratic rights.

The writ of habeas corpus—the right to challenge one’s detention in court—is a bedrock principle of democracy and indispensable legal restraint on executive power. Without the protection of the “great writ,” the president (or in an earlier period, the king) has the power to arrest and detain an individual indefinitely without giving any reason. The Bush administration, under the pretext of the so-called “war on terror,” asserts that it has the right to do precisely this.

The decision handed down Tuesday by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a case brought by Guantánamo detainees alleging that the Military Commissions Act, passed last September, is unconstitutional because it bars US courts from considering writs of habeas corpus “filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant.”

The Times notes that the “frightening” law “raises insurmountable obstacles for prisoners to challenge their detentions.” The newspaper adds that “it gives the government the power to take away habeas rights from any noncitizen living in the United States who is unfortunate enough to be labeled an enemy combatant.”

However, the Times describes the passage of the law in a manner calculated to place the entire onus on the Bush administration and ignore the critical role played by the Democrats. The act was “stampeded through Congress last fall” by the Bush administration, the editorial states, and further on declares that the Bush administration responded to last year’s Supreme Court ruling striking down its military commissions by “driving” the new law through Congress.

This is a whitewash of the role of the congressional Democrats. While they could not have stopped passage of the bill in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, they could have blocked it in the Senate, where they had more than enough votes to garner the 41 needed to mount a filibuster. They refused to do so.

Read the rest here.

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