15 August 2007

Padilla & the Impeachment of George Bush

It's hard to imagine that 99.99+% of Americans don't want to see those plotting terrorist attacks caught before the attack, caught and aggressively prosecuted. So why, then, do I think that George Bush should be impeached for the treatment of Jose Padilla - an American who may well have plotted with terrorists?

There is a simple line of demarcation between good governments and bad governments. In bad governments, the government can take the life or property of citizenry "because I said so." Typically despots use this tactic. A citizen can be "arrested" in the middle of the night, after which point the family may never see him again. Suspects have no rights and are treated like criminals - or worse.

In the West, we have the British to thank for refusing to accept this kind of treatment. They actually beheaded King Charles (son of King James of King James Bible fame) in 1649 and by 1689 had instituted a constitutional monarchy. Under an absolute monarchy, the king or queen was the final law of the land: if they decided your life was over, it was. They could hold you in prison or take your life because they were in charge. Under a constitutional monarchy, even the king was subject to the constitution, to laws, and citizens could not be held without due process. Rules governed the process, not the will of a monarch. This right to due process when arrested is called habeas corpus.

Under a good government, citizens know that they have rights. They might even be sentenced to death, but only after a due process.

So this brings us to George Bush and Jose Padilla. Government prosecutors say Padilla is a threat and his defense attorney says he is not. I, personally, don't care a whit whether the man is found perfectly innocent and sent free or found guilty of the most heinous kind of plotting against his fellow citizens and sentenced to life in prison. That's not the point.

The point is, George Bush decided that Jose Padilla was guilty - not as the result of due process but because he thought so. Shades of King Charles and every privileged tyrant who has thumbed his nose at laws or a constitution that they believe is meant only for others. For 3 years, Padilla was held in a military brig, without charges. Not only was his family denied access to him (he has children), but even his attorneys were not allowed to see him. Bush did not need anything as old-fashioned as a trial to make his determination that Padilla was a criminal.

It was only once the Supreme Court made noises about getting involved in this case that Bush decided to give Padilla a trial. Bush was basically coerced into abiding by one of the most foundational principles of our constitution and modern government: habeas corpus. Quite simply, the man chose to disregard our constitution.

It is simple. When a citizen breaks the law, he is arrested or fined. When the chief executive officer of the country breaks the law, he is impeached. The executive branch is responsible for upholding the law. When the head of that executive branch breaks the law, he cannot be expected to indict himself, hence the process of impeachment rather than arrest and indictment.
45% of Americans now think that George Bush should be impeached. There are reasons besides his treatment of Jose Padilla, but that should be enough. Quite simply, a people who allow their leaders to defy their constitutional rights will not long have such rights. It's time to impeach George. It is not enough that this decider has continually made the wrong decisions. That is not enough to impeach the man - merely reason to vote against him. No, it is the man's casual disregard for our constitution that makes impeachment the one solution to his failed presidency - and a warning to every president to follow that we, the people, take nothing more seriously than the rights of even the least among us.

2 comments:

Dave said...

Ah, but we the people, our Representative and our Senators don't take it seriously. The latter two categories are more interested in how they can manipulate the process to that they can run the show.

ThomasLB said...

I've heard speculation that the Democrats will institute impeachment hearings after the next election- another pointless, symbolic resolution.