Thursday, September 28, 2006

Letter to Jim Jeffords RE Habeas Corpus:

- by Bernie Quigley, for The Free Market News Network, 9/29/2006

Congratulations on your retirement from a life of good work & work that needed to be done. Perhaps it is only a coincidence that you gave your parting speech in the same week that the Senate allowed the President to repeal Habeas Corpus. Over the years I have admired your character and courage and solicited your support. One such time was at the beginning of the war on Iraq when I started an ad hoc group called The Acadian Alliance, and claimed that we three northern New England states, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, had the Constitutional right not participate in the war (and the moral obligation not to). I also proposed at the time that we send our own representative to the UN. This idea brought praise and chuckles from John Kenneth Galbraith, still at his desk at Harvard deep into his 90s.

I am strongly supportive of the war against the Al Qaeda network operating out of Afghanistan and even more deeply sympathetic to the needs of Homeland Security. If the FBI wasn’t reading my email I’d feel like a failed writer. Some of the others I’ve encountered in opposition to this war were in my opinion, deluded Sixties Reenactors and irresponsible political nihilists seeking opportunity in tragedy. But now that Habeas Corpus has been repealed, it appears that I (or anyone who holds a dissenting opinion) could be taken from my house with complete legality, held indefinably, never to be heard from again. As one legal commentator pointed out last night on the evening news, I could even be legally executed without explaination to my family.

The question is this: Is the repeal of Habeas Corpus a real need in a time of uncertainty for securing the nation, or is this what we have become? If so, perhaps we in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine should begin to consider our relationship with the federation. As Howard Dean said when he was governor of Vermont, we have more in common with our Canadian neighbors in the Eastern Provinces than we do with Texas. We are an Enlightenment people; people of the Age of Reason. Habeas Corpus is our legacy.

Not long ago The Nation magazine called states secession one of the "bold new ideas" of the new century. I find it irresponsible and dangerous; the realm of mischief makers and the disenchanted. Only the most dire circumstances should begin such a conversation. But the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq, under the guise of fighting terrorism, is one such circumstance. Preemption is another. A President who seeks extra-Constitutional powers is another. The repeal of Habeas Corpus is a landmark.

Our laws and our kind of government evolved from the Enlightenment and the ideas of John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others. But it may be that those ideas are too lofty and difficult for a country as vast and inclusive as ours and the arc of grace and light which brought us here to the millennium was only a temporary condition. And we are returning today to an earlier sensibility. Bush's war on Iraq increasingly gives all the impressions of the continuation of a war on Islam which has been going on by Christian nations since 1096. Worth noting, as the proposal to repeal Habeas Corpus gives no date for return to Constitutional governance - it is not a temporary aberration as Lincoln's suspension was during the Civil War. It is open-ended and quite possibly a permanent change to our American life.

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