The Bush Administration has claimed, and (for the second time) gotten a court to agree, that a completely innocent person kidnapped by an agency of the United States Government and sent abroad to be tortured cannot sue for redress if the government claims that responding to the suit would force it to reveal “state secrets.” The two cases so far both involved foreign nationals, but the legal doctrine underlying the decision doesn’t depend on that. So any citizen is now subject to being “disappeared,” without any recourse, at the unreviewable whim of the Executive Branch.
Lincoln had it right:
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.
Time to mount a suicide watch over this republic, I think.
Pat Robert’s “You don’t have civil liberties when you’re dead”, is, as Matt Yglesias noted today and Mike O’Hare said a while ago, a reflection of the cowardice that prefers to live in chains rather than risk death for freedom. (Patrick Henry and Benjamin Franklin would have disapproved.)
Mike proposed that Democrats should reframe the civil liberty and torture issues as matters of courage vs. cowardice. Democrats, he claims, should say:
Americans have always known there are worse things to lose than our lives. The Republicans think we’ve forgotten about them. And those are exactly the things this administration, and the Republican Congress, are willing to have us lose. They’re treating us like cowards, and we’re not.
It’s a creative idea. BushCo and its journalistic allies have been working hard to generate fear in the electorate, and the Administration has scored political points by pretending that its cowardly actions — torture is a bully’s tactic, and every bully is a coward — reflect manliness, and that those who insist that the United States act like itself and not like its enemies are somehow weak.
Pointing out that it takes courage to stand up for the nation’s values in times of danger might be a good way to turn that rhetorical disadvantage for the friends of liberty and civilized behavior into an advantage. “In war and politics, take the high ground.”