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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Point Counterpoint

    A court of appeals ruled last week that the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which established military tribunals for enemy combatants, passed constitutional muster. Some have praised the act as an effective tool to combat terrorism, but others say that suspected terrorists should be able to take their case to the federal courts. What should Congress and the courts do?

    MCA disgraces our legal system

    “”In its second minute the Two Minutes Hate rose to a frenzy … A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current.”” – George Orwell, “”1984″”

    “”This is people that want to come and kill your families.”” – George W. Bush, eight weeks before the 2006 election

    Bush supporters will continue to disagree with legal scholars and decent people about the legality of the Guantanamo military trials, but it won’t matter. The outcome in the Supreme Court is virtually preordained, and the disgrace to our country is nearly complete. Legality is beside the point.

    Half of the prisoners taken to Guantanamo have been released without charges of any kind; only a handful of those remaining will get the privilege of participating in the kangaroo courts established by the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). Well, “”participate”” may be a bit strong, since the prisoners will not know what evidence is being used against them or, in some cases, their supposed crimes.

    Even these kangaroo courts are a waste of time. According to the admiral in charge of the facility, “”the reason they’re here in Guantanamo is because they are terrorists.”” See? They’re already guilty. Case closed.

    The commissions for Guantanamo detainees have never been about fairness or justice or protecting Americans from terrorists. The entire War on Terror? is a political tool used by Republicans to whip up fear and vindictiveness. It’s a slogan, a sham.

    The Guantanamo facility is less a detention facility for terrorists than it is a story about the American people – about our lust for revenge, our overconfidence in military strength and our susceptibility to letting our “”leaders”” distract us from their failures with enemies real and imagined.

    Guantanamo is a symbol of our fear-driven acceptance of a “”war”” that, by definition, can never end. Terror won’t surrender. We will always be at war with whoever the president serves up as the object of this week’s Two Minutes Hate. George Orwell could not have written the last five years better than we did.

    One of the most shameful and degrading episodes of the past five years was passage of the MCA, just weeks before the 2006 election. Twelve Senate Democrats and 32 House Democrats voted for the bill to ensure that Republicans wouldn’t call them terrorist-loving traitors on the campaign trail.

    Actually, Republicans do that anyway, on a daily basis, but the plan worked well enough. Democrats took control of Congress because they didn’t fall into Bush’s political trap.

    Contrary to common belief, we can’t count on the courts to bail us out when the voters do horrible things. The MCA served its function by taking the whip out of the demagogue’s hand. Now it’s time to repeal it. If you are lucky enough to be represented by senators other than John McCain and Jon Kyl, tell them so.

    Shane Ham is a first-year law student. He can be reached at

    No rights for terrorists

    The war on terror is, unfortunately, still being waged six years after America was attacked by a trained group of al-Qaeda soldiers who do not deserve the protections of our Constitution.

    A decision last week by the D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the rational conclusion that those engaged in violence against our country cannot also seek to benefit from its constitutional protections when it ruled that a writ of habeus corpus can be denied enemy combatants.

    This judicial quagmire began in 2004 when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that the military commissions prosecuting terrorists were beyond the powers Congress granted to the president to prosecute the war on terror.

    Although the Supreme Court ruling in Hamdan did offer temporary protection to terrorists, it still did nothing to change the fact that enemy combatants are not protected by the Constitution.

    In fact, much of the Court’s ruling in Hamdan does not make sense. One particularly strange opinion voiced by the majority is that Hamdan, a Yemeni who was Osama bin Laden’s personal driver, bodyguard and one of his many weapons transporters, was not charged with “”an overt act for which he was caught redhanded … but with an ‘agreement’ the inception of which long predated … the [war].””

    Arguing that Hamdan agreed to participate in acts of violence against the U.S. over a long period of time does not lessen his guilt. It affirms it, and only reinforces his determination to willfully engage in acts of destruction against our country.

    In response to the Hamdan ruling that required Congress to more explicitly grant the president the power to use military commissions to bring terrorists to justice, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). The MCA grants power to try those engaged in hostilities towards the United States by fair military commissions.

    These enemy combatants are also to be treated humanely by their captors, a right that is defended even as they throw urine, feces and semen at their guards.

    The MCA should have settled the Hamdan ruling, but some have interpreted the court’s opinion as a step toward granting terrorists full constitutional protections. Therefore, when the federal appeals court came down ruling the MCA constitutional, some immediately – and apparently without much thought to the full repercussions of a different ruling – cried foul.

    Just at what point should terrorists not be given full constitutional rights? Maybe they should be granted the right to bear arms, vote and not be subject to search without a warrant.

    In his dissent to Hamdan, Justice Antonin Scalia was right to disagree with giving those who are actively trying to destroy this country full protection under our Constitution. Scalia said, “”It’s crazy.””

    And it is crazy to think that the very people who are intent on destroying what this country is based on should nonetheless be able to use it in their own defense.

    Kara Karlson is a journalism senior. She can be reached at

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