The Wall Street Journal prides itself on its “conservative” credentials. Each week, readers find its op-ed pages crammed with criticisms of Pres. Obama’s intervention in the economy, and the government’s propensity to overspend and expand the entitlement state. To read the Wall Street Journal opinion pages, one generally comes away with the impression that the editorial board finds politicians, especially the president, generally inept when it comes to managing domestic policy.
Yet when it comes to foreign policy, these same dolts suddenly transform into geniuses!
So the WSJ editorial board has its collective nose out of joint because they perceive a Tea Party backlash against those wise and benevolent foreign policy sages in Washington D.C. According to the WSJ, the Tea Party recently forged an alliance with the “anti-antiterror left” to block indefinite detention provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act.
You see, the folks at this “Tea Party outfit called the Tenth Amendment Center” joined forces with the likes of the ALCU to oppose kidnapping people on American soil.
Screeech! Whoa there!! Tea Party outfit? The Tenth Amendment Center? Really?
I need to pause here for a moment to enlighten our fearless conservative journalists at the WSJ. Michael Boldin founded the Tenth Amendment Center in 2006, during the administration of George W. Bush. That was some four years before the first protester hung a teabag on his cap. So yeah, not exactly a “Tea Party outfit” – just to be clear.
But I digress.
Despite playing fast and loose with facts about the TAC, the Wall Street Journal folks did stumble upon the truth. Strong transpartisan opposition to indefinite detention without due process does exist, as evidenced by the fact that both Democrats and Republicans have joined forces across the United States to propose and support legislation opposing NDAA detention. And the Wall Street Journal finds this odd – that people of all political persuasions might exhibit just a little bit of discomfort at the president possessing the power to deem somebody a terrorist and then authorize federal agents to kidnap that person, lock them up and hold them until the “end of hostilities,” which appears will happen on or about the end of time.
Weird isn’t it?
Seriously, the WSJ editorial board actually finds the notion that anybody might worry about investing that much power in the president weird – or at least misguided.
That bill (the NDAA) affirmed the long-standing distinction between civilian justice and the rules of war by letting the President detain terrorists (including U.S. citizens) captured anywhere and question them as long as necessary. A President can decide to try them in either military or civilian courts, and the right of habeas corpus to challenge detention in court, established by the Supreme Court’s 2004 Hamdi decision, is unchanged.
Great! Bring on the water board!
We find an assumption implicit in the Journal’s support for NDAA detention. They would have us believe that the federal government would only exercise such powers against dangerous terrorists.
History points to a different reality.
Did you know that in the 20th century, more people died at the hands of their own government than were killed in all of the wars combined? About 25 million soldiers died in World Wars I and II. Another 12 million were killed in the century’s other wars and revolutions. That comes to a total of about 37 million dead.
Under Lenin and Stalin, the Soviet government alone killed some 12 million people. In fact, if you add up the total number of people killed by their own governments in the 20th century, the total comes to around 100 million people.
So forgive us for not exactly trusting in the benevolent power of governments.
But the U.S. government is different, right? Our guys would never just kill American citizens – with drones or something. And it certainly wouldn’t take the opportunity afforded by a grant of power and violate the civil liberties of Americans!
OK, tell that to the Japanese-Americans who watched WWII from a cage.
On Feb 19, 1942, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066, authorizing the Secretary of War and the Army to create military zones “from which any or all persons may be excluded.”
This led to the roundup of some 110,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese citizens living along the west coast and their relocation to internment camps. Between 1,200 and 1,800 people of Japanese descent watched the war from behind barbed wire fences in Hawaii. Of those interned, 62 percent were U.S. citizens. The U.S. government also caged around 11,000 Americans of German ancestry and some 3,000 Italian-Americans.
Fear makes quick work of principles such as due process.
Interestingly, the WSJ editorial board even mentions this fact in their op-ed piece.
In the wilder tea party precincts, the talk is that in a second term Mr. Obama might round people up, a la Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor.
They act like the whole incident was some kind of odd fantasy concocted by wild tea-partiers (Those guys drink green tea – wild and crazy!)
History note WSJ – it happened.
The fact that governments often abuse power led the framers of the U.S. Constitution to create a document restraining power and protecting individual liberties.
The bottom line is that the NDAA empowers the president to lock up people on American soil and throw away the key, or just ship them overseas to disappear -wherever. We should not trust any president with such power.
Not this president. Not the last president. And not the next president.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board comforts us, insisting “the statute merely codifies existing practice under Presidents Bush and Obama.”
I’m sorry Wall Streeters, the fact that the law simply codifies unconstitutional acts really doesn’t provide a whole lot of comfort. I’ll stick with Thomas Jefferson on this one.
“In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
But apparently, antiquated notions like due process, the Fifth Amendment and Article III Sec. 3 of the U.S. Constitution don’t really matter too much to the good editors of the Wall Street Journal. After all, we have a war on terror to fight! Besides, the Supreme Court already provided all the protection we need in the 2004 Hamdi decision. (It really didn’t, but that’s a different column.)
The ACLU tea partiers may be well-intentioned but they are woefully uninformed about the war on the terror. Their efforts would undermine executive war-fighting authority and the legitimacy of a terrorist detention and military tribunal system that has been established over many Congresses, endorsed by two Presidents and confirmed by the Supreme Court. They should stick to shrinking the entitlement state.
So yes, the Wall Street Journal fears that the Tenth Amendment Center, together with a whole bunch of other organizations from both the left and the right, might undermine executive war-fighting authority as interpreted by today’s officeholders. Well, in the words of Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin, “Good, that’s just what we’re trying to do. Thanks for the vote of confidence!”