That would be one way to write a hed about the military tribunal bill just passed, but that's not the Zeitgeist so we get Many Rights in U.S. Legal System Absent in New Bill, the "analysis" piece by R. Jeffrey Smith (The A1 story is Senate Approves Detainee Bill Backed by Bush).
I'm not a Constitutional lawyer, and I welcome correction from polite and informed individuals. But I don't believe that before today, the American government has ever spelled out judicial rights for unlawful enemies, a term that technically means hostiles who wear no uniform and use innocent civilians as shields when they're not also targets. In other words, terrorists.
So to say Many Rights in U.S. Legal System Absent in New Bill is akin to saying Right To Vote Absent From Resident Alien Law. In fact, if I weren't nursing a dastardly sore throat today, I'd write an essay about how much of the debate over this bill signifies ignorance about the unique rights--the justly unique rights--of citizenship.
Speaking of which, in my diminished Dayquil state, since when were enemy combatants of any type ever entitled to writs of habeas corpus, the right to present oneself before a court to determine whether you're lawfully being held? The lack of that right for unlawful enemy combatants prompted Sen. Specter to say the bill would "set back basic rights 900 years." He's referring to the Magna Carta, but a mere 140 years ago Saint Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus for American citizens. I have no unique insight on that action but it is the kind of thing one hopes the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee might have plugged into his calculator.
Meanwhile the Post's "analysis" by Smith includes this little tour:
President Bush's argument that the government requires extraordinary power to respond to the unusual threat of terrorism helped him win final support for a system of military trials with highly truncated defendant's rights. The United States used similar trials on just four occasions: during the country's revolution, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and World War II.
Gee, just four times. The Mexican-American War is an interesting outlier, the closest thing in this collection to a mere expansionist conflict. The others consist of the creation of the our country, a.k.a the world's greatest democracy; the survival of the world's greatest democracy that coincidentally freed millions of slaves; and the defense of liberty and freedom on a global scale.
So yeah. Just those four times. I wonder if we're facing any kind of important threat today. I'll have to google.
But let me share my shorthand method for determining the bill was a good idea: Washington Post bloggers hate it. In This Time, Congress Has No Excuse, Andrew Cohen writes:
Of all the stupid, lazy, short-sighted, hasty, ill-conceived, partisan-inspired, damage-inflicting, dangerous and offensive things this Congress has done (or not done) in its past few recent miserable terms, the looming passage of the terror detainee bill takes the cake. At least when Congress voted to authorize the Iraq War legislators can point to the fact that they were deceived by Administration officials. But what's Congress' excuse now for agreeing to sign off on a law that would give the executive branch even more unfettered power over the rest of us than it already has?
They hate it; I love it. It's a time-saver.