The United States Supreme Court’s latest decision in the case of the Guantanamo Bay detainees (Boumedienee v. Bush, decided June 12, 2008) made me heave one. I don’t think most Americans realize how lucky they are to have a constitution which doesn’t let the government lock people up for a long time just because the government thinks they are dangerous, scary, or disagreeable. I have been alternately furious and terrified by the Bush administration’s position that because there are terrorists in the world, they can decide that anyone is an “enemy combatant” and keep him locked up forever. No trial, no charge, no hearing, no nothing.
I’m reminded of the poem attributed to Nazi resistor Pastor Martin Niemoller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left
to speak up for me.
(I’ve learned from Wikipedia that Pastor Niemoller may not have written this poem, and that there are many variants. I still like it.)
The poem reminds us that what we do to those who are dangerous, or those whom Jesus calls “the least of these,” comes back on us. That’s what the Bush administration needs to be reminded of. Also the dissenters on the United States Supreme Court, who let fear-mongering overcome their duty to the Constitution.
I don’t want to close without commenting on the scariest comment I heard about this decision. That came from Newt Gingrich, who described it as a decision by “five lawyers.” That is exactly the sort of lawyer-bashing promoted by Dick the Butcher, whose statement, in Shakespeare’s King Henry VI, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers," was intended to keep his own treachery from being discovered.