Thursday, February 10, 2005

Rule of Law?

The one thing that makes a government trustworthy is that it plays by the rules. The rules are the laws it creates and the treaties it makes with other governments. Some governments' rules are very draconian, giving all power to the rulers and none to the people. These governments usually have few written laws, especially regarding the conduct of the rulers. Other governments have safeguards to define and protect the rights of the people, with specific limitations on the power of the rulers. These governments are usually answerable to the people in the form of democratic elections.

The United States of America prides itself on being democratic, with rights of the people enshrined in the Constitution and a variety of laws and legal precedents. But actions made by the current administration has been antithetical to this view. Today I hear that a U.S. citizen is being held in a Saudi prison at the behest of the U.S. government. He has no access to lawyers, and the the lawyers hired by his family have been denied access to evidence used by the government to justify his imprisonment. In fact, the administration has tried to say that it has the right to send U.S. citizens to foreign prisons with no legal protections or means of challenging the imprisonment. Not only is this completely against the concepts of fair trial and rule by law, but it sets a precedent that could lead to open fascism.

Alberto Gonzales, the incoming Attorney General and head law enforcement officer of the United States, believes the President can ignore laws. Part of this is traditional, that the Executive Branch checks the powers of the Legislative Branch with both the veto and the non-execution of unconstitutional statutes. However, the new idea is that the President can authorize the breaking of criminal laws not because they are unconsitutional, but because they could infringe "on the President’s ultimate authority in these areas [the conduct of war]." So when war is declared, the President can ignore any laws that get in his way.

Allowing the administration to ignore laws, to violate the very principles that the government was founded upon, is to no longer be a government of the people, by the people, for the people. It becomes a dictatorship: the administration dictates what it can do and what people can't do, and that is it.

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