To make up for my Independence Day political post, I have been following a suggestion to bring you the more considered commentary of columnist Nat Hentoff. Last week, he wrote about the illegal extradition of enemy combatants. In his column this week (Rabbis Against Torture, July 16) in The Village Voice, Hentoff takes on another of those issues that had me so depressed on July 4 and still does:
On behalf of Rabbis for Human Rights—North America, we write out of a deep sense of concern about the erosion of America's longstanding commitment that torture is absolutely reprehensible. . . . What is most disturbing is that . . . the use of torture has been approved at the highest levels of the Administration.What issue did Hentoff take on (Prez goes to Constitution school, July 17) in Jewish World Review this week? Hmm, something else I mentioned on July 4:
Letter to President Bush and members of Congress, January 27, 2005, from more than 500 American rabbis—Orthodox, Conservative and Reform
In June 2004, in Rasul et al. v. Bush, the Supreme Court (in a 6-to-3 vote) declared that those "enemy combatants" (as President Bush designated them) had been denied due process. But the decision left unclear what, under the Constitution, would constitute due process for them. So it came to pass that the president took the advice of his lawyers in the Justice and Defense departments to, by himself, create the "military commissions." But, on June 9 of this year, Justice John Paul Stevens declared, for the Supreme Court, that the commissions "lack power to proceed" — having violated U.S. military law and at least one key section of the Geneva Conventions.If you want to read more, Nat Hentoff writes regularly for The Village Voice and Jewish World Review.
Bush's rules of procedure for the commissions included a range of due-process violations while also violating the separation of powers at the core of the Constitution. As Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., summarized the Court's decision, "It's not up to the president." Contrary to what Bush's lawyers had told him, the commander in chief does not have sole "inherent" constitutional authority to bypass Congress and the courts to safeguard national security.