Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What Will Happen in the Next 9/11?

Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law and political science at Yale University brings up a disturbing thought in a piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He discusses about the issue of whether this is war, and brings up the example of Jose Padilla, an American citizen stripped of his Constitutional rights when he was accused of being an "enemy combatant." Mr. Ackerman says:

Consider the case of Jose Padilla. A few months after Sept. 11, the president declared him an "enemy combatant," and locked him up in a military brig for three and half years. During all this time, Padilla was denied the right to challenge his detention before a military or civilian tribunal.

Yet he was an American citizen, and when he was detained at O'Hare airport, he looked like millions of others - wearing civilian clothes and without any dangerous weapons. Nevertheless, a federal court of appeals upheld the president's seizure as within his powers as commander-in-chief, and the Supreme Court refused to review this remarkable decision.

This gives the presidency a terrible precedent for the next Sept. 11. We all hope that this attack won't come for a long time. But the day after the next tragedy, the Padilla case will be invoked to support the president if he sweeps hundreds or thousands into military detention. After a year or two the Supreme Court may intervene on the side of freedom. But perhaps the vote will go 5-4 the wrong way.

It can't happen to me, we tell ourselves. Very few Americans have done anything to support the Islamo-fascists, whatever President Bush may mean by this dark term. But the next attack may be by home-grown terrorists. All of us are potential Jose Padillas, not a select few.

What will happen to Americans who question Bush's policies in the case of another 9/11 hitting us? Will the Michelle Malkins of America win the day and set up laws that allow for the forcible detention of Americans with Constitutional rights stripped away from them? The Michelle Malkins of the world would not mind this one bit, methinks.

I think Americans need to think rationally, reasonably, and with patience, making sure they know what they are getting themselves into here, regarding the laws we set up for today's terrorists. If we lower our standards, the right of habeas corpus, for example, what will it mean when we are hit again?

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