Obama and Torture?!

Obama and Torture?! December 21, 2009

I have been busy, and will continue to be busy, because of Christmas. I’ve not had as much time to read the news. Today, I saw a report which is quite disturbing, but I do not know the veracity of the report. The claim is that the Obama administration’s attorneys not only have argued that torture might be seen as an expected outcome of military detention, but also anyone who is seen as a suspected “enemy combatant” loses their status as a person and so Constiutional rights are not to be accorded to them. Thus, as Chris Floyd writes in the Pacific Free Press (read the full article here):

Here’s how the bad deal went down. After hearing passionate arguments from the Obama Administration, the Supreme Court acquiesced to the president’s fervent request and, in a one-line ruling, let stand a lower court decision that declared torture an ordinary, expected consequence of military detention, while introducing a shocking new precedent for all future courts to follow: anyone who is arbitrarily declared a “suspected enemy combatant” by the president or his designated minions is no longer a “person.”  They will simply cease to exist as a legal entity. They will have no inherent rights, no human rights, no legal standing whatsoever — save whatever modicum of process the government arbitrarily deigns to grant them from time to time, with its ever-shifting tribunals and show trials.

Does anyone know about this? Is this what actually was said and what the court ruled? Is this a mis-reading of the court’s ruling? If this is true, this is a worse precedent than what we had under GW Bush, but the kind of thing that people knew would happen if Bush’s policies were free to continue.

Even if this is not exactly what happened, we are moving in this directon. What is used to reject the rights of a person in one situation will have consequences in other situations (especially if one finds a way to legally define a real person as a non-person).  This is why an authentic understanding of what it means to be a person needs to be established in positive law, and why the issue of torture is intricately linked to all other issues of personhood, such as abortion. Give in on one aspect of the dignity of the human person, the rest quickly follow.

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