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Burning the US Constitution

by Akmal Khan Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 8:42 PM

The US Constitution is a remarkable piece of literature. Our founding fathers penned a work of prose with no equal. They laid out a blueprint for a nation that transcends the passage of time and is as relevant today as it was on the day it was brought forth. The constitution ensured that relevance by incorporating the mechanism of amendments that would allow it to stay forever current in the quest to create a more perfect union. Of the 27 amendments made to this remarkable document, none are more important than the first ten amendments, collectively known as the Bill of Rights that were ratified on December 15, 1791.

Burning the US Constitution
The US Constitution is a remarkable piece of literature. Our founding fathers penned a work of prose with no equal. They laid out a blueprint for a nation that transcends the passage of time and is as relevant today as it was on the day it was brought forth. The constitution ensured that relevance by incorporating the mechanism of amendments that would allow it to stay forever current in the quest to create a more perfect union. Of the 27 amendments made to this remarkable document, none are more important than the first ten amendments, collectively known as the Bill of Rights that were ratified on December 15, 1791.

A critical concept embodied in the constitution is that it is “continuous”. Unlike the constitutions of other countries, even those modeled after or copied from our constitution, there are no clauses that allow for the suspension of the constitution in times of emergency. This is a deliberate decision by the framers of the constitution, because it is truly at a time of stress for a nation that the constitution becomes essential to guide our actions, when otherwise, out of fear, we would commit acts that we would later regret.

In fact, three times in our history, there have been “illegal” suspensions of the Bill of Rights, and all three have later been found to have been wrongful actions, even though it took many years before they were determined to be so. These were:

1.      The detention without trial of 15,000 confederates by Lincoln during the Civil War that included both troops as well as political dissidents.

2.      The “Palmer Raids” of 1918-1921 as a result of the “Red Scare” which caused widespread attacks on political dissent. A story in 1919 in the Washington Post noted with approval how in Chicago, a sailor shot another man merely for failing to rise during the national anthem.

3.      The interment of Japanese-Americans during WW2, an atrocity for which we have only recently apologized, after most of those who suffered have already passed away.

Despite these lessons from history, we are once more embarked on the same ill-advised path to the unconstitutional suspension of our Bill of Rights in a time of fear. The misnamed “PATRIOT Act” and its even more deadly sibling without sunset: the “PATRIOT Act III” does exactly that. Of late, the actions of the Department of Justice have been likened to those of Torquemada of the Spanish Inquisition by the likes of legendary journalist Walter Cronkite [http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0919-09.htm]. Our illegal detainment for over 18 months of the so-called “enemy combatants” without charging them with a crime or providing them with legal counsel is unconstitutional at the very least. Additionally, an ever increasing number of suspected “terrorists” are languishing in federal prisons without being afforded due process or legal representation. In so doing, we are in violation of the 6th Amendment to our constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The US Constitution forbids the implementation of a military tribunal when a civilian court is open and accessible. As such, there is no provision for the likes of the prison in Guantanamo Bay. We are also in contravention of the spirit of the Geneva Convention. By labeling these prisoners as “enemy combatants”, we are weasel-wording around the required treatment of Prisoners of War. If we are truly embarked on a “War on Terrorism”, why would the captured enemy combatants not be considered as Prisoners of War?  We are also willfully labeling the Iraqi resistance to US occupation as “terrorists” to prepare for similar treatment of those captured in the course of repelling our invasion of their country.
It was the American ideals consecrated in our constitution that endeared us to the rest of the world and earned us their respect and envy. It is, thus, the very defiling of those ideals in this execution of the policies of the current administration that has displaced us from the lofty pedestal that defined our place in the world in the very short span of less than 3 years.
It is useful to consider why we, the people, have allowed these actions to have taken place in our name. The events of 9/11/2001 were truly traumatic for this nation and we were gripped with a fear that most among us have never felt before. It would appear that those in power then exploited that fear to both control us and also to execute their secret agenda. A nation that is gripped by fear can be easily manipulated as noted by many potentates in our history. It is also easy to silence dissidents by cries of “unpatriotic” as attested by Herman Goerring, head of Nazi Germany’s Luftwaffe, during the Nuremberg trials:
Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leader. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
When a nation is attacked, it seldom asks “why”, and is satisfied by the answer to “who”. Those in power were quick to assure us that they knew “who” had wreaked this horror upon us, and we were eager to accept their assertions without question. Those assertions are only now being questioned by a Legislature that has been derelict in its duty to be inquisitive about the actions of the Executive branch of our government and a Judiciary that has been slow to provide its staying arm. And so, we were willingly led from one battle to the next, because those in power had prepared us by vilifying and demonizing each of our targets such that we viewed them with hate and loathing without knowing much about them beyond what we were fed. Thus was commenced the American Jihad against the forces of darkness and the quest for Pax Americana.
There is a principle in management called the “Abilene Paradox” that has a corollary which is paraphrased below:
When our actions are initiated by fear, we inadvertently bring about the very outcome that we want to prevent.
The US Constitution was framed to prevent us from acting out of fear as opposed to acting out of reason. I suggest to you, that in embarking on our Jihad, we have increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks aimed at us and put ourselves at greater peril as a nation. We have isolated ourselves from our friends whose advice of restraint has now proven to be prophetic. We have sparked a horrific cascade of resentment from the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and their friends in Palestine, who once saw us as white knights and now see us as invaders of their land. Our blatant siding with Israel on all issues, the only civilized country in the world to do so, has removed us from consideration by our friends and enemies as a fair and just nation driven by the lofty ideals of our constitution. We are no longer the America that everyone thought we were, and wishes we still were.
But, all is not yet lost. To quote Lincoln, “…this government by the people…shall not perish from this earth.” All that remains for us is to reacquire the reins of the government that we have unwittingly relinquished to people who are operating in contradiction to our constitution in pursuit of an imperial agenda that is not compatible with the vision of our founding fathers. You and I have that power and it is high time that we wake from our apathetic stupor and exercise our power to vote. We have the power to remove these people from government and replace them with people that are compatible with America’s ideals. We can restore the trust that the world had in us and resume being the model that they all wanted to emulate. In so doing, we will restore our nation, restore our liberties, restore our prosperity, and yes, restore our security. To do anything less would be unpatriotic.
My friends, the winds of change are whispering through our land. The power of the internet has toppled the oppression of controlled media to filter what we are allowed to know. There are alternative web sites popping up all across our land and across the world. It is no longer possible to be ignorant of what is really happening and the only blind people out there are those that are unwilling to see. The revolution may not be televised, but it is certainly visible on your computer screen, from sea to shining sea.
    --- Akmal Khan

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Comment with Poem Mike in Torrance Tuesday, Nov. 04, 2003 at 10:39 PM
^^^^ fresca Wednesday, Nov. 05, 2003 at 12:28 AM
who's embarrased? more rational Saturday, Nov. 08, 2003 at 11:18 PM
Why fresca Sunday, Nov. 09, 2003 at 3:31 PM
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