The cloak of war

The Bush Administration continues to cry, “We’re at war” when challenged. In oral arguments Wednesday in the Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla cases, the solicitor general’s office told the Supreme Court it was “remarkable that we have to confront this question when our troops are still on the ground in Afghanistan.” As I recently noted, solicitor general Olson started his argument in the Guantanamo detention cases asserting, “The United States is at war.”

Crying “war” isn’t a substitute for reasoned analysis of the Constitution and the rights it affords. Such reactions have led to some of the worst moments for civil liberties. A few include Lincoln suspending habeas corpus, convictions under the Espionage Act of 1917, and the three words that sum it up best: Japanese internment camps.

News reports indicate the Supreme Court may not be buying into the program but that’s certainly no guarantee. We can only hope that we and our children don’t look back on this term of the Supreme Court as a turning point in freedom.

(Oyez has audio of the arguments and Slate has an excellent review of them.)

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