Last week two military judges collapsed the Bush Administration’s plans to try two Guantánamo detainees before military commissions. Today the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the most conservative court in the United States, dealt the Bush Administration a further massive blow in its ruling that Bush could not seize civilians lawfully in the United States and put them under the custody of the military for purposes of torturing them or for any other purpose. The ruling is a strong reaffirmation of the Rule of Law and of the Constitution–and reviewing it and seeing in it a rehearsal of the dishonest and hysterical arguments advanced by the Bush Administration serves as a reminder of how obsessed this crew has become with tyrannical power.
It is significant that the Court went out of its way to shine a bright spotlight on the rule of torture in the Bush Administration’s conduct. Most of the odious conduct of this administration turns, after it is carefully deconstructed, on one simple fact: the desire to torture. This is true of the push for military commissions, special evidentiary rules which will allow torture-extracted evidence, the use of national security classifications to hide torture rules, techniques, and sworn evidence of the use of torture. In sum, this is the Bush Administration’s desperate efforts to obscure its own criminality–which now runs rampant. The rulings out of Guantánamo and the Fourth Circuit are vital steps. But the essential next step is for Congress to act to restore habeas corpus and to insure that the law of the land–which has outlawed torture since 1789–is adhered to.