were part of Saddam’s plan to defend Iraq against U.S. forces, according to Iraqi documents.
This week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the special military commissions created by the Bush administration to try Guantanamo detainees violate national and international law, as human rights groups charge.
But Justice Antonin Scalia doesn’t have to wait for arguments — his mind is already made up. Newsweek reports that in a controversial unpublicized March 8 speech, Scalia “dismissed the idea that the detainees have rights under the U.S. Constitution or international conventions.”
“War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts,” he says on a tape of the talk reviewed by NEWSWEEK. “Give me a break.” Challenged by one audience member about whether the Gitmo detainees don’t have protections under the Geneva or human-rights conventions, Scalia shot back: “If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son and I’m not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it’s crazy.” Scalia was apparently referring to his son Matthew, who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq.
Scalia needs to follow the law and recuse himself from the case, as he did two years ago in a case involving the Pledge of Allegiance. According to Newsweek, some experts doubt whether recusal is warranted since Scalia “didn’t refer directly to this week’s case.” But the statute governing inappropriate judicial speech — Title 28, Section 455 of the U.S. Code — does not require such a reference. It states:
Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.
The ball is now in Scalia’s court — he alone decides whether he will rule on the case. A Court spokesperson said he had “no comment.”
Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney defended his claim that Iraq’s insurgency was in its “last throes” as “basically accurate.” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had a different set of talking points this morning. Watch it:
RUSSERT: Is the insurgency in its last throes?
RICE: Well, the insurgency politically is certainly in danger because the Sunnis, who stood outside —
RUSSERT: But in terms of violence, is it in its last throes?
RICE: Well, the insurgency is still able to pull off violence and kill innocent children or kill an innocent school teacher, yes, they’re able to do that, and they might be able to do that for some time.
Condoleezza Rice, today on Meet the Press:
Some Iraqis — most Iraqis in fact — are willing, and want, to keep coalition forces there until they can take care of this themselves.
That’s not true. In fact, the Program on International Policy Attitudes conducted a poll of Iraqis in January. Here’s what the poll reported:
Asked what they would like the newly elected Iraqi government to ask the US-led forces to do, 70% of Iraqis favor setting a timeline for the withdrawal of US forces. This number divides evenly between 35% who favor a short time frame of “within six months” and 35% who favor a gradual reduction over two years. Just 29% say it should “only reduce US-led forces as the security situation improves in Iraq.”
Not only is the Bush administration out of touch with what the American public wants, it is also out of touch with what Iraqis themselves want.
Conservative-backed immigration bills being debated in the Senate would make it a federal crime — punishable by up to five years in prison — to offer aid to undocumented immigrants. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) slammed the legislation last week: “It is certainly not in keeping with my understanding of the Scripture because this bill would literally criminalize the Good Samaritan and probably even Jesus himself.”
Anti-immigrant hardliner Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) responded to Clinton this morning on ABC’s This Week. Watch it:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Tancredo, she’s basically saying your approach is un-Christian.
TANCREDO: I’m not really surprised that Hillary Clinton doesn’t know the first thing about the Bible. Her impression — her analysis, her interpretation of both the law and the Bible are certainly wrong to say the least. This has nothing to do — the bill we passed out of the House has nothing to do with criminalizing Good Samaritans.
Clinton is right about the law. According to Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the proposed provision “is so broad that it would criminalize even minor acts of mercy like offering a meal or administering first aid.” Mahoney has instructed the priests of his archdiocese to disobey the law if it is enacted.
As for Clinton’s knowledge of the Bible, it’s Tancredo who needs a refresher. Take Isaiah 49:10: “They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.”
Abdul Rahman, the Afghan man threatened with execution because he converted to Christianity, is reportedly set to be released. On Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice claimed that Rahman was being freed not over legal technicalities, but because “the case itself” violated Afghanistan’s “constitutional expectations.” Watch it:
WALLACE: If [the case] is dropped, but not dropped because it’s just wrong to prosecute somebody for exercising freedom of religion, but rather because of technical flaws, lack of information, he’s mentally incompetent, does that end the controversy? Are you satisfied with that outcome?
RICE: Well, I think the question of mental incompetence, as far as I understand, has not been raised here. That this is really about the case itself. This is a complicated situation. We have been very clear with the Afghan government that the freedom of religion and the freedom of religious conscience is at the core of democratic development. They have constitutional expectations that have been written in that they will, in fact, live up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which protects individual conscience on religion.
Actually, according to officials, Rahman is being released merely due to a “lack of evidence,” not because of any constitutional objections to religious persecution. In fact, Afghan prosecutors are still investigating the case:
The Associated Press quoted an official as saying an Afghan court had dismissed the case against Rahman because of a lack of evidence. The official told AP the case had been returned to prosecutors for more investigation and that Rahman would be released in the meantime.
For years, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government entity, has warned that Afghanistan’s constitution contained “no guarantee of the right to religious freedom for all individuals.” Bush and other U.S. officials claimed otherwise, denying reality so they could promote the constitution as a diplomatic success. Clearly they haven’t learned their lesson.
The number of immigration rights advocates who marched in downtown Los Angeles yesterday in favor of comprehensive, practical reform. “Wearing white shirts to symbolize peace, marchers chanted ‘Mexico!’ ‘USA!’ and ‘Si se puede,’ an old Mexican-American civil rights shout that means ‘Yes, we can.’”