Cheney vs Churchill


There was a time when being a Republican or even voting for a Republican meant or implied, at least, some sort of commitment to individual liberty vis-a-vis the government. That time is over. Those of us who care about liberty, whether we choose to fight for it inside the GOP or as Democrats or outside as non-partisan freedom-lovers, need to understand that this idea of conservatism as an ally of freedom is currently in eclipse in the GOP. I noted yesterday the staggering casualness with which Republicans are now judging their candidates on their willingness as president to exercise the right to detain any American at will, imprison him without charges, subject him to kangaroo military courts, and torture him if necessary. Glenn Greenwald seconds my point here:

What kind of American isn't just instinctively repulsed by the notion that the President has the power to imprison Americans with no charges? And what does it say about the current state of our political culture that one of the two political parties has all but adopted as a plank in its platform a view of presidential powers and the federal government that is - literally - the exact opposite of what this country is?

He cites Jefferson's simple statement:

"I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution."

Perhaps some conservatives think of Jefferson as too liberal for their tastes. Here is Winston Churchill, fighting a war against the greatest evil imaginable, when the very survival of Britain as an independent and free country was in the balance. He spoke of

"the great principle of habeas corpus and trial by jury, which are the supreme protection invented by the British people for ordinary individuals against the state. The power of the executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him judgement by his peers for an indefinite period, is in the highest degree odious, and is the foundation of all totalitarian governments... It is only when extreme danger to the state can be pleaded that this power may be temporarily assumed by the executive, and even so its working must be interpreted with the utmost vigilance by a free parliament... Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy. This is really the test of civilisation."

America is now failing that test. And the Republican party has lost not only its own soul; it is busy mortgaging the soul of America and the West as a whole. On this, there can be no compromise. Until a leading Republican commits to the full restoration of habeas corpus for American citizens, whether the executive considers them an "enemy combatant" or not, no one who loves freedom can support the GOP. In fact, any lover of freedom should consider it a duty to defeat them.

(Photo: Winston Churchill's honorary American passport.)