Letters to the Editor

Ushering in a gulag era in the United States

Have you heard about Senate Bill 1867? If not, you don’t need to feel bad because who really pays attention to the Constitution anymore?  To ask that your rights be respected by law is now seen as being unpatriotic, a sign that you do not trust the government to do what is best for you. But that wasn’t the way the framers of the Constitution thought about government. They knew that a right denied in principle is sooner or later denied in practice.

So what do you think? Should the executive branch of the government be allowed to view American soil as a battlefield from sea to shining sea? Should it be able to assemble lists of citizens to be labled as essentially enemies of the people (code word “terrorist”) and denied any further judicial trial and confined indefinitely? Should the military be saddled with running detention facilities for American citizens in contravention of the Posse Commitatus Act, which forbids using military police forces for regular domestic law enforcement? Have you seen the movie, “Missing” lately? Does the name Gen. Pinochet ring a bell?

If any of these questions is failing to raise a sense of profound alarm within you, then you are in company with senators who voted in favor of the bill, a bill so astonishing that a few short years ago it would have seemed like madness to even suggest it. It is not the business of Congress to set up a military prison system. If you want to send an American citizen to prison, you have to convict him of a crime in a federal court, give him a trial, and put  him  in  a  federal  prison,  nota military-run, separate, domestic Gulag Archipelago.

To move from non-plussed to appalled and from appalled to disgusted and from disgusted to frightened; that seems the cycle of emotions for anyone who follows the progress of America’s re-definition of itself today. That is if you care at all. Do you care? Be careful, because once you abstract from the rule of law and make power alone the standard of justice and of rights, a nation is back to the days of the Lettre d’ Cachet in pre-revolution France.

Read the provisions of Senate Bill 1867 (www.thomas.gov) and ask yourself if the days of absolutism in government have returned.

Sheila Mengert


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