Last month, it was Paul Krugman playing fast and loose with facts on the New York Times op-ed page. This month it is Barbara Ehrenreich, the far-left author who is subbing for Thomas Freidman while he writes his next book.
Ehrenreich’s thesis in today’s column is that George W. Bush is similar to King George III. She writes:
George III is accused, for example, of “depriving us in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury.” Our own George II has imprisoned two U.S. citizens Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi since 2002, without benefit of trials, legal counsel or any opportunity to challenge the evidence against them. Even die-hard Tories Scalia and Rehnquist recently judged such executive hauteur intolerable.
In fact: (1) both Padilla and Hamdi have been given access to legal counsel; and (2) Rehnquist and Scalia were on opposite sides in the Hamdi case. That is, “die-hard Torie” Rehnquist (along with a majority of the Court) largely sided with the Bush Administration in the Hamdi case. Rehnquist was part of a bloc of Justices who ruled that the military detention of Hamdi is legal, albeit subject to overview by civilian courts.
Aside from the factual errors, Ehrenreich’s column lacks historical context. Reading Ehrenreich, one gets the impression that Hamdi and Padilla are the first Americans since King George III’s time to be detained “without benefit of trials, legal counsel or any opportunity to challenge the evidence against them.” In fact, such detentions have occurred at least twice in our history: (1) During the Civil War, President Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, then detained at least 13,000 suspected rebels and subversives. Those detained were not charged with crimes, were not allowed legal counsel, and were not given a hearing before a judge. (2) Within days of the Pearl Harbor attack, President Roosevelt approved the imposition of martial law in Hawaii, allowing military authorities there to detain hundreds of suspected subversives, mostly (but not exclusively) Japanese Americans. Again, those detained were not charged with a crime and were not given access to legal counsel.
If the military detention of two American citiziens suspected of aiding the enemy during wartime is unspeakably wrong, then Ehrenreich must believe that Lincoln and Roosevelt, who relied on military detentions to a far greater extent than Bush has, were the worst presidents in U.S. history.blog comments powered by Disqus
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