And behold, Pachus was slain and his men were taken prisoners…
And the men of Pachus received their trial, according to the law, and also those king-men who had been taken and cast into prison; (Alma 62: 8-9; Book of Mormon)
This past week marked a new turn in the US’s “War on Terror”. This past week, the US Senate passed their version of the National Defense Authorization Act. The US House passed theirs earlier in the year. The most contentious point of this bill is the new ability given to the military. The ability to indefinitely detain US citizens during time of war.
Prior to this, the US military has had the ability to capture and detain enemy combatants that are suspected of terrorism. Most of these detainees have been kept in Guantanamo Bay. Very few of them have seen a trial of any sort. This ability is somewhat justified as those captured were taken during a time of war and there is a reduced ability to give them a speedy trial. As we read in the book of alma:
And those of their leaders who were not slain in battle were taken and cast into prison, for there was no time for their trials at this period. (Alma 51: 19; Book of Mormon)
However, there is no real justification for taking 8 or more years to give these prisoners a trial. We have the resources to do so. So while the military takes its sweet time to bring trials to these prisoners, they are asking for the ability to do the same to US Citizens captured on US soil. This is too much.
Is it justifiable to ask for this ability? Well, if you look at the example of Alma, the answer is yes, as long as the US is a battle ground. However, the US is not currently part of the battle ground. There is no fighting here in the US that would require this ability. Those that are captured in the US as parts of terrorism plots have the benefit of receiving a fair and speedy trial. Those captured in battle do not. If we were to give the military that ability, it would be a slap in the face of the US Constitution and the rights protected by it.
So why would Congress want to grant power to the military for this purpose? For me the answer is simple. They want to ability to continue the fear within the US over terrorism. The US isn’t a hotbed of terror plots and that is frustrating those in power who want to keep the wars raging on. The citizens in the US are becoming increasingly tired of war and Congress is looking to continue to remind them about these “threats” to our “freedoms”.
Just look at the recent DHS push for a program they call “If You See Something, Say Something.” They want people to be suspicious of one another. They want people to be afraid of every little thing that bumps in the night. With these PSA’s and this new ability to indefinitely detain US citizens without trial or charge, they can keep up the facade of terror.
This is not how we should be ruled. A people ruled by fear are not a free people. We must demand that our government not take away our rights. As the Libertarian Party Platform states:
The defense of the country requires that we have adequate intelligence to detect and to counter threats to domestic security. This requirement must not take priority over maintaining the civil liberties of our citizens. The Constitution and Bill of Rights shall not be suspended even during time of war.
War is not a reason to take away our rights. It never has and it never will be. There is no credible threat to our nation at this time. The battle ground is not within our borders. Attempts to bring the battle to our shores should not be made by those who promise to uphold the Constitution and defend our liberties. Our government has lost sight of its promise. They have effectively declared war on US citizens. It is now time to defend ourselves by voting out those who seek to limit our freedoms. Very few people in the House and Senate are living up to this promise. It is time to stop voting for more of the same “lesser evil” and vote for those who truly want to defend our liberties.
This coming year is a new election. We should be working hard to replace those in power with people of integrity and who love the Constitution and will truly hold to its limits. I have already promised both my Senators and my Congressman that they will not be getting my vote and I will be actively working to replace them with someone who lives and loves the Constitution. I recommend that you do as well.
UPDATE: In what can’t be seen as a surprising update, Obama has backed down from his threat to veto the bill and will now sign it into law by the end of the week. I really miss our Constitution and long for the return of its values and limitations to Washington.