Sunday, May 24, 2009

While SteveM is away:

Kos draws our attention to the last part of Chris Caldwell's Financial Times article:

That is why Mr Cheney’s big push has been successful. It confronts Mr Obama with a Gordian knot that he dare not cut. A constitution that enshrines rights is an asset, but it does not come free. If it did, every country would have one. Eight years ago, Americans reckoned that some rights were worth trading for security. If they want those rights back, they will probably have to trade some security. That is the bargain. Until Mr Obama admits it he will be tangled up in an illogic from which no oratory can extract him.

That's really not the way I remember the last eight years. I certainly wasn't offered any choice between safety and law. Everything was done under a cloak of secrecy and no public attempt was made to rewrite or reinterpret the Constitution at all. We were constantly assured that everything was being done in accordance with that ineffable quality "Americanness" enshrined in the Constitution.

But more to the point is the right wing really insisting that other countries without Constitutions chose to avoid them for fear that Constitutions might lead to frightening restraints on the power of the state to secretly detain, torture, and kill citizens and non citizens? without trial?

Hm, what are those countries without Constitutions? How about Saudi Arabia? Oh wait, they *have* a Constitution. Iran? Nope. Got one. Zimbabwe? Nope, got one too--even if its "only a piece of paper." (Warning, PDF).

So, wait, who among the world's countries "choose" not to have a "Constitution" for fear of the scary choice between rights and safety? Why, that would be Great Britain, New Zealand, and Israel.

I've got my own quarrels with the way the UK and Israel, certainly, are handling issues of law and security but can anyone explain to me in what way their lack of a written Constitution was a conscious choice made with regard to the limited issue of safety from pants pissing fear? Because I'm not seeing it.


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