Richard Ackland

The Sydney Morning Herald



If the law doesn’t suit, then ignore it

Bad luck David Hicks, and anyone else unlucky enough to be stuck in
Guantanamo Bay, because the way US President George Bush runs his
regime enjoys “unexpected synchronicity” with Saddam Hussein’s old
rule. In the Bush administration, “whatever the President declares to
be law, is the law,” says Richard Ackland. And the latest example is
the presidential signing statement – an executive interpretation of the
rule of law which has no legal authority, but can influence the courts
in their decision making – that Bush signed over the Christmas break,
which holds that foreigners held in Guantanamo Bay have no right to access the
US Civil Court system. The US courts are currently full of Guantanamo
Bay detainees challenging the US’s right to try them by military
commission. Bush’s response to the legislative amendment that was
forced by rogue Republican Senator John McCain, essentially banning the
torture of detainees, highlights the President’s “right to ignore the
law under his powers as commander-in-chief.” Add to this the fact Bush
ignored the need for the National Security Agency to get judicial
warrants before tapping anyone’s phone line and the Bush quote –
reported by some US media – at a heated White House meeting that the
constitution was just a “Goddamned piece of paper” makes even more
sense. If Bush wants his way, he’s going to get it. Because the “view
from Washington is that checks and balances are for girly-boys,” says
Ackland.
Crikey Says: George Bush’s almighty presidential authority
is as strong as ever, and Ackland gives us a patchy, but interesting
look at how the president has jumped over courts and ignored checks and
balances to get his way during wartime.

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