Friday, June 30, 2006

President's Precedents

Now that the Supreme Court has interfered in military matters (big time) with its decision yesterday on a certain prisoner held at Guantanamo, it may be worthwhile to look at what has happened in the past as presidents have directed their militaries.

President Abraham Lincoln is a case in point. During his war against the South, he organized military tribunals to handle trials of civilians in the North who disagreed with him. Not only did he take away their weapons, but he also suspended American citizen’s right of habeas corpus.

Some 13,000 northern or neutral state males were tried by military courts and tossed into prison for the flimsiest of reasons. In addition, the President destroyed about 200 printing presses. Yes, if he disagreed with a Northern newspaper, he sent General Burnside in with troops to physically mutilate that paper’s printing press.

The only reason the President did not destroy a large Chicago newspaper printing press was that the troops were met by a large mob milling around outside the newspaper’s building. Rather than shoot the citizens who were in the way, the troops withdrew and the paper continued to publish. It was the last such attack.

One should bear in mind that Congress can suspend habeas corpus, but not a President. Yet the Supreme court was remarkably quiet as all this went on.

Am I making this up? No, it is information found in most history books that were written by diligent researchers. But not much was made of these Presidential acts. Writers seemed to think the ends justified the means.

So what if a few dainty Americans get worked up because terrorists are not treated well enough? Can you imagine what would have happened to them in 1864? President Bush seems quite mellow compared to his predecessor.

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