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George Will, breaking from those on the right clamoring to categorize Dzhokhar Tsarneav, an American citizen, as an "enemy combatant" whose constitutional rights should be suspended, has written a scathing piece in The Washington Post.

The occasion for his piece is a current effort underway to have one of our nation's most infamous and shameful Supreme Court decisions officially repudiated:

Korematsu v. United States (1944), which affirmed the president’s wartime power to sweep Americans of disfavored racial groups into concentration camps, elicited a 1988 congressional apology. Now Peter Irons, founder of the Earl Warren Bill of Rights Project at the University of California at San Diego, is campaigning for a Supreme Court “repudiation” of the Korematsu decision and other Japanese internment rulings. Such repudiation, if it occurred, would be unprecedented.
Will's piece is largely an informative and illuminating look at the history behind this decision and Irons' efforts to have it officially repudiated.

However, the larger purpose of Will's essay, which becomes clear at the end, is to warn against allowing difficult circumstances, such as terrorism, to prompt the erosion of those constitutional protections upon which our country is founded:  

The Korematsu decision reflected perennial dangers: panic and excessive deference, judicial and other, to presidents or others who would suspend constitutional protections in the name of wartime exigencies.

It is less important that the decision be repudiated than that it be remembered. Especially by those currently clamoring, since Boston, for a U.S. citizen — arrested in America and concerning whom there is no evidence of a connection with al-Qaeda, the Taliban or other terror network — to be detained by the military as an “enemy combatant.” The Korematsu case is a reminder that waiving constitutional rights is rarely necessary and rarely ends well.

Read narrowly, Will's essay is an argument against treating terrorism as war, and instead as a law-enforcement problem, as he did in 2006.

Read more broadly, it's an oppositional move against Islamophobic streams in our country moving to curb constitutional protections because of a fear of a group. Last time: Japanese. This time: Muslims.

Now, Will is a figure with whom I regularly disagree, as any card-carrying progressive should. However, here, he is spot on, in my view.

The "war on terror" – if it erodes those freedoms we hold dear – will have no chance of ending well. For anyone involved.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (29+ / 0-)

    "If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered anti-Semitic, & if Palestinians seeking self-determination are so accused...then no oppositional move can take place w/o risking the accusation." - Judith Butler

    by David Harris Gershon on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:41:36 AM PDT

  •  I've got news for you. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, hnichols, JBL55, sfbob, a2nite

    It's not just those on the right who are clamoring. Sadly, a lot of people from what passes for "the left " in this country are doing it too.

    (Personally, I don't consider the majority of the American left to be anything close to being leftist.)

    “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” – Abraham Lincoln

    by Sagebrush Bob on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:49:32 AM PDT

  •  Even a broken clock is right twice a day (5+ / 0-)

    This makes twice a decade for George Will.

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:53:58 AM PDT

    •  Sounds like the answer to the question: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      What do Pat Buchanan and George Will have in common?

      Not about this issue, mind you -- just their resemblance to broken clocks.

      "War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate." ~ Al Cleveland & Marvin Gaye (1970)

      by JBL55 on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 09:08:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It never ceases to amaze me how many Americans... (11+ / 0-)

    seem willing to abandon their Constitutional protections and freedoms just to exact a little revenge against a group or individual who they - for the moment - hate.

    I didn't think it possible that the Japanese interment would be surpassed but then came 9/11 and active support for torture, wiretapping, domestic spying and suspension of civil liberties.  Now, a couple of lunatic brothers build a crude bomb and the same people are ready to run the Constitution through a paper shredder.


    Tax and Spend I can understand. I can even understand Borrow and Spend. But Borrow and give Billionaires tax cuts? That I have a problem with.

    by LiberalCanuck on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:58:46 AM PDT

    •  Because those Amendments don't have their own NRA. (7+ / 0-)

      For months, we've been hearing from the right that they're the only ones who love the Constitution, the only ones who support it, while those evil, gun-grabbing leftists want to destroy the sacred Second Amendment.

      One crime spree from two brothers later, and they're suddenly eager to toss half the Bill of Rights out the window.

      I know this isn't limited to the right, but considering recent history, it's painfully hypocritical for them to be so quick to forget the protections of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Amendments - collectively, the end result of the founding fathers having to fight their way out of a legal system lined with Star Chambers and trumped-up charges and crooked justice and all the rest of the unethical ooze of abusive government that these people would gladly revisit upon us.  The same people who insisted that constitutional protections are sacrosanct and untouchable really just meant the last half of the Second Amendment, not the rest of it.

      They said they needed their guns to protect us from tyranny.  Days later, they're feverishly advocating exactly the kind of tyrannical government we fought a Revolution to leave.

      Meanwhile, back in reality, people who want to protect the liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights can always donate to the ACLU.

  •  This is not an original thought (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Darque, viral, SilentBrook, sfbob

    but someone sarcastically referred to the constitution as being more like constitutional suggestions.

    It drives me crazy that the gun lovers cling unwaveringly to the second amendment. It is sacrosanct and cannot be limited in any way whatsoever. Dead babies and piles of suicides and dead bodies and everyday slaughter are no reason to touch this amendment. But someone sets off a bomb or commits any outrageous crime and we can flush the Constitution right down the toilet without a second thought. Don't even need any legislation. Just make up $hit as you go along and pretend the Constitution does not exist or if it does exist it says nothing about civil rights.

  •  George Will is the closet thing the current GOP... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SilentBrook, sfbob, Gary Norton

    has to William F. Buckley Jr.  

    I didn't agree with Buckley, but I always respected his thoughtful and intelligently based arguments.

    However, Will, as a relic of the old 'conservative' GOP, is far outnumbered by what Bobby Jindal described as "the Party of Stupid."

    *Austerity is the opposite of Prosperity*

    by josmndsn on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 09:12:37 AM PDT

  •  George Will doesn't ALWAYS stick to principles (5+ / 0-)

    but at least he HAS some from which to stray, unlike the proud irrationality of most current fellow-Republicans.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 09:20:28 AM PDT

  •  Korematsu also based on lies (7+ / 0-)

    From what I've read of Peter Irons' campaign, part of it is that he managed to extract the Justice Dept. files in the case (through persistent use of the Freedom of Information Act) and discovered that the Justice Dept. had flat-out lied in its SCOTUS brief -- the brief said the government had copious (but classified) evidence of a plot among Japanese-Americans in the western US to act as 5th columnists for Japan, and that's why they had to round them up. Peter discovered that there was no such evidence, and the Justice Dept. lawyers knew the statement was false when they based their brief on it.

    So it has more similarity to the post-9/11 rage against Iraq than just a generalized risk of overreaction.

  •  Tipped and rec'ed nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

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