Let’s Stand Up for the Constitution

Dennis Kucinich speaking from the Floor of the House

Link to this entry in the Congressional Record
Sep 29, 2006

Speaking during debate on S. 3930, Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congressman Kucinich said:

“Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Missouri [Mr. SKELTON] for his defense of basic constitutional principles. I would say that the basic premise of military commissions, that the US military should try unlawful enemy combatants using draconian rules, that basic premise is false.

“The jury of commissioned military officers are not peers of these detainees. The detainees are accused of crimes against humanity and should be tried like all other such persons. The US should hand over these detainees to the International Criminal Court. The US should offer evidence that would be legal under our Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. This model of justice would set a precedent for other nations where the rule of law remains unfair, unjust, and inhumane.

“The wrong approach is to create a court system that has more in common with the nations that torture, jail, and hold indefinitely anyone without legitimate evidence.

“The second point: H.R. 6166 and S. 3930 cast a wide net, in defining unlawful enemy combatants, that would include any American supporter of a national liberation movement which is seeking to overthrow a US Government-supported despot.

“For instance, with such a loose definition, the thousands of Americans, many of whom are church clergy, who provided support to the armed and unarmed opposition to the deposed dictatorships of El Salvador and Nicaragua, could have been designated as unlawful enemy combatants.

“This hypothetical could occur, since 1) it would only take a determination by the President or Secretary of Defense that the opposition to a US-favored dictator was engaged in hostilities against the US, and 2) the act of solidarity by the American clergymen supported the opposition group.

“This is very dangerous. It is widely known that the US conducted a dirty war throughout Central and South America to uphold repressive regimes there.

“The third point I would like to make is that H.R. 6166 and S. 3930 could make similar solidarity actions in the future a crime. Those crimes should not be triable by military commissions. They would be new crimes and expose Americans to prosecution simply for supporting unfortunate people in other countries who are struggling for their freedom.

“The other point is that H.R. 6166 and S. 3930 create a large loophole to keep Administration officials out of jail for violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. Section 4 amends the War Crimes Act to immunize from prosecution civilians who subject people to horrific abuse that may fall short of the definition of torture.

“It is clear that senior administrative officials signed off on aggressive and illegal techniques and are potentially liable under the War Crimes Act of 1996. Instead, Congress is going to gut the War Crimes Act to protect those who permitted torture of detainees.

“If those who think the so-called war on terror is about ideas such as good versus evil and democracy versus thuggery, then H.R. 6166 sends the wrong message about the true values of Americans. Let’s stand up for the principles that this country was founded upon. Let’s stand up for the Constitution, for the land of the free, for the home of the brave.”

[Ed. note: S.3930 was agreed to by recorded vote: 250 ‑ 170 in Roll No. 508.]

Legislation:

  • S. 3930, Military Commissions Act of 2006, to authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war

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