America is a nation steeped in the rule of law that generally refers to the “authority and influence of law in society;” especially as a constraint on bad behavior, including behavior of government officials. Americans would expect that elected representatives responsible for creating laws would be well-versed in the ultimate law of the land, the United States Constitution, but as the past four years have revealed, Republicans are not only unaware of the Constitution’s provisions for law, they are likely to distort and ignore them when it suits their purpose. Advocates for the law and law enforcement officials however, are well-aware of the law as part of their professional standards, and they consistently adhere to legal statutes to ensure justice protects the people according to the Constitution.
On Friday, amidst the manhunt for one of the suspected Boston marathon bombers, Senator Lindsey Graham displayed total disregard for the Constitution and suggested the Obama Administration hold the alleged bomber as an “enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes” and implied that law enforcement should avoid reading the “Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to remain silent.” One expected, and witnessed, that type of comment from ignorant conservatives who immediately decided the suspect was an Middle Eastern radical fresh off the boat from Afghanistan, but Graham is a United States Senator, a trained lawyer, a colonel in the Air Force reserve, and a member of the legal arm of the U.S. Air Force’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps; Graham also swore to support and uphold the U.S. Constitution.
Although the Constitution does not cite it explicitly, presumption of innocence is widely held to follow from the 5th, 6th, and 14th amendments, and the Miranda warning requirement is an established Constitutional precedent. What Graham suggested before knowing any facts ignored that the alleged bomber is a United States citizen and was apprehended on United States soil, but Graham proffered the same advice in 2011 when he said, “an American citizen on our soil who collaborates with the enemy has committed an act of war and will be held under the law of war, not domestic criminal law.” At the time Graham suggested ignoring the Constitution, there was no proof the suspect collaborated with “the enemy” to support depriving him of his basic Constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen. However, there were intimations that the young suspect was a Muslim and for Republicans, that was enough to deprive him of his constitutional rights, and suggest scuttling debate on comprehensive immigration reform. It was more bad news from Republicans who blocked a gun safety measure that may prevent a repeat of the events in Boston this week.
On Wednesday, Senate Republicans and four Democrats shot down a bill to expand background checks for prospective firearm purchases on orders from National Rifle Association leader Wayne La Pierre. Republicans served the NRA dutifully for decades, and their unwillingness to protect Americans now, and in the past, certainly made it easier for the alleged bombers to engage in gunfights with law enforcement and detonate improvised explosive devices at the Boston marathon. With Republican support, the NRA successfully created an environment that made access to firearms easier for the alleged bombers, and tracing the gunpowder used in “pressure cooker” bombs and homemade hand grenades impossible.
With Republican assistance, the NRA lobbied, and defeated inclusion of a substance called a taggant in black and smokeless gunpowder used to identify the manufacturer and chain of custody that was not available to law enforcement after 3 people were killed and more than 170 were wounded. Identification taggants are microscopically color-coded particles that, if added to gun powders during their manufacture, would facilitate tracing those products after a bombing back to the manufacturer and through mandatory (but non-existent) distribution records through wholesaler and dealer to the original purchaser according to a 1999 NRA report. Not only did the NRA block inclusion of taggants, but recently they opposed a proposal of Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg requiring “sales of explosive powder be subject to a background check,” especially large amounts necessary to create pressure cooker bombs. The suspects used gunpowder in homemade grenades against law enforcement officers during the gun battle that took the life of one suspect and wounded a police officer that Republicans have assailed for the past two years with their persistent public sector cutbacks and assault on union labor.
If Republicans had their way, the government-funded and unionized law enforcement professionals, FBI, and ATF officers would have been shorthanded due to the GOP’s two year anti-government budget cuts. The alleged bombing suspects were identified, tracked down, and eventually stopped because of the professionalism and dedication of government-funded police officers, FBI, and ATF agents and not because armed civilians stood their ground according to ALEC and NRA wisdom. In fact, if nothing else, the events of the past week demonstrated how dangerous Republicans are to the nation, and how desperately needed more government funding is to maintain the safety and well-being of the people. For example, the Republican assault on the U.S. Postal Service and unionized workforce, if successful, would prevent the careful screening that caught ricin-laced letters to President Obama, Republican Senator Roger Wicker, and another government official.
This has been a horrible week for America on several counts, but maybe it exposed the danger inherent in allowing Republicans to run the government. Their vote to kill background checks assures the next disturbed American citizen who wants to bomb citizens and engage in running gun battles with law enforcement officers will have little problem securing firearms and untraceable gunpowder for improvised explosive devices, and their assumption that Muslims orchestrated the marathon bombing all but assures immigration reform is finished before it started. But what is most troubling is Graham’s willingness to abandon the Constitution’s legal protections within days of defending gun-zealots Constitutional rights that informs the Constitution is a document of convenience for Republicans who are the real existential threat to America, and with dangerous budget cuts thinning law enforcement and Justice department ranks, there is nothing to protect innocent Americans from the nation’s real enemies; the Republican Party.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.