Alberto Gonzales has recently questioned the right of Habeus Corpus in the Constitution, asserting that though its denial is only permissible in certain circumstances, it is never actually guaranteed. If we follow this reasoning, then really we have no Constitutional rights as only their removal is prohibited and their existence never affirmed.
This tells us two things:
- The Bush Administration has little to no respect for the Constitution, or at least no understanding of it(and thus no understanding of their sworn duty to serve it).
- That the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, though designed with good intentions, were not worded and designed properly in a way that asserts these basic and fundamental human rights.
To go into more detail on point number one, the entire concept of the removal of a right being prohibited means that the right itself exists by the assertion that it cannot be removed. It would be absurd to suggest, for example, that it could be illegal to walk on the grass if there is no grass to walk on; in the same way, it’s absurd to suggest that the prohibition against removing a right does not expressly mean that the right itself exists.
To go into more detail on the more important point, point number two, we have to appeal to a concept of universal human rights and Kant’s Categorical Imperative. Any republic that is intended to protect and guarantee rights should have that concept expressly inherent in its founding. Instead, the founders of the United States made a mistake in giving out a thin laundry list of specific rights, and so open the door for any other inherent human right to be tread upon. Now, we’ve traditionally been able to understand that these rights fundamentally exist without them necessarily needing to be spelled out in our Constitution, but under current circumstances the government-of-the-day, with its specific motives, are taking advantage of these universal human rights not being explicitly spelled out and using that to mean that they aren’t conceptually understood to exist. In the case of Habeus Corpus, though, and other Constitutionally spelled out rights, they are treading too far as the rights are inferred through their denial behind prohibited.
People extremely critical of the institution of the United Nations do not understand its conceptual necessity. Usually concerns regarding the United Nations are about sovereignty/autonomy of their independent nation. This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the institution, as it is not a governing power, or “super nation”, but rather an intermediary for autonomous and sovereign nations.
The rationale, at least as presented by prominent Western political philosophers, and completed by Immanuel Kant in his work Perpetual Peace, is that a there is a universal moral law, that all persons have certain rights. To ensure these rights we implement constitutions, implementing means to operate societies, and have representatives to enact government to ensure these rights. We require representatives, and thus a republican government, for this reason: nowhere in democracy is a principled moral basis, and rather just the arbitrary will of the majority; this gives us the common political and legal saying, that we have a government of “majority rule with minority rights”. We follow a government because of a social contract, an agreement to allow the rights of all to be protected by allowing ourselves to be subjected to a government to implement these protections. Contracts function as an agreement that respects the rights of all participants. Contracts, or treaties, between governments then are agreements to mutually respect the rights of the participants, often as the individual governments are operating to serve the rights of its constituents. Governments, laws, and thus courts function to mitigate any failures of respecting the mutual rights agreement established in the contract. The question then becomes: who, or what, is to mitigate any possible failures in international agreements? This gives us the need to have the United Nations as the international mitigation of any treaties, or contracts; also, as an institution of rights, its goal is to work to guarantee the rights of all; most important its member nations, in the form of their being protected in treaties as well their autonomy. So national sovereignty, or autonomy, is maintained, while at the same time rights are protected.
What people are doing, then, when wanting to act without the United Nations, is to undermine the principles of their government and their own human rights. It’s not that we shouldn’t be concerned about our nation’s sovereignty, but instead that we should not confuse an institution ensuring mutual respect to an institution taking away national autonomy and freedom.