“The United States Constitution is terse and old, and it guarantees relatively few rights”

So writes Adam Liptak of The New York Times, in an article entitled “‘We The People’ Loses Its Appeal With People Around The World.”

In 1987, on the Constitution’s bicentennial, Time magazine calculated that “of the 170 countries that exist today, more than 160 have written charters modeled directly or indirectly on the U.S. version.”

A quarter-century later, the picture looks very different. “The U.S. Constitution appears to be losing its appeal as a model for constitutional drafters elsewhere,” according to a new study by David S. Law of Washington University in St. Louis and Mila Versteeg of the University of Virginia.

… “Among the world’s democracies,” Professors Law and Versteeg concluded, “constitutional similarity to the United States has clearly gone into free fall. Over the 1960s and 1970s, democratic constitutions as a whole became more similar to the U.S. Constitution, only to reverse course in the 1980s and 1990s.”

… There are lots of possible reasons. The United States Constitution is terse and old, and it guarantees relatively few rights. The commitment of some members of the Supreme Court to interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning in the 18th century may send the signal that it is of little current use to, say, a new African nation. And the Constitution’s waning influence may be part of a general decline in American power and prestige.

In an interview, Professor Law identified a central reason for the trend: the availability of newer, sexier and more powerful operating systems in the constitutional marketplace. “Nobody wants to copy Windows 3.1,” he said.

… These days, the overlap between the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and those most popular around the world is spotty.

Americans recognize rights not widely protected, including ones to a speedy and public trial, and are outliers in prohibiting government establishment of religion. But the Constitution is out of step with the rest of the world in failing to protect, at least in so many words, a right to travel, the presumption of innocence and entitlement to food, education and health care.

… The new study also suggests that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adopted in 1982, may now be more influential than its American counterpart.

The Canadian Charter is both more expansive and less absolute. It guarantees equal rights for women and disabled people, allows affirmative action and requires that those arrested be informed of their rights. On the other hand, it balances those rights against “such reasonable limits” as “can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Ah, Canadian law … the same law that has been so easily twisted by discontented Islamists and gay rights activists into a tool of persecution and censorship.  Maybe not the best example.  Let’s try again.

What about the European Convention on Human Rights?  Sure, it “guarantees” a much broader array of rights than the US Constitution but each of those enumerated rights also contains a conditional clause similar to this: “… subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Given the current battle between the Roman Catholic church and the Obama Administration over HHS’s contraception/abortifactant mandate, is it really a good idea to explicitly give government the power to rescind either the right to privacy or religious freedom in the interest of “public health”?

Still, I suppose it’s nice to see liberals occasionally admit in public just how inadequate they believe our Constitution is.  Consider Barack Obama’s infamous  2001 radio interview:

[During the Civil Rights era] the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the states can’t do to you. It says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf … the civil rights movement became so court-focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change.

On the other hand I (and most other conservatives) have a different view.  The primary objective of our Constitution’s authors was to protect the citizens of the United States from tyranny, oppression, and manipulation at the hands of the Federal Government; or more specifically, to prevent political factions (socioeconomic classes, religious groups, etc.) from using the Federal Government as a tool to terrorize, oppress, or manipulate their enemies.  They had no interest in central economic planning or organizing the confiscation and redistribution of wealth.  Perhaps they were smart enough to realize that a government cannot accomplish either of these things without threatening or manipulating its citizens.

The simplicity and straightforwardness of our Constitution is its greatest strength.  It doesn’t need to be endlessly amended because our courts have established legal precedent for virtually every right that is considered “essential” by contemporary standards yet is not explicitly included in the Constitution.  And whatever the courts haven’t covered via judicial rulings, the Legislative branch has enshrined into law through its various Federal discrimination laws and entitlement programs.

I’ll leave you with this exit question:  How can anyone argue that a new “progressive” US Constitution consisting largely of post-modern/utopian “fairness” and “equality” gobbledygook will create anything other than the most expensive, extensive, and intrusive government bureaucracy ever seen by man?  I ask this considering the dedication with which modern-day liberals and progressives have searched our existing Constitution in order to uncover “emanations” and “penumbras” that always seem to serve their own political interests.  How much more fodder will they find in a Constitution that they themselves will have largely crafted?

Maybe Bill Whittle can explain this better than I can:

Chris Matthews: Obama's Smile Is Worth Five Or Ten Points In The General Election
"She's never seen a Republican before!"
  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_G7YIUZMXOD5JGZZTCYMVA75KFU Shadow

    This is The United States of America, founded on the principles outlined in The Bill of Rights and the laws of The Constitution.  If you do not want to follow those leave.  Go to a country that conforms to the way of life you want. Be happy, we wish the best for you but stop ruining the country we love.

  • herddog505

    Of COURSE a lot of people (especially lefties) don’t like the US Constitution: its whole focus is limiting the power of government.

    That’s like a holy book that limits the power of one’s god(s).  “Whaddya mean, ‘I’m not ALLOWED to perform a miracle like that’???”

    But it strikes me that we’ve been through this sort of thing before.  IIRC, back in the ’30s, the idea of democracy itself was considered passe among the elites: how can a country governed by a messy, unfocused, changeable, erratic system handle the stresses of “modern” life, much less compete with efficient, focused, rational, potent dictatorships?  Indeed, this is the principle idea behind much of Tom Friedman’s drivel: “Gosh, it’s too bad that we have this stupid constitution and separation of powers instead of a nifty oligarchy like the Red Chinese have got!”*

    Ain’t it funny how the left will profess disdain and frustration for the Constitution one moment, and the next squeal indiginantly about how it protects this or that right?  Or how they’ll lecture us on how “it’s a living document”, then turn right ’round and lament how old and ossified it is?
     
    It’s almost like… like… they want to get rid of it in order to make a new system of government where THEY automatically and for perpetuity have all the power.

    Bah.

    As for the Constitution not protecting that many “rights”, I suggest that libs don’t understand the meaning of the word.  Now, if they want to assert that the Constitution doesn’t guarantee the laundry list of GOODIES that’s near and dear to their hearts, I completely agree.  Sorry, lefties: the people who wrote the Constitution and most of the Americans who have lived happily under it for these past two centuries weren’t a pack of feckless, helpless, shiftless, greedy loafers who expected the government to hand them everything they thought they had a “right” to have.  Rather, their attitude was to get government the hell out of the way so they could get what they wanted for themselves, BY themselves.

    The funny thing is, humanity has experience with constitutions that “guarantee” all the sorts of rights that the left professes to hold dear.  Communist nations around the world had them.  We know how well that worked out.

    ===

    (*) I have to wonder where people like Friedman think they would fit into the sort of dictatorship that they pine for.  Does he see himself as a Goebbels?  The man behind the throne?  Chief advisor to the Supreme Leader?  And what the hell kind of trash WANTS a dictatorship???

    O’ course, the likely outcome for people like Friedman is either to be worked to death in a gulag or else in the bottom of a muddy ditch with a bullet in the back of the neck.  Gosh!  The Constitution forbids that kind of thing, doesn’t it?

    • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

      Wasn’t the technique to use the useful idiots to help take over a country, then kill them quickly before they realized just how they’d been duped?

      I think a lot of the folks pushing that sort of ideology see themselves as being pretty high up in the food chain once the revolution comes.   But having outlived their usefulness, they’re disposable as a used Kleenex.

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

         I think Thomas Friedman would resent that, if he were perceptive enough.

    • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

      Well Said, @herddog505:disqus

      Please allow me to expand in a few areas.

      Of COURSE a lot of people (especially lefties) don’t like the US Constitution: its whole focus is limiting the power of government.
      That’s like a holy book that limits the power of one’s god(s).  “Whaddya mean, ‘I’m not ALLOWED to perform a miracle like that’???”

      Precisely.  The framer’s of our Constitution viewed government itself as the greatest danger to the life, liberty, and property of the individual.  I’d say the blood soaked history of the 20th century has validated that stance many times over.

      Speaking of which, you wrote:

      But it strikes me that we’ve been through this sort of thing before.  IIRC, back in the ’30s, the idea of democracy itself was considered passe among the elites: how can a country governed by a messy, unfocused, changeable, erratic system handle the stresses of “modern” life, much less compete with efficient, focused, rational, potent dictatorships?

      Actually, that was essentially the position of the progressives from shortly before the turn of the 20th Century.  Those same progressives helped found a series of political philosophies, movements, and parties to update the hopelessly outmoded Constitutional Representative Republic entrenched in the United States.

      First, the progressives embraced and fleshed out socialism. 

      Socialism subsequently gave birth to communism and fascism.  Fascism and it’s mother socialism got together to produce Nazism (and boy did that adventure in inbreeding pan out poorly for all), while communism gave birth to the fatherless Stalinism. 

      All were new and improved systems either invented by, or championed in their formative (and even in their decripitude in the cases of socialism and communism) years by, the progressives.

      Hopefully we all know how well that worked out.

      We should thus take the Liptak’s piece in the tired gray crone of gotham (herself a part of the progressive cheering section that at various times embraced all of the ill gotten children of socialism listed above) as an argument to try those progressive replacements for our Constitution one more time.

      Despite knowing how it worked out last time.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay


      I ask this considering the dedication with which modern-day liberals and progressives have searched our existing Constitution in order to uncover “emanations” and “penumbras” that always seem to serve their own political interests.  How much more fodder will they have in a Constitution that they will have largely crafted?

    I would study the Constitution very carefully.  There’s more evidence that currently we’re not following the Constitutional rights that are given in the document that details what the governement is not supposed to do.  We have the NDAA and Patriot Act as shining examples of the encroachment on civil liberties because 538 people very closely agree that these are needed.  The one problem with the Constitution is it never had political parties in mind.  Let’s take away the political party agenda for one second and stop blaming conservatives, liberals, progressives, radicals, or anyone else.  What is it about the Constitution that we should have, which everyone is currently fighting for?  As far as I see it, the Constitution is being attacked on a number of fronts.   Even now, can we say that this bill has weathered the storm when special interests have chipped away at consumer rights for the last 30 years?  I would think not.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

       “Even now, can we say that this bill has weathered the storm when special
      interests have chipped away at consumer rights for the last 30 years?”

      Yeah, they’ve run right over all the consumer rights in the Bill of Rights, all right . . .

    • herddog505

      Jay[T]he Constitution is being attacked on a number of fronts.   Even now, can we say that this bill has weathered the storm when special interests have chipped away at consumer rights for the last 30 years?

      The Constitution does not and never has had a thing to say about “consumer rights”; the closest one can get is the commerce clause, which was intended to stop the states slapping tariffs and other onerous trade barriers on each other and not grant Uncle Sugar the power to tell us what light bulbs we can use.  Until the Progressive Era, “consumer rights” had been – as they should be - left to the states and to the people.

      JayThe one problem with the Constitution is it never had political parties in mind.

      That’s the beauty of it: it DOESN’T HAVE TO.  The entire point of checks and balances, enumerated powers, and the Bill of Rights was to STOP the tyranny of the majority, whether it was a transient majority or one formalized by political parties, or at the very least allow people to undo any evil that might be done (e.g. Prohibition)..

      I suggest that the flaw in the United States Constitution is the same that exists in ANY constitution and is unavoidable: the force of the law rests on the willingness of the majority of the people to adhere to it and demand that others, including their government, do the same.  No amount of articles, paragraphs, sections, penumbras, emanations, supreme courts, etc. will make a constitution work if the people do not jealously and vigilantly guard against usurpations of government power, no matter how benign or even beneficent the intent.

      • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

        “I suggest that the flaw in the United States Constitution is the same that exists in ANY constitution and is unavoidable: the force of the law rests on the willingness of the majority of the people to adhere to it and demand that others, including their government, do the same.”

        Once people decide the rules don’t apply – for whatever reason - trouble ensues. 

        • jim_m

          The dems long ago decided that the Constitution did not apply to themselves.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay

            It’s not a political party problem.  It’s the inherent problem of both parties in colluding against the public they’re supposed to serve for moneyed interests that profit more.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay


        The Constitution does not and never has had a thing to say about “consumer rights”; the closest one can get is the commerce clause, which was intended to stop the states slapping tariffs and other onerous trade barriers on each other and not grant Uncle Sugar the power to tell us what light bulbs we can use.  Until the Progressive Era, “consumer rights” had been – as they should be - left to the states and to the people.

        That’s a misdirection of what I meant.  The people don’t have a say on the federal level in a number of laws currently coming through the pipeline.  The public was intentionally left out of SOPA.  Further, they are now left out of the Secret surveillances currently occuring under the Obama administration, and the police state’s continued look into encroaching more and more into the 4th Amendment.  These aren’t left to individual states any longer.  There are a number of laws (Patriot Act, FISA, CFAA, NDAA) that take these powers from the individual states and turn the Constitution on its head.  The ones supporting these laws are not individuals, but corporations such as the private prison industry for trying to lock up even more people in the US, or keep marijuana illegal.

         The entire point of checks and balances, enumerated powers, and the Bill of Rights was to STOP the tyranny of the majority, whether it was a transient majority or one formalized by political parties, or at the very least allow people to undo any evil that might be done (e.g. Prohibition)..

        Look around for one second.  You have a very conservative influence in all three branches of government.  The Judicial Branch has made a ton of bad decisions based on an “Originalist” point of view that have left the 4th Amendment in tatters.  I’m still amazed that the Judges decided a police officer can enter your house without a warrant and arrest you.  And it’s been occurring in New York for quite some time.  Congress?  So long as you can get bipartisan support, you can shovel anything through despite public outcry.  And the Executive under Obama is so spineless simply because he always backs away from a fight to the conservative agenda.

        Tyranny isn’t defeated because of the Constitution…  The checks and balances are just gone.

         No amount of articles, paragraphs, sections, penumbras, emanations, supreme courts, etc. will make a constitution work if the people do not jealously and vigilantly guard against usurpations of government power, no matter how benign or even beneficent the intent.

        Very true, and I’m not stating otherwise.  I just wish we had more people that could take offices in government that weren’t corrupt.  But such is the problem when your voting system ensures the worst stay in their positions of power.  *sigh*

        • herddog505

          The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our Constitution, but in ourselves.

          Which is the original point: there’s nothing wrong with the US Constitution.  The only people who seem to disagree are lefties.  The reason: because, tattered and battered as it is, it still manages to put some brakes on what they want to do.

          This constantly astounds me about the left: they rant and rave about “corruption” and “the moneyed interests”, but turn right ’round and demand more of the very system that enables corruption.  As I’ve written before, it’s like complaining that a corrupt police force needs MORE arrest powers.

          And as for Barry being spineless… Jebus.  Are we talking about the same guy?  The guy who went to war in Libya without even mentioning it to the Congress?  The guy who has made recess appointments after deciding on his own “authority” that the Senate wasn’t in session?  Who rammed through ObamaCare and Porkulus?  Who’s spent trillions of borrowed dollars without bothering to sign a budget?  THAT Barry?

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay


            The only people who seem to disagree are lefties.

            That is the largest amount of bullshit I’ve seen and Jim made a whopper near the bottom of the thread.

            This constantly astounds me about the left: they rant and rave about “corruption” and “the moneyed interests”, but turn right ’round and demand more of the very system that enables corruption.  As I’ve written before, it’s like complaining that a corrupt police force needs MORE arrest powers.

            Did I say anything about making the government bigger?  Get that strawman out of this argument.

              Are we talking about the same guy?  The guy who went to war in Libya without even mentioning it to the Congress?  The guy who has made recess appointments after deciding on his own “authority” that the Senate wasn’t in session?  Who rammed through ObamaCare and Porkulus?  Who’s spent trillions of borrowed dollars without bothering to sign a budget?  THAT Barry?

            You’re damn right.  The guy has no spine.  The currently recent compromise on contraceptives along with all of his other gaffes such as working with the Heritage Foundation on Obamacare show that he bends over backwards for the Conservative agenda.  Then you look at all of the nominations that he has had that have a Conservative agenda. I could be listing people from his admin that had a GOP agenda but it’s ridiculous.  The ONLY time Obama has a gut is when no one is around to watch.  He’s a coward and he can’t even stand up to the GOP when they’re in session.  Four more years of this?  It’s friggin ridiculous.

  • Commander_Chico

    The Constitution is not as respected around the world because the USA now has a bad rep for respecting human rights.  The USA is now seen in large parts of the world as a dangerously aggressive, dysfunctional police state, so people assume our law is bad, or that the U.S. Constitution is like the Soviet Constitution – empty words.  It’s not what you say, it’s what you are and what you do that models your governance.
     
    When you arrest, interrogate and deport a goofy couple because they tweeted “destroy America” and “dig up Marilyn Monroe,” people think “these a-holes are not only spying on everything, they have no common sense, better go to the Canaries instead of Florida”

    When you have the highest rate of incarceration in the world, people wonder why.  Ditto with the death penalty and the occasional stories about how an innocent guy was sentenced to death then exonerated by DNA or even executed. 

    When your infrastructure is rusting away at the same time you’re launching trillion dollar wars, people who have passed through crappy JFK airport wonder WTF, what about “general welfare?”
     
    The foreign practices of the USA also reflect on the Constitution, whether you like it or not.  When you lock up a bunch of people and torture them, some of them to death, and many are later shown to have been schmucks in the wrong place at the wrong time, it reflects poorly on your system.

    • http://proteinwisdom.com/ McGehee

      The Constitution is not as respected around the world because the USA now has a bad rep for respecting

      …it.

      All that other stuff you blather? Evidence of the above.

      • Commander_Chico

        True.  That was the point of my blather. Foreigners may not be familiar with the specifics of the Constitution, but the US’s adherence to human rights, the rule of law, and constitutional ideals in general are seen as empty words.

        • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

          And yet – look at the alternatives.  That is – if you accept the premise that a failure of any sort means that the entire idea/system is discredited and tarred with the actions of the worst. 

          UN? Sex slavers R us.  Hey – some have, therefore they all do whenever they can get away with it.  Right?

          US Army?  Abu Ghraib.  Need I say more?

          Various mistakes the US has made over the decades?  Proof that the whole system is faulty and needs to be torn down immediatly.  The occasional corrupt cop? What better example do you need of the necessity to get rid of the police completely?  After all, they’re why there’s so much crime, right?

          But yet…

          Is it better to have high ideals and attempt (and occasionally fail) to live up to them?  Or to have transient, spur of the moment goals that are quickly forgotten when the next ’cause’ comes along?

          Failures are trumpeted.  That doesn’t mean they’re all of the story – or even the vast majority of it.  That there are a few bad cops doesn’t mean the entire force needs to be scrapped.  That there were a few bad soldiers doesn’t mean they all tossed out the Geneva accords as quickly as they possibly could in a wartime situation.  (And the concept that somehow if we DON’T conform to every bit and comma of the practices described in the Geneva Conventions while fighting an enemy which blatantly disregards them somehow makes us uniquely evil in all of military history is a strange one to me…)

          If your child fails to make 100 on a test, but instead makes a 99, do you treat him/her the same way as if they got a 5?

          Perfection may be desired – but it’s rarely obtainable.  People certainly aren’t perfect, but what is any organization but the sum of its people?  The concentration should be on what we do to correct our problems when they occur – and it usually is. The US Constitution was written by men, for men, and has significant error-correction procedures built into it for when things DO go wrong. It wasn’t written at a time when typewriters or word processors were available, and the terse style of it reflected (in my opinion) their idea that you could make reasonable, general guidelines that folks who had a moderate amount of common sense would/could follow fairly easily.

          Now, however, you’ve got to have platoons of lawyers spelling out every last possible ramification of whatever phrasing is used… common sense doesn’t apply. And I can’t help but think that we’ve lost a hell of a lot through an overabundance of lawyers determined to prove just how smart they are…

          • Commander_Chico

            Everything you say is true, but you understate the way that Constitutional ideals and traditional American values of decency were undermined in the last ten years.   You also underestimate the way that the abandonment of those principles led to an international perception that the USA was a brutal, corrupt and oppressive state.   What was done with torture and rejection of the Geneva Conventions was essentially a betrayal of the Constitution, not in the letter of the law maybe, but because the contradiction between the high-minded rhetoric about human rights and the reality tarnished our whole system.

            For example, take Abu Ghraib, as you mentioned.  The documentary record, once it was declassifed or leaked, is that the procedures there originated from the top.  The government acted like it all was the idea of Sgt Granier and Lynndie England and scapegoated them.   People around the world, at least those who are governance theorists or politically aware in some way, recognize this and are nauseated by the hypocrisy. 

            It all comes down to the hypothetical foreign reaction about adopting American principles: “America??? Give me a effin’ break – those guys are full of shit.”

            I get it all the time outside the USA.

          • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

            “The documentary record, once it was declassifed or leaked, is that the procedures there originated from the top.  The government acted like it all was the idea of Sgt Granier and Lynndie England and scapegoated them.”  

            Uh, huh.  Link?  I’d really like to see the memo on “Okay, on Aug 5th you’ll take two dozen prisoners, strip ‘em nekkid, and pile them in pyramids.”  That there was an institutional breakdown I don’t argue – what I’m curious about is the proof that it was intentional.

            And yep, I can thoroughly believe the folks you run with overseas think the USA is full of shit.  After all, when you’ve got a media trumpeting 24/7 every single mistake made like it’s the worst thing to ever happen in the history of mankind, and NEVER reporting anything that might change that impression, you’re bound to get a negative reaction.

            For example – take a doctor that’s accused of molesting a patient while the patient was sedated.  There might be five other people who were there at the time – but the reporting is going to be on the accusation, not anything that exonerates him.  The former is front page headline news, the latter… put it in the middle section, near the back, before the sports page.

          • Walter_Cronanty

            Chico, I don’t know how old you are, but your lack of perspective makes me think you’re about 20-30 years younger than me.  “American values of decency were undermined in the last ten years” – please, Chico, a little context.
            Over 40 years ago the reputation of the US took an even worse beating when the facts of My Lai started coming out. From 347 to 504 unarmed civilians were massacred.  What could be worse?  Not much, really.  But what was the context of My Lai?
            First, it was a brutal massacre during a brutal war.  Second, it was stopped before more innocents could be slaughtered by Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, a helicopter pilot who, after he understood what was going on, threatened to shoot the US soldiers who were brutalizing the Vietnamese civilians.  Third, in the aftermath, there was much public weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, as there should have been, in the press, in the public, in the military and in the political arena, about what had happened and how we should respond.  There was a complete airing of what happened and what Hugh Thompson, and those with him, witnessed.  You can argue as to whether Lt. Calley, or one or more of his underlings, should have received a more severe penalty, and I might agree with you, and I might not, but we, the US, aired out our dirty laundry for all to see.
            Now, let’s add even more context.  The My Lai massacre occurred during the Tet offensive in 1968.  During the Tet offensive, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese captured and occupied Hue.  They were then forced out of Hue by the US and South Vietnamese forces in brutal, house to house, fighting, when the Tet offensive failed.  What did our forces find? Depending on what report you read, anywhere from 2,700 to 8,000 dead Vietnamese civilians, slaughtered by the VC/NV soldiers during the occupation of Hue and during their retreat.
            Given the above, what is the greater context of My Lai?  Well, first of all, the My Lai massacre was anywhere from 1/5 to 1/20 the size of the Hue massacre.  That’s not to minimize My Lai, but to ask why we haven’t heard as much about Hue as we’ve heard about My Lai? 
            Second, I’m extraordinarily proud as an American to say: We had Warrant Officer Thompson on our side.  He stopped the massacre and had enough faith in our system to believe that his actions, against his fellow soldiers, would not lead to sanctions against him or his men.  The VC/NV either didn’t have anyone like Warrant Officer Thompson, or if they did, that person did not have enough faith in the system in which he was acting to stop the massacre.  In either case, it was an utter societal and/or systemic failure.
            Third, have your heard of any action taken against the commanding officer of the VC/NV forces that perpetrated the Hue massacre?  Have you heard of any repercussions at all?  I haven’t, and I’ve looked.
            That is the larger context that is missing in your continual, breast-beating diatribes against the US military’s actions in Iraq.  We publicly do what we do.  We are human.  As in all human endeavors, we make mistakes – and when we make mistakes, we make them very publicly.  And, while it may take awhile, in the case of institutionalized slavery it took centuries, we very publicly attempt to correct our mistakes – and we do a fairly good, not perfect, but fairly good job of corrections.   
            But, all of the publicity surrounding our mistakes and our attempts to correct those mistakes is certainly bad for our international reputation.  While this is not helpful, it beats the hell out of any known alternatives. 
            You can go on with your constant rants about how we are losing our “American values of decency,” but please, a little context.  We’re not nearly so bad as you think, and you’d be hard pressed to find better.
             

          • Commander_Chico

            I can put it in perspective, but the difference between My Lai and the latest things is that nobody tried to build a legal rationale for My Lai, as the USA has for the things since 9/11.

            And, fair or not, the things that have happened have harmed the USA’s image and from that the perception of the Constituion as an effective guardian of rights by people in other countries.

          • Walter_Cronanty

            I see, so My Lai was different and not as harmful to the reputation of the US to those abroad because US has “tried to build a legal rationale … for the things since 9/11.”  My BS detector is ringing off the hook, Chico. 
            What “things” has the US tried to legally rationalize after 9/11 which you think make them worse than the My Lai massacre to those abroad?  I really want an answer to that.
            In what countries do people think that our Constitution is not an effective guardian of rights of our people?
            You have no perspective, Chico.  You’re just looking for an excuse to say: “It’s the US’s fault.”  Typical progressive.

          • Commander_Chico

            What “things” has the US tried to legally rationalize after 9/11 which you think make them worse than the My Lai massacre to those abroad?

            Torture. My Lai was the act of Lt. Calley and his platoon. The torture system came from the top of the USG.

          • Walter_Cronanty

            So, waterboarding 3 individuals is worse than My Lai, really?  BS.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay

            Gitmo is one problem.  There’s been no accountability for the officers killing civilians from the “Collateral Murder” video.

            Bradley Manning whistleblowing and his kangaroo court trial (which Obama is in denial about).

            The growing encroachment on civil liberties by the government through ICE domain seizures and arrests as well as denial of due process.

            The continued use of the Patriot Act, not for terrorism, but for drug offensese.

            The procedural failures of the war on drugs.

            Hell, take your pick on problems.  There’s plenty to go around.

          • Walter_Cronanty

            Let’s see, the “Collateral Murder” video that Julian Assange has admitted editing and not showing weapons carried by the terrorists the “journalists” were accompanying?  That piece of propaganda smearing US soldiers?  The one where the journalists were taking pictures of US military personnel while accompanying the terrorists?  I see you have the same respect for our military as Chico does.
            I don’t know that much about the ICE domain seizures, but I may agree that the Federal Government has overstepped its bounds.  Ditto the use of Patriot Act for drug busts.  Hell, I’ll even add in the DOJ and Fast and Furious, where Eric Holder in an attempt to deny US of their 2nd amendment rights gave arms to Mexican drug cartels.  But that is not what Chico was referencing – there are many foreign countries, such as France and Great Britain, that have less protections in similar circumstances than we have, even with the Patriot Act.  Instead, those instances illustrate why many of us favor a Federal Government that is limited by a Constitution that enumerates the Federal Government’s powers and that power which is not enumerated is reserved for the states/people, not some amorphous “living” document that a judge can interpret one way one day, and a different way the next day.

          • herddog505

            Manning is a “whistle blower”??? Jebus, what does that make Benedict Arnold, the Rosenbergs, John Walker or Aldrich Ames???

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay

            Both replies at bottom.

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

            I have no doubt that a court martial board will thorw the book at Manning, as he so manifestly deserves.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay

            Ellsbergis so proud of your UnAmerican stance.

          • Commander_Chico

            @ JLawson

            The line goes like this – from the Yoo and Bybee memos redefining torture as only things that cause permanent disability, organ failure or death.

            http://www.aclu.org/pdfs/safefree/yoo_army_torture_memo.pdf

            http://www.tomjoad.org/bybeememo.htm

            to MG Geoffrey Miller in Gitmo, who then went to Abu ghraib to tell the MI and MP troops there to “take the gloves off” and “soften” the detainees up.  This was in MG Taguba’s report about Abu Gharib:

             http://www.npr.org/iraq/2004/prison_abuse_report.pdf

            Was everything they did specifically authorized?  No, but the restrictions were loosened, torture redefined and the result was the pictured horrors.

          • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

            Hmmm.

            Interesting stuff.  You’re looking at lawyers trying to define ‘torture’ in the TomJoad one.  It’s not too surprising they’re having a hard time – after all, how can you quantify ‘severe physical or mental pain or suffering’?  It was easier in Medieval times, ruin a foot, mangle a hand, crush a testicle.  But when torture is defined as making the person lose sleep, pouring cold water on them, subjecting them to psychological stress to get them to talk, it kind of… loses urgency. The definition’s stretched way too far.

            Re the ACLU link – the negotiating history on what was torture and what wasn’t was very interesting.  The British definition worked best, I think – “”systematic and intentional infliction of extreme pain’ or suffering rather than intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering.” and “The state parties considered and rejected a proposal that would have defined torture merely as cruel,inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

            But yet, that last is where we are re ‘torture’.

            Re the last memo – I remember all the briefings I had to sit in for mobility practices in the ’90s about the Geneva Accords, how we were supposed to treat detainees and prisoners – and we were an aircraft maintenance squadron, pretty darn unlikely to EVER need that info.  That an Army unit specifically tasked to handle detainees and prisoners WASN’T adequately trained on that subject is pretty damn sad, if you ask me, and indicative of an institutional failure. There was apparently no training done to transition to their wartime function when they were deployed. (Jeez, I’m all for pencilwhippin’ records on inane stuff, but THAT isn’t inane, that’s vital to your function.)

            “There is a general lack of knowledge, implementation, and emphasis of basic legal, regulatory, doctrinal, and command requirements within the 800th MP Brigade and its subordinate units.” 

            “Basic Army Doctrine was not widely referenced or utilized to develop the accountability practices throughout the 800th MP Brigade’s subordinate units”.

            That pretty much set the stage for what happened.  Add in what seemed to be (to me) a self-selection bias for petty cruelty and sadism – shit.  It’s a good thing, IMHO, that it blew up when it did, before the assholes started slaughtering prisoners to get the others ‘in the right frame of mind’.

            And then we investigated and corrected it. Better it never have happened in the first place, though.

          • herddog505

            JLawsonwe investigated and corrected it.

            Key point that lefties like to overlook.  IF the idiocy at Abu Ghraib was done “on orders from the top”, then why was the Army investigating it?

          • Commander_Chico

            Because the pictures got out and they had to do something.  MG Taguba ended his career because he did not deliver the whitewash he was supposed to.

            http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2008/06/20/41772/commentary-gen-taguba-knew-scandal.html

          • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

             I note for the record that the investigation that led to the trials by courts martial were in train before the press had the first inkling of the matter and that the key witness to the investigation was then General (subsequently Colonel) Karpinsky’s flag lieutenant.

          • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

            Which was my point.  The system corrected its own error – which isn’t appreciated at all.  The investigation was ongoing before it all got leaked.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay

            Reply at bottom.

    • jim_m

      Maybe the constitution would have a better “rep” if ignorant leftists like yourself weren’t constantly criticizing it for not institutionalizing socialist ends.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_W6UJJOM4PP4XLSBG6N4LROVSQE Retired Military

      Sure.  Look at all the countries we have conquered and held in the last 100 years vs  say  China, Russia, Vietnam, and Korea to name a few.

  • JWH

    Something of a red herring.  

    If I were to offer guidance to a new state, I probably would not recommend the US Constitution to them as a model.  Yes, it works well enough … but it works well enough for Americans.  But that doesn’t mean it’s the only model out there.  I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with, say, establishing a unicameral or tricameral legislature, rather than a bicameral one.  Government structure is a matter of taste.

    And quite frankly, what another country chooses to do is its own business, not mine.  If a fledgling state wants to look to the precepts of Islam for guidance, and enshrine that in its constitution, that’s fine, as long as it keeps its preferences within its own borders.  That’s called self-determination.  People have that freedom … and the attendant responsibility.

  • GarandFan

    “…entitlement to food, education and health care.”

    I’m surprised they didn’t also list entitlement to home ownership.  With all those “freebies” one would never have to worry about “work”.

    • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

      You can only supply what you can afford. I foresee entitlements being cut back big-time in the next decade… no matter what country you’re in.

  • jim_m

    It specifies few rights because it reserves everything not explicitly given to the government as being reserved to the states or to the people. 

    What pisses the left off is that the government is not given more authority to rule over the people. The US Constitution is out of step with a leftist academy that wants to cram communist totalitariansism down everyone’s throats. 

    The left wants to memorialize “rights” to government services which are not rights at all.  Rights are the basic freedoms from which we can run our own lives rather than have them dictated to us by government bureaucrats.  The left hates the idea that people should be able to decide for themselves.  They want to give us “rights” that they see themselves as determining how we will have those “rights” fulfilled.  You have the right to healthcare, in the way they see fit to deliver it.  You have the right to practice your religion, except when it offends their sensibilities.  You have the right to education as long as it is approved by the leftist academy and the government bureaucracy.

    Watch out because when the left says they want to protect your “rights” what they really mean is that they want to take them away from you and control your life.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay


      What pisses the left off is that the government is not given more authority to rule over the people.

      What pisses you off is when you come off as ignorant by believing everyone on the left can’t figure out that the government can be the cause of a lot of issues when it’s not held back.

       The US Constitution is out of step with a leftist academy that wants to cram communist totalitariansism down everyone’s throats.  

      I doubt anyone’s said that and this seems more inclined to propagandist ranting.  Come back to reality Jim.

      Rights are the basic freedoms from which we can run our own lives rather than have them dictated to us by government bureaucrats.  The left hates the idea that people should be able to decide for themselves.

      In that grand political spectrum, you need to keep it consistent.  “The left” may just want the government to reign in its totalitarian powers instead of unleashing it on an unsuspecting populace.  That’s individual freedoms, not government granted privileges as you seem to discuss.

      Watch out because when the left says they want to protect your “rights” what they really mean is that they want to take them away from you and control your life.

      What’s amazing about your entire rant is how off base it is and how it’s a great argument against the likes of Mitt Romney, Karl Rove, and Newt Gingrich, who are amazingly better capable of taking away those rights than any ranting, raving, “leftist” as your argument seems to come against.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    The Constitution which guaranteed the most rights to the people in human history was the Soviet Constitution of 1936.  In theory, on paper, at least.  In practice, not so much.

    Why?  Because you cannot have a functional constitutional republic or democracy without certain conditions being met.  First among these is an independent judiciary free from reprisal to guarantee the rule of law.  Second, the rule of law, not of men – the law must apply to prince and pauper alike.  Third, the right of private property which is inviolate without the due process of law.  Fourth, the right of private contract between consenting adults, enforceable through the judiciary with equal standing.

    Without these institutional protections, any Constitution isn’t worth the paper it is written upon.  In the USSR, interpretation of their Constitution was ultimately up to Stalin, and he used his authority to murder and imprison people for the mere suspicion of less than complete loyalty to him personally, and basically did whatever he damn well pleased.

    How is Stalin’s treatment of the Soviet Constitution of 1936 different from Barack Obama’s rule by edict and regulation, having his DOJ selectively enforce the laws, awarding government largesse to his patrons, authorizing his EPA, FCC, FTC, and NLRB to exceed or violate statutory authority to pursue his agenda?

    Only by a matter of degree – so far.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay


    Let’s see, the “Collateral Murder” video that Julian Assange has admitted editing and not showing weapons carried by the terrorists the “journalists” were accompanying?  That piece of propaganda smearing US soldiers?  The one where the journalists were taking pictures of US military personnel while accompanying the terrorists?  I see you have the same respect for our military as Chico does.

    The gathering wasn’t a terrorist action, it was people that were killed through the fog of war.  Obviously, given your reaction to this, I’m sure you’re one of the people that believe the drone attacks are justified in Pakistan and abroad when it won’t do a damned thing in stopping terrorism.  I’m amazed that people can look at that video and literally see the largest example of government misconduct and try to place all of the blame on Assange as if it’s his fault that a 17 minute video of war crimes was available to the public.

    I don’t know that much about the ICE domain seizures, but I may agree that the Federal Government has overstepped its bounds.  Ditto the use of Patriot Act for drug busts.  Hell, I’ll even add in the DOJ and Fast and Furious, where Eric Holder in an attempt to deny US of their 2nd amendment rights gave arms to Mexican drug cartels.  But that is not what Chico was referencing – there are many foreign countries, such as France and Great Britain, that have less protections in similar circumstances than we have, even with the Patriot Act.  Instead, those instances illustrate why many of us favor a Federal Government that is limited by a Constitution that enumerates the Federal Government’s powers and that power which is not enumerated is reserved for the states/people, not some amorphous “living” document that a judge can interpret one way one day, and a different way the next day.

    Amazing how I feel the same way but I don’t like sacrificing my freedoms for a prison state and a conservative agenda that keeps eroding the Constitution.

    Manning is a “whistle blower”???

    Let’s see… Released 250K cables to show wrong doing on the government’s part that created a lot of protests in other countries as well as not selling those documents to the highest bidder when he had the chance.

    Tortured for 19 months.

    Similar situation to Daniel Ellsberg who leaked higher clearance cables in the Watergate scandal and who also didn’t face jail time.

    Yeah, he’s a whistleblower.  Or do you feel otherwise and care to explain how he’s not?

  • Brian_R_Allen

    Hmmmmm — this seems a quite long piece — Bring back Mister-Tea!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay


    Which was my point.  The system corrected its own error – which isn’t appreciated at all.  The investigation was ongoing before it all got leaked.

    That’s absolute bullshit.  Our Justice system is quite clear on a few points:

    If you’re high on the scale, you’re immune to punishments.

    If you’re low on the scale, the punishments are trivial.

    And if you’re a whistleblower at all, you’re to be tried as an enemy of the state, namely Bradley Manning and John Kiriakou for leaking embarrassing documents or discussing classified material.  If you’re a US citizen expect the government to not give a damn about you.  Expect due process to not be followed.  Expect the worst.  Just don’t expect justice any time soon.

    • http://www.rustedsky.net JLawson

      Well, so you see it.  But here’s the timeline. 

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/iraq/abughraib/timeline.html

      Jan 13, 2004 – abuse reported, investigation started.

      March 20th – Assholes arrested, charges filed.

      April 28th – Media turns on fan, slings shit into it.

      The system corrected itself.  Not without pain, not without lives fucked up – but when the abuse was discovered it was ended.

      I don’t see it as bullshit – I see what happened as a fouled up mess, that the army was informed of.  The pictures got leaked – and speculation at the time was it was the fuckups doing the shit in Abu Ghraib that leaked it for defense purposes.  (And that all-encompassing ‘public has a right to know’ excuse that’s perpetually used to justify all sorts of top secret leaks by journalists.  Except when it’ll actually, you know, compromise something they don’t want out.)

      So show me that the investigation WASN’T ongoing before the leaks to the media.

      Manning?  A whistle blower?  Please.  He leaked top secret documents, released classified information.  He wasn’t doing it to remedy a major problem – he just grabbed (metaphorically) handfuls of classified documents and dumped them out for everyone to look at.  Why?  I think he did it because he was a sorry, spiteful fool who saw a chance to gain some fame.

      One of the things you learn early on in the military is that classified info is classifed for a reason.  That training cannot have escaped Manning’s awareness – and he knew full well that by putting out whatever he could grab it would very likey cause problems for the Army and for our diplomatic efforts.  That really swings the balance towards ‘traitor’ in my book, no matter his erstwhile purpose.

      But he was good with that, the noble ‘hero’.  What a jerk.

      Re Kiriakou – Valerie Plame ring a bell?  Folks were all over Libby because he supposedly leaked her name – but it was apparently Bob Woodward who told Robert Novack, not Libby.   Libby ended up the fall guy for Woodward. So Kiriakou blabbed an agents name to a journalist.  Too bad, bub – should have kept your mouth shut.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay

        The system corrected itself.  Not without pain, not without lives fucked up – but when the abuse was discovered it was ended.

        Do you realize how long it took for us to get out of Afghanistan?  Do you realize some of the reasons are from Bradley Manning leaking cables?  One of the cables leaked was in how soldiers from Blackwater were killing civilians.  The abuse isn’t being ended.  It’s a small amount of punishment for war crimes.  That’s the point you seem to be ignoring here.
        And that all-encompassing ‘public has a right to know’ excuse that’s perpetually used to justify all sorts of top secret leaks by journalists.  Except when it’ll actually, you know, compromise something they don’t want out

        Prove ONE example of journalism actually compromising a mission.  Bear in mind, Robert Gates explicitly said that the “no serious harm has been caused by the leaks.  Further, I would also look at the connection between Karl Rove and the Prime Minister of Sweden in regards to the persecution of Assange. But that’s just me.

         He leaked top secret documents, released classified information.

        Check your story sources.  Those documents were low level security and Daniel Ellsberg had leaked higher security documents with no prison time.

          He wasn’t doing it to remedy a major problem – he just grabbed (metaphorically) handfuls of classified documents and dumped them out for everyone to look at.

        No… You might want to check the story again.  He was trying to blow the whistle and inform people about the problems he was seeing.

        Re: Kiriakou.  Obama has persecuted more whistleblowers than any other president in our history combined.  How you seem to believe going after whistleblowers is going to silence them from finding out wrongdoing is amazing to me.  It seems amazing how not being kept up to date on how the government abuses their power is not of interest to you.

  • http://wizbangblog.com/author/rodney-graves/ Rodney G. Graves

    I have been confirmed in my beliefs!  One of our notorious trolls has accused me of being un-American.  I can think of no higher praise!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R7FMXY3DZP7JF7SGSPIOSLLXNE Stephen

      That and your ability to mount pigs makes you a big man around here.

      Congratulations!

      Now if only you could learn to write intelligently — not to mention learning how to hit the reply button on the right post.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IZ5BM5GNLA54OADSWGSXAMA7SY Jay

      Don’t know the difference between Bradley Manning and Daniel Elsberg.  That’s just sad.

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