Letter to Congressmembers: "A republic -- if we can keep it"

A Prophetic Voice in Jewish, Multireligious, and American Life
6711 Lincoln Drive, Philadelphia PA 19119
215/844-8494 www.theshalomcenter.org office@theshalomcenter.org

NOVEMBER 1 , 2006

The Honorable xxxxxxxxxxxxx,
Member of Congress [or
United States Senator]

Dear Congressman/ woman/ Senator:

I am transmitting to you a set of petitions signed by Philadelphians who gathered at the Federal Courthouse in Philadelphia on the day President Bush signed the Military Commissions Act.

We gathered to mourn the signing of the Act, which is a betrayal of the principles of the Constitution and of several of its specific passages.

For example, the Constitution provides that habeas corpus can be suspended only in case of rebellion or invasion.

It provides that treaties are the Supreme Law of the Land, and that includes the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, which do not allow any head of state to define people as being outside the purview of those treaties and do provide for a procedure to discern what part of those treaties they fall under, if there is any doubt.

The Constitution does not allow any part of the United States government – far less the President – to imprison anyone indefinitely for life, without access to counsel or family or religious comfort.

The Constitution, these treaties, and American law do not permit the use of such tortures as repeated near drowning of a prisoner, an act for which a post-World-War II court actually found a Japanese officer guilty of war crime, an act recently publicly approved by Vice President Cheney.

Moreover, such provisions of the Act are utterly a horror and an abomination to all those religious traditions that define human beings as made in the Image of God and that command us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

It is said that close to where we stood, a Philadelphian in 1787 asked Benjamin Franklin whether the Constitutional Convention had given America a republic or a monarchy.

"A republic" -- if you can keep it, he responded.

This Act goes far toward inviting the President to become a monarch, flinging our free republic back in the faces of all the generations of Americans since 1787.

We call on you to begin seeking the repeal of these abominable provisions as soon as Congress reconvenes, and to continue in this effort until they are repealed.

With blessings for shalom, salaam, peace –
Rabbi Arthur Waskow