I was listening to episode 331 of This American Life a few days ago. 331 is the Peabody Award winning episode called Habeas Schmabeas. The show featured three acts, act two, September 11th, 1660 was something special.
Habeas corpus began in England. And recently, 175 members of the British parliament filed a "friend of the court" brief in one of the U.S. Supreme Court cases on habeas and Guantanamo—apparently, the first time in Supreme Court history that's happened. In their brief, the members of Parliament warn about the danger of suspending habeas: "During the British Civil War, the British created their own version of Guantanamo Bay and dispatched undesirable prisoners to garrisons off the mainland, beyond the reach of habeas corpus relief." In London, reporter Jon Ronson, author of Them: Adventures with Extremists, goes in search of what happened. (6 minutes)
I understand that bringing up Habeas Corpus with just about everyone I know (except Brian & Richard), will result in blank looks. They will not know what habeas corpus is, but they sure will not want the detainees have it. We are holding people in Guantanamo without habeas corpus . It is a national disgrace. Our actions will be viewed historically as one of America's greatest blunders. Of course, for the people I know, the ramifications of denying habeas corpus to the detainees will never cross their minds. We are "at war" after all. I shudder when I think about it, but that is not what this post is about.
About half way into September 11th, 1660, Jon Ronson visits Westminster Abby, along the way he passes the grave of Charles Darwin. The docent leading the tour mentions that he was leading a group of American tourist through the Abby a few days previously. He recounts that one of the Americans ask "Why is he here?" (referring to Darwin), and then spits on his grave. Some days, I am not so proud of my countrymen.