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In 1215, the English barons revolted against King John, who had abused his power. He invaded France – which resulted in military disaster – and bled his subjects to pay for it. England was put under interdiction by Pope Innocent III for John’s defiance of the Church.
The nobles forced the King to sign a document that later became known as the Magna Carta. It bound him to certain laws, one of which was habeas corpus, and granted civil liberties to the nobility. It also created a council of 25 barons that could meet at any time and overrule the will of the King.
This document became the basis for English Common Law and fostered the development of many documents, most notably the Constitution of the United States. It also created the precursor to English Parliament and the United States Congress.
There are some striking similarities between England in the early 13th century and the United States in the early 21st century. For the invasion of France, substitute Iraq. For defiance of the Church, substitute the United Nations and international law, in particular the Geneva Conventions. And our health, education, welfare and infrastructure are being drained to pay for the occupation of Iraq. President George W. Bush has definitely abused the power of his office, as did King John. He has ignored our civil and constitutional rights, including that of habeas corpus.
Another Magna Carta, anyone?
Adele E. Zimmermann