Saturday, October 14, 2006

A government of laws, not of men (this time with feeling)

By Heraclitus

I'm sorry to post something so glum on a Saturday afternoon, but it's worth recalling that alleged dirty-bomber Jose Padilla was held for three and a half years without trial by the US government, and tortured for most of that time. And he was and is a US citizen. So, while I hate to sound paranoid, and although I think the comparisons of the Bush administrations to the Nazis or Stalin are a bit overwrought, the reality is that this administration has steadily eroded, which is a euphemistic way of saying "made war on," the fundamental principles or bases of American political life. And they mean for US citizens to fall in this war, if they deem you an "enemy combatant." If you think the Bushies wouldn't let politics interfere with the "war on terror," the one thing they really are serious about, recall this post.

For more see here and the discussion by the invaluable Glenn Greenwald here. This earlier post by Greenwald is also excellent. Via Chris Clarke.

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  • I agree that the administration's actions are reprehensible, but I have to disagee that it has "steadily eroded, which is a euphemistic way of saying "made war on," the fundamental principles or bases of American political life." They aren't putting political opponents in jail, they haven't cancelled elections, or seriously eroded free speech protections,and they are perilously close to being voted out of office. What they have done is eroded constitutional protections of due process toward non-citizens and that is bad enough. But I don't think they have really effected the fundamental basis of "political life" at all. And they probably haven't done much more than other administrations have during other periods of hysteria. That's obviously not to defend their actions, but I do think the post is a bit overstated. Political life continues in this country as it always has--with its mixture of rationalisty and paranoia. In fact, that is probably why there isn't more disaffection with the administration's actions--they simply don't affect most people. Now, what many people would argue, of course, is that the GOP has undermined the fundamental legitimacy of the elections through the actions of state election officials. That's arguable, but is a different point. I think its important not to conflate different issues. And let's not kid ourselves--whatever they have done with respect to due process of suspected terrorists has had at least tacit support from a lot of Americans. It's naive to pretend that this is something Bush has inflicted on an unwilling public.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:07 AM  

  • Hi, Marc, thanks for reading. I agree with much of what you say, but Jose Padilla is an American citizen, and was held in solitary confinement without trial or even access to a lawyer, and tortured almost daily, for over three years. That's doing more than eroding constitutional protections of due process for non-citizens. Then there's the question of whether "enemy combatants," as that term appears in the new torture bill, could include American citizens. I'll admit to deferring to the authority of Glenn Greenwald on this, who warned that might, but I think GG is a pretty good person to defer to on these questions. Also, the Bushies haven't arrested political opponents, but people wearing Kerry-Edwards t-shirts were removed from Bush rallies or even arrested in 2004. And a man in Colorado was recently arrested by the Secret Service for telling Dick Cheney that the Iraq war was "reprehensible." And a Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer was arrested for trying to protest a Cheney fundraiser in Indiana in 2002. Read about them both here:,1299,DRMN_86_5046957,00.html

    And then, of course, there's the wire tapping of...well, we really don't know who. As for the popularity of at least some of these actions of Bush administration--so what? If a majority supports a government action, it's not unconstitutional?

    While I agree with much of what you say, I stand by my original statement, and don't think it needs to be toned down or revised. The actions you described would be full-blown totalitarianism, and made of point of saying that wasn't what Bush was doing--although I see no reason to think he wouldn't like to, that he has any real committment to the principles of American democracy. As for "periods of hysteria," I'll grant that for the first six months, maybe even the first year after September 11th--but five years later, and he's signing a torture bill? So, for all these, reasons, I think Bush has eroded the fundamental principles of our political life, especially when he held an American citizen without trial and tortured him for over three years.

    By Blogger ., at 1:06 PM  

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