[FoRK] Decline and Fall

Sebastian Hassinger shassinger
Fri Aug 19 06:07:39 PDT 2005

...of the American Democratic Experiment.


Judge Dread
John Roberts and Enemy Combatants


The United States long ago ceased to be anything like a living,
thriving republic. But it retained the legal form of a republic, and
that counted for something: as long as the legal form still existed,
even as a gutted shell, there was hope it might be filled again one
day with substance.

But now the very legal structures of the Republic are being
dismantled. The principle of arbitrary rule by an autocratic leader is
being openly established, through a series of unchallenged executive
orders, perverse Justice Department rulings and court decisions by
sycophantic judges who defer to power - not law - in their
determinations. What we are witnessing is the creation of a
"Commander-in-Chief State," where the form and pressure of law no
longer apply to the president and his designated agents. The rights of
individuals are no longer inalienable, nor are their persons
inviolable; all depends on the good will of the Commander, the
military autocrat.

George W. Bush has granted himself the power to declare anyone on
earth - including any American citizen - an "enemy combatant," for any
reason he sees fit. He can render them up to torture, he can imprison
them for life, he can even have them killed, all without charges, with
no burden of proof, no standards of evidence, no legislative
oversight, no appeal, no judicial process whatsoever except those that
he himself deigns to construct, with whatever limitations he cares to
impose. Nor can he ever be prosecuted for any order he issues, however
criminal; in the new American system laid out by Bush's legal minions,
the Commander is sacrosanct, beyond the reach of any law or

This is not hyperbole. It is simply the reality of the United States
today. The principle of unrestricted presidential power is now being
codified into law and incorporated into the institutional structures
of the state, as Deep Blade Journal reports in an excellent compendium
of recent outrages against liberty.

For example, on July 15, a panel of federal appellate court judges
upheld Bush's sovereign right to dispose of "enemy combatants" any way
he pleases, the Washington Post reports. In a chilling decision, the
judges ruled that the Commander's arbitrarily designated "enemies" are
non-persons: neither the Geneva Conventions nor American military and
domestic law apply to such garbage. Bush is now free to subject anyone
he likes to the "military tribunal" system he has concocted - a brutal
sham that some top retired military officials have denounced as a
"kangaroo court" that will be used by tyrants around the world to
"hide their oppression under U.S. precedent."

One of the kowtowing jurists on the appeals panel was none other than
John G. Roberts. Four days after he affirmed Bush's autocratic powers,
Roberts was duly awarded with a nomination to the Supreme Court. Now
he will be sitting in final judgment on this case - and any other
challenges to Bush's peremptory commands. This is what is known, in
the tyrant trade, as "a safe pair of hands."

The ruling by Roberts and his fellow Republican jurists ignores the
fact that the Geneva Conventions - which lay down strict guidelines
for the handling of any person detained by military forces, regardless
of the captive's status - have been incorporated into the U.S. legal
code, as Deep Blade points out. They cannot be abrogated by
presidential fiat. And anyone who commits a "grave breach" of the
Conventions - by facilitating the killing, torture or inhuman
treatment of detainees (e.g., stripping them of all legal status and
subjecting them to rigged tribunals) - is subject to the death penalty
under American law.

This is why the Bush Faction labored so mightily to advance the absurd
fiction that the Geneva Conventions are somehow voluntary - while
simultaneously promulgating the sinister Fuhrerprinzip of unlimited
presidential authority. The fiction was a temporary sop to the
crumbling legal form of the Republic, a cynical perversion of existing
law to keep justice at bay until the Fuhrerprinzip could be firmly
established as the new foundation of the state.

It doesn't matter anymore if the president's orders to suspend the
Conventions, construct a worldwide gulag, torture captives, spy on
Americans, fabricate intelligence and wage aggressive war are illegal
under the "quaint" strictures of the old dispensation; the courts,
packed with Bushist cadres, are now affirming the new order, the
"critical authority" of the Commander, beyond law and morality, on the
higher plane of what Bush calls "the path of action."

This phrase - with its remarkable Mussolinian echoes - was
incorporated into the official "National Security Strategy of the
United States," promulgated by Bush in September 2002. That document
in turn was drawn largely from a manifesto issued in September 2000 by
a Bush Faction group whose members included Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld,
Paul Wolfowitz and Jeb Bush. Their plan, often detailed here,
envisioned the transformation of America into a militarized state:
planting "military footprints" throughout Central Asia and the Middle
East, invading Iraq (even if Saddam Hussein was already gone),
expanding the nuclear arsenal, massively increasing the defense budget
- and predicating all these "revolutionary" changes on the hopes for
"a new Pearl Harbor" that would "catalyze" the lazy American public
into supporting the militarist agenda.

This agenda is designed, the group said, to establish "full spectrum
dominance" over geopolitical affairs, assuring control of world energy
resources and precluding the rise of "any potential global rival" that
might threaten the unchecked wealth and privilege of the American
elite. The rule of law could only be a hindrance to such a scheme;
hence its replacement by the Fuhrerprinzip and the "path of action."

There has been virtually no institutional resistance to this open coup
d'etat. It's now clear that the American Establishment - and a
significant portion of the American people - have given up on the
democratic experiment. They no longer wish to govern themselves; they
want to be ruled, by "strong leaders" who will "do whatever it takes"
to protect them from harm and keep them in clover. They have sold
their golden birthright of American liberty for a mess of coward's

Chris Floyd is a columnist for The Moscow Times and regular
contributor to CounterPunch. "Empire Burlesque," his blog of political
news and comment, can be found at www.empireburlesquenow.blogspot.
Sebastian Hassinger
shassinger at gmail.com

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