Wednesday, March 04, 2009

We've Got To Say We Are No Longer A Nation Of Chumps!

The DOJ released nine memos yesterday outlining the extraordinary powers George W. Bush had claimed for himself in the wake of 9-11, including the right to pull Americans off the streets without warrants, and the ability to deny the press the right to free speech if he so desired.

The Justice Department today warned that people should brace themselves as there is even more to come.

Senator Sheldon has said that action needs to be taken to make sure that what Bush attempted can never be done again.

Jonathan Turley argues here that, "these memos provide the very definition of tyranny. These memos include everything that a petty despot would want. Suspension of free press and free speech. The amazing thing is that this is the blueprint of our people, not the people we were fighting. What is really pathetic is the memo on January 15th where Bradbury finally just says 'we don't believe most of this stuff, that this is just something which can't be sustained'. So we have eight years of constitutional terror for civil libertarians followed by five days of legal contrition. It's really quite pathetic. It's basically an effort of Bush lawyers to say that we want to go back to the bar despite the fact that for the last eight years we have been saying that we can suspend every element of a free nation."

The question now is what is to be done about this? We know that the Bush administration broke the law, we know that they tortured people, and we know that they did this because both the president and the vice president have admitted it on national television.

So the only question now is whether or not those crimes should go unpunished.

The Justice Department are promising even more memos in the days to come. I have the distinct feeling that they are slowly trying to make a case for prosecution. Hoping that the more they reveal, the more outraged people will be by this.

As Turley says, the US needs to say, "We are no longer a nation of chumps." I am honestly coming to the position where I think only prosecution will make that point.


Glenn Greenwald:

This is factually true, with no hyperbole: Over the last eight years, we had a system in place where we pretended that our "laws" were the things enacted out in the open by our Congress and that were set forth by the Constitution. The reality, though, was that our Government secretly vested itself with the power to ignore those public laws, to declare them invalid, and instead, create a whole regimen of secret laws that vested tyrannical, monarchical power in the President. Nobody knew what those secret laws were because even Congress, despite a few lame and meek requests, was denied access to them. What kind of country lives under secret laws?
No special knowledge or elaborate debates are required to see how violently inconsistent all of this is with the system of Government we claim to have.
This is what I find so mind bending about what has been revealed by these memos. At the very moment that Bush and his supporters were claiming to be exporting democracy to the Middle East, they were, in fact, subverting it at home. Bush was claiming tyrannical powers for himself; and not just claiming them but actually acting them out by spying on American citizens without a Fisa warrant because John Yoo had claimed that, at a time of war, "the Fourth Amendment does not apply to domestic military operations".

Greenwald again:

The President, when using military force against American citizens on U.S. soil, is "free from the constraints" not only of the Fourth Amendment, but also of other core guarantees of the Bill of Rights -- including First Amendment liberties, Due Process rights, and the takings clause:

If this isn't the unadorned face of warped authoritarian extremism, what is?
And yet, for the past eight years, this was the law in the United States, the president had simply decided not to tell the public that had he had changed it. Is that how democracies work?


It's well worth reading Dan Froomkin's take on this, entitled "Bush's secret dictatorship".

Josh Meyer and Julian E. Barnes write in the Los Angeles Times that one Bush administration lawyer told them the memos are "just the tip of the iceberg" in terms of what was authorized.

Law professor Jack Balkin blogs about "reasoning which sought, in secret, to justify a theory of Presidential dictatorship...

"This theory of presidential power argues, in essence, that when the President acts in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief, he may make his own rules and cannot be bound by Congressional laws to the contrary. This is a theory of presidential dictatorship.

"These views are outrageous and inconsistent with basic principles of the Constitution as well as with two centuries of legal precedents. Yet they were the basic assumptions of key players in the Bush Administration in the days following 9/11."

Scott Horton blogs for Harper's: "We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended. That was thanks to secret memos crafted deep inside the Justice Department that effectively trashed the Constitution. What we know now is likely the least of it."

These memos are said to be "the tip of the iceberg". God knows what else we're going to find out, but, whatever it is, there will still be many who say that it's "spiteful" to attempt to prosecute and that we should all "look forward, not backwards".

And nor should we be surprised that Bush ran a presidential dictatorship, that was exactly what Cheney meant, when he replied to the news that most Americans were against the Iraq war with that ever so casual, "So?"

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