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June 12, 2005 - Decline and Fall

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"Men who take up arms against one another in public war do not cease on this account to be moral beings, responsible to one another and to God." - Abraham Lincoln, Gen. Orders No. 100, art. 15 (1863)


Times change.


Our friend, the high-powered Wall Street attorney, from his offices thirty-two stories above lower Manhattan, with a view down on the Statue of Liberty, sends us a note about recent current events items we’ve discussed –


The news is disturbing, but then, you just report it, you don't make it.

I do wonder how this will all look in fifty to one hundred years. If the 20th Century was the American Century, I would posit that the 21st Century will be known as the Anti-American Century - or the century in which America no longer was America in terms of ideals and its potential place in the world.


Perhaps so.  Maybe things will move in another direction after the 2008 elections.  Maybe not.  No one can be sure.

I do note that Patriot Act II - now under consideration in Washington – has a provision for stripping Americans of their citizenship for supporting terrorist organizations – and could that apply, eventually, to registered Democrats?  Well, I’m sure the Republican-controlled administration, congress and courts would never go that far.

And here a fellow argues Guantánamo should be closed because it was conceived as the beginning of the end of the American Republic.  Juan Cole, that professor of history at the University of Michigan, the middle-east expert on Iraq who now and then travels down to Washington to testify before congress, has this to say - Monday, June 6, 2005 –


Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware has now called for Guantanamo to be closed down. Absolutely right.

The main reason is not that it is a continued scandal and creates a very poor image among Muslims worldwide of the United States. This allegation is true, and the US press has done a poor job of covering the continued fall-out of the Quran desecration story among Muslims world-wide. But it isn't the main reason the prison should be closed.

The main reason is that the Bush Administration established the prison at Guantanamo in hopes of gutting the Bill of Rights. They wanted the prisoners there to be beyond the law, outside the framework of judiciality. They would have no lawyers. They would be tried only if the administration wanted to try them. They would be held indefinitely. They would be outside the framework of US law and also of the Geneval Conventions-- though Rumsfeld keeps slipping and calling them prisoners of war.

Terrorists are dirty criminals who should be tried, and if found guilty, put away for life. Terrorists are criminals. They are not non-human, and any attempt to create a category of human beings to whom the protections of the law do not apply is an attempt to undermine the Republic. It is a return of the Bill of Attainder, a feature of absolute monarchy that the Founding Fathers stood against. It is something to which even Rehnquist is opposed.

Once it was established that these Muslims could be treated in this way, Bush would be a sort of absolute monarch over all such detainees (remember that some of them might be innocent for all we know) And then gradually others could be added to the category of the "rights-less." The Patriot Act II envisages stripping Americans of their citizenship for supporting terrorist organizations. Without citizenship, they would not be afforded the protections of the Constitution. And gradually, in this way, the American nationalist Right would be able to circumscribe that pesky Bill of Rights, which so interferes with Executive (i.e. Royal) Privilege. The legal minds on the American Right have clearly been annoyed with the Bill of Rights for some time and the speed with which they foisted the so-called PATRIOT Act (makes it kinda hard to oppose, calling it that, huh?) on an unwary Congress, which had no time to read it, suggests that they had a lot of these ideas on the shelf ready to go.

Guantanamo Prison should be closed because it was conceived as the beginning of the end of the American Republic.


If you click on the Cole item he had embedded links so you can check out all the items to which he refers.

But this is all happening for good reason – to keep us safe. 


As noted last Sunday here, the historian Walter Russell Mead has argued that the Bush administration fits into the "Jacksonian tradition" in American politics.  One of this tradition's core beliefs is that normal rules of warfare are suspended when dealing with "dishonorable enemies."  Mead gives the example of the Indian wars in which American soldiers, enraged by Indian fighting tactics, waged battle ruthlessly and with no holds barred.

If you buy that the rest follows.  All of it.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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