We have seen what would happen. We have seen it for years, we are seeing it now – and we have almost certainly not seen the worst of it yet. As I noted in 2006, after the passage of the Military Commissions Act:
How arbitrary is this process by which all our lives and liberties are now governed? Dave Niewert at Orcinus has unearthed a remarkable admission of its totally capricious nature. In an December 2002 story in the Washington Post, then-Solicitor General Ted Olson described the anarchy at the heart of the process with admirable frankness:
“‘There won’t be 10 rules that trigger this or 10 rules that end this,’ Olson said in the interview. ‘There will be judgments and instincts and evaluations and implementations that have to be made by the executive that are probably going to be different from day to day, depending on the circumstances.'”
In other words, what is safe to do or say today might imperil your freedom or your life tomorrow. You can never know if you are on the right side of the law, because the “law” is merely the whim of the Leader and his minions: their “instincts” determine your guilt or innocence, and these flutterings in the gut can change from day to day. This radical uncertainty is the very essence of despotism — and it is now, formally and officially, the guiding principle of the United States government.
As we’ve seen, the recent Supreme Court decision deals solely with the question of habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees. The majority opinion insists that the rest of the Military Commission Act is not affected in any way by the ruling. It stands – just as it has stood throughout the entire 18 months that the Democrats have controlled Congress. They have not challenged the arbitrary power of the executive – nor the president’s license to kill. As I noted in that earlier piece:
I laid out some of the details in an even earlier piece, from 2005 (see the original for the supporting links):
The existence of this universal death squad– and the total obliteration of human liberty it represents – has not provoked so much as a crumb, an atom, a quantum particle of controversy in the American Establishment, although it’s no secret. The executive order was first bruited in the Washington Post in October 2001. I first wrote of it in my Moscow Times column in November 2001. The New York Times added further details in December 2002. That same month, Bush officials made clear that the dread edict also applied to American citizens, as the Associated Press reported.
The first officially confirmed use of this power was the killing of an American citizen in Yemen by a CIA drone missile on November 3, 2002….
From the 2006 piece:
What’s more, there are strong indications that the Bush administration has outsourced some of the contracts to outside operators. In the original Post story about the assassinations – in those first heady weeks after 9/11, when administration officials were much more open about “going to the dark side,” as Cheney boasted on national television – Bush insiders told the paper that “it is also possible that the instrument of targeted killings will be foreign agents, the CIA’s term for nonemployees who act on its behalf.
I ended the 2005 piece on Bush’s global death squad with a passage that I’ve quoted a few times since then. But I want to reference it again here, because I think it captures what is perhaps the quintessence of our times: the bipartisan Establishment rising to applaud an open admission of murder by a lawless leader conducting an endless war of terror, aggression and torture. It was
In other words, the suspects – and even Bush acknowledged they were only suspects – had been murdered. Lynched. Killed by agents operating unsupervised in that shadow world where intelligence, terrorism, politics, finance and organized crime meld together in one amorphous, impenetrable mass. Killed on the word of a dubious informer, perhaps: a tortured captive willing to say anything to end his torment, a business rival, a personal foe, a bureaucrat looking to impress his superiors, a paid snitch in need of cash, a zealous crank pursuing ethnic, tribal or religious hatreds – or any other purveyor of the garbage data that is coin of the realm in the shadow world.
Bush proudly held up this hideous system as an example of what he called “the meaning of American justice.” And the assembled legislators…applauded. Oh, how they applauded! They roared with glee at the leering little man’s bloodthirsty, B-movie machismo. They shared his sneering contempt for law – our only shield, however imperfect, against the blind, brute, ignorant, ape-like force of raw power. Not a single voice among them was raised in protest against this tyrannical machtpolitik: not that night, not the next day, not ever.
And there is still no voice in the corridors of power crying out against this abomination. Not one.
So yes, the Supreme Court decision is very welcome; if it eases the suffering of one innocent person, it will have done a great thing. But it is only a pebble cast up against a raging sea of blood that has long broken down the floodwalls and is drowning the land.