Blueprint for Dictatorship
Recent legislation sets us up
by Justin Raimondo
http://antiwar.com/, April 30,
America is headed for a military dictatorship
- and recent legislation makes this all but inevitable. Last September,
Congress passed the Defense Authorization Act, which empowered
the president to declare martial law with very little provocation,
namely in the aftermath of a "terrorist attack or incident."
Having determined that "the execution of the laws" is
hampered by the "incident," the president can unilaterally
impose martial law - without the consent of Congress, which need
only be informed of the event "as soon as practicable."
The only condition attached instructs the president to report
to Congress after 14 days, and every 14 days thereafter.
This use of the military to enforce domestic
order is a new development in American history, one that augurs
a turning point not only in terms of law, but also in our evolving
political culture. Such a measure would once have provoked an
outcry - on both sides of the aisle. When the measure passed,
there was hardly a ripple of protest: the Senate approved it unanimously,
and there were only thirty-something dissenting votes in the House.
Added to the Military Commissions Act [.pdf], this new brick in
the wall of domestic repression creates the structure of a new
imperial system on the ruins of the old constitutional order.
George W. Bush and his hard-core neoconservative henchmen may
have lost the war in Iraq, but they have won a virtually uncontested
victory at home: the conquest of the old republic by an emerging
imperial order. This recalls the opening of Garet Garrett's 1952
philippic, Rise of Empire, wherein he diagnosed the essential
indeterminacy of the transition:
"We have crossed the boundary that
lies between Republic and Empire. If you ask when, the answer
is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night;
the precise moment does not matter. There as no painted sign to
say: 'You are now entering Imperium.'"
The usually prescient Garrett got it somewhat
wrong here: The single stroke between day and night can be fixed
precisely in time, at 8:45 a.m. EDT on Sept. 11, 2001, and the
Military Commissions Act and the disturbing changes in the U.S.
Code outlined above are the closest to painted signs we are likely
to get. Waiting in the wings, an infamous cabal took advantage
of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, moving with preternatural speed
to consolidate a dictatorship of fear. With the passage of more
recent legislation, they are now moving to consolidate their gains.
Sinisterly, the new legislation also alters the language of Title
10, Chapter 15, Section 333 of the U.S. Code (the so-called Insurrection
Act) in an ominous manner:
"Whenever the president considers
it necessary to use the militia or the armed forces under this
chapter, he shall, by proclamation, immediately order the insurgents
or those obstructing the enforcement of the laws to disperse and
retire peaceably to their abodes within a limited time."
Why insert the bolded phrase - unless
your objective is to widen the category of miscreants to include
those exercising their First Amendment rights? No one expects
an insurgency to be launched in this day and age in America, yet
peaceably assembling to protest government policies can easily
be interpreted to include "obstructionists" who might
be "dispersed." As José Padilla discovered, any
American can be kidnapped and held without trial - or even formal
charges - on the orders of the president, and the granting of
unprecedented power to rule by decree builds on this neo-royalist
theory. The Bushian doctrine of the "unitary executive,"
which gives the occupant of the White House monarchical power
in wartime, has now been approved by the Democrats, who can't
wait to wield it themselves. Of course, they would exercise such
unholy power only in a good way - say, if a state refused to cooperate
in enforcing or implementing federal legislation instituting a
draft, or, more likely, federalizing a state National Guard unit
to be shipped to the Middle East.
Oh, you mean that's not so good? Just
wait until the Democrats get their hands on all that power: then
you'll see the real collapse of the movement to preserve civil
liberties in America. Remember, it was Hillary Clinton who said
of the Internet: "We are all going to have to rethink how
we deal with this, because there are always competing values.
There's no free decision that I'm aware of anywhere in life, and
certainly with technology that's the case." Yes, the technology
is very "exciting," she averred, yet "there are
a number of serious issues without any kind of editing function
or gatekeeping function. What does it mean to have the right to
defend your reputation, or to respond to what someone says?"
The First Amendment is not big with Hillary
and never has been. She's power-mad, and every once in a while
the frigid mask gives way to the face of a real authoritarian,
albeit a different one than that of the red-state fascists, as
Lew Rockwell describes the anti-libertarian Right. Blue-state
fascists trample on our civil liberties "for the children,"
but the effect is the same: bipartisan support for the abolition
of our old republic and the inauguration of a new era in American
history: the Age of Empire.
With the neoconized "conservative"
movement transformed into a force fully committed to outright
authoritarianism, and the "liberals" defending the depredations
of the Democrats in power, who will be left to defend what's left
of the Constitution? Just Ron Paul and Alexander Cockburn. The
rest will go with the herd instinct of sheep threatening to stampede
at the apparent intrusion of a wolf in their pasture.
Under the terms of this legislation, who
defines a terrorist "incident"? The president. Who defines
an "unlawful combination"? The president. Who determines
that a "conspiracy" is in progress, one that threatens
national security and domestic order? The president of these United
States - which are to be united, in our darkest future, by a superpresident
who can outlaw the opposition with the stroke of a pen and is
more a military leader than the chief executive of an ostensible
Stop, for a moment, and consider where
we are in the spring of 2007.
On the home front, the representatives
of the people have conceded the last of their waning powers to
the executive branch and paved the way for the restoration of
royalism in America. Overseas, American troops are fighting a
war of conquest - there is no other way to describe it - in an
effort to prop up a rapidly failing puppet government in the Middle
East. Meanwhile, U.S. forces are gathering in the Persian Gulf
for what looks to be a strike against Iran.
The unpopularity of our foreign policy
is increasingly a cause for concern in the Imperial City, where
both parties have colluded - with surprisingly little dissent
- in ensuring a permanent U.S. military presence in the Middle
East. It is merely a question of the size of our footprint that
divides the two major parties on this all-important question.
The Democrats want to "redeploy" - to Qatar and other
neighboring countries. The Republicans won't give up an inch of
conquered Iraqi territory and instead want to extend the battle
into Iran, which is already the target of a not-so-covert campaign
aiming at "regime change." (The Iran Freedom Support
Act, authorizing millions in aid to "democratic" groups,
was supported by the leadership of both parties in Congress.)
Rising antiwar sentiment worries William
F. Buckley Jr., who opines that "There are grounds for wondering
whether the Republican Party will survive this dilemma."
Given the authoritarian proclivities of the Bush administration
and the neoconized GOP, there are grounds for wondering whether
the republic will survive. We are just a terrorist "incident,"
either real or imagined, away from a declaration of martial law
and all its attendant consequences. Buckley grimly notes the polls
are "savagely decisive" on the war question, and he
asks: "Beyond affirming executive supremacy in matters of
war, what is George Bush going to do?" The answer may be
contained in Title 10, Chapter 15, Section 333.
Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Kit
Bond (R-Mo.) are sponsoring legislation that would repeal the
changes, but, as Sen. John Warner pointed out the other day, when
the Insurrection Act was revised to give the president extraordinary
powers, no one raised any objection. Now, suddenly, the senators,
including Warner, see some reason to regret their hasty actions
- do they know something we don't?
I fear, however, that it may be too late.
Bush will surely veto the Leahy-Bond measure - and, if necessary,
declare America's governors, who all oppose this brazen usurpation,
an "unlawful combination," as the Insurrection Act puts
it. Then he will be empowered to "disperse" them, and
the Senate, at will.
I'm back to Garet Garrett, who never fails
to come up with some apt aphoristic prognostication, this one
being from his classic The Revolution Was:
"There are those who still think
they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming
up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution
is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing
songs to freedom."