Like the Bush administration before it – whose top security officials issued a letter before the judge’s decision, arguing that to strike down the “homeland battlefield” provisions would be “unconstitutional” – this liberal White House is committed to the legal doctrine of presidential supremacism, which argues that the chief executive’s role as commander-in-chief trumps all constitutional checks and balances, including the Bill of Rights.
This would have shocked an earlier age, but in the long senescence of our decaying republic hardly anyone can be roused to even a semblance of outrage. Given the stakes, the legal and political battle over this fateful legislation is getting almost no attention: certainly it will never be an issue in the presidential election, and the media coverage is perfunctory, with stories relegated to the back pages. Particularly worrying is the political fight over efforts to amend the offending portions of the NDAA, led by Reps. Adam Smith, a Democrat, and Justin Amash, a Republican of the Paulian persuasion. Their amendment was smashed in the House, 238 to 182, with the leadership of both parties uniting behind the drive to crush the Constitution underfoot.
Americans stupidly believe none of this applies to them: it’s all about detaining foreigners, and “terrorists,” and is therefore okay. No President would use the provisions of the law to target and detain American political dissidents – would he?
The average American’s ignorance of basic history is so scant that they don’t realize there is ample precedent. If you ask them what they know about the Alien and Sedition Acts, you’re apt to get a blank look. As for Abraham Lincoln shutting down newspapers and imprisoning his political opponents – bringing up such inconvenient facts is heresy as far as the Lincoln cult is concerned. We aren’t supposed to talk about it, or, if we do, we’re only allowed to say something vague about how it was necessary to free the slaves. The outright repression of political opposition during both world wars, the extended assault on civil liberties that characterized the cold war era – these less than proud chapters in American history aren’t taught in the schools. If mentioned at all, they’re whitewashed and rationalized away.
Over the years, these partially successful attempts to overthrow the rule of law and invalidate the Constitution have accumulated to the point where a coup is unnecessary. The President needn’t declare martial law and surround Congress with troops, because the people’s representatives have consented to the coup in advance – and are strewing the tyrant’s path with rose petals.
As Congress was rejecting the Smith-Amash amendment, what we were hearing was the death agony of our old republic. The American Revolution stands repealed without a shot being fired. What was required in order to pull it off wasn’t the sight of armed men swarming over Capitol Hill: it took only the greasy evasions of government lawyers and the heavy indifference of the public. The courts are the last recourse of those who seek to salvage the heritage of the Founders: beyond that, there is nothing but the certain prospect of tyranny.
As our drones hunt the world, striking at will, the skies over America will inevitably be darkened. With local law enforcement buying up drones and increasingly using them in routine police operations, we aren’t far from the day when the President can zap his enemies on command. And it will all be perfectly “legal.”
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