The Supreme Court has dealt a blow
to Bush's Imperial Presidency. It ruled that the Bush administration cannot create its own courts for Guantanamo or other detainees, a policy which also has been used as the foundation
for other egregious violations of American civil rights. Thank goodness that Kennedy has taken over O'Connor's role as the swing vote; without him, the Bush Supreme Court would be no less a rubber-stamp organ than the GOP-run Congress is today.
The larger issue behind this ruling is the nature of Bush's expansion of the executive branch, and the pretenses that have been used to justify it.
In Bush's presidency, we have seen him usurp the legislative branch by simply breaking laws and then claiming he has the power to do so. Bush has in essence claimed 750 new laws to be meaningless in regards to his own actions by issuing a record number of "signing statements," essentially declarations that he will ignore those laws as he sees fit. We have also seen Bush attempt to usurp the courts in the way he deals with "detainees," an ominous term if I've has ever heard one. Guantanamo Bay prison was set up specifically to evade the courts, with Bush instead creating his own "tribunals," shrouded in secrecy and answerable only to himself. Bush has, in these moves, essentially created a bubble government with himself in charge of everything, and uses this independent legal universe to violate the law at will, and remain unaccountable for it.
The pretense? 9/11 and the War on TerrorTM
. And they are
pretenses. Excuses. People are scared right now, just like they were when McCarthy was abusing power. But should we be scared? Are we in any more danger today than we were before 9/11? The answer, of course, is "no." We've known for a long time that terrorists have been trying to get us in big ways, spectacular ways. Before 9/11, fiction writers foresaw terrorists doing everything from crashing jetliners into Washington D.C. to unleashing nuclear weapons. We knew that while unlikely, it was plausible. Before 9/11, in fact, one of the major objections to a missile defense shield was that a terrorist could smuggle a nuclear bomb in via a sea port.
9/11 changed that only because it killed 3,000 people in such a spectacular manner. But just as airliner crashes horrify us and make us fear air travel even though it is safer than car travel, 9/11 horrified us into thinking that terrorism is somehow more important than so many other things in life. In reality, we are more at risk from car travel than we are from terrorism.
A lot of talk has been going around about if we do or don't do this or that thing, then "the terrorists win." Well, you know what? If we're terrified
, then the terrorists win. And the Bush administration has been making the terrorists win for the past four and a half years. Our own government has been terrorizing us, making us believe that we are in far more danger than we really are. That's the pretense. And the pretense is being used to grab power from the people. The government has been using that pretense to take away the rights we have long treasured, rights which have inconvenienced people in power.
Think about it: the Cold War was far
more of a threat to us than terrorism ever
could be. And yet somehow today we are supposed to believe that only measures that would have seemed extreme for the Cold War can help us "win" the unwinnable and endless War on TerrorTM
The threat of terrorism is far less than we have been led to believe. The actions of the government are wildly in excess of what is necessary to be secure. We don't need to give up our rights and freedoms in the name of Terror; that's what the terrorists--and ironically, our own government--want. In this, they are united.
The Supreme Court decision, in the end, will probably be a relatively small blow. The administration will simply find another legal excuse to do what they want. The Congress, either enthusiastically in support of the new authoritarianism or afraid of being called soft on terror, will go along. The press will continue to be the lapdogs they are, lest they be called traitors and appear as unpopular. And the people, all too many of the people, will go on being terrified.
And Bush and the terrorists will both win.
This post is a version of my blog post for today in The Blog from Another Dimension.