Tuesday, September 26, 2006

With Liberty and Justice for You

I'd like to say a few words about this Andrew Sullivan post entitled Legalizing Tyranny. To be frank, I don't think anyone will care what I say, or that I will get any comments, aside from a few lazy 'you're paranoid' comments. But, might as well try because I'm sick today and this pisses me off.

What Sullivan is talking about are the measures currently being pushed through the government relating to how we detain and try enemy combatants. Not only does the current bill allow for things like military tribunals, secret arrests, and endless detentions without charges being brought against the arrested person. "But in recent days the Bush administration and its House allies successfully pressed for a less restrictive description of how the government could designate civilians as "unlawful enemy combatants," the sources said yesterday."

Those of us who have been following the legal back and forth over these bills aren't terribly surprised about the new bill. But, Sullivan feels that: "Those of us trying to resist the Bush administration's seizure of permanent emergency powers have so far failed to alert the American public of the immense danger to their basic liberties that this administration represents."

I'm more cynical though. I think people have the ability to study these bills and find out what they allow and don't allow, and honestly just don't care. The classic Enlightenment argument is that people need to be 'educated' and then they will care about their basic rights. I think they know perfectly well about the threat that bills like this pose, but are willing to hedge their bets if they think that the bills will make life suitably miserable for the people they don't like.

Sullivan wants it to be clear for everyone, so here it is:

If the U.S. government decides, for reasons of its own, that you are an "illegal enemy combatant," i.e. that you are someone who "has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States," they can detain you without charges indefinitely, granting you no legal recourse except to a military tribunal, and, under the proposed bill, "disappear" and torture you. This is not just restricted to aliens or foreigners, but applies to U.S. citizens as well. It can happen anywhere in the U.S. at any time. We are all at potential risk."

But, this assumes that the way you appeal to Americans is to appeal to their basic selfishness. "This really matters because it could affect YOU!" But, the counter-arguement is simply: "No it doesn't. Don't worry- they won't come for you. They'll come for those spics and sand niggers that you hate. Your beautiful self will be fine!" And this is what people want. This is what they're counting on. I mean, let's cut the crap about how 'people are uninformed and dumbed down'. No, they're not. They're perfectly able to trace every public utterance of Dan Rather for the last twenty years to see if he said anything 'biased', but they can't read bills in Congress?

Sullivan continues:
"Whatever else this is, it is not a constitutional democracy. It is a thinly-veiled military dictatorship, subject to only one control: the will of the Great Decider. And the war that justifies this astonishing attack on American liberty is permanent, without end. And check the vagueness of the language: "purposefully supported" hostilities. Could that mean mere expression of support for terror? Remember that many completely innocent people have already been incarcerated for years without trial or any chance for a fair hearing on the basis of false rumors or smears or even bounty hunters. Or could it be construed, in the rhetoric of Hannity and O'Reilly, as merely criticizing the Great Decider and thereby being on the side of the terrorists?"

And the counter-arguement is: "But, they're really going to stick it to those radical Islamic freaks! If you haven't done anything wrong, it's not tyranny for you, buddy boy!"

And, let's be blunt: Most tyrannies are legalized. You don't need a tyrant for a tyranny. You don't need Generalissimo Moustache to stage a coup. All you need is for the laws to change in such a way that the executive gains certain powers and the citizenry loses certain rights. That's it. So, even if Bush is the nicest man who ever lived, if the country becomes a legal tyranny, there are no checks to stop the first tyrant who steps in. Maybe Hillary?

But, fuck it, if you're the average American, you just don't care. And the 'Then, they came for me!' stuff won't work with you. Because they won't come for you. Not if you're a loyal citizen who was born here. Not in a million years. What they're going to do is come for those goddamn foreigners that you hate, and maybe a few radical leftists who yearn for revolution. And maybe a few of those Berkeley leftist nuts. Your government is going to oppress the people that you want them to, and you will be fine. This is the will of the people, stripped of all its Enlightenment liberal residue. This is the true voice of the "post-911" citizenry. This is what you want.

But, remember this: In the future, when historians talk about this era as one in which the West was civilized and humane, others will be able to use you as a counter-example to illustrate brutality and savagery.

No comments: