Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The War On The Constitution

Here are some agonistic snapshots of the administration's campaign to transform the US military and national security apparatus into an arm of its political operation. (Warning, Sacbee password required; signing up is free but exceptionally irritating.)
An army lieutenant colonel serves as an intelligence officer in the Able Danger program that pegged Mohammed Atta before the Daythatchangedeverything, can't present his findings to the FBI because of bureaucratic idiocy, and tries to explain the resulting clusterfuck to the Daythatchangedeverything Commission. His testimony is excluded from the Daythatchangedeverything Report, and the commissioner with whom he met tragically develops local amnesia about the meeting. He is accused of stealing (I'm not kidding) from the Pentagon's petty cash bin and personal information about him is leaked. Someone floats a bizarre rumor that he is having an affair with a member of the staff of a Pennsylvania congressman

An analyst in the NSA who has an unusual familiarity with the text of the 4th Amendment and an unusally literal interpretation of his oath to the Constitution raises alarms about the illegality of the warrantless wiretapping program; is inexplicably classified as mentally ill by the agency and handed his walking papers.

An army specialist witnesses the perpetration of a series of war crimes against POWs in Iraq, some of whom are uniformed soldiers of a sovereign member nation of the United Nations, and hence unambiguously and unconditionally protected by the Geneva Conventions, UCMJ, and United States Code. He witnesses the 16 year old civilian son of an Iraqi general subjected to coercive interrogation. He witnesses senior officer whitewashing the crimes, and when necessary, hanging out grunts to dry for carrying out the orders these same officers gave them. After being stonewalled along the chain of command he finally states his allegations to a general; he is demoted and put on trash duty.
The national security and military establishments are the physical extensions of federal government's power. No other entity in American society can even come close to contesting their strength; it is thus a precondition of the maintainence of a democratic republic that such forces remain utterly unpolitical, and duty bound only to the Constitution and whichever officers the Constitution invests with control of them, but only so long as those officers do not exceed their Constitutional authorizations.

George Bush doesn't like that arrangement. He wants a private army, a private NSA, a private CIA, that are loyal to him. If Congress and the courts don't stop him, only institutional inertia (which is thankfully in this case substantial) can prevent that outcome. But the independence of Congress is under assault too. Bush's first term in office was spent creating a parliamentary party and installing himself as the dual head of the legislative and executive branches. The chairmen of committees whose raison d'etre is to maintain oversight of executive behavior are so beholden to the Bush circle that they will use their committees to stage show exonerations of the president despite a proponderance of evidence of his multi-layered guilt. (See Roberts, Pat). This is my sole reason for supporting the congressional Democrats; in power, they can conduct hearings, subpoena witnesses, and actually fulfill the oversight obligations that an independent constitutional branch of government can only decline to fulfill on pain of abnegation. At this late stage, the only people who, upon reflection, deny that the administration is responsible for extensive, multiform criminality, are frankly in a state of clinical denial. (See Powerline.)

Finally, the judiciary is unique for being immune to direct executive coercion. Hence the Republicans' concerted effort to incite a cultural war against judicial independence; maybe the Christ flock thinks this stuff is about abortion and sodomy, but nothing could be further from the leaders' minds: this is about power. Why are Samuel Alito and John Roberts on the Supreme Court? Because (so Bush&co. think) they are prepared to surrender the court's liberty and independence to George Bush. Alito is the sort of power-worshipping toady who would join a racist Princeton alumni group just to sit at the same table as old money reactionaries who think of Italian Catholics like himself as practically black; he has yet to encounter an exercise of police power he doesn't approve of, and based on his defenses of jackboot tactics, I don't see what his principled objection to police activity in South Africa c. 1984 could possibly have been. There's your strict constructionist.

Roberts in his humble federal judge days concurred in the majority opinion that affirmed the constitutionality non-article III kangaroo courts as the final arbiters of prisoners' enemy combatant status. But unlike Alito, Roberts shows signs of having some self-respect. If Justice Stevens kicks the bucket before 09, the prospect for a judiciary co-equal with the executive will be proportional to the chances that Roberts will awake one day to realize that George Bush has no power over him whatsoever, that as far as the Constitution is concerned, they are equals in rank. I don't think I'd like seeing how sportstrader would cash that calculation out.


At 2:22 PM, Blogger Rich said...

The single most impressive day of blogging in Yale blogosphere history. How could one man write so much (well some it was old stuff he had previously written, but still...)?

Anyways, you never answered me about much you make (you can e-mail me about it for discretionary purposes)?

Also, that Kennedy thing is quite a story!


Post a Comment

<< Home

  • E-mail me: Dan Koffler
  • My YDN Column: Smashing Idols
  • The Reasonsphere
  • Hit & Run
  • Matt Welch
  • Julian Sanchez
  • Jesse Walker
  • Virginia Postrel
  • Tim Cavanaugh
  • Ringers
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Josh Marshall
  • Crooked Timber
  • Matthew Yglesias
  • Kevin Drum
  • John Cole
  • Leiter Reports
  • Pharyngula
  • Gregory Djerjian
  • Atrios
  • Mickey Kaus
  • Jim Henley
  • Radley Balko
  • TNR's Plank
  • Balkinization
  • Glenn Greenwald
  • Thomas Knapp
  • Justin Logan
  • Laura Rozen
  • Mark Kleiman
  • Print Culture
  • Arthur Silber
  • Tom Tomorrow
  • James Wolcott
  • OxBlog
  • Eric Muller
  • Majikthise
  • Pandagon
  • The American Scene
  • Daniel Drezner
  • Will Wilkinson
  • The Volokh Conspiracy
  • Intel Dump
  • Prequels
  • Johan Ugander
  • Dan Munz
  • Josh Eidelson
  • Future Less Vivid
  • Sequels
  • (not)Delino Deshields
  • Actual God
  • Hidden Hand
  • I am justice
  • Death/Media Incarnate
  • (not)Marquis Grissom
  • Yanqui At Cambridge
  • Beneficent Allah
  • Mr. Wrongway
  • The Hippolytic
  • Discourse Decision
  • Tight Toy Night
  • Mulatto Jesus
  • Sago Boulevard
  • Immortalized Stillicide
  • Nick's Corner
  • Dead Trees
  • Reason
  • Dissent
  • The New Republic
  • The New Yorker
  • The Atlantic Monthly
  • The American Prospect
  • Arts & Letters Daily
  • The Economist
  • The Nation
  • Yale Daily News
  • Virtual Reality
  • Wikipedia
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Symbolic Logic into HTML
  • Slate
  • Salon
  • The Huffington Post
  • Crooks and Liars
  • The Smoking Gun
  • The Smoking Gun: Bill O'Reilly
  • Romenesko
  • The Christopher Hitchens Web
  • Draft Russ
  •'s Library
  • Urban Dictionary
  • Homestar Runner
  • Planet Rugby
  • Flex Online
  • Card Player Magazine
  • Gawker & Such
  • News
  • Politics
  • Gambling
  • Gossip (NY edition)
  • Gossip (LA edition)
  • Cool Shit
  • Cars
  • Video Games
  • Photoshop Fun &c.
  • Travel
  • MacGuyver Yourself
  • Porn
  • Prepare For The Worst
  • Bull Moose Blog
  • The Corner
  • Instapundit
  • Reel Blogs
  • BathTubYoga
  • More TK
  • R.I.P.
  • Jamie Kirchick
  • That Girl