Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, July 07, 2006

We Have Always Been At War With Eurasia

In this morning's Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer wrote a piece of apologia for the Bush administration's shredding of the constitution. He begins by saying that "1861. 1941. 2001. Our big wars -- and the war on terrorism ranks with the big ones -- have a way of starting in the first year of a decade. Supreme Courts, which historically have been loath to intervene against presidential war powers in the midst of conflict, have tended to give the president until mid-decade to do what he wishes to the Constitution in order to win the war." This is historical revisionism gone mad.

1. The war on Al Qaeda (a war on an idea or a tactic, such as "terrorism" is just a metaphor, so that's a phony and dangerous usage) is nowhere NEAR as big as World War Two or the Civil War. You can tell this by the fact that the US government has all but abandoned that conflict in favor of a different, unrelated war in Iraq. The war in Iraq has one similarity with the War on Al Qaeda, of course: our failure to secure Iraq has invited Al Qaeda to come there in hopes it can piggyback on Rumsfeld's piss-poor planning to claim a victory of its own after the inevitable US withdrawal and collapse of Iraq into chaos (not sure which order those occur in, by the way). I'm not saying that 9/11 wasn't horrible. Or that the threat of more terrorism is not equally awful. But get a grip! WWII and the Civil War cost hundreds of thousands of US lives and threatened to destroy the country.

2. Even such a right winger as Reagan apologized for FDR's internment of the Japanese, as he recognized it was overreaching. The timidity of the US Supreme Court then is not part of a tradition we should honor, but something we should abhor and learn from.

3. The gravest threat to the USA, by far, was the Civil War, where hundreds of thousands of traitors, under arms, threatened to surround the US capital and destroy the whole country. They killed more than 300,000 American soldiers. The rebel junta in Richmond was desperate to have the British intervene, i.e., to have the UK invade the North and recolonize it, in exchange for freedom for the South. Lincoln's most questionable acts took place in the brief period between April 1860 and September 1860, when the Congress was not in session. He wrestled with them mightily, though, in a way that GWBush is mentally incapable of. We likely will never confront such exigencies again.

4. Oh, and the US Supreme Court DID oppose Lincoln's war powers, in part because it was packed with southerners. He ignored them.

The real problem underlying the Bush administration's unconstitutional power grab is one of motives. Conceding that the Roosevelt administration went too far, and that the SC was wrong to have failed to intervene, the real issue is whether there is any meaningful comparison between Lincoln and GWBush. None that would flatter GWBUsh, that's for sure. Here's the rub. Lincoln acted out of true necessity, out of a genuine belief that had he not, for example, arrested secessionists in the Maryland legislature, the US government would have been totally surrounded by enemy forces in Washington, DC, and the country would have been destroyed. Bush, facing no real emergency, hired lawyers to a historical-legalistic argument for grabbing more power, using the war as an excuse. Krauthammer does the same. Lincoln did not want to set a precedent, nor did he. Lincoln only said, "I did understand however, that my oath to preserve the constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that government – that nation – of which that constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation, and yet preserve the constitution? " Those were the stark choices Lincoln faced, and the way he phrased the dilemma.

Believe me, if Bush ever faces the choice between losing the whole nation or preserving the constitution, nobody would stand in the way of some extraordinary measures. He does not. Only an incredibly intellectually dishonest person, like Krauthammer, apparently, would claim so.

Oh, and Lincoln did not authorize torture against the southerners. Indeed, the first war crimes trials in American history were held to punish southerners for what they did to Union prisoners at Andersonville. I have been there. 50,000 Union soldiers were crammed into an open space the size of a football field, with no shade from the sun, a single ditch for water and relieving themselves, and finally almost no food. The pictures are terrible to behold.


Anonymous said...

Here is a quote you will enjoy, "There is the case of the IRAQ. I have tried hard, and yet I cannot for the life of me comprehend how we got into that mess. Perhaps we could not have avoided it -- perhaps it was inevitable that we should come to be fighting the natives [there] -- but I cannot understand it, and have never been able to get at the bottom of the origin of our antagonism to the natives. I thought we should act as their protector -- not try to get them under our heel. We were to relieve them from [ ] tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own, and we were to stand by and see that it got a fair trial. It was not to be a government according to our ideas, but a government that represented the feeling of the majority of the IRAQIS, a government according to IRAQI ideas. That would have been a worthy mission for the United States. But now -- why, we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I'm sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation."

It's actually Mark Twain, in 1900, talking about the US war of occupation in the Philippines. The good news is that we won there. Bad news is it 'only' took 14 years. 

// posted by ltg

Anonymous said...

The Krauthammer article is really myopic. He called the Handam v. Rumsfeld "sensational"! and he thinks that the Court has shown "wanton" disregard for the powers of Congress and the President. I was reading that wondering what world Krauthammer has been living in because it ain't this one. He says later in the article, "The court tortures the reading of Common Article 3 to confer upon Handam -- and by extension the man for whom he rode shotgun, bin Laden -- the kind of elaborate legal protections that one expects from 'civilized peoples.'
This infinitely elastic concept will allow courts to usurp from Congress and the president . . ."

Well HELLO! It's about time. What Krauthammer misses isn't just the actual history of or nation, but the fact that as a nation, we were founded on the principles of the Enlightenment. That meant everyone, no matter how odious, was entitled to the their god-given rights.

What I am choosing to take away from LTG's comments is a sense that what is happening now isn't new and that we will survive as a nation. I think we are experiencing some sort of historic cleavage where things are in an upheaval because change as occurred faster than we can cope. We have created realities without appreciating the consequences. What we need now is a batch of very good, very sincere leaders.


// posted by USWest

Dr. Strangelove said...

As I wrote elsewhere, our response to the threat posed by Al Qaeda and other such groups is not a war at all. (Do not be fooled by the rhetoric of Al Qaeda!) Terrorism is a problem that can only be solved through intelligence gathering, improved security, and international cooperation--it is not a military problem. Krauthamer could not be more wrong in his initial premise.

Oh, and to equate Hamdan with bin Laden is just silly.