- That the United States, once touted as
the world's greatest democracy, is now ruled by a presidential dictatorship
is a fact beyond any serious dispute. Indeed, the nation's political establishment
seems to have accepted this revolutionary system with remarkable docility,
even as its lineaments are further exposed week by week. The Bush administration
no longer bothers to hide the novel theory of government that undergirds
its coup, but declares it openly, in court, in Congress, everywhere.
- The theory holds that the president has
the arbitrary right to ignore any law that he feels is an unconstitutional
infringement of his power -- and a law is automatically unconstitutional
if the president feels it infringes on his power. This neatly squared circle
makes Congress irrelevant and removes the judiciary from the loop altogether.
Thus, the only effective instrument of power left in the land is the "unitary
executive": the fancy modern name that the legal minions of President
George W. Bush have given to the ancient concept of "tyranny."
- The true nature of this presidential
dictatorship has been laid bare in a harrowing new book from reporter Ron
Suskind, "The One Percent Doctrine." Suskind, who once coaxed
the regime's defining ethos from an arrogant Bushist -- "We're an
empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality" -- paints
a portrait of an administration drunk on lawless power, a junta operated
from the shadows by the grim and literally heart-dead husk called Vice
President Dick Cheney and his long-time companion in skulduggery, Defense
Secretary Don Rumsfeld.
- As Suskind notes, it was Cheney who enunciated
the certifiably paranoid principle that governs the regime's behavior:
If there is even a 1 percent chance that some state or group might do serious
harm to the United States, then America must respond as if that threat
were a certainty -- with full force, pre-emptively. Facts, truth, law are
unimportant; the only thing that matters is the projection of unchallengeable
power. "It's not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of
evidence," Cheney said. "It's about our response."
- This is plainly madness. Whether the
insanity of the "doctrine" is genuine -- i.e., a pathological
panic reaction by gutless, pampered fat-cats scared of the slightest murmur
from the dusky tribes out there, beyond the iron gates and razor wire of
privilege -- or if, more likely, it is simply the chosen rationalization
for a gang of predators tired of the few restraints that constitutional
government has placed on their lust for loot and domination, the end result
is the same: The most powerful country in the history of the world is being
run by moral degenerates in thrall to a lunatic policy.
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- Email the Opinion Page Editor Suskind's
book is full of chilling passages, such as one about the pointless tortures
inflicted, at Bush's explicit suggestion, on Abu Zubaydah, a mentally ill
al-Qaida flunky. His capture in March 2002 was trumpeted as a "major
victory" in the war on terror, the bagging of a "top terrorist
operative." But interrogators quickly realized that he was just a
low-level factotum with multiple personality disorder and no knowledge
of al-Qaida operations or strategy.
- So the administration had to create another
reality. Told that Zubaydah had revealed nothing of value under ordinary
interrogation, Bush first whined to CIA boss George Tenet ("You're
not gonna make me lose face on this, are ya?"), then pointedly asked:
"So, do these harsh techniques work?" He was referring to the
"torture memos" drawn up at his order by the White House legal
team -- Machiavellian documents which declared that anything less than
deliberate murder or permanent maiming should no longer be regarded as
torture, The Washington Post reports.
- Bush's sinister nod and wink were clearly
understood. The wretched Zubaydah was "waterboarded," beaten
repeatedly and threatened with death. He was battered with white noise
and deprived of sleep, and his medication was taken away. His broken mind
snapped completely. He began spewing out whatever his tormentors wanted
to hear, fantastic tales of plots aimed at targets all over America --
meat for countless "terror alerts" whenever the political situation
called for a nice, juicy scare to goose the rubes.
- But perhaps the most revealing moment
in Suskind's book is a brief vignette that captures the quintessence of
Bush's callous disregard for the American people -- and the regime's strange,
preternatural calm in the face of imminent attack. In August 2001, while
Bush dawdled on his Texas dude ranch, the entire national security system
was, in Tenet's words, "blinking red" in expectation of a major
terrorist strike. On Aug. 6, a CIA official brought the infamous "Bin
Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." memo to Crawford and read it out
personally to the president. In response, he got nothing but a snide dismissal:
"All right, you've covered your ass now."
- That was it. Bush had nothing else to
say about this stark threat of impending slaughter. He had no questions,
no advice, no commands -- just smirking contempt. Even if we give Bush
every benefit of the doubt, even if we put the most charitable construction
possible on his behavior, the very best you could say of his reaction is
that it represents a blood-curdling degree of depraved indifference and
criminal negligence worthy of Nero.
- Beyond this "best-case" scenario,
you tumble into an abyss of ever-darker implications, a deep murk that
may never be dispelled. But what we know, what is plain as day, is bad
enough: Tyranny has come -- aggressive, remorseless, murderous, mad.