Sunday, December 21, 2008

Readings: The New Paradigm

In the “Afterword” of her indispensable book, The Dark Side, Jane Mayer reiterates that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld “new paradigm,” that fully sanctioned the use of torture and dispensed by fiat with both human decency and the rule of law, was not without its critics in both government and the military. She sums up the central message of her study thus:

XX “Instead of heeding this well-intentioned dissent, however, the Bush Administration invoked the fear flowing from the attacks on September 11 to institute a policy of deliberate cruelty that would have been unthinkable on September 10. President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and a small handful of trusted advisers sought and obtained dubious legal opinions enabling them to circumvent American laws and traditions. In the name of protecting national security, the executive branch sanctioned coerced confessions, extrajudicial detention, and other violations of individuals’ liberties that had been prohibited since the country’s founding. They turned the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel into a political instrument, which they used to expand their own executive power at the expense of long-standing checks and balances. When warned that these policies were unlawful and counterproductive, they ignored the experts and made decisions outside of ordinary bureaucratic channels, and often outside of the public’s view. Rather than risking the possibility of congressional opposition, they classified vital interpretations of law as top secret. No one knows to this day how many more secret opinions the Bush Justice Department has produced. Far from tempering these policies over time, they marginalized and penalized those who challenged their idées fixes. Because the subject matter was shrouded in claims of national security, however, much of the internal dissent remained hidden.
XX “Throughout this period, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have continued to insist that they never authorized or condoned ‘torture,’ which they acknowledge is criminal under U.S. law. But their semantic parsing of the term began to seem increasingly disingenuous as details from the secret detention and interrogation program surfaced, piece by piece.” [emphasis added]

The above is a brief summary. Mayer provides skeptics with 22 pages of endnotes and a nine-page bibliography citing her sources. The details provided in the body of the text to support these conclusions should turn the stomach of any person of good will and outrage any true patriot. It is disheartening, to say the very least, that these horrors have evoked so very little opposition and dissent.

Consolidation of power in the executive is the primary ingredient of totalitarian government. Integration of that unchecked executive power with what departing President, Dwight D. Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex” is the establishment of a fascist system.

What have we become? Where are we going?