Is the BananaRepublic on its way out? I don’t mean just the elected officials like the President With His Head Up His Ass and his Attack Dog in their lame-duck days. I mean their modus operandi or, if you like, their institutional style and substance.
Not to stretch the point, but “there is no crueller tyranny than the one exercised in the shadow of the law, and with the colours of justice.” That’s Montesquieu, via Clive James, speaking about the Roman emperor Tiberius. “Montesquieu was impressed by the efficiency Tiberius brought to the business of perverting the judicial system,” James writes.
Jess Bravin, reporting in today’s Wall Street Journal, gives me hope our boys are less efficient. He writes that the “effort to create a separate legal system for the war on terrorism may be foundering.”
The latest sign, Bravin notes, was Monday’s federal appeals court ruling that it’s illegal to hold a U.S. resident arrested in this country in indefinite military detention without charging him with a crime simply because the president has declared him an enemy combatant. He writes:
Skeptical civilian and military courts, using language both sweeping and technical, have blocked the government’s contention that to fight terrorism the president can invoke military powers that supersede traditional legal protections. None of these setbacks has resulted in the immediate release of prisoners, but they raise questions about the long-term viability of the legal regime.
Bravin is not alone in his analysis. Others — law professor Jonathan Turley on “Countdown,” for one — have commented pretty much likewise, which is heartening. And yet … it staggers the mind to realize what we’ve come to.
Postscript: A reader, “Balakirev,” comments:
Not when you factor in a benignly complicit press — owned and operated as conservative/neo-con radical organs, or taking refuge in bland reporting without investigation. This is the tool that has allowed Bush and his cronies to get away with aggravated assault on the Constitution, a smoke screen of Hiltons and Brittanys, haircuts and madrasses, that keep the public from any chance of developing a sense of outrage.
(June 14, 2007 at 11:42am AM EDT)
(Crossposted at HuffPo)
PPS: Point taken.
Meantime WSJ’s editorial page has already attacked its own reporter’s analysis. Yesterday (June 14) its lead editorial dissed Bravin without naming him. Here’s the first graf:
On Monday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that al Qaeda agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri can’t be detained as an enemy combatant. The press corps is reporting — no, shouting, cheering, doing somersaults — that this is further proof that Bush Administration detainee policies are doomed to legal oblivion.
The headline “Al Qaeda’s American Harbor” and the subhed “A bad decision likely to be overturned” summarized the theme.
If that wasn’t aggressive enough, the op-ed page led with a piece, headlined “Terrorist Safe Haven,” by a former associate White House counsel to Bush that took the same line as the editorial. The pull quote: “Thanks to the Fourth Circuit, al Qaeda operatives can breathe easy once they hit our shores.”
(Crossposted at HuffPo)