Our leaders explain that we’re sheep. Our role: to obey. Rebel sheep will be imprisoned or destroyed.

Summary:  Sharks often use the “bump and bite” attack:  The shark tests its prey by repeatedly bumping it.  If the prey gives no dangerous response, the shark begins its attack — biting the prey repeatedly and viciously.  It works for sharks, as it has worked for our leaders.  Now the bumping phase ends and the attack begins. Attorney General Eric Holder explains the new order.

Since 9-11 our ruling elites have repeatedly tested us.  The irrational indignities of the Transportation Safety Administration.  Illegal wars.  Illegal surveillance of Americans.  Illegal imprisonment of Americans, even torture, without charge or warrant.  Finally they took the ultimate step:  assassination of a citizen, without charge or trial.  At each step they watch for a reaction from us; we did nothing. Now begins the assault.

Showing a sense of fairness, like parents playing a game with children, the Obama Administration tells us the new rules.  On March 5 Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at Northwestern University’s School of Law (text here).  Please read it.  For the sake of yourself and your children.  In it Holder explained at length that the Constitution has died, centuries of progress towards liberty erased — and that our rulers need not explain why.  There are enemies out there.  Enemies trivial in strength by comparison with those our forefathers have fought and defeated, but sufficient danger to scare the sheep we have become.

Our rulers know us well.  Even Holder’s obvious contempt for us — for the dead Constitution — elicits no response from the whipped dogs of the American people.  His lies and evasions fool only children — and Americans.

In November we have an election.  We can choose between factions of our ruling elites, both of whom agree with everything Holder says.  Much as Holder’s speech echos the officials during the Bush Jr years.

I fear that nothing can save the Republic now.  Next comes the end game, where the decayed remnants of the Constitution assume new forms and our rulers consolidate their power.  This includes marginalizing the useful idiots that made their quiet coup possible.  The Koch brothers take-over of the libertarian Cato Institute is the first step of the this process (see David Weigel’s articles at Slate on March 1 and March 5).

Then comes the best part — for them — when they exploit their power.  Fortunately for our pride (however delusional) it might be a few years before we watch our leaders openly mock and laugh at us on television.  Nevertheless our responsibility remains clear.  The First Republic, under the Articles of Confederation, failed.  The Second Republic, under the Constitution, lived for over two centuries.  The Third Republic lies in our future.  The question is when we will awaken, and what form it will take.  The road looks long and difficult.

“We don’t expect kittens to fight wildcats and win.  We merely expect them to try.”
— Colonel Nielssen, Commandant of the Mobile Infantry’s Officers Candidate School (in Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, 1959)

The next step:  contempt at what we have become

The first step to reform is not knowledge.  Not logic.  But rage, contempt at what we have become.  From that other things can flow, good or bad depending on our character.

Weber points us toward Nietzsche as the common source for serious thinkers of the twentieth century. He also tells us what the single fundamental issue is: the relation between reason, or science, and the human good. When he speaks of happiness and the last man, he does not mean that the last man is unhappy, but that his happiness is nauseating. An experience of profound contempt is necessary in order to grasp our situation, and our capacity for contempt is vanishing.

Weber’s science presupposes this experience, which we would call subjective. After having encountered it in Nietzsche, he spent the greater part of his scholarly life studying religion in order to understand the non-contemptible, those who esteem or revere and are therefore not self-satisfied, those who have values …

— From The Closing of the American Mind, chapter “Values”, Allan Bloom (1987)

The next step:  anger — and our assumption of responsibility for America

“Anger is easy. Anger at the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, is difficult.”
— Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, book IV, chapter 5 (lightly paraphrased)

“Telemachus, now is the time to be angry.”
— Odysseus, when the time came to deal with the Suitors. From the movie The Odyssey (1997)

And then what do we do?

Please read Five steps to fixing America, which describes the small first steps on a long journey to a better future.

A few of the many articles explaining the details of Holder’s speech

For more information about the quiet coup in America

(a)  For all posts about this topic see the FM reference page America – how can we stop the quiet coup now in progress?

(b)  Posts about America’s enemies within:

  1. Fear the enemies within America more than those without, 21 December 2011
  2. “Lawfare” – using the law to undermine the Constitution (a powerful tool in the quiet coup now in progress), 22 December 2011
  3. Some foes of the Republic revealed themselves by sponsoring the Enemy Expatriation Act, 30 January 2012

(c)  Posts about America today:

  1. Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006
  2. Can Americans pull together? If not, why not?, 29 July 2008
  3. The sky darkens over America, as we (the little people) are made smaller than we were last week. 24 January 2010
  4. Is the American Republic dying, as in the last days of the Roman Republic?, 20 July 2010
  5. Another American judge weakens the Republic’s foundation, 8 August 2010
  6. The guilty ones responsible for the loss of our liberties, 11 September 2010
  7. America is the new Rome. Late Republican Rome (not the best of times), 13 October 2010

42 thoughts on “Our leaders explain that we’re sheep. Our role: to obey. Rebel sheep will be imprisoned or destroyed.”

  1. While I agree with you that the Second Republic is finished (a statement that fills me with fear and loathing), I am not particularly concerned about our new masters. In today’s society, it is much easier to destroy something than it is to protect it.

    Our new masters have shown us a lot of ways to bring down the state that cannot be easily blocked and there are an amazing number of crazed but energetic idiots out there that are willing to work together long enough to tear something (everything?) down.

    I fear that the success of our new masters is the beginning of an iterative process that will not finish until absolutely every single surviving citizen of the current US is well aware of why good government is important and is willing to go to some length to protect it. We could take a long time to reach that blessed state…

  2. I am an Australian so I am not totally informed on the issue and haven’t got the experience of living in the US.
    Please tell me who the citizen is that was “assassinated… Without charge or trial”?

    I see two waves coming through, one is the utilitarian ethics that underpin the political correctness which has swept into the public consciousness like religion in the last thirty years, which is the veneer of modern society; and the other is far more ambiguous, the serving of interests of and by big government which has a side-effect of the erosion of our rights. One makes the other seem palatable, makes me think of that movie The Shadow where Genghis Khan’s descendent uses invisibility to hide his building of the atomic bomb.

    In this country if you question a police officer and his actions you can be arrested, when I discovered that the rights I thought I hadweird not exist I was shocked. I am not sure what it is like there. I assume most citizens don’t have enough interaction with the law to truly recognize what they’ve lost.

    1. “Please tell me who the citizen is that was ‘assassinated… Without charge or trial’?”

      Anwar Al-Awlaki. A famous name in US history as the first US ctizen assassinated by the US government. Without charge, let alone warrant or trial. Openly, with officials announcing their intent before and their success afterwards. But not releasing the memo justifying the legal basis for the action (secret) or the evidence (secret). It’s the red line for the Republic.

    2. >>>I assume most citizens don’t have enough interaction with the law to truly recognize what they’ve lost.

      That depends on your ethnicity. I think most non-whites are keenly aware of it actually. Probably have been for as long as the US has existed, actually.

      The dark side is coming out into the light.

      1. “I think most non-whites are keenly aware of it actually.”

        Boy, that’s an incisive comment. Winner of Best of Thread by a mile!

  3. Well, I’m curious about your decision to be anonymous. I’m not judging, or at least I’m trying not to judge. How public we want to be about political issues is a decision we all have to make individually. Just relative to this topic here, do you feel you might suffer personal or professional consequences for expressing opinions? Is this decision a result of the increasing police state.

    That aside, I think I have an odd perspective, that I have Japanese grandparents who were interned during WWII and I have Finnish grandparents who were communist sympathizers and bit anxious about the government due to all of the controversy surrounding this. From my chair, here, I wonder if anything has really changed. It seems like there’s all this pompous talk of freedom and due process, but at the same time, America always has the ‘hated group’ — this time the Muslims, and with the hated enemy there are no rules.

    That there are and have always been, to those with the eyes that can see it, two legal systems, and some of us maybe can speak with only the risk of some personal consequences, and others, you know, better to keep quiet, and keep your papers in order. In reality, it just seems like we’re a bunch of people walking around and doing our business, but maybe the guy in the next seat in the bus because he’s Muslim lives in a true police state — just like any other police state in the world. This is America’s ‘other nature.’ (reference: Greenwald article on the NYPD and Muslims)

  4. It seems we Americans would rather remove the speck from our neighbor’s eye than the plank from our own eye.

    Two disturbing anecdotes from my Facebook feed help illustrate this. First, I’ve seen no chatter about the recent Holder speech, just as I saw none about the Awlaki assassination at the time. This is consistent with your frequent assertion that Americans just don’t care about due process. NPR has done some decent reporting about the Holder speech, but I don’t think it grasps the gravity of the current state of the rule of law in the US.

    Second, since last night several friends have signed and circulated an online petition to bring Joseph Kony to justice. This petition appears to be going viral. While I agree wholeheartedly that Kony is a monster who should at the very least be neutralized as a military threat, I’m disturbed that Americans are more concerned about a regional menace in East Africa than they are about the official assassination of our own compatriots or the general evisceration of our Constitution.

  5. In order to take the opposition or play devil’s advocate effectively, I think I’d have to believe in the position at least a bit. I don’t, but I’ll try. This preface is just to avoid misunderstandings.

    Awlaki joined a stateless terrorist organization that had declared War on the United States, and he made no secret of the fact that he personally took part in terrorist attacks on this country. The Congress has passed resolutions authorizing the President to take action against Al Qaeda, hasn’t it? So Awlaki was an enemy combatant. He had effectively renounced his citizenship. Our methods of attack may need review, but he brought his fate on himself. What is wrong with that? Perhaps we are being overly critical. Maybe the reason more of our fellow citizens are not enraged, is because this situation does not merit that.

    1. “he made no secret of the fact that he personally took part in terrorist attacks on this country”

      Do you have some evidence for that asstonishing claim? It’s the basis for the rest of your reasoning. Since the statement is false.

      I suggest you upgrade your information sources. The ones you rely upon lie to you.

    2. Awlaki wasn’t sending emails to Nidal Hasan? He had no contact with Underwear Bomber Abdulmutallab? What about the recent conviction in the UK of Rajib Karim, a British Airways employee, who was in contact with Awlaki regarding airline security? What about Awlaki’s videos encouraging jihad?

      1. You have an imaginative definition of “fact that he personally took part in terrorist attacks on this country”. Why don’t you just go to the Courthouse and dispense justice. Decide who is guilty after reading the newspapers. Save some time and shoot them. Perhaps future Presidents will authorize folks like you to do such things. You seem eager, and we’re sliding in that direction quickly.

        I forgot this from your previous email: “He had effectively renounced his citizenship”. There is a formal process to that. Stripping a citizen of his rights is not something the Emperior Obama President Obama or you have the power to do. However eager he is to take power; however eager you are to cast away our rights.

        As I said in this post, we have a large body of Americans who have little or no idea about the Consitution or the political regime that our ancestors fought and died to build. We’re betraying them, making their sacrafices in vain. Perhaps the best we can hope for is that their actions will inspire people in other nations to carry on what they started.

        And we’ll be the bad example for them to learn from, of complacency and sloth.

    3. Courthouses and formal renunciations…? If a soldier on a battlefield is caught aiding the enemy, they might get a court martial, but they might also be summarily executed. You appear to understand Fourth Generation War. People like Awlaki use our society and laws to destroy our country. How many attacks, or even failed attacks, can the Republic survive? We must not break, but we may have to bend.

      1. (1) “If a soldier on a battlefield is caught aiding the enemy, they might get a court martial, but they might also be summarily executed.”

        Totally irrelevant. We’re talking about assassination of people not on a battlefield.

        (2) “People like Awlaki use our society and laws to destroy our country. ”

        Adjust your meds.

        (a) Almost all of the violent Islamic groups are fighting their own governments, very often repressive and corrupt governments (often backed by the US) — and pose no threat to us. Until we bomb them; that will eventually bring retribution.

        (b) All these people together are a far smaller threat than the anarchists, who accumulated quite a score during their day. For details see Are islamic extremists like the anarchists?

        (c) On the other hand, you (as a type) are a serious threat to our country. The enemy within, eroding away the foundations of the Constitution. We can only guess at motives. Cowardness (allowing exploitation by leaders who play on your fear). Love of strong leaders, feeling strength by following. Ignorance (making you eaily manipulated by lies). Love of force (war porn makes some people feel strong). Then there are darker motives. We don’t know and need not care what they are.

        (d) You’ve dropped your fake pose of playing “devil’s advocate” and shown your real colors.

    4. The evidence against Awlaki and Rajib Karim was given in a UK criminal trial, and Karim was convicted. It is not the American justice system, but do you not trust them?

      1. “The evidence against Awlaki and Rajib Karim was given in a UK criminal trial, and Karim was convicted. It is not the American justice system, but do you not trust them?”

        We don’t convict people in the US based on what newspapers say happened in foreign courtrooms. Your comments are violations of grade-school level civics. Children should flunk six grade saying such things.

    5. I was waiting for FM to get back at me once more before I dropped my pitchfork, but this is enough spins on the merry-go-round. We’re not in disagreement, João. As I said in my original post, I don’t believe in this position. It’s amazing what I had to disregard to try and keep the argument consistent, so it was valuable, for me anyway. I’m only left wondering if I “played the black pieces” as well as I could have.

  6. Whilst disturbed by the depressing state of affairs of the world, this killing included, I’m sure it isn’t the first time powers that be in the US have resorted to murdering fellow citizens. Wasn’t there a cloud hanging over the death of Frank Olson in the 50’s? … Of course this time around it has been openly admitted, which is where the difference lies…

    1. (1) Assassination by administering LSD makes little sense, IMO. See the Wikipedia entry on Frank Olson for details.

      (2) This is a unique moment in our history because the government asserts publicly the authority to act beyond anything seen in several centuries of US and UK history. Torture, imprisonment, and assassination of US citizens without charge, warrant, or judicial review. And they’ve judged us well, introducing these in small steps — all of which we’ve accepted. Both major political parties accept these measures, making them de facto beyond electoral review as well. It’s a quiet coup.

  7. “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

    1. The government asserts publicly the authority to act beyond anything seen in several centuries of US and UK history. Torture, imprisonment, and assassination of US citizens without charge, warrant, or judicial review. And they’ve judged us well, introducing these in small steps — all of which we’ve accepted. Both major political parties accept these measures, making them de facto beyond electoral review as well. It’s a quiet coup.

      And what do you believe the appropriate response is to these things? Baa! Baa! Baa!

      Just say it. You’ll feel better abandoning the pretence of self-rule. Esp if you look in the mirror why doing so. Or with friends.

      Baa! Baa! Baa!

    2. Amazingly David’s type of response is seen as a sign of moderation, wisdom and maturity.

      “Seeing is forgetting” is now de rigeur for the adjusted American.
      It has not always been that way.
      As the pretence is abandoned it is almost as fascinating to watch the non-response of most of us.

      Perhaps Soren K can help a few which is no help to the many or perhaps Zarathustra is correct.

  8. @FB @Gregg Gawd forbid I should ever present myself as moderate, wise and mature – for then I would have become a VSP. No – I simply feel that while nasty stuff is indeed happening, it’s not a ‘conspiracy’ – but rather it is a result of sheer panic and resultant ‘cockup’. Thus it is not that we are viewed and treated as sheep, it’s a matter of our dear leaders running around in panic-stricken circles while doing the ‘something’ which the most strident demand ‘must be done’. And it just doesn’t help to present it as a vast conspiracy to destroy the US Constitution, even if that is, ultimately the result. So the question is – how do you rectify leadership cockups and encourage the leadership to see more clearly and act more rationally. Going all shrill and paranoid can only lead to your basic arguments being ignored as policy makers respond to the tone rather than the content.

  9. I should add that we in the UK have muddled through well enough without a written constitution since Magna Carta. Meanwhile, in recent years, the USA has come closer to Fascism (as, for example, in the 1950s) than Britain ever has. A written constitution is no defence against human rights abuses. Only a strong and independant judiciary can be that – which means Supreme Court judges not being appointed by the Executive.

    1. “Only a strong and independant judiciary can be that”

      This looks like fetishism of the judiciary to me.

      An informed and active citizenship, a strong and independent press, or a conscious and honest legislative have no essential role to play?

      “which means Supreme Court judges not being appointed by the Executive.”

      This may well be a necessary condition, but it is insufficient. If appointed by the legislative, then the outcome is at the mercy of haggling between political groups, or worse entirely at the mercy of a dominant party. If elected by the people, there is the entire question of lobbyists and well-funded pressure groups pushing “their” judges to be elected. If left to the judiciary itself, then this may result in stultifying co-opting by cliques.

      No easy recipe. In any case, the fact that Supreme Court judges have a perpetual appointment is supposed to be a counter-weight to being chosen by a specific government at a specific time.

    2. A more effective and more enduring defense of constitutional governance than an independent judiciary is a citizenry that jealously guards its own rights and liberties. In “Common Sense,” Thomas Paine argued that the only reason that the British monarchy and aristocracy were less despotic than their Turkish counterparts was that Britons simply tolerated less despotism than Turks, so that their rulers got away with less. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn made a similar remark about Stalin’s reign of terror, that it would have crumbled in a day had ordinary Russians refused to take part in it, as Stalin would have had no henchmen to impose his terror on Russia. (I paraphrase both writers.)

      If the character of a people is the determinant of their form of government (and I’d say that Paine and Solzhenitsyn were pretty perceptive), it’s scary to consider the character of the American people, particularly the large cohorts of theocrats and boot-licking authoritarians. Americans have a precedent for nasty theocratic government in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, whose strain of tyranny has since migrated to points south and west of Massachusetts but remains powerful in our national politics and overwhelming in the local politics of some states and counties. Many Americans have also cultivated a hair-trigger sense of grievance and endangerment by enemies, many of them imagined, and reflexively believe whatever sensationalized rubbish their favorite television networks peddle about things like crime rates. The rot runs pretty deep.

  10. Very pertinent: The Word – Due or Die“, The Colbert Report, 6 March 2012 — “Attorney General Eric Holder explains why it’s perfectly legal to execute an American citizen without trial in a time of war.”

  11. Mike J. playing devil’s advocate raises the usual canards. It’s worthless to debunk these yet again, though it’s been done so often and so thoroughly on so many forums elsewhere.

    Mike J. claims: “Awlaki joined a stateless terrorist organization that had declared War on the United States…”

    A stateless organization cannot declare war on a state. Since the treaty of Westphalia in 1648 (actually a series of treaties twixt May and October 1648, if you want to get nit-picky), it has been recognized as a matter of fundamental Western law that mass violence (i.e., declaring war) is restricted to state actors. Since 1648, no one but a nation-state has been able to declare war, and against no one but another nation-state.

    The entire most-1648 modern framework of Western society and law, therefore, makes it impossible for anyone but a state to declare war. I cannot declare war against my neighbor down the block, for example, nor can Citigroup declare war against Chase Bank, nor can a “stateless terrorist organization” declare war on the United States.

    When stateless organizations attack America, this is a criminal matter. Such people are known as “murderers” and we have long had a wide array of conventional law enforcement organizations (the FBI) and laws (laws against murder, conspiracy, etc.) and courts (conventional criminal courts staffed by conventional prosecutors and judges) and prisons to deal with murderers.

    As proof, consider the stateless organization which attack America in 1995. Timothy McVeigh and his fellow murderers were tracked down by the FBI, arrested, tried, and executed. No exotic new laws were required, no abrogation of the constitution was necessary. McVeigh and his fellow thugs murdered hundreds of Americans and that didn’t make them anything other than common criminals.

    Mike J. continues: “he [Al-Awlaki] made no secret of the fact that he personally took part in terrorist attacks on this country…”

    Please provide the eyewitness and forensic evidence to back up this claim. Your evidence must be able to pass muster in a court of law. No hearsay, no shadowy “confessions by torture,” no vague allegations based on evidence which no one can see because it’s “too classified and sensitive.” That’s not evidence, that’s the way the Star Chamber of Elizabethan England and Stalin’s kangaroo courts operated.

    No one, from president Obama to Attorney General Eric Holder, has ever provided the American people with a scintilla of evidence to back up the claims you are making. I could as well allege that you have made no secret of the fact that you personally want to destroy the constitution of the united states by arguing in favor of abolishing jury trials and due process, and that this therefore makes you an enemy combatant who must be assassinated via targeted killing.

    My claim is an empty allegation, devoid of evidence. If we start murdering people based on allegations without evidence, we’ve thrown out the rule of law and descended to the level of the Salem Witch Trials. Do you really think that will end well?

    Mike J. goes on to aver: “The Congress has passed resolutions authorizing the President to take action against Al Qaeda, hasn’t it?”

    So it’s your contention that a resolution passed by congress can nullify the constitution?

    Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, 1 Cranch 137 (1803), says that claim is false. Marbury v. Madison asserts that the congress cannot wipe out or nullify the power of judicial review: the congress cannot arrogate to itself judicial oversight, nor eliminate judicial oversight. One branch of government, in short, cannot assert that it is the whole of the government and usurp the functions of the other branches. But by ordering the murder of a U.S. citizen without trial, the president of the United States is doing exactly that — usurping the judicial powers which are not his, and which Marbury v. Madison says can never belong to him alone. Moreover, by passing a resolution that nullifies constitutional amendments congress would be doing exactly that, since one of the resolutions congress could pass would be a resolution disbanding the judiciary. And once again Marbury v. Madison says that is illegal and unconstitutional.

    It is one of the most elementary and fundamental foundations of constitutional law in America that if Americans wish to change the constitution, they must amend it. Congress cannot simply wave its hand and declare the fifth amendment null and void, or do away with jury trials, or make it legal for anyone (including the president) to murder a U.S. citizen without a trial by jury.

    The constitution sets out a clear and straightforward procedure for amending the constitution. If president Obama dislikes jury trials and providing evidence, let him offer a constitutional amendment which allows the president to murder U.S. citizens “because he feels like it.” See how far that gets in the state legislatures.

    Otherwise, the congress cannot dissolve the fifth amendment and the sixth amendment and the eighth amendment and the fourteenth amendments merely by passing a “resolution” anymore than the congress can abolish the law of gravity by passing a resolution or make pi = 3 by passing a resolution.

    Here’s a question that may clarify the issue for you: If the congress passes a law making it A-OK for the president to rape six-year-old girls, is it legal?

    You know the answer.

    Mike J. goes on to detail Al-Awlaki’s alleged “crimes”: “Awlaki wasn’t sending emails to Nidal Hasan? He had no contact with Underwear Bomber Abdulmutallab?”

    What kind of a crime is “sending emails” to someone? Please identify the criminal statute, then provide hard evidence that will hold up in a court of law to show that Al-Awlaki committed this alleged “crime.” And if you come up with something as weak and bogus as “wire fraud” or “conspiracy,” we can turn tables and point out that since you are advocating murdering a U.S. citizen on the basis of doing something which is not a crime (sending emails), you are guilty of conspiracy and interstate wire fraud, and consequently you must be murdered without a trial by jury and without providing evidence. See how that works? Once you eliminate the requirement that someone commits an actual identifiable provable crime, and once you get rid of the need for evidence before you execute an American citizen, anyone can be accused of anything and then murdered. That way lies tyrranny.

    Please identify what kind of a crime it is to have “contact” with someone who commits a crime. Does this mean that the filling station attendant who gassed up the Underwear Bomber’s car must also be executed? How about the girl at the airline counter who sold the Underwater Bomber his ticket? She had “contact” with him, didn’t she?

    Once again, when you allow American citizens to be murdered for vague non-crimes like “having contact” with other people, anyone can be accused of anything and then murdered. This is the way Stalin and Pol Pot worked — it’s not the way America is supposed to work.

    Lastly, Mike J. dredges up the old canard of the so-called “soldier on the battlefield” — “If a soldier on a battlefield is caught aiding the enemy, they might get a court martial, but they might also be summarily executed. “

    What army does Al-Awlaki serve in? Please provide evidence. What is his rank?

    In fact, Mike J.’s entire claim here undercuts his whole argument, since he has now reversed his position that the president of the U.S. can order the murder of an American citizen for any reason at all, without evidence — now Mike J. is claiming, no, on the contrary, the president is justified in ordering the murder of a U.S. citizen if the citizen is a member of the armed forces of another country engaged in a declared war on the U.S. Well and good — but this assertion directly contradicts your original claim that the president needs no justification beyond mere suspicion or dislike of a U.S. citizen to order his murder. So which is it, Mike?

    Moreover, even if Al-Awlaki were a uniformed member of a foreign army, which he is not, that army would still have to be part of a country that had declared war on the United States. Otherwise, ask yourself — is the president of the United States justified in ordering the murder of, say, a British general who says that the “Afghanistan war in unwinnable”? Why not? Isn’t the British general a member of the armed forces of another country?

    Nothing Mike J. says, in short, makes sense. His so-called “arguments” are a mass of incoherent contradictions that boil down to the crude and ugly adage “Might makes right.” That’s the philosophy of Al Capone, not the president of the United States of America.

    FM responds: “The government asserts publicly the authority to act beyond anything seen in several centuries of US and UK history.

    Actually, the U.S. government has now gone beyond even the extreme arrogations of power of William the Conquerer in its claimed authority to torture and murder. William the Conquerer claimed the prerogative to murder and torture subjects at will but, under pressure from his Barons, agreed that he at least had to provide a justification for torturing and murdering his subjects after the fact. George W. Bush and now Barack Obama have asserted that they do not have even that duty.

    So Barack Obama now asserts claims so extreme that not even William the Conquerer in the 11th century attempted such radical usurpations of power. The powers claimed by the Bush and Obama administrations go far beyond even the mild restrictions placed on kings by the Magna Carta and by William the Conquerer’s assertions of royal prerogative.

    That’s not just an “authority to act beyond anything seen in several centuries of U.S. and U.K. history,” it’s a direct attack at the fundamental basis of the entire Anglo-Saxon legal system. Obama claims that he can murder any U.S. citizens without a trial, without evidence, without even alleging that the citizen has committed any crime, and then Obama further claims that he need provided no justification or explanation.

    These are powers that would make Mao Tse-Tung and Genghis Khan envious.

    It is nothing less than the erasure of the rule of law.

    The problem being that once you get rid of the rule of law…anyone can claim anything is legal. If it’s legal for the president to order the murder of a U.S. citizen, why isn’t it legal for a senator to order a citizen murdered without a trial, on mere suspicion? If your claim is that the president can murder U.S. citizens without judicial oversight merely because the president was elected, well, isn’t a senator elected? And then why can’t a congressman order a U.S. citizen murdered sans trial or evidence? Wasn’t he elected too? And why must police arrest citizens? If it’s legal for the president to order murders without trial and without evidence, surely a police officer with firsthand knowledge of a situation can even more justly and reasonably execute citizens on the spot without evidence or a trial. And then why not allow lynch mobs to murder fellow citizens on mere suspicion? After all, one cop could be wrong, but much less likely a mob of 50 people, right?

    You can see where this leads. You wind up with an emperor appointing a horse as a senator. You get people burned alive as witches on the hearsay claims of children who claim “she talked with the devil last night!” Once you get rid of the rule of law, you’re back in the jungle, and society disintegrates into a Hobbesian struggle of “all against all” in which life is “nasty, brutish and short.”

    If you want to see the kind of society that results from getting rid of the rule of law, check out Pol Pot’s Year Zero. You won’t like what you see.

    1. Thanks your for posting this, complete and well-composed. I have done this too often, and no longer have the patience to bandy words with those who don’t care (or don’t know) about our nation.

    2. Before I go any further, I need to ask: Was it clear from the preface to my original post that I was making those arguments in the style of the people who hold those positions?

      That was exactly the misunderstanding I was trying to avoid, that I somehow believe this stuff. I’m thrilled that people responded seriously, because that was very helpful… but now I’m concerned they responded seriously because they didn’t understand what I was doing. I was attempting to spur some debate and learn from “trying on a different hat.” I stopped after João’s second reply because I was finding it actually mentally exhausting to continue ignoring reality.

      So, with that said, thank you Thomas for this reply. It deserves several reads-through, but you seem to have thoroughly torn apart that shallow foolishness I was mouthing, and I am deeply grateful for your time, and everyone’s.

      1. On the internet nobody knows who you are or your motivations. So we react to your words. Which in your case are those of an enemy of America and for what it stands for.

        Troll: a person who, through willful action, attempts to disrupt a community or garner attention and controversy through provocative messages.

        But people doing so at length are in fact often sympathetic to the view the espouse. Few people bother to spend time presenting view with which they disagree, esp in such a dumb fashion (making mistakes that would embaress a child in 6th grade).

    3. Then I offer my heartfelt apologies.

      I would like to know, though, what you thought I meant by this:

      “In order to take the opposition or play devil’s advocate effectively, I think I’d have to believe in the position at least a bit. I don’t, but I’ll try.”

      No disruption or unwarranted attention was sought by me. I just can’t fathom how the world looks to people who believe those things, and thought it would lend some perspective. I got more than I wanted, I’m afraid.

      1. MikeJ

        It’s the internet. Nobody cares what you say about yourself — gender, wealth, education, beliefs, etc. People lie all the time. We see only what you say, and react to that.

        You publicly espoused views that are widely held, walking on the field and playing for the other team. Giving support and comfort to those who believe such things. The devil needs no advocate.

        Playing devil’s advocate a useful planning tool (what if we don’t build the bridge), or preparation for a debate or trial. But before you adopt it as a tactic in public discourse for some reason, I suggest you read Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night.

    4. Upon reading your post, it appeared vividly to me how the meaning of words such as “battlefield”, “war”, “support”, “evidence”, “soldier”, “attack” have been distorted from their historically legally binding definitions to suit whatever purpose the executive (or an ideologically like-minded party) tries to achieve. Truly Orwellian.

      “once you get rid of the rule of law…anyone can claim anything is legal.”

      And the worst part is: in such a regime, going to extremes (i.e. wanton executions) will neither be the most common, nor even necessary act. Disappeared in a secret jail? Property seized? Blacklisted in your profession? Refused a passport? Confined to house arrest in a remote town? Why are you complaining — they could just have executed you…and these constitute daily occurrences in dictatorships of all kinds.

  12. Not just ethnicity but also class, myself coming from the ‘British working classes’ saw the iron fist, very thinly covered in velvet, more often than not. My experience then was also that they were cowards, preferring to (set?) lock/beat up up someone who was basically harmless (or totally innocent) , but never take on the big boys of crime, or even just the ‘tough boys’.

    Not just nowadays, but from time immemorable . I always remember my father and grandfather telling me … ‘that’s where Churchill stored the tanks in Glasgow’, during the Great Strike.

    Middle class people think the Police are ‘your friends’. Working class people know they are not (even though most of them are themselves working class). Upper class people correctly know they are tools.

    No reason for that to be though, many experiments with community policing have shown that they are far more effective at dealing with crime. But in the end, though they should be a mechanism of collective security for everyone, who ‘pays the piper calls the tune’.

  13. @aguest Possibly I am fetishising ‘independant judiciary’ – but I think the original post is fetishising the US constitution … Fetishising is a very good word. Should be in the vocabulary of all of us. We have a tendency to fetishise instrumentally (eg Bible, Koran, Torah) to justify our deepest hatreds. So we should fetishise with care…

    1. Fetishising: Have an excessive and irrational commitment to (something).


      Your comment makes no sense to me. What level of regard do you regard as appropriate for our political regime, the foundation for our liberty and prosperity. It’s not like preference for a brand of light beer.

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