from left: Harriet Miers, John Bellinger, Alberto Gonzales and David Addington.
Bernard notes Der Decider's decision-makers have been exposed as making the decision for us about the CIA's torture tapes:
...at least four White House lawyers pondered the question of burning evidence of their crimes by deleting video tapes (I believe there are copies) of the CIA torture on Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri:
One former senior intelligence official with direct knowledge of the matter said there had been “vigorous sentiment” among some top White House officials to destroy the tapes. The former official did not specify which White House officials took this position, but he said that some believed in 2005 that any disclosure of the tapes could have been particularly damaging after revelations a year earlier of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The WH lawyers involved were Miers, Bellinger, Gonzales and Addington. Miers and Gonzales are lightweights. I don't know about Bellinger, but Addington has been the heavyweight on the team all along. Being Cheney's henchmen he explained the general overall strategy:
"We're going to push and push and push until some larger force makes us stop."
But what if no larger force appears?
The process is well known:
What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if he people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security.
That text applies to torture laws, the FISA changes, the Patriot Act and the War on Iraq budgets that still fly through Congress without any significant protest.
But it was written in 1955 and is an interview with an intellectual German about the 1930s/40s. The Goebbels strategy was "push and push and push" too. Back then the larger force appeared only in a very bloody fight over Stalingrad and even after that took years to succeed.
It is the creeping process that is alarming. It is still going on, strong. Several of the last Billmon posts warned about this.
The recent offhanded use of the words "bureau procedures" by the veteran reporter Walter Pincus to describe serious enacted laws really set off my alarm bells...
He goes on to quote a post from one of his commentors, UESLA:
...Although done without fanfare, it is an absolutely vital step to refer to laws prohibiting torture as mere procedures. It is masterful. It is well over 51% of the victory, for it quietly and adroitly hollows out those laws. They no longer quite apply, and laws that no longer quite apply -- quite effectively no longer exist...
...Now that the restraints against torture have been effectively removed, the next steps will be easy. In the coming few years, this Mueller fellow will eventually be replaced with someone who is not hampered by regard for defunct laws, who can rule his domain within the empire by fiat and decree.
The same process is taking place in every domain of government. Inch by inch, decrepit laws like habeas corpus and quaint concepts like freedom of speech, honest elections, freedom of movement and assembly, and personal privacy become first hollow procedures, then dumb laws, and finally treason. In the vacuum left when laws become dumb, only Strong Men can hold society together.
America set out on this course many long years ago, with the birth of the National Security State after Dubya Dubya Two. We are approaching the flowering time.
The true nature of the Unitary Executive is the Führer Prinzip, rule by a hierarchy of Strong Men, each ruling their domain with absolute authority. This is precisely the slippery slope of legalized gangsterism rising in America, blithely overlooked by its consumers, the majority of whom still believe they live in a free society.
They don't. They have built their own prison, and elected their own jailers. They are living in a nation of hollow laws, a nation of procedures on their way to becoming dumb laws left on the books only for comic effect. Mute laws, stupid laws, quaint laws for the era before empire, for the era before Strong Men.
The Unitary Executive is rule by thuggery, by fiat, and by raw power. But it is not the cause of America's fall. No, it is the last symptom of America's internal rot, of the merger of unchecked corporate and institutional power with the institution of government itself. The businessman, the soldier, the priest, and the politician are standing forth now as the Strong Men who will ultimately save the nation from dumb laws like that "goddammed piece of paper" the Constitution.
The American populace made room for Strong Men by neglecting the duties of citizenship in favor of life as consumers. They made Strong Men necessary by letting crooks run the banks and towers of corporate power, and shysters write the laws. They demand Strong Men and Messiahs on every hand now to extricate themselves from the consequences of living beyond their means, beyond restraint, beyond moderation or common sense...
Let's send these Strong Men like Cheney and Addington and Li'l Boots were their triumphant will would be best be served.
First on trial here for racketeering and a long list of crimes, just so they've got something to do for the rest of their lives. Then on trial at the Hague for a long list of war crimes, just to make sure they never see the light of day again. Strong men deserve strong treatment.