Lights Up, No.
Piano wire, anyone?
Herr Doktor Roland Freisler, please call your office.
No, wait, on second thought, I owe an apology to the eminent exponent of National Socialist justice. After all, the terrorist trials that Freisler conducted in the Berlin People's Court in 1944 were public; the proceedings were even filmed for public consumption. The terrorist trials conducted by the tribunals George W. Bush and his minions "may" set up would be secret. At the time of this writing, it's unclear whether or not the executions would be secret, too. What would happen secretly to the prisoners in the secret cells and interrogation chambers, in the absence of habeas corpus and other traditional protections of Anglo-American law, is also unclear. Or maybe it's just, you know, a secret.
I'd throw Andrei ("Great Purges") Vyshinsky in our rulers' face instead of Freisler, but brown-baiting seems to work much better in getting American-imperialist types' goat than red-baiting does because of their Zionist connections, I'd guess. Anyway, Dr. Vyshinsky was an old ally of our rulers' fathers and grandfathers, working closely with them to advance Soviet interests in southeast Europe and in the nascent United Nations; while Dr. Freisler was an enemy.
Really, throwing any foreigner in the face of our wise, cautious, and benevolent tribunes is inexcusably unfair. (Seems I'm apologizing to everyone in this column. How uncharacteristically trendy of me.) As John Ashcroft and his unofficial staff members at Fox News are busily reminding everyone, tribunals set up by presidential fiat are a solidly established tradition of American jurisprudence. Especially secret tribunals run by the Union's standing army.
So let's forget both Freisler and Vyshinsky and focus on two American figures who are astronomically more important in accounting for our plight. You know who they are. In a previous writing I have nominated them as the most damaging American rulers and worst Americans of the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively: Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. As if we haven't been sufficiently pecked to death in recent years, it looks as though another whole flock of evil, mutated, bloody-beaked chickens bred by Lincoln and Roosevelt are now coming home to roost.
Let's remind ourselves how this kind of chicken-breeding works. In his war of conquest and pillage against the Confederate States of America, Lincoln arranged the expropriation and murder of hundreds of thousands of Confederates who he insisted, all along, were U.S. citizens. Some thousands of those who died were civilians, including women and children. As I've written before, that sort of crime isn't just noticed by some notional power of heaven. And here dirtside it doesn't just establish a terrible precedent for "public men" and how they observe, or disregard, traditional restraints on state power. It does far more damage than that. It corrodes away the moral sense of the people, to the extent that they are lured into becoming complicit in the crimes of their rulers, in thought or deed. They become a worse kind of human, and a better kind of slave.
If Americans defending themselves against tyranny, or merely standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, may be slaughtered with impunity in the pursuit of an official Greater Good, what then of those people whose image in the American popular imagination is always so nebulous foreigners? After 80 years of moral corrosion, of popular celebration of mass crimes committed on these shores, when a creature such as Roosevelt is ready to flex the imperial muscles overseas he will be permitted to freely slaughter any number of distant, unseen foreigners. Combatants, noncombatants; hostile, friendly, indifferent; on the battlefield, up against a wall, nursing a child it's all one.
And after Roosevelt? U.S. battleships will be permitted to lob 16-inch shells into Levantine villages full of villagers, as happened in 1983. The U.S. national-security apparat will be permitted to bankroll the Israelis as they murder little boys and ambulance drivers, and as they fire rockets into apartment buildings, as happened in 2001. And that U.S. apparat will be permitted to block the rebuilding of water systems in Iraq, poisoning thousands of civilians, as it has done since 1991. Back home, all those crimes will go in one ear and out the other.
Minitrue is doing its best to see to it that Bush's tribunals don't encounter any brain tissue, either, as they pass through the American people's cranium. If the statesgod Abraham Lincoln ran tribunals and the statesgod Franklin Roosevelt ran tribunals, then surely George W. Bush is just trampling out the vintage Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! if he runs tribunals. (If I may adapt the purported last words of Vespasian: Dear me, W. seems to be turning into a statesgod.)
Military tribunals are just another of Strongman Lincoln's evil and corrosive precedents, exploited by Strongman Roosevelt in his time and now being exploited by our 98-pound wannabe Charles W. Atlas in his. In the 1860s America's Great Satan and secular anti-Christ suspended habeas corpus, eschewed the slow and unreliable courts of the Constitution, and set up more-reliable military tribunals to prosecute dissenters, saboteurs, and war resisters. (Actually, most of Lincoln's tribunals seem to have resembled ordinary courts-martial, except for their extraordinary defendants: civilians.) Today's official media, specializing as they do in anti-news in reassuring tales of dogs biting men are quite right when they inform us yet again that there's nothing new here, folks, nothing to see, move along.
November 21, 2001
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