The second Supreme Court declaration that even people kidnapped to a U.S.-run offshore dungeon have a right to due process draws a clear line separating the regime of George W. Bush from the form of government envisioned by Thomas Jefferson.
Ever since Bush invaded Iraq without provocation in 2003, I have been resisting the comparison to a certain German leader who invaded Poland 66 years ago citing pretexts as flimsy. The pressure to avoid, for the sake of appearing reasonable, an examination of similarities between Bush and Adolf Hitler (along with other fellow right-wingers) is no longer worth withstanding, Godwin's rule be damned.
"As an online discussion grows longer," wrote Mike Godwin in 1990, "the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one."
Yes, and in this instance, the parallels are no longer casual or merely skin deep:
-- Hitler failed to win the majority of the votes cast in 1933 but simply seized power by judicial fiat. Much the same thing happened with Bush and the elections of 2000 (some say 2004 was a repeat).
-- Hitler concocted a series of flimsy claims concerning Polish hostility, including a border incident (now known to have been faked), to justify invading in 1939. Bush rejected all doubts and concerns regarding the intelligence used to justify invading Iraq; all of it has proven completely and absolutely false.
-- Hitler used an alleged Communist plot behind the torching of the Reichstag (German parliament) as the excuse to sign a decree declaring a state of emergency and suspending constitutional rights; subsequently the Third Reich went beyond the bounds of even its own law in detaining and spying on its citizens. Bush used Sept. 11 as the excuse to suppress civil liberties through the Patriot Act; unsatisfied with several legal mechanisms to take emergency action, the Bush regime launched a vast secret telecommunications and banking operation to spy on citizens.
-- In the parliament, Nazis regularly disrupted proceedings until they got whatever measure they wanted approved. In Congress, Republican majorities in committees have routinely approved outlines of legislation, rather than actual bills, and then filled in whatever language they wanted, running roughshod over the opposition.
-- The Hitler regime persecuted homosexuals. The Bush regime has demonized homosexuals for rhetorical purposes.
-- In 1943 Hitler banned abortion. The Bush regime has impaired access to abortion and claims to wish to ban abortion.
-- Hitler managed to get Mussolini, Franco and later regimes in Hungary and Romania to pursue opponents, some deemed dangerous. The Bush regime has contracted with countries to jail and torture alleged "terrorists" without trial or due process.
-- Nazis gathered in Nuremburg to chant in unison "Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!" in a display of mindless fanaticism; Republicans put on a similar display when they gathered in New York to chant "USA! USA! USA!"
These and other possible parallels are meaningful so long as you allow for cultural and contextual differences. As Mark Twain cannily put it, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."
Beyond these parallels lies my core point: Hitler, Bush, Franco, Mussolini, Cromwell, Bossuet, Primo de Rivera, Peron, Louis XIV and many others of their ilk have in common a basic disdain for the citizenry and a fundamental opposition to democratic processes.
"L'etat c'est moi" (I am the State) was the spirit of Louis XIV, which is echoed in the pseudo-legal explanations of authoritarian ideologue Alberto Gonzales, U.S. attorney general, in defense of torture and spying on citizens. So long as an act is authorized by the hyperpowerful chief executive in the White House, the Bush regime has repeatedly claimed, it is lawful and constitutional and needs neither congressional approval nor judicial review.
This is the political theory of Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, bishop and writer of the 17th century, who drew up the classic defense of the absolute monarch and the divine right of kings. Save for Bossuet's religious impulse, a straight line runs from Bossuet to José Antonio Primo de Rivera ("the best fate of ballot boxes is to be smashed"), the ideologue of Spanish Falangism and ideological kin to Mussolini and Hitler.
Bossuet's thinking also is echoed in views that will sound more culturally familiar to Americans, those of Puritan dictator Oliver Cromwell. A dissenter from Presbyterianism, Cromwell believed in providentialism, the idea that God actively directs history through the actions of "chosen people" whom God "provides" to serve divine purposes.
Cromwell thought he was one such person during the English Civil Wars; Bush has given every indication that he thinks himself a latter-day Cromwell.
Indeed, at the core of all its arguments, the Bush regime contends that the democratic experiment launched by Jefferson and his peers was a noble idea that should be pursued at some tranquil time in the future, but that it fails to keep us safe in what the regime terms a present emergency. It's the old Vietnam era saw about destroying the vllage to save it.
A Cromwellian, divinely inspired leader-in-crisis, however, is not what the Constitution envisions in its Tenth Amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."
Americans forget that last clause, "to the people," which signifies that the sovereign of the United States is not the man in the White House, not Congress, not the Supreme Court, not even all three together. They are mere hirelings, as are their counterparts in the states.
In the USA, "we the people" rule ourselves.