Bush's I-wanna-torture-you-can't-stop-me bill looks like it's going to pass, unless the Democrats filibuster it (har.)
Look, I'm not naive. America has, well before the war on terror, played fast and loose with human rights. These are the kinds of things global powers do. But beginning with Bush, America has actively disdained the idea of universal human rights. And now, America is explicitly abandoning the idea that all people have inalienable civil rights. Enemy combatants - including US citizens, on US soil - will have the right to a fair trial before a jury of their peers only if the President says they can.
A while back, I wrote that too many people refuse to believe in any kind of Imperialism that doesn't manifest itself as jackbooted thugs serving Emperor Palpatine or Darth Vader. Similarly, I think too many people believe that authoritarian states only exist outside of the law. Anyone who's read The Gulag Archipelago knows that nothing could be further from the truth - Stalin enacted all kinds of glorious protections for the accused, and the Communist countries of the world have always been good at writing floridly about all the wonders their constitutions provide. It is, of course, all a lie.
Dictatorships don't come to democratic countries outside of constitutional processes - instead, they abuse the constitution until it becomes meaningless. Mussolini was appointed by the King, Hitler won an election and was named Chancellor, etc. And yes, he was given his emergency powers by an elected assembly of the German parliament, with the support of religious conservatives.
I've said over and over, Nazi comparisons are tiresome and inaccurate. But there are few examples that so embody the hollowness of optimism in legalistic pretense. The point is that the law is no protection if the power of the law - and the power to escape the law - is put in the hands of one man. That's what this law has done, and it makes me incredibly sad to see America come to this place. America is not a fascist state, and Bush is not Hitler. He doesn't (yet) have the power to shut down political parties, smash presses, and I still have some - maybe too much - hope in the power of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the coming elections.
But that, in some ways, is the point - in another age, it would be inconceivable that an American President would push things so far, that he would be so beyond reason, that he would be so in love with his own power and sadism, that we had to rely on the specter of impeachment or the Bench to stop him. It's a frightening world, more so than I ever expected.
There was a time when Americans said that liberty was worth dying for, and that nothing - no threat from abroad or within - could justify taking liberty away from a free people. They said that free men and women wouldn't allow their liberties to be taken by a conqueror or an elected tyrant. I wonder what happened to those people.