Can the US Return to the Pre-9/11 Rule of Law?

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Dahlia Lithwick, a lawyer and senior editor at Slate, spoke with Cenk Uygur about returning the rule of law to thus country now that Osama bin Laden is dead. She calls for President Obama to fulfill his campaign promises to close Guantanamo, end military tribunal in lieu of Article III trials. In her article at Slate she discusses “Closing Pandora’s Box” ending the euphemistic “was on terror”:

The killing of Osama bin Laden has, for a brief instant, united an America that seemed permanently torn in two over birth certificates, the deficit, and the Donald. We can debate whether there should have been a trial, whether Americans ought to be dancing in the streets, whether it was legal to kill him, or even whether it matters whether it was legal to kill him. But we all appear to basically agree that the world is a far better place because the man responsible for one of the most vicious attacks in U.S. history is no longer in it.

So now what? Legally speaking, there are two broad lessons to derive from the Obama administration’s latest salvo in the war on terror. One is that it shows the need to continue operating outside legal norms indefinitely. The other is that it allows us to declare a symbolic victory over terrorism and return once more to the pre-9/11 regime in which the rule of law is inviolate.


About all we can say with certainty is this: We tortured. We live in a world in which we must contend with information obtained by torture. We now need to decide whether we want to continue to live that way. Writers from ideological backgrounds as diverse as Matt Yglesias and Ross Douthat argue that it is time to return to the paradigm abandoned after 9/11. Let’s put the 9/11 attacks and the existential threat it created behind us. With Bin Laden’s death, let’s simply agree that the objectives of the Bush administration’s massive anti-terror campaign have finally been achieved, and that the time for extra-legal, extra-judicial government programs-from torture, to illegal surveillance, to indefinite detention, to secret trials, to nontrials, to the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay-has now passed. There will be no better marker for the end of this era. There will be no better time to inform the world that our flirtation with a system of shadow-laws was merely situational and that the situation now is over.

Although, I agree with Ms. Lithwick that President Obama has a grand opportunity to fulfill some of his campaign promises ending many of the extra-legal abuses of the Bush administration and his own, I disagree on others. Without prosecuting US war criminals — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, all the lawyers and military commanders — the United States will never regain the stature it once had in the world in Human Rights. Pretending it never happened not going to make all the violations of International and US law go away. It is unrealistic to think it will.


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    • TMC on May 5, 2011 at 21:57
  1. Lamestream media is the subliminal promoter of the 14 characteristics of fascism.  Also clearly both “left” and “right” parties endorse the insanity of Islam for Russia since the Cold War ended.

    Also the Charolette Iserbyte dumbed down generation of the nineties has morphed into something far more destructive, the “compliance” obsessed generation.  

  2. The power that has accrued to the security agencies is way to precious for them to give it up. And it is, btw, up to them not anyone else. The security agencies are woven into the political system now along with the other oligarchical institutions, FIRE sector, MIC, energy and so on. Why would they give up power?

    Let’s be logical here, if there was a move among the people to move back towards some kind of Constitutional rule there would be a terrorist event. Already they are talking about increasing security around secondary potential targets.

    The fact is that until people look at the 9-11 events using traditional a time-tested rules of evidence and forensics there can be nothing other than a continuing rule towards a combo of neo-feudalism and Imperial Rule. The time has passed. There is no Oceania at war with us, there are no terrorists hordes waiting to blow us all up–there are groups various groups including criminals, fanatics and so on who will from time to time blow shit up. So what? It is unpleasant but we have car crashes, hurricanes, tornadoes and flood and we live with them. The terrorist threat is used and I believed funded by governments to repress and control the people. Why this should be so outlandish a thought is a clear example of the mind-control regime we are in. If you read history you will find that skullduggery is normal operating procedure of most governments that have ever existed. Sometimes this is for what we might call “good” reasons sometimes not. The U.S. has been blessed with having a system that makes it hard to do that much of it because the federal gov’t was not that powerful until WWII.

    Since the institution of covert operations as a regular and essential part of U.S. government (before that most covert ops were undertaken largely by Wall Street so it was no surprise when Wall Street dominated the early CIA) there has been a sea-change in American politics and to not grasp that is to simply be illogical and ignorant of the most fundamental principles of System Analysis and Game Theory. I won’t go into that explanation except to say you have two choices. You either believe in American Exceptionalism which essentially means that you believe, because of our unique culture and institutions we are exempt from politics as historically documented and instead enjoy a community of public servants who are uninterested in the aggrandizement and enrichment of themselves, their families, their friends or their cultural tribe. Ok, if you believe that then you are exempt from the logic I am articulating here.

    This covert-ops community, in my view, has as one of its jobs the task of manufacturing enemies. It has, since the 1950’s supported Islamic militancy first against socialist/communist influences, then against Arab Nationalism (Nasser, Arafat etc.) and now very specifically against the American people themselves. How they do that varies but it seems that to not do that would the death of institutions that thrive on conflict and pain–so why would they ever want change? Similarly, the institutions that profit from the Drug War do not want to stop drugs from coming into the country, on the contrary, they are instrumental in making sure drugs are in the country, similarly the schemes to limit illegal immigration are not real–too many people profit from that including the Immigration agents. To me this is obvious and should be assumedhow people can seriously doubt what I just said is beyond me.  

  3. human rights.

    Slim or none, I’d say.

    Ask the Nuns killed or raped during the Reagan years, ask millions killed in South East Asia during the three decades proceeding even that era; and ask if Kissinger is in jail for war crimes.

    But, to your point–the illegal killing of Bin Ladin (real or not) is obviously not a prelude to some ‘return’ to constitutionality, and I have no idea why someone would ask that question–in fact it’s just the reverse.  

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