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January 28, 2008

American Liberty Teetering on Edge of Abyss


by Paul Craig Roberts

"Your papers please" has long been a phrase associated with Hitler's Gestapo. People without the Third Reich's stamp of approval were hauled off to Nazi Germany's version of Halliburton detention centers.

Today Americans are on the verge of being asked for their papers, although probably without the "please."

Thanks to a government that has turned its back on the U.S. Constitution, Americans now have an unaccountable Department of Homeland Security that is already asserting tyrannical powers over U.S. citizens and state governments. Headed by the neocon fanatic Michael Chertoff, the Orwellian-sounding Department of Homeland Security has mandated a national identity card for Americans, without which Americans may not enter airports or courthouses.

There is no more need for this card than there is for a Department of Homeland Security. Neither are compatible with a free society.

However, Bush, the neocons, Republicans, and Democrats do not want America to any longer be a free society, and they are taking freedom away from us just as they took away the independence of the media.

Free and informed people get in the way of power-mad zealots with agendas.

It is the agendas that are supreme, not the American people, who have less and less say about less and less.

George W. Bush, an elected president, has behaved like a dictator since Sept. 11, 2001. If "our" representatives in Congress care, they haven't done anything about it. Bush has pretty much cut Congress out of the action.

In truth, Congress gave up its lawmaking powers to the executive branch during the New Deal. For three-quarters of a century, the bills passed by Congress have been authorizations for executive branch agencies to make laws in the form of regulations. The executive branch has come to the realization that it doesn't really need Congress. President Bush appends his own "signing statements" to the authorizations from Congress in which the president says what the legislation means. So what is the point of Congress?

As for laws already on the books, the U.S. Department of Justice (sic) has ruled that the president doesn't have to abide by U.S. statutes, such as FISA or the law forbidding torture. Neither does the president have to abide by the Geneva Conventions.

Other obstacles are removed by edicts known as presidential directives or executive orders. There are more and more of these edicts, and they accumulate more and more power and less and less accountability in the executive.

The disdain in which the executive branch holds the separate and equal legislative branch is everywhere apparent. For example, President Bush is concluding a long-term security agreement with the puppet government he has set up in Iraq. Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, when the president became The Decider, a defense pact was a treaty requiring the approval of Congress.

All that is now behind us. Gen. Douglas Lute, President Bush's national security adviser for Iraq, says that the White House will not be submitting the deal to Congress for approval. Lute says Bush will not be seeking any "formal inputs from the Congress."

"There is literally no question that this is unprecedented," said Yale Law School Professor Oona Hathaway.

Bush can do whatever he wants, because Congress has taken its only remaining power – impeachment – off the table.

The Democratic Party leadership thinks that the only problem is Bush, who will be gone in one year. Besides, the Israel Lobby doesn't want Israel's champion impeached, and neither do the corporate owners of the U.S. media.

The Democrats are not adverse to inheriting the powers in Bush's precedents. The Democrats, of course, will use the elevated powers for good rather than for evil.

Instead of having a bad dictator, we'll have a good one.


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    Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

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