Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The American Constitution on Acid

Bennett Cerf, American writer, is reported to have said:
The world can be divided into two groups: those who divide the world into two groups and those who don't.
I actually can't find the quote, so I'm the one "reporting" it.  I'm sure I read it somewhere.

I was on a Vancouver harbour ferry and made an off the cuff comment to a fellow passenger about the NSA knowing where I was on account of my cell phone.  He was a nice guy and he might have been  American because he said; "Yes, but they're keeping us safe." I'm sure Stephen Harper takes the same view.  It's a comfortable story that fits comfortably into American mythology: guardians on the walls of the Shining City. It's much more comfortable than alternative explanations; for example, that the NSA isn't keeping anybody safe; it's using Americans for its own purposes.

So it seems to me the American constitutional republic can also be divided into two groups: those who agree to be governed by the American Constitution and those who don't. Those who don't seem to be a long list; it includes most of the military and all of the spooks. The thing is, the American Oath of Enlistment, and that of all elected officials including the President, is also in two groups.  The first is to support and defend the American Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic, and the second is to follow orders.

So what happens if the first part of the oath conflicts with the second?  What happens when a person sworn to secrecy in the American military (and its huge cottage industries) believes that following orders is unconstitutional or a crime?  It's a hell of a conflict.  What didn't fly at Nuremberg was saying  "I was following orders." As the Court said of Keitel:
There is nothing in mitigation. Superior orders, even to a soldier, cannot be considered in mitigation where crimes as shocking and extensive have been committed consciously, ruthlessly and without military excuse or justification
I don't understand why the oath to the Constitution isn't a factor in the trial of Bradley Manning.  It's seems stunningly obvious that much of the American government is a domestic menace to the Constitution.  Manning and Snowden refuse to be cowed by its domestic enemies and they're kids.  They're defending the American Constitution with heart, soul and balls,  Not your flag waving, fruit salad traitors and thugs.

Courage is contagious and not a feature of the American national security state.