Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
Bat Ye'or, in the course of a seminar at the French Senate reprinted by frontpagemag.com (July 2, 2004):
Allow me first to make a preliminary observation about the title of this session: the ‘return of the spirit of Munich’ – a title which I find somewhat optimistic. At Munich, in 1938, France and England, exhausted by the death toll of the Great War, abandoned Czechoslovakia to the Nazi beast, in the hope that by doing so they would avoid another conflict. The “spirit of Munich” thus refers to a policy of states and of peoples who refuse to confront a threat, and attempt to obtain peace and security through conciliation and appeasement, or even, for some, an active collaboration with the criminals.
For my own part, I would say that we have gone beyond the spirit of Munich, and the present situation should be seen not in the context of the Second World War, but in the present jihadist context.
In fact, for the past 30 years France and Europe are living in a situation of passive self-defense against terrorism. This began with Palestinian terrorism, then Islamic terrorism, not to speak of the local European terrorism, including the Basques in Spain, the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany, and the Red Brigades of Italy of the 1980s.
One need only look at our cities, airports, and streets, at the schools with their security guards, even the systems of public transportation, not to mention the embassies, and the synagogues – to see the whole astonishing array of police and security services. The fact that the authorities everywhere refuse to name the evil does not negate that evil. Yet we know perfectly well that we have been under threat for a long time; one has only to open one’s eyes and our authorities know it better than any of us, because it is they who have ordered these very security measures.
In his book, La Vie Quotidienne dans l’Europe Médiévale sous Domination Arabe (Daily Life in Medieval Europe under the Arab Domination), published in 1978, Charles-Emmanuel Dufourq, a French specialist on Andalusia (Islamic Spain) and the Maghreb, described under the subheading “Une grande Peur” (“A great Fear”) the conditions of life for the indigenous non-Muslim peoples in the Andalusian countryside. (1) Today, Europe itself is living with this Great Fear.
At Munich war had not yet been declared. Today the war is everywhere. And yet the European Union and the states which comprise it, have denied that war’s reality, right up to the terrorist attack in Madrid of March 11, 2004. If there is a danger as Europe proclaims urbi et orbi, that danger can only come from America and Israel. What should one understand? For can anyone seriously maintain that it is the American and Israeli forces that threaten us in Europe? No, what must be understood is that American and Israeli policies of resistance to jihadist terror provoke reprisals against a Europe that has long ago ceased to defend itself. So that peace can prevail throughout the world, those two countries, America and Israel, need only adopt the European strategy of constant surrender, based on the denial of aggression. How simple it all is…
This strategy is less worthy than even Munich’s connivance and cowardice. At Munich there was some sort of future contemplated, even if war, or peace, were to determine the future. There was a choice. In the present situation there is no choice, for we deny the reality of the jihad danger. The only danger comes, allegedly, from the United States and Israel. We conduct a propaganda campaign in the media against these two countries, before entering into a yet more aggressive phase; it’s so much easier, so much less dangerous…And we conduct this campaign with the weapons of cowardice: defamation, disinformation, the corruption of venal politicians.
In the time of Munich, one could envisage that there would be battles that might be won. There was at least the Maginot Line for defense. In Europe today, dominated by the spirit of dhimmitude – the condition of submission of Jews and Christians under Muslim domination – there is no conceivable battle. Submission, without a fight, has already taken place. A machinery that has made Europe the new continent of dhimmitude was put into motion more than 30 years ago at the instigation of France.
A wide-ranging policy was then first sketched out, a symbiosis of Europe with the Muslim Arab countries, that would endow Europe – and especially France, the project’s prime mover – with a weight and a prestige to rival that of the United States (2). This policy was undertaken quite discreetly, outside of official treaties, under the innocent-sounding name of the Euro-Arab Dialogue. An association of European parliamentarians from the European Economic Community (EEC) was created in 1974 in Paris: the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation. It was entrusted with managing all of the aspects of Euro-Arab relations – financial, political, economic, cultural, and those pertaining to immigration. This organization functioned under the auspices of the European heads of government and their foreign ministers, working in close association with their Arab counterparts, and with the representatives of the European Commission, and the Arab League.
It seems that there will be far less commemoration of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, exactly 40 years ago today, than there was of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education in May.
This is not as it should be. Brown was certainly a milestone in the nation's history, a declaration that separate could not be equal and that racial discrimination is wrong. But Brown was much less effective in ending segregation than the Civil Rights Act. This was partly because the Court -- in its follow-up decision to Brown a year later -- said that desegregation should proceed"with all deliberate speed," words that were taken as an invitation to delay and resistance.
But it was also because as a practical matter courts had a hard time controlling facts on the ground. Schools in the border states were rapidly desegregated. But in the Deep South"freedom of choice" plans produced little integration as blacks were intimidated from seeking places in mostly white schools. It was not until Green v. New Kent County in 1968 that the Supreme Court really made a difference by overturning a"freedom of choice" plan.
In the meantime, Congress had acted. Chief Justice Warren had hoped that the unanimous support on the Court for Brown would move white Southerners to change their ways, but that didn't happen. In contrast, the long deliberative process between President Kennedy's June 1963 endorsement of the Civil Rights Act and President Johnson's signing of the bill more than a year later seems to have changed minds.
The nation watched on television as senators slept on cots during the Southerners' filibuster in the Senate. Opponents of the bill were given every chance to obstruct, but they could not prevent an overwhelming majority of the House from voting for the bill and a two-thirds majority in the Senate breaking the filibuster. Support was broad and bipartisan; contrary to what is often assumed today, a higher proportion of Republicans than of Democrats supported the bill. Its leading advocates included not only Democrats like Sen. Hubert Humphrey and Congressman Emanuel Celler but also Republicans like Sen. Jacob Javits and Congressman William McCulloch.
It was widely expected that there would be massive resistance to the Act, as there had been to school desegregation. But that proved not to be the case. Within a few years, public accommodations were largely integrated in the South and workplace discrimination, widespread throughout the nation, was vastly diminished. I remember traveling in the South not long after the Civil Rights Act was passed and noticing that black diners were treated with courtesy by white waitresses: an astonishing contrast with the anger and violence that greeted the lunch-counter sit-ins and freedom rides only a few years before. The law was the law, and Southern manners took over. Integration was achieved about as rapidly as it had been in the 1950s in the military, where it was based on the president's command authority.
Few politicians called for repeal of the Civil Rights Act. One reason may have been the passage in 1965 of the Voting Rights Act, which quickly and effectively enfranchised Southern blacks who had been barred from the polls for many years. True, Lester Maddox, who closed his restaurant rather than serve blacks, was elected governor of Georgia in 1966, but Republican Howard Callaway had a plurality of votes and Maddox, under state law, was installed by the heavily Democratic legislature. Alabama Governor George Wallace's career had prospered since he stood in the schoolhouse door in 1963, but as he went about the nation in the Democratic primaries in 1964 and as a third-party candidate in 1968, he did not call for repeal of the Civil Rights Act but concentrated on other grievances. In the political marketplace, the demand for a return to legally enforced segregation quickly fell toward zero....
Dick Morris, in frontpagemag.com (July 1, 2004):
Even as the polling shows a nation evenly divided, Americans are curiously united in their perceptions of the two candidates. By 20 points or more, they agree that Bush is better on terrorism, national defense, and homeland security. Even on Iraq, even on the worst days, they give Bush a 10-point margin over Kerry. On the other hand, they give Kerry a lead of double digits on job creation, education, healthcare, Social Security, prescription drug prices and the environment.
To fight the war on terror, they want Bush. To handle domestic problems, they want Kerry. How similar the situation is to the 1945 Churchill vs. Atlee election in the United Kingdom. There, even though Britain was still at war with Japan — and nobody knew about the bomb as yet — voters opted for Atlee’s superior capacity to deliver on peacetime promises like healthcare and social security.
Grasping this basic fact, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is taking a page out of the Clinton playbook for 1996 and the Bush strategy of 2000 and trying some triangulation of his own. While Clinton hugged the GOP on issues like welfare reform and deficit reduction and Bush mimicked the Democratic agenda by stressing education standards and vowing to leave “no child behind,” so Kerry is broadly supportive of Bush’s actions in Iraq and in the war on terror.
Kerry’s reluctance to part company with Bush on current and future steps in Baghdad does not, of course, stop him from criticizing past administration actions, but he is careful not to allow any real daylight to shine through his proposals for the future in Iraq and those of the Bush people. Like the administration, he wants more international support for our efforts and like the president he wants to turn power over to the Iraqis as quickly as possible. Most important, like Bush, he does not want to withdraw and vows to stay the course.
When an insurgent challenges an incumbent, he can always choose the field of battle by articulating precisely and narrowly the differences between them. Too often, challengers fall into the trap of criticizing everything their opponent does. By doing so, they take on their adversary’s strong points as well as his weak ones. A shrewd challenger bypasses the strong points, professing agreement, and concentrates on the weak ones instead. Unless the challenger attacks the incumbent over the strong elements in his record, the incumbent has difficulty putting his strengths into play. There is no more potent way to dismiss the achievements of one’s adversary than to praise them, and thereby banish them, from the campaign.
Kerry’s strategy is to stress his differences over Bush’s weaknesses like healthcare, Medicare, the environment, Social Security, stem-cell research and the like while narrowing the gap between them over terrorism and the president’s strength....
Ken Fireman, in Newsday (July 1, 2004):
The vice president upbraids a senator on the floor of the chamber for what he calls personal attacks, then ends the conversation with a transitive verb straight from the barnyard.
A chief architect of the Iraq war refers to journalists covering the conflict as cowardly rumor-mongers during a congressional hearing, and is forced to apologize the following day.
The president himself finds it necessary to be questioned by a special prosecutor probing the outing of a covert CIA operative by someone in the administration bent on political retaliation.
The White House, faced with a prisoner abuse scandal that won't go away, is forced into the ultimate embarrassment of a Clinton-style document dump - only to discover that the new material only fuels the controversy.
Washington-watchers have seen these tropisms before, and they are not symptoms of health. They are the hallmarks of an administration under increasing pressure, and starting to stagger and stumble under the accumulated weight.
Indeed, the best news for President George W. Bush in the recent flood of poll numbers is the fact that he is still essentially even with Democratic opponent John Kerry despite all the recent setbacks and missteps.
But Bush's good news begins and ends there. A new CBS-New York Times poll puts his approval rating at 42 percent, the lowest of his presidency.
Then there is what might be called the poll of the box office. Movie-goers are lining up to watch"Fahrenheit 911," which portrays the president as clueless, duplicitous and corrupt.
Most worrisome for Bush is the finding in the latest Gallup poll that for the first time a majority of Americans say it was a mistake to go to war in Iraq. It took three years for a majority to turn against the war in Vietnam - but once that happened, Gallup notes, support for the war never regained 50 percent.
Media critic Norman Solomon, in the Baltimore Sun (July 1, 2004):
Presidential candidate Ralph Nader is standing on a bar of soap in a political rainstorm. Midway through 2004, while his electoral base shrinks, one of the great American reformers of the 20th century is drifting out to sea.
When the Green Party's national convention refused to endorse Mr. Nader for president a few days ago, the delegates were not rejecting his strong anti-corporate and pro-democracy politics. On the contrary, the convention was acting on the basis of such principles. Greens from every region of the country recognized that Mr. Nader -- proudly unaccountable to any institution but himself -- has steered his campaign into a steadily worsening tangle of contradictions.
Activists struggling to build a viable Green Party with a truly democratic process found that Mr. Nader preferred to remain aloof.
Four years ago, he was the party's presidential nominee but declined to become a member. This time, he ruled out accepting the Green nomination. But he did express a desire for the party's "endorsement" -- and its ballot lines in two dozen states.
Mr. Nader promised no accountability for his campaign. In the driver's seat, with hands tight on the steering wheel, he offered to take the Greens for a ride.
Instead, Green delegates opted to nominate David Cobb, a longtime grass-roots activist with a commitment to building the party. Mr. Cobb doesn't hesitate to describe both George W. Bush and John Kerry as corporate functionaries and militarists. But he readily acknowledges that Mr. Bush is significantly worse. And while Mr. Nader vows to actively seek votes in every state he can, Mr.
Cobb has pledged to adopt a "safe states" approach that mostly bypasses campaigning in swing states.
Short on cash and volunteers, Mr. Nader began to make overtures several months ago for a Green Party endorsement that could get his name on some state ballots. To smooth ruffled Green feathers and boost his chances, Mr. Nader chose Green Party leader Peter M.
Camejo as his running mate just days before the convention opened.
The gambit didn't work.
Mr. Nader's credibility is at a new low after sinking steadily this year.
"I'm going to take more votes away from Bush than from Kerry,"
he claims. Yet the overwhelming majority of polls say just the opposite. And by selecting a vice presidential candidate who will be anathema to conservatives, Mr. Nader indicated that defeating Mr.
Bush is actually quite low on his list of priorities.
Mr. Nader's choice of Mr. Camejo renders even more relevant a quip from The Daily Show's Jon Stewart: "Conservatives for Nader.
Not a large group. About the same size as 'Retarded Death Row Texans for Bush.'"
Mr. Camejo, who was a Socialist Workers Party spokesman for many years, will be most unpalatable to exactly the voters whom Mr.
Nader maintains he can lure away from Mr. Bush come November.
While participating in a debate with Mr. Camejo early this year on the merits of a "Nader in '04" presidential run, I was struck by his ideological rigidity -- and by his refusal to acknowledge meaningful contrasts between Mr. Bush and the likely Democratic nominee.
On this point, Mr. Nader has waffled in recent months, sometimes differentiating between Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry, other times seeming to conflate the two. By tapping Mr. Camejo, he has linked up with someone who routinely paints himself into a sectarian political corner with a sliver of left appeal.
White House strategist Karl Rove must be more pleased than ever about Mr. Nader's campaign.
The contradictions of that campaign have been stark. In early spring, when I spoke with Mr. Nader in a lengthy phone discussion, he never came close to making a credible case that his run for president this year could help beat Mr. Bush. The conversation reinforced my impression that Mr. Nader is committed to a campaign in search of a rationale.
After supporting Mr. Nader's presidential drives in 1996 and 2000, I've become more than disappointed in his decision to run this year. I'm now aghast at the current extent of his double-talk -- and double-dealing.
While he gives lip service to preventing a second term for the Bush presidency, Mr. Nader's key decisions -- such as striving to get on the ballot in swing states and putting Mr. Camejo on the ticket -- fundamentally contradict his words.
Ironically, these days, Mr. Nader's behavior resembles the efforts of an irresponsible corporate CEO who confuses his own prerogatives with the greater good.
Laurence Tribe, in the WSJ (July 1, 2004):
...With luck, the world's understanding of America will be shaped as well by what our Supreme Court, in three landmark decisions rendered this Monday, declared about the rights of those whom U.S. military authorities detain -- whether at Abu Ghraib, in Guantanamo or in a naval brig in South Carolina. The Court affirmed our Constitution's checks on the president's power unilaterally to designate anyone he chooses an unlawful enemy combatant and to imprison all who are so designated, incommunicado and indefinitely....
Some stressed how roundly the Court had rejected the president's position (and either celebrated that result as a victory for civil liberties or lamented its alleged weakening of national security), while others focused on how the Court counseled deference to the president's arguments and to the interests he invoked.
The truth lies neither at nor between those stereotyped poles, but on an axis perpendicular to the one along which they lie -- an axis marking the ways in which the Constitution, and the laws Congress enacts under its aegis, respect the imperatives of protecting the nation's survival and its people's security while rejecting, in Justice Stevens' apt phrase, the"tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny" -- so that we may, as Justice O'Connor perfectly put it,"preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad."
Among the most vital points on this axis is one embodied eight centuries ago in the Magna Carta: It is the people as represented in Parliament who are sovereign, not the king. The point, unsurprisingly, is even clearer in our Constitution: Not even as commander-in-chief may the president act contrary to the laws Congress makes to leash the dogs of war. Not a single justice failed to embrace that precept.
On reflection, no wise leader would even want the godlike powers a contrary view would confer. Who among us has not taken comfort in saying, truthfully, I did all the law allowed; to do more would have been illegal? Nor need any constitutional democracy have cause to regret the decision to bind its chief executive by the laws of the land. Whatever momentary advantage such an approach might seem to confer against a supranational terrorist network is likely to be dwarfed by the inestimable blunders any single individual or singleheaded branch of government is bound to commit when freed of all the constraints the representatives of all the people might enact.
The sole exception -- and it is the only one the justices seemed ready to allow -- is that for moments of"genuine emergency," when obeying a statutory restraint on someone's detention would pose"an imminent threat to the Nation and its people." Otherwise, the Court adhered unanimously to the proposition that even a wartime president must obey the law. The point might seem too obvious to belabor -- except for the fact that the Department of Justice's constitutional advisory arm, the Office of Legal Counsel, put forth the contrary view when it infamously defended the president's power to defy the laws and treaties banning the use of torture should he decide that the war on terrorism calls for such extreme measures.
The second vital point most clearly visible on the axis defined by the Court's terrorism rulings is a principle every member of the Court but one embraced: If enemy combatants are to be detained, the purpose must be either to charge and try them for specific crimes, or to keep them from"returning to the field of battle and taking up arms once again" in the"particular conflict in which they were captured."
The Justices' several opinions invoke that principle to define both the terms and the scope of permissible detention and the procedural protections due the potentially innocent. Those traditional rules limit preventive detention as an"incident of waging war" to detention that is"solely protective" in purpose, not an occasion for squeezing information out of the detainee.
The opinions taken together roundly repudiate the administration's entire rationale for holding detainees incommunicado and for denying them access to counsel who, even if not directing them to remain silent, would destroy the government's effort to deprive them of all hope that someone other than their interrogators might witness their plight and come to their rescue. The transparency these opinions demand as a hallmark of defensible detention could not be further from the spirit of secrecy that the administration's briefs and arguments insist is an indispensable element of intelligence-gathering detentions, even of individuals posing no danger if released, designed to last until the president is satisfied that no further information can be extracted....
Peggy Noonan, in the WSJ (July 1, 2004):
... Hand it to Mr. Bush: He's got guts. And whatever happens in the coming election, his administration will be remembered as one of the most consequential in modern political history. He did things, and they were all big and meaningful, and they will have implications for decades.
But let me share a thought I've been having that is not so jolly. It has to do with Mr. Bush's re-election prospects and a worry I have. History has been too dramatic the past 3 1/2 years. It has been too exciting. Economic recession, 9/11, war, Afghanistan, Iraq, fighting with Europe. fighting with the U.N., boys going off to fight, Pat Tillman, beheadings. It has been so exciting. And my general sense of Americans is that we like things to be boring. Or rather we like history to be boring; we like our lives to be exciting. We like history to be like something Calvin Coolidge dreamed: dull, dull. dull. And then we complain about the dullness, and invent excitements that are the kind we really like: moon shots, spaceships, curing diseases. Big tax cuts that encourage big growth that creates lots of jobs for young people just out of school."
No, I am not suggesting all our recent excitement is Mr. Bush's fault. History handed him what it handed him. And no, I am not saying the decisions he took were wrong or right or some degree of either. I'm saying it's all for whatever reasons been more dramatic than Americans in general like history to be.
Here is my fear: that the American people, liking and respecting President Bush, and knowing he's a straight shooter with guts, will still feel a great temptation to turn to the boring and disingenuous John Kerry. He'll never do anything exciting. He doesn't have the guts to be exciting. And as he doesn't stand for anything, he won't have to take hard stands. He'll do things like go to France and talk French and they'll love it. He'll say he's the man who accompanied Teresa Heinz to Paris, only this time he'll say it in French and perfectly accented and they'll all go"ooh la la!"
The American people may come to feel that George W. Bush did the job history sent him to do. He handled 9/11, turned the economy around, went into Afghanistan, captured and removed Saddam Hussein. And now let's hire someone who'll just by his presence function as an emollient. A big greasy one but an emollient nonetheless.
I just have a feeling this sort of thing may have some impact this year."A return to normalcy," with Mr. Kerry as the normal guy.
OK, readers, tell me I'm wrong. Or if you think I'm right or part right, tell me what Mr. Bush can do about it.
"The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history," Howard Zinn once wrote. And, while one of the best ways to prove Zinn’s point is to quote him in the first place (Trust me. Someone is bound to protest), if recent history is any indication, many Americans would not only gladly give up freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution, but, in times of duress, have actively distrusted them. Consider the following:
- In the early 1950s, Madison's Capital Times editor John Patrick Hunter took to the streets with a petition, (which was actually the Declaration of Independence, along with portions of the Bill of Rights) and tried to get people to sign it. Only one in 112 did. The rest found it too subversive.
- In May, 1956, Senator A.V. Watkins (R-Utah)"was almost bowled over" when, during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on a new sedition law, an attorney for Americans for Democratic Action cited one of Thomas Jefferson’s more colorful quotes:"I hold that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing." Watkins responded,"If Mr. Jefferson were here and advocated such a thing, I would move that he be prosecuted."
- After some California state employees refused to allow statements from the Bill of Rights to be posted because they were too controversial, Chief Justice Earl Warren admitted:"It is straws in the wind like this which cause some thoughtful people to ask the question whether ratification of the Bill of Rights could be obtained today if we were faced squarely with the issue."
- Years ago, historian Charles S. Beard noted that,"You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence."
Even more recently, in the fall of 2002, a poll indicated that nearly half of all Americans think the First Amendment"goes too far," while in the spring of 2003 (more than a year before B-actor turned President Ronald Reagan was lauded on TV for days on end), a VH-1 poll showed that fifty-four percent of US citizens believe it's"inappropriate" for celebrities to make political statements.
And so, as July 4th approaches, the divide between patriotic Americans who ache to preserve what’s left of our republic and nationalistic Americans who unwittingly embrace empire is more explosive than a beachside fireworks display. Confusingly, however, those in the latter group often shamelessly back any draconian measure the Bush administration takes"in the fight for freedom," while scoffing at concerns over preserving our freedoms at home.
Bruce Shapiro, in the Nation (June 25, 2004):
It is April of 1970. President Richard Nixon, frustrated with the Vietnam War, orders tens of thousands of US and South Vietnamese troops to invade neutral Cambodia. He launches his new war--and widens his bombing campaign--without consulting an outraged Congress. Demonstrations engulf campuses and cities. Aides to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger quit in protest. And at the Justice Department, an assistant attorney general named William Rehnquist, in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, makes a case for the legality of Nixon's new war in a white paper,"The President and the War Power."
It is half a lifetime from that spring to this one, and half a world from Cambodia to Iraq. The historical chasm abruptly collapsed, though, with the release of the memo on torture written for the White House in August 2002 by Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, Rehnquist's latter-day successor at the Office of Legal Counsel. What do Nixon and Cambodia have to do with the beatings and rapes at Abu Ghraib? Ask Bybee, because it is his memo that makes the comparison with Cambodia and Rehnquist, a comparison that lays open the deeper motivations, goals and implications of the Bush Administration's interrogation policy.
The Bybee memo attempts to erect a legal scaffolding for physical and psychological coercion of prisoners in the War on Terror. Coming from the Office of Legal Counsel, it holds the authority of a policy directive. The memo proposes so finessed and technical a reading of antibrutality laws that all manner of" cruel, inhuman or degrading" interrogation techniques--including beatings and sexual violations like those in Abu Ghraib--simply get reclassified as Not Torture. The memo's language so offends common sensibility that within a few days of its release, White House officials were disavowing its conclusions and selectively declassifying documents allegedly showing the President's commitment to humane treatment of prisoners....
It is in defense of his view of the Commander in Chief's legal impunity that Bybee invokes the Cambodia precedent, citing Rehnquist's 1970 white paper as his principal authority. Rehnquist spelled out his arguments both in that memo and in an article later that year for the New York University Law Review.
One glance at the Rehnquist documents and it is easy to see why his 1970 reasoning resonates throughout the Bush Administration's 2002 and 2003 memorandums. Just as Bybee finds that torture isn't torture, Rehnquist argued that the invasion of Cambodia wasn't really an invasion:"By crossing the Cambodian border to attack sanctuaries used by the the enemy, the United States has in no sense gone to war with Cambodia." The Bybee memo offers officials accused of torture the"necessity" defense; in 1970, Rehnquist argued that pursuing Vietcong troops into previously neutral territory was"necessary to assure [American troops'] safety in the field."
In particular, Rehnquist offered the Nixon White House a bold vision of the Commander in Chief's authority at its most expansive and unreviewable: The President's war power, he wrote acerbically, must amount to"something greater than a seat of honor in the reviewing stand." Cambodia--where the devastation of the war and the Nixon Administration's carpet-bombing following the invasion would prepare the way for the Khmer Rouge holocaust--amounted to"the sort of tactical decision traditionally confided to the commander in chief."
For Rehnquist, the invasion of Cambodia in May of 1970 was a dual watershed. On the one hand, it marked the greatest assertion of expansive presidential warmaking power, crystallized in the white paper cited by Bybee. At the same time, protests against the Cambodian invasion led Nixon to centralize the gathering of domestic political intelligence directly in the White House; Rehnquist supported this domestic expansion of executive-branch authority, arguing in court for no-knock entry, preventive detention, wiretaps and other ancestors of today's Patriot Act.
The authority of Nixon and his successors was soon curtailed--at least on paper--by reform-minded legislation: the War Powers Act, the Freedom of Information Act, CIA reform, the War Crimes Act and a host of other statutes. And ever since the invasion of Cambodia, a parade of conservative policy-makers--among them Rehnquist, Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney--have repeatedly sought to regain the expansive presidential power asserted in Rehnquist's memo.
This is what is really at stake in the torture scandal....