Saturday, March 26, 2005

For whom the dog-whistle blows

Two years on, the legitmacy of the invasion of Iraq is still in dispute. The Attorney General squirms as the shakiness of his opinion is revealed. British troops are found guilty of prisoner abuse. The UK Home Secretary seeks lock-up powers based on the say-so of the secret police. In another part of the forest, a senior opposition politician is sacked for 'telling the truth'. An election looms, the dog-whistles are blowing all over the place and Richard's off-label trust model rules without question. But here, in my opinion, is the scariest manifestation of the dog-whistle to date:

The crucial lesson from Watergate was that presidents are not above the law. So we thought. But today government lawyers argue that the president is, in fact, above the law - that he can for instance order the torture of prisoners even though treaties and a federal law forbid it.

John Yoo, a former Justice Department official and professor at the University of California law school at Berkeley, maintains that the November 2004 election was a "referendum" on the torture issue: the people had spoken, and the debate is over.

In other words, an election in which the torure issue was not discussed has legitimized President Bush's right to order its use.

(Reference: More Than Fit to Print by Anthony Lewis, NY Review of Books, April 7th 2005)