A couple of quotes from today's New York Times:
"The position of the executive branch," said Eric M. Freedman, a law professor at Hofstra University who has consulted with lawyers for several detainees, "is that it can be judge, jury and executioner."
"Much thought goes into how and why various tools are used in these often complicated cases," Tasia Scolinos, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said on Friday. "The important thing is for someone not to come away thinking this whole process is arbitrary, which it is not."
I'm not concerned about whether or not those decisions are arbitrary -- it's the fact that the executive branch believes that it can make those decisions in secret and with no oversight that shreds democracy and moves us into a dictatorship. In popular parlance we think of a dictator as one who is imposed and not subject to removal by the democratic process. But in the classical sense, the dictator is simply the ruler whose decisions are subject to no oversight and no challenge.
Cheney's opposition to the McCain amendment is not principally about whether or not the president has the right to order torture in extraordinary cases. The fundamental issue is whether or not the president is to be subject to the rule of law. The people who run our government very explicitly believe that he should not be. Their arguments are always couched in the language of not constraining the president's ability to prosecute the war in whatever way he sees fit. There's no subterfuge or duplicity involved in this dismantling of the republic.
But the proper response to that objection should be, "Exactly. The President should not have the authority to do whatever he feels is necessary. The whole complicated process by which we hold the delicate American experiment together is predicated on the notion that no one branch of government, and certainly no one person should have the ability to determine an individual's fate. In giving that up, we are betraying everything that we're sending those young men and women to Iraq to die for."
This is the tragedy of George W. Bush's patriotism. Relentlessly determined to send more and more of our finest and most idealistic off to die in the name of an ideal that he is steadily destroying. And I really don't think he knows what he's doing.