Dictator Bush: The Dark Night Descends , Ernest Partridge

Many commentators, primarily in the "free" progressive blogs, of course, have remarked that September 28, 2006 and the passage of the "Military Commissions Act" (MCA) might mark the effective end of American Democracy and the beginning of a new American dictatorship.

I have tried desperately to find good reason not to believe this, but without success. The best scrap of hope that I have encountered comes from Tom Oliphant in his conversation with Al Franken on Air America Radio. The twelve Democrats in the Senate who voted for this act, said Oliphant, did so to "kick the can down the road," confident that the Supreme Court would overturn it.

Even though the MCA directly violates four of the ten articles of the Bill of Rights and the right of habeas corpus (explicitly established in the Constitution) I can not share Oliphant's confidence that the Supremes will find the act unconstitutional. This is, after all, the Supreme Court (with two new Bush appointees) that gave us George Bush in 2000, despite the will of the American people.

Since December 12, 2000 (Bush v. Gore) I have been outraged, and concerned. Now I will admit that I am genuinely frightened. All that protects me now from the newly enacted power of the dictator is my insignificance and obscurity. I have no delusions of self-importance. I am merely a retired philosophy professor whose opinions are published in scholarly journals and on the web and read by a few thousand. However, the law and the courts no longer protect me, for as of September 28, they have been rendered irrelevant. But were I a conspicuous and outspoken dissenter of some significance, such as Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart, Randi Rhodes, Frank Rich, Seymour Hersh, and now, believe it or not, Bob Woodward, I would be properly worried about my own personal safety, and the safety of my immediate family.

Dan Rather and Phil Donahue expressed their dissent on the public airwaves and lost their jobs. Today, if George Bush so chose, they could be designated "supporters of terrorism," seized, and incarcerated without charge, without counsel, without trial, without appeal, without end.

Impossible, you say? Yale Law Professor
Bruce Ackerman writes that the legislation: "authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights."

And it's already happened. Ask Jose Padilla, not to mention hundreds of innocents in Gitmo. But Rather? Donahue? Olbermann? Bush wouldn’t dare!

Today, he wouldn't. But for how long? And what is to stop him? Public opinion? Perhaps, but as we have learned, public opinion can be putty in the hands of a skillful and monolithic media. But most significantly, as of last Thursday, the law can no longer restrain Bush's brutal retaliation against his critics.

All that stands between the dissenting citizen and arbitrary and indefinite detention is George Bush's discretion, good judgment, and sense of fair play. And as we all know, none of these virtues are, to say the least, conspicuous in Bush's behavior.

Are we now to believe that the Busheviks will go this far, and no further, and that this is, at last, the end of the slippery slope that, to paraphrase Neville Chamberlain's assessment of Hitler after Munich, 1938, these are the last of their demands?

We believe so at our extreme peril, and in the face of compelling evidence that this "Military Commissions Act" is just one further step, a huge step, on the road to despotism.