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Deja vu all over again: the US version of the 1933 Enabling Act

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  • laquerencia33@sbcglobal.net
    While any serious student of Steiner s work knows pretty much what s coming at us, it is ever-more important to astutely observe the pre-game show. So in the
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 29 9:18 AM
      While any serious student of Steiner's work knows pretty much what's
      coming at us, it is ever-more important to astutely observe the pre-game
      show. So in the spirit of Michaelmas may each of us serve as a good



      "I know how dangerous it is to argue by comparing present events to
      the Nazi nightmare. But I did a little research, and the comparison
      between the torture bill that Congress is about to pass and the
      Enabling Act of 1933 -- the law that gave Hitler his power -- seems
      inescapable to me.

      Hitler was elected Chancellor (a point conveniently forgotten by
      many) in January 1933 on a platform of anti-communist propaganda. In
      February, the Reichstag, the equivalent of our Capitol, was
      destroyed by arsonists, who may or may not have been affiliated with
      the Nazis. Appropriately cowed by these and other intimidations,
      the German parliament passed the Enabling Act that March.

      The Enabling Act, officially known as the "Law to Remedy the
      Distress of the People and Realm," was short and simple. Its
      operative provisions were as follows:

      Article 1

      In addition to the procedure prescribed by the constitution, laws of
      the Reich may also be enacted by the government of the Reich....

      Article 2

      Laws enacted by the government of the Reich may deviate from the
      constitution as long as they do not affect the institutions of the
      Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The rights of the President remain

      Article 3

      Laws enacted by the Reich government shall be issued by the
      Chancellor and announced in the Reich Gazette....

      That, seasoned with only a soupçon of legalistic detail, was it.
      What it meant was that the executive was empowered by the
      legislature to decide what the law was. He was empowered to ignore
      the constitution. Neither the courts nor the legislature would have
      means to check executive power.

      When the world saw the logical conclusion of that social experiment,
      it promised, "never again."

      Never again.

      That promise has usually been understood to refer to the Holocaust.
      To that extent, the tragedies of Darfur and Bosnia and Rwanda stand
      as silent refutation, differing in scale but not culpability. But
      there was another implicit promise of lessons learned: Never again
      would the people of a powerful Western democracy descend into the
      madness of unrestrained dictatorship.

      That second promise was largely implicit, because it seemed
      superfluous. After the obscenity of WWII, the idea that it could be
      broken by the United States or its allies was unthinkable. And that
      promise, at least, was largely kept.

      Until now.

      Forget, for the moment, that the proposed "compromise" torture
      legislation effectively abrogates the Geneva Conventions. Forget
      that it effectively licenses torture in the name of every American.
      Focus instead on the fact that it "vests in the administration the
      singularly most tyrannical power that exists - namely, the power
      unilaterally to decree someone guilty of a crime and to condemn the
      accused to eternal imprisonment without having even to charge him
      with a crime, let alone defend the validity of those accusations."
      Focus on this language from the proposed law:

      ...(N)o court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or
      consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever, ... including
      challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions
      under this chapter.

      No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or
      consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on
      behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been
      determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an
      enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.

      The language of the new Enabling Act is a bit more baroque than that
      used seventy years ago. And, to be sure, it is not as far-reaching
      as that of its predecessor. But make no mistake: Just as the 1933
      Enabling Act created the context for dictatorship, so does this one.
      The German legislature told the executive that it had the power to
      make law and ignore the constitution. If Congress passes this bill,
      the American legislature will second the motion.

      It is just one bill, you may object; it only applies to terrorists,
      you may say; we are not Nazi Germany, you may insist. And yet. The
      forthcoming FISA bill extends Enabling Act thinking to additional
      unreviewable executive powers. The slippery slope has been well-
      oiled. The Niemöller poem stands waiting."
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