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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Mark Levin's America

Writing on National Review, Mark Levin quotes at length from this Washington Post article -- which reports that numerous CIA officers have taken out insurance policies because they fear being sued for war crimes violations (which are felonies under federal law) as a result of their involvement in torture and secret prisons. The article describes the Bush administration's legislative proposals to provide retroactive immunity to anyone who engaged in war crimes, a proposal opposed by Democrats as well as a handful of Republican Senators (McCain, Warner, Graham).

In response to all of this, Levin writes:

If we get attacked again, we know who to blame. Not the administration, which has worked overtime to defend the homeland, but the lawyers, courts, and members of Congress who are responsible for disastrous policies that lead to situations like this — counterterrorism officials having to purchase insurance against lawsuits by, among others, terrorists.

This debate over torture and gulags and lawlessness is really crystallizing the fundamental corruption in the belief system of Bush supporters. People like Levin think that America can "defeat terrorism" only by torturing people, operating secret, lawless Eastern Europe gulags, and generally ignoring our own laws. Therefore, anyone opposed to torture and lawbreaking is an enemy in the War on Terror -- they (not the terrorists, not even the party that controls our entire government) will be the ones "to blame" if we get attacked again.

Put another way, Levin thinks that America can "win the war on terror" only by fundamentally relinquishing virtually every national value that we have and degrading our national character. We didn't need gulags and torture and lawless detentions and presidential lawbreaking in order to defeat communism or any other external threat the country faced. But Levin doesn't believe in any of those principles or traditions. He is so consumed with rage and fear and a desire to destroy that he wants no limits on how we conduct ourselves and the policies we embrace.

What matters is indiscriminate slaughter and brutality for its own sake and anything that gets in the way of that -- including our core principles and national values and even the notion of living under the rule of law and in accordance with the most minimal precepts of a civilized society -- is to be scorned. Those who actually believe that this country ought to battle terrorism while maintaining our values and avoiding a descent into barbarism are, says Levin, the ones who will be to blame for the next terrorist attack. Those who want America to remain distinguishable from Al Qaeda and to live under the rule of law are, as Powerline calls even the Republican torture opponents, part of the "terrorist rights wing."

Mark Levin doesn't blame Al Qaeda for terrorists attacks. He literally blames America. He thinks that the values which define what America is and the principles Americans have fought for are exactly those things we need to wage war upon and eliminate. And he thinks that anyone who believes in those principles and defends them are the real enemies, the ones who will be to blame for future terrorist attacks. "Radicals" are those who want to overthrow the existing order of things and replace it with a fundamentally different value system. That is what Mark Levin and his allies are -- pure radicals who do not believe in this country and who want to transform it into an authoritarian state, permanently at war, using the defining tools of tyrants (torture, gulags and lawlessness).

That is what most of these terrorism-related debates are about, and it is especially what this current torture/Guantanamo debate will determine -- whether we want to be the country we have always aspired to be and which adheres to the values and principles which we have advocated, or whether we want to fundamentally change the country we are by pursuing Mark Levin's decadent, depraved vision of a country that abducts, detains, interrogates, executes, and slaughters without constraints, limits or law. Americans have always attempted to defeat enemies while adhering to -- rather than abolishing -- our core principles. That is exactly what Mark Levin and his allies oppose.

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