Are the Hitler Parallels Too Close for Comfort?

Email Print


who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it."
~ George Santayana

On May 9, 2007,
with little attention from the snoozing media, George W. Bush issued
a "presidential directive" that allows him to assume control
of the federal government following a "catastrophic emergency."

Although the
directive doesn’t specifically identify the types of emergencies
that would qualify as "catastrophic," it is vague enough
to encompass "any incident, regardless of location, that results
in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption
severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment,
economy, or government function." As Matthew Rothschild of
The Progressive noted, it could include "another 9/11,
or another Katrina, or a major earthquake in California." In
fact, the language is so broad that it could include almost anything
the public is led to believe might have a major impact on the country.
Not surprisingly, the president’s order comes neatly packaged within
the trappings of national security and safety.

This directive
followed on the heels of a bill, which I have previously
written about
, that was pushed through Congress and which gave
the president the power to declare martial law and establish a dictatorship.
Under these provisions, the president can now use the military as
a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, disease
outbreak, terrorist attack or any "other condition."

In other words,
the groundwork has been laid for the president of the United States
to do away with our democracy, such as it is, and establish a dictatorship.
The president, in effect, has become a power unto himself.

Having said
that, I’m aware that I have opened myself up to accusations of paranoia
and alarmist sentiment. However, if it is paranoid or alarmist to
recognize the potential for abuse and urge Americans to guard against
it, then so be it. It’s time to sound the alarm.

If we continue
down this road, there can be no surprise about what awaits us at
the end. After all, it is a tale that has been told time and again
throughout history. For example, over 70 years ago, the citizens
of another democratic world power elected a leader who promised
to protect them from all dangers. In return for this protection,
and under the auspice of fighting terrorism, he was given absolute

This leader
went to great lengths to make his rise to power appear both legal
and necessary, masterfully manipulating much of the citizenry and
their government leaders. Unnerved by threats of domestic terrorism
and foreign invaders, the people had little idea that the domestic
turmoil of the times – such as street rioting and the fear of Communism
taking over the country – was staged by the leader in an effort to
create fear and later capitalize on it. In the ensuing months, this
charismatic leader ushered in a series of legislative measures that
suspended civil liberties and habeas corpus rights and empowered
him as a dictator.

On March 23,
1933, the nation’s legislative body passed the Enabling Act, formally
referred to as the "Law to Remedy the Distress of the People
and the Nation," which appeared benign and allowed the leader
to pass laws by decree in times of emergency. What it succeeded
in doing, however, was ensuring that the leader became a law unto
himself. The leader’s name was Adolf Hitler. And the rest, as they
say, is history.

Yet history
has a way of repeating itself. Hitler’s rise to power should serve
as a stark lesson to always be leery of granting any government
leader sweeping powers. But we are clearly not heeding that lesson.

Americans are
being lulled to sleep by the government’s constant warning that
terror and destruction lurk around the corner. Color-coded terrorism
threat levels and reports of alleged terrorism plots are constantly
paraded before us. Indeed, since 9/11, the American people have
been kept in a state of constant fear and expectation of yet another
terrorist attack or, more subtly, another Katrina. Thus, while the
recent spate of directives giving the U.S. president broad powers
to supposedly ensure America’s safety and security from terrorism
and natural disaster should serve as a warning, they have caused
barely a ripple among the media or the masses.

President Bush
has assured us that he will do whatever it takes to keep America
safe, and Americans have blindly trusted him. How did he reward
that trust? First, he claimed the authority to permanently imprison
American citizens alleged to be so-called "enemy combatants."
Then he asserted his right to order government intelligence agencies
to not only spy on America’s enemies but also on Americans. Now
he has quietly and unobtrusively granted himself the power to take
control of the government in the event of a vaguely defined national

Madison, the father of our Constitution, said that Americans should
take alarm at the first experiment upon their liberties. But this
latest "presidential directive" is not the first
attack on our liberties, and I dare say it will not be the last.
We’d better open our eyes soon, lest we wake up one morning and
find that we live under a new regime. Only, this time, it will be
one of our own making.

for the audio version of this commentary read by
John Whitehead.

18, 2007

attorney and author John W. Whitehead [send
him mail
] is founder and president of The
Rutherford Institute

Email Print