re: Judgment at Nuremberg

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The “national emergency justifies dictatorial tyranny” theory goes back a bit farther in history than WW II, Charles, at least in terms of U.S. history.  It defined the Lincoln administration as it mass arrested tens of thousands of Northern political dissenters, shut down hundreds of opposition newspapers, censored telegraph communication, deported a Democratic congressman, intentionally bombed cities occupied only by civilians, murdering tens of thousands of them, and worse.  The “soldiers” who did these things “were only following orders.”

In one of the greatest statements ever made by the U.S. Supreme Court, the court derided Lincoln’s theory of supposedly constitutional dictatorship by saying in Ex Parte Milligan (1866):

“The constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and peace, and it covers with its shield of protection all classes of men, at all times and under all circumstances.  No doctrine involving more pernicious consequences was ever invented by the wit of men that any of its great provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of Government.”

The court understood that if politicians can get away with declaring themselves dictators under the guise of a “national emergency,” then they will work diligently to create never-ending national emergencies, or at least the perception of them (the never-ending “war on terra,” for example).



2:21 pm on December 28, 2013