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America's Counter-Revolution
The Constitution Revisited

From the back cover:

This book challenges the assumption that the Constitution was a landmark in the struggle for liberty. Instead, Sheldon Richman argues, it was the product of a counter-revolution, a setback for the radicalism represented by America’s break with the British empire. Drawing on careful, credible historical scholarship and contemporary political analysis, Richman suggests that this counter-revolution was the work of conservatives who sought a nation of “power, consequence, and grandeur.” America’s Counter-Revolution makes a persuasive case that the Constitution was a victory not for liberty but for the agendas and interests of a militaristic, aristocratic, privilege-seeking ruling class.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

TGIF: Trump, Saddam, and the Presumption of Innocence

The horrifying thing about Trump's recent remarks about Saddam Hussein is not that he expressed admiration for the late Iraqi dictator -- in fact Trump called him a "bad guy" three times. What is horrifying is that Trump seemed envious that Saddam could "kill terrorists" without due process -- the most important element of which is the presumption of innocence, which places the burden of proof of guilt squarely on the government's shoulders. "He killed terrorists" Trump said of Saddam. "He did that so good. They didn't read them the rights. They didn't talk. They were a terrorist, it was over." (Emphasis added.)

This should concern any Trump fans who believe that criminal suspects should be protected against the state. Trump was clearly signalling that he wants the government (which of course he aspires to run) to have the power to kill people suspected of planning or having committed politically motivated violence against noncombatants. Let's be clear: Trump wasn't endorsing capital punishment for convicted terrorists. (I ignore here the objections to state executions.) He was praising the killing of suspected terrorists without charge or trial in which the prosecution has the burden of proof. Dictators always find due process an obstacle to efficient and decisive action against threats real and imagined. But Americans supposedly believe that the rights of the accused are more important than the state's convenience.

The securing of due process was the result of a nearly thousand-year struggle against western tyrants. It is certainly true that due process has been badly eroded, especially since 9/11. But this is the first time I can recall a presidential candidate celebrating a dictator's freedom from due-process constraints at a campaign rally. This certainly distinguishes Trump from his predecessors and opponents. That the throng, wearing their Make America Great Again caps, responded enthusiastically is ominous indeed.

Trump's remarks are consistent with his earlier expressions of admiration for the "strength" of despots such as North Korea's Kim Jung Un and the Chinese rulers who slaughtered pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. The remarks also flesh out his promise to use water-boarding and more against terrorism suspects and his belief that the families of suspects should also be killed.

Throughout his campaign Trump has shown impatience with procedures that brake government activity. He often bashes politicians who are "all talk and no action." So his envy of dictators should surprise no one.

TGIF (The Goal Is Freedom) appears Fridays. Sheldon Richman, author of America's Counter-Revolution: The Constitution Revisited, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. Become a Free Association patron today!


Anonymous said...

Who would Putin choose for President of the US?

Shane Skekel said...

This says a lot about not just Trump, but Breitbart, Michelle Malkin, Laura Ingram, Ann Coulter, Diana West, Sarah Palin, the Duck Dynasty dipshits, Jeff Crouere, etc. doesn't it? (Clinton is still worse, though not by much.)

Robin Cohn said...

Trump admired a head of state who is good at killing "known terrorists" without due process. Would this apply equally to terrorists outside the homeland? What about collateral damage? See my point?