What's to stop us?

The deadly-menace nutcases in Washington now say "we" (using whatever ordinary or special units we want to invent and use) have the right to go anywhere at any time to murder anyone for any reason, without telling anyone and without any ultimate accountability to anyone.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is considering ways to expand broadly the role of American Special Operations forces in the global campaign against terrorism, including sending them worldwide to capture or kill Al Qaeda leaders far from the battlefields of Afghanistan, according to Pentagon and intelligence officials.

Proposals now being discussed by Mr. Rumsfeld and senior military officers could ultimately lead Special Operations units to get more deeply involved in long-term covert operations in countries where the United States is not at open war and, in some cases, where the local government is not informed of their presence.* This expansion of the military's involvement in clandestine activities could be justified, Pentagon officials believe, by defining it as "preparation of the battlefield" in a campaign against terrorism that knows no boundaries.

*Can we imagine, the tables turned, how we would look upon any country on earth doing the same thing on our own territory, regardless of its excuses?

[I only note in passing that the NYTimes news story is exclusively concerned with the legal or precedent issues involved in putting such operations into the hands of the regular military rather than the C.I.A. The fact that we would violate every international relationship and every international law with impunity and without expectation of retribution is not discussed. So I will.]

While many would argue we've been in this filthy business for much of the last fifty years or so, I guess we're now going to be less shy about admitting it. What is also new is our confidence that we now have the absolute right to do anything we want to do, having been hurt on September 11 so embarassingly and to a degree we imagine unprecedented in world history. The bottom line however is that, for the first time since the beginning of the Cold War, no one can stop us, or so we think now.

I believe we are wrong to assume invulnerability when it comes to our latest plans for aggression. Aside from the immediate internal costs, economic and psychological, of this endless war to end terrorism, the world will be beating a path to our doors, and even beyond, not because they like us this time, but becasue they want to see us stopped, if not destroyed. No fortress America and no war against a virtually incorporeal foe can make us safe, but it can and will destroy our liberties and even our prosperity. The horrible violence Israel is suffering today, and that which it is visiting upon others, is a preview, and probably a mild preview, of what is in store at home for a rogue-nation America in terrible fear of its vulnerability and decline.

Will Congress save us from this stupidity, this horror? A fool's dream; expect nothing and we will not be disappointed. The Supremes? Their moral status may never have been so abysmal; their weight, if counted, will be thrown into the court of the enemies of the republic.