For the people I must tell you, that their liberty and freedom consist in having of government, those laws by which their life and their goods may be most their own. It is not for having a share in government, Sirs: that is nothing pertaining to them. A subject and a sovereign are clean different things....
The despotic King Charles I, speaking from the scaffold
In January 1649, a court created by the British Parliament tried, convicted, and ordered the execution of Charles I for treason. As noted here previously, Charles' persistent exercise of spurious executive power culminated in civil war – actually, two separate wars, and the king was plotting a third when he was put on trial.
It's likely that up until the moment his head was smitten from his body by the “clean stroke of the bright axe,” Charles believed that his Royalist adherents would somehow rescue him and resume the war on behalf of regal privilege – the conceit that the king and his subjects were “clean different things,” with the former utterly unaccountable to the latter.
As Geoffrey Robertson documents in his significant new book The Tyrannicide Brief, Charles was incapable of recognizing legal limits on his royal authority. He mounted his war on Parliament in the defense of unalloyed absolutism; during his trial he adamantly refused to recognize the court or Parliament as legal bodies whose authority he had to respect. Had Charles been willing to defer to their authority to the extent of mounting a defense, the verdict probably would have been the same, but the sentence much lighter.
One must give Charles grudging credit for the tenacity he displayed in defending his powers, as he understood them. While he was willing to waste the lives and wealth of his kingdom in the service of his ambition, he displayed remarkable composure when it came time to place his head on the executioner's block.
In this, Charles I – a stammering, despotic, self-enraptured hereditary ruler – displayed infinitely more character than the withered little fool in the White House.
In his press conference today (April 3), the Swaggering Fool, seeking to blackmail Congress into funding his war in Iraq, issued a series of threats against the lives and families of American troops in the field.
The routine is a familiar one to students of budget negotiations: When budget cuts (or reductions in planned increases) are being discussed, make sure that the ax falls first on sympathetic victims – the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, and so on. In this case, Bush is willing to continue his war even if doing so means sending weary, wounded, and under-equipped troops into the meat grinder.
Should Congress not give the bloody-handed Dimwit-in-Chief everything he demands, “the Army will be forced to consider cutting back on equipment, equipment repair and quality-of-life initiatives for our Guard and Reserve forces. These cuts would be necessary because the money will have to be shifted to support the troops on the front lines.”
Of course, the alternative would be to withdraw the troops from Iraq. But Bush wouldn't countenance such a thing.
“The Army also would be forced to consider curtailing some training for Guard and Reserve units here at home,” he continued in his petulant, breathless cadence that. “This would reduce their readiness and could delay their availability to mobilize for missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
This wouldn't be a problem if – as the public demands, and every principle of honor and decency requires – we were to end the war and bring our troops home. Such considerations mean nothing to Bush.
If Bush doesn't get what he wants by May, “the Army would be forced to consider slowing or even freezing funding for depots where the equipment our troops depend on is repaired,” he continued. “They will also have to consider delaying or curtailing the training of some active-duty forces, reducing the availability of these forces to deploy overseas. If this happens, some of the forces now deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq may need to be extended because other units are not ready to take their places. If Congress does not act, the Army may also have to delay the formation of new brigade combat teams, preventing us from getting those troops into the pool of forces that are available to deploy. If these new teams are unavailable, we would have to ask other units to extend in the theater.”
Bill Clinton pulled a similar stunt back in 1995, when he inserted U.S. troops into Bosnia and then demanded that Congress fund the mission or be accused of betraying the troops. In this respect, as in so many other ways, Bush has built on the lawless legacy of his predecessor.
Make no mistake: This is nothing less than a threat from Bush to frag our troops unless he gets what he wants. By why shouldn't he? The men and women he sent to Iraq are mere commoners, after all; he and they are "clean different things" from each other.
Please drop by The Right Source and make your views known on our message board.