DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
Carl Schmitt (July 11, 1888 – April 7, 1985), the German catholic intellectual and legal theoretician who provided the irrational jurisprudence for the violent foundation of Hitler’s Third Reich, is one of the leading European influences on the current U.S. neoconservative movement, particularly in respect to its hidden identification with dictatorial or Caesaristic “democracy.” His work, although seldom publicly mentioned by neoconservatives in the United States, is of great importance today given the calls from radical intellectuals for the immediate overthrow of the Bush government and the purging of neoconservatives from high political office before they, as one radical said, “Dig the grave for the democratic republic of the United States.”
Schmitt’s famous concept of Dezisionismus (“Decisionism”) rationalized the arbitrary decisions of dictators or uncommanded commanders who considered themselves to be beyond relative good and evil, thus absolute legislators above the traditional law.
Decisionism was based on extremely conservative theological justifications of sovereignty under an ordinarily inscrutable personal “God” whose will is known only to his priests through their infallible pope, and whose authoritarian laws are set forth in infallible church doctrine. Decisionism is used to justify deeds in times of extreme crisis, when conservative authority is being seriously challenged by diabolical liberalism, which of course tends to subvert government and pervert social mores.
If the conservatives are not in power, a crisis may be provoked so that the right decisions may be made and the right deeds done according to the dictates of the dictator, who very well may be “democratic”. The dictator, who is never “wrong”, may be the militant incarnation of the democracy; his duty is to bring democracy to the world whether the world wants it or not. Only by means of extreme cases can the new or right way of concrete thinking and living be brought about; that might very well require a whole series of revolutions and wars.
Schmitt’s political conflict theory divided the world into friend and foe: either you are with us or you are against us. Politics serves the purpose of finding out who your friends and enemies are, so you can reward your friends and hunt down and capture or kill your enemies. Schmitt experienced the decadent 1920s as a crisis of liberalism; that demanded a total response from Germany both at home and abroad. All spheres of society must be identified with the totalitarian state. Enemies abroad must be opposed and order must be imposed at home; hence war and repression was the rule. But first of all a revolution was warranted. Intially, the revolution would be ostensibly within the law, although beatings and other methods of intimidation would be employed at street level.
Once power was obtained, the dictator would be confirmed by popular referendum. In turn, he would suspend the law indefinitely so that the total nation, the imperial world-power-state, could do the right thing; for instance, protect the nation from the liberal and communist terrorists encircling it. The right thing would of course be chosen according to his dictates, a decision based not on discussion, but on his prejudicial intuition. Inf fact, according to Schmitt, discussion is the antithesis of dictatorship, while democracy and dictatorship are quite compatible.
For instance, when Hitler, whose religion was a religion of one and whose god was absolute or omnipotent Power, assumed the highest offices – of Chancellor, President, and Commander-in-Chief – all conveniently combined in his person, soldiers did not swear to uphold the constitution, which had been indefinitely suspended, nor the folk-nation itself. Rather, they pleaded allegiance to Adolf Hitler: “I swear by God this holy oath: I will render unconditional obedience to the Fuhrer of the German Reich, Adolf Hitler, the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and will be ready, as a brave soldier, to stake my life at any time for this oath.”
Of course the democratic German nation decided by popular referendum that Hitler was its incarnation, hence he had all the political capital he needed to carry forward the mandate to subject Germany and the world to the right thing. Once he had that mandate, no further elections were necessary. There was need for only one party, the party of the people, the Nazi party. Those who had fervently believed in Hitler’s earlier professions of democracy would have to be eliminated along with independent unions and the like.
Schmitt praised Hitler’s June 30, 1934 massacre of over 400 persons, summarily executed without trial, on the pretext of putting down an alleged S.A. conspiracy – a ‘Second Revolution with Marxist implications, led by Ernst Rohm, its Chief of Staff. Rohm wanted to overcome the liberal Reactionaries, led by former Chancellor Franz von Papen, who had, ironically, helped Hitler gain power – von Papen survived the purge: two subordinates, substitutes, were murdered. The Reactionaries, backed by the Army, wanted to save Germany’s institutions from the Nazi revolution. On the other hand, Rohm spoke up for hundreds of thousands of disgruntled Nazis who had helped Hitler; they expected some payback along the lines of formal military power and certain commitments to democracy Hitler that had made to gain the support of industrial workers and their unions. Among other claims made on the revolution, small businessmen among the Nazis wanted protection from big capitalists.
In order to continue the Nazi revolution as he conceived it, Rohm demanded military status for his organization, the numbers of which would have overwhelmed the Army and undermined its command structure. President von Hindenburg was about to declare martial law. Hitler’s hand was forced: he had to decide, and his decision to resolve the emergency favored “good businessmen”, although though they might not be National Socialists, and, of course, to the Army – all the above could be repressed later. Mussolini, an ex-socialist who hated Communism and liberalism, had warned Hitler to get rid of the Nazi left-wing. And Hitler was not inclined to go Marxist after having fought the Marxists for so long. Wherefore the S.A. would have to be radically downsized and castrated. Of the 400 or so persons murdered or who “committed suicide”, the majority had no ties to the S.A., but were rather the victims of personal vendettas.
“They became revolutionaries who favored revolution for its own sake…. For us the Revolution is no permanent condition,” said Hitler. But why were the accused not tried in the regular courts before being executed for treason? “If anyone reproaches me and waks why I did not resort of the regular courts of justice, then all I can say to him is this: in this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I became the Supreme Justicias of the German people…. And every must know for all future time that if he raises his hand to strike the State, then certain Death is his lot.”
And in a September 15, 1941 talk, he said, “Lawyers cannot understand that in exceptional times new laws become valid.” Further, on December 1, 1942, in respect to subversives and terrorists: “This has to be hammered into everyone’s head, whatever leads to success is right in the conduct of anti-guerilla operations. That’s the point of departure. If someone does something not exactly in accordance with regulations, but achieves complete success, or if someone is faced by an emergency, he can deal with in the most brutal way, he’s entitled to use and measure that guarantees success. The goal must be the annhilation of these groups and the restoration of order.”
Carl Schmitt, in a 1940 article entitled ‘The Leader Protects the Law’, said that the massacre of large numbers of people without due process of law signifies the creation of a new world order of law and justice. The crimes against humanity are not really crimes, at least not according to Schmitt’s legal theory of Decisionism, which legitimizes such acts with the excuse that extreme situations or emergencies call for exceptional deeds. Hence the legalization of extra-legal methods; to wit, the decisions of the leader, decisions made according to the supreme principle of militant leadership – the basis for Hitler’s Fuhrerprinzip.
Now the individual per se, the little man, is not to have the ultimate power of decision. The heroic sovereign must decide, because only he is in the right position to respond effectively to the emergencies which he has for the most part provoked in the interest of his perpetual revolution – perchance in the name of god or Hegel’s world spirit. At the bottom of this “ideology” there is really no ideology at all: decisions are arbitrarily made to take advantage of opportunities to gain more power until absolute Power is achieved. The term “pragmatism” is often used to the same irrational end nowadays. Wherefore people even today can be massacred or held in camps without benefit of due process of law in order to liberate the people and to save the world for democracy whether the world wants to be saved for that kind of democracy or not.
Hitler reiterated his democratic roots in a November 8, 1944 Munich speech: “In fifteen years, I have slowly worked my way up together with this movement. I have not been imposed by anyone upon this people. From the people I have grown up, in the people I have remained, to the people I return. My pride is that I know no statesman in the world who with greater right than I can say that he is the representative of the people.”
Thus old tyrants appear in new clothes. They might be the elected leaders of “democracies.” They speak much of democracy to get elected; there are discussions, debates; people vote; then the people had better get out of the way or be accused of being unpatriotic or traitors and the like.
Well, it is said by way of apology, at least the elected dictator’s term is limited. Then he proceeds with his agenda, hidden under various pretexts. His lawyers rationalize abuses by reference to those legal “theories” Schmitt called Decisionism. His acts are irreversible. If something goes wrong, all one can say is that it is of no use to discuss the past since it cannot be changed, hence another decision must be made in order to be consistent, to stay the course hidden by the pretexts. In the final analysis, almost anything can be done by the Caesaristic dictator despite the fact of his election – would you not do what you want to do if you had only four years to live and you had the power of the state at your disposal to write your name big on world history?
And yes, the people might be omnipotent over the election, but once elected, they are impotent because it is their “representatives” who initiate the political process. Further, the selection of candidates is made by a tiny minority of a minority.
If the hidden agenda of the dictator is revealed, it is not to be challenged, for its principles are unimpeachable. There should be no real discussion. Schmitt observed that democracy, in terms of individual participation and rational discussion, is not really applicable to mass society. Parliaments just do not work. Debate and discussion do not define voting behavior. In fact the very antithesis of “democracy” is discussion. Sure, there are discussions in assemblies, there are public debates; yet in the end the subtleties are lost on people and they wind up voting by the means organized for mass politics: they tend to vote according to their party affiliations.
The conservative parties on the right are good and the liberal and socialist parties on the left are evil and should be destroyes as soon as possible. In order to get elected, and to get the right thing done thereafter, it is perfectly all right, and in fact it is explicitly recommended, to lie to the people. The rationale for lying is attributed to Machiavelli, and to Hobbes’ view, cited by Schmitt, that law is not based on truth but on authority.
Today it is often difficult to tell the left hand from the right hand, for the candidates will say anything that the polls indicate is popular, then will fulfill their hidden agenda after taking the oath of hypocrisy, which specifies that they renounce their partialities and do the general will of the whole people. The general will of the people, however, can only be known to the select or chosen few.
It certainly behooves us to consider applications of Schmitt’s neoconservative philosophy, which is, in sum, a model for authoritarian hypocrisy and prevarication: arbitrary decisions must be made without sincere debate and discussion in order to provoke emergencies with perceived enemies and thereby obtain total power in the name of democracy, freedom, and human rights, while defying those liberating in actual practice, because the liberals are in fact the enemy.
Schmitt often worried himself about the distinction between a “criminal” and an “enemy.” He feared that enemies would be classifed as war criminals and be prosecuted under some concept of “political universalism.” He reasoned that war could be considered as an “honorable duel” between great-power members of a common civilization of martial law, hence their combatants would not be considered as war criminals. As for those who are not great powers, those who are not members of the club, those who may not even have uniforms or states….
By supreme authority of the President George W. Bush of the United States, a U.S. military commission was convened in Guantanamo, Cuba, to hear the cases of four “enemy combatants” suspected of committing “war crimes.” Guantanamo became possession of the United States during the first regime change it imposed on Cuba; at present, the United States wants to impose another regime change in Cuba, and is accusing the Cuban government of human rights violations while the U.S. is allegedly violating human rights at Guantanamo and elsewhere after killing nearly 100,000 people to date, according to a recently expert;s estimate, in the Bush regime’s second war on Iraq. Complaints of various human rights violations including being shipped to Egypt for torture have been made by Guantanamo prisoners.The four suspects to be “tried” by the commission had been held in solitary confinement for a year, and were only allowed to talk to their guards and “personal representatives” appointed by the Pentagon.
President Bush’s military commission could at best be called a “kangaroo court.” It comprises two civilian commissioners and a millitary commissioner. One civilian commissioner ruled that the tribunal can declare “terrorism” to be a war crime even though ‘terrorism’ is a general descriptive term and is not on the books as a specific crime. He reasoned that the court at Nuremberg had declared, for the first time, that “genocide” was a war crime, therefore his commission could declare, for the first time, that terrorism is a war crime. Hence the very thing the English-hating, French-loving democratic faction of the Founders of the United States abhorred, judge-made law, was absurdly resorted to, and worse, without the benefit of a careful education in the common law of nations and of international law. Incidentally, one of the U.S. civilian judges in Cuba declined to be informed by qualified counsel on the law until he decides what he does not know about the law.
U.S. District Court judge James Robertson ruled that President Bush had exceeded his constitutional powers when he set up the military commissions at Guantanamo instead of resorting to normal military and civilian courts, wherefore the Pentagon halted the sessions on October 12, 2004 pending appeal. A quick appeal was sought. The appellate brief read, in part:
“Those rulings… represent an unprecedented judicial intrusion into the prerogatives of the President…. The executive attempting to protect this nation through the use of military force would become entangled in a morass of litigation, brought by enemy detainees and POWs, about the implementation of the Geneva convention.”
Besides the military commission, we find another extra-legal body at Guantanamo. As of November 12, 2004, 357 “combat status review tribunals” – a review tribunal is an absurd sort of preliminary hearing to determine whether or not the 550 prisoners at Guantanamo are “enemy combatants” – were held. Thus far, the tribunals had decided 131 “cases”, releasing only 1 prisoner.
Finally, 63 of the 550 detainees have filed for writs of habeas corpus – in June 2004, the Supreme Court cleared the way for the consideration of those filings.
Attorney General John Ashcroft, the top attorney of the United States, who along with the President and other elected officials is sworn to uphold the law, complained on November 12, 2004 that the decisions of federal judges are threatening national security. But the stability of United States as a democratic is in large part due to its system of conflict resolution, to the willingness of citizens and others to, first of all, to submit their conflicts to the many courts constituted for the purpose of providing due processing of their claims, and, after a disciplined discussion of the merits of their cases, to abide by the decisions of the court whether they agree with them or not.
Yet Attorney General Ashcroft would skip the submission process and rid the President, who is not supposed to be above the law, of his duty to abide by due process of law. He described the court decisions granting legal rights to detainees, many of whom were sold to the United States by bounty hunters, as “dangerous.”
“The danger I see here,” said Ashcroft, in his disgust for the rule of law, “is that intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas can put at resit the very security of our nation in a time of war. Our nation and our liberty will be all the more in jeopardy as the tendency for judicial encroachment and ideological micro-management are applied to the sensitive domain of national defense…. To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is clear: Your tactics only aid terrorists.” In other words, the President alone hould decide these cases by setting up the extra-judicial means to decide them; there should be no discussion in the courts of law; anyone who disagrees with that view is aiding terrorists – hence, according to the President’s stated policy, is a terrorist.
That is not all: there are many more instances of the gradual subversion of the laws of the United States by the neoconservatives, who count on the media to keep the public ignorant of their irrational “anti-ideological”, “anti-intellectual” subversion of the democratic republic of the United States and the consequences that the smothering of the “Revolution within the American revolution” will have if Liberty dies. We can understand why those who are aware of the historical underpinnings of the neoconservative seizure of the White House feel that a purge is in order, for there is virtually nothing that can be done to stop the President and his backers from doing whatever they want him to do during the last four years he is in office – the effects that would be felt for many years to come, and could very well constitute “the grave” of this great nation of ours.
But purges and assassinations are not the American Way. The U.S. Constitution provides for the impeachment, trial and firing of the President, for his political malfeasance endangering the nation. And until he is fired by the Senate, the President and 34 U.S. Senators can run roughshod over the United States and the world, and there is nothing short of violence than can be done about it. At present, there is little chance of impeachment proceedings being brought, for the Congress itself is in the grip of neoconservatives on both sides of the aisle, and it has given the President a blank check to be a tyrant.
On November 17, 2004, the press reported that an “independent terror panel”, convened to investigate the violation of civil liberties, marked the Congress absent on the issue, allowing the President to “operate in a vacuum.” The panel affirmed that only the President should authorize harsh treatment of prisoners. Panel member Phil Heymann said that the Constitution would not have to be radically altered to that end. That is certainly not a very comforting statement for the usual suspects who are hated by the neoconservatives – the liberal-minded citizenry.
That little example of Schmitt’s influence on the neoconservative movement being given, we shall soon move on to discuss the religious underpinnings of his totalitarian philosophy.
KANSAS CITY 2004