But while Bush and Co. strut and swagger with tough Cold War talk aimed at Russia, their ongoing destruction of the American Republic continues unabated -- assisted, as it has been every step of the way, by the very institutions that are meant to preserve American liberty and keep a check on tyranny.

Winter Patriot has the goods on a recent federal court ruling that absolves all government personnel of guilt for any crime they may commit on the public payroll. As WP notes, the ruling goes beyond the "Nuremberg defense" favored by Nazis and accomplices in crime and atrocity the world over -- "I was only following orders" -- to add a whole new line of justification: "I was only giving orders."

The ruling, by Appeals Court Chief Judge David Sentelle -- a long-time right-wing apparatchik -- must be seen to be believed. As Reuters reports:

Government employees who engage in questionable acts, such as abusing prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay facility or engaging in defamatory speech, cannot be held individually liable if they are carrying out official duties, the court said.

"The conduct, then, was in the defendants' scope of employment regardless of whether it was unlawful or contrary to the national security of the United States," Appeals Court Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote in the opinion.

WP's excellent analysis of the ruling and its implications should be read in full. But here is a taste, from his conclusion:

So let's recap, shall we? A Federal court has ruled that some of the highest officials in our government are not accountable for their acts of treason, mass murder, war crimes, and crimes against humanity -- not because they were following orders (for surely some of them, especially Karl Rove and Dick Cheney [photo], were giving the orders); not because they thought they were doing something righteous or Blessed by God; but simply because they held positions in the United States government -- regardless of the fact that these actions violated the most serious federal and international laws, regardless of the fact that they all knew their actions were deeply illegal, and regardless of the fact that they were never legitimately elected to those government positions in the first place -- or legitimately re-elected in the second place.

Furthermore, the court decrees, this immunity applies not only to the principals in this case but to all manner of American government officials committing all manner of horrific crimes -- including torturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Did you get that? Do you finally get it now?

And these are the people who preach to the world about democracy and freedom and rule of law.