By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
Each year around the anniversary of 9/11, I summarize what we ordinary citizens have learned since that awful day in 2001. This is the sixth annual look backwards, an update based on new information about those horrific events and what followed.
What we now more fully understand is how the CheneyBush Administration utilized the murderous terrorism of 9/11 as the one-size-fits-all justification for their unfolding domestic and foreign agenda.
By and large, one can sum up that overall agenda as: Amass and control power in the U.S. and much of the world, and, in cahoots with their corporate supporters, loot the treasury. All this was to be carried out secretly, with no accountability.
9/11 AND “THE WAR ON TERROR”
1. Iraq Plan Preceeded 9/11. Let’s remember the chronology of how we got here: The Administration’s far-right domestic agenda was bogged down in 2001 after Jim Jeffords left the Republican caucus and joined the now-majority Democratic one in the Senate. 9/11, and the mysterious anthrax attacks that followed, had the side effect of providing the CheneyBush Administration pretty much a free ride in putting police-state tactics in place (symbolized by the so-called “Patriot Act”), overriding Constitutional protections, and greasing the wheels for all sorts of domestic legislation that otherwise might have been bottled up forever.
Planning for an attack on Iraq, as Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill later told us, already had begun at the first cabinet meetings after Inauguration Day in early 2001; after 9/11, those plans proceeded apace, even when the intelligence indicated that it was not an Iraq operation but an al-Qaida terrorist attack, out of Afghanistan.
It appeared that the U.S. military over time would capture or kill Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and effectively destroy al-Qaida forces that had attacked America on 9/11. But CheneyBush abruptly pulled the U.S. forces from Afghanistan and headed them for Iraq, a country that was no real danger to the U.S. and its allies. (Late Flash: The resurgent Taliban allies of al-Qaida now control a good share of Afghanistan; if the U.S. had stayed in that country and taken care of business, today’s reality there might well have been significantly different.)
2. Unanswered 9/11 Questions. There still are unanswered questions about the horrific events of September 11, 2001, mainly centered around: A. Why Bush sat there for seven minutes reading the “Pet Goat” book after he’d been informed of the plane hitting the second tower (“America is under attack,” his chief of staff whispered to him), and why the Secret Service, as they are trained to do when the President is believed to be in danger, didn’t surround him and get him the hell out of that classroom (the clear implication is that a delay-operation was in progress). B. Why NORAD didn’t scramble its fighters in time to do anything (same implication). C. Whether World Trade Center Towers 1, 2 and 7 collapsed into their footprints as a result of fire/structural damage or from pre-set demolition charges (there are reputable scientists on both sides of that one). D. How to explain all the “put” options on American Airlines and United Airlines stocks just prior to the attacks, clearly suggesting someone knew which airlines were going to be hijacked and was trying to profit from the pending attacks?
But regardless of whether CheneyBush were complicit in any degree in the deaths and destruction that day — and there is no proof that they were — what we do know is that in the months, weeks and days prior to 9/11, red-hot warnings about a planned terrorist attack, using planes as weapons aimed at buildings in New York and Washington, were coming into the White House from a wide variety of other countries.
At the very least then, CheneyBush and a few other key insiders knew that a “spectacular” attack was coming and did absolutely nothing. Even after Bush was briefed on August 6 with a report entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the U.S.” — which talked about preparations for hijackings, suspected terrorists surveilling federal buildings in New York, teams of terrorists being inside the U.S. with explosives — there was no heightening of awareness, no alerting airlines, no sending out photos of al-Qaida suspects to be on the lookout for, no calling an urgent meeting of counter-terrorism experts inside the White House to coordinate either a way of minimizing the damage or dealing with a post-attack response. Nothing.
Again, if the above is true, one is left with two alternative explanations. A: These CheneyBush guys in charge were (and remain) totally over their heads in terms of governance. They simply didn’t have a clue what was about to happen and what to do about it. Administration actions during the past six and a half years supply more than enough evidence that Bush and his crew are total fuckups. It’s a reverse-Midas syndrome: everything they touch turns to excrement. Total bumblers, screwups, incompetent dolts.
B: They knew something major was about to go down (although 3000 deaths may have been way beyond what they imagined) in order to use those attacks as a rallying point to amass power and push their agenda through a Congress that otherwise was antagonistic to them.
3. The Facts of 9/11. We know that the Bush Administration didn’t want the public to learn much, if anything, about the events of that day six years ago. Bush&Co. had to be dragged kicking and screaming into agreeing to the appointment of the official 9/11 Commission, and they named as the executive director one of their made men, Philip Zelikow (now an Administration official).
As it turned out, the Administration wasn’t all that cooperative in furnishing documents, Bush would not testify under oath and would deign to appear only with Cheney by his side, (here’s my imagined transcript of that testimony) and we later learned that the commission was so angered by the constantly-shifting stories told by the Pentagon/NORAD that they were ready to urge that legal charges be filed. In short, the 9/11 Commision’s probe was not exhaustive, leaving many areas of investigation unplumbed, and many questions still unsatisfactorally unanswered.
4. PNAC & the Neo-Cons. We know that a FarRight segment of the conservative movement was dedicated to using America’s sole superpower status to move aggressively in the world while, they believed, no other country or international force could put up much resistance. The key neo-con leaders in charge of U.S. foreign/military policy (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Perle, Khalilzad, et al.) were founders of, and affiliated with, The Project for The New American Century (PNAC).
The neo-cons realized that presidents enjoy enormous patriotic support during wartime, but when the war ends, those leaders lose their compelling luster, as was the case with Bush#1. Ergo, Bush#2 would become a PERMANENT wartime president, and those who opposed him could then be tarred forever with the smear of “unpatriotic” and “hating America,” thus marginalizing their political impact. And it worked: the Democrats cowered and gave Bush virtually everything he wanted, up until relatively recently, when occasionally they remember they have spines in their bodies and stand up and fight as an opposition party should.
We know that Bush&Co. saw, in Condi Rice’s apt term at the time, the “opportunity” offered by the 9/11 attacks to move quickly and forcefully with the Administration’s foreign and domestic agenda. PNAC talked about its Pax Americana plan for global “benevolent hegemony” using a retooled military; this military transformation would take forever to implement, a PNAC report said, unless a “new Pearl Harbor” changed the equation in the public mind. 9/11 came along and was used as that “new Pearl Harbor.” (See “How We Got Into This Imperial Pickle: A PNAC Primer.”)
We know that after 9/11, Bush seemed to bring the entire country along with him when he launched an attack on al-Qaida and its Taliban-government supporters in Afghanistan. But there’s no oil in that destitute country, and, as Rumsfeld reminded us, not much worth bombing. Thus, no lessons could be drawn by Middle East leaders from the U.S. attack. But, as Cheney’s secret energy panel was aware, there was another country in the region that did have oil, and lots of it, and which could be taken easily by U.S. forces. Thus Iraq became the object-lesson to other autocratic leaders in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iran. If you do not do our bidding, prepare to accept a massive dose of “shock&awe”; you will be removed, replaced by democratic-looking governments as arranged by the U.S. Control of Iraq’s oil has been at the forefront of U.S. occupation policies in Iraq, and remains so.
The neo-cons — most of whom were members of PNAC and similar organizations, such as the American Enterprise Institute and Foundation for the Defense of Democracies — had urged Clinton to depose Saddam Hussein in 1998. But he demurred, seeing a mostly contained dictator there, whereas Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and those terrorists like him, actually were successfully attacking U.S. assets inside the country and abroad.
But the PNAC crowd had larger ambitions than simply toppling a brutal Iraqi dictator. Among their other recommendations: “pre-emptively” attacking countries that were of no imminent danger to the U.S., abrogating treaties when they conflicted with U.S. goals, making sure no other nation (or organization, such as the United Nations) could ever achieve power-parity with the U.S., installing U.S.-friendly governments to do America’s will, expressing a willingness to use tactical nuclear weapons, and so on. All of these extreme PNAC suggestions, once regarded as lunatic, were enshrined in 2002 as official U.S. policy in the National Security Strategy of the United States of America and were renewed in Bush’s 2004’s National Security Strategy.
THE IRAQ INVASION AND OCCUPATION
5. Sexing Up the Intel. We know that given the extreme nature of the neo-con agenda in fomenting support for an invasion and occupation of Iraq, Bush&Co. had their work cut out for them. Therefore, among the first moves by Rumsfeld following 9/11 was to somehow try to connect Saddam to the terror attacks. The various intelligence agencies reported to Rumsfeld that there was no Iraq connection to 9/11, and that it was an al-Qaida operation, but those findings were merely bothersome impediments. Since the CIA and the other intelligence agencies would not, or could not, supply the intelligence needed to justify a war on Iraq, Rumsfeld set up his own rump “intelligence” agency, the Office of Special Plans, stocked it with political appointees of the PNAC persuasion and soon was stovepiping cherry-picked raw intel, much of it untrue from self-interested Iraqi exiles, straight to Cheney and others in the White House. Shortly thereafter, the White House Iraq Group — the in-house marketing cabal, with such major players as Libby, Rove, Card, Rice, Hadley, Hughes, Matalin, et al. — went big-time with the WMD and mushroom-cloud scares and the suspect melding of Saddam Hussein with the events of 9/11.
Based on this sexed-up and phony intelligence, Cheney, Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld and the others began warning about mushroom clouds over the U.S., drone planes dropping biological agents over the East Coast (phony photos were shown to members of Congress), huge stockpiles of chemical weapons in Iraq, etc. Secretary of State Colin Powell, regarded as the most believable of the bunch, was dispatched to the United Nations to make the case, which he did, reluctantly, by presenting an embarrassingly weak litany of surmise and concocted allegations. While the U.S. corporate media was unanimous in its opinion that Powell had cinched the case, the world didn’t buy it (Powell, who resigned in 2004, has since lamented his role in this charade), and the opposition to the U.S. war plan was palpable and huge: 10 million citizens throughout the world hit the streets to protest, and former allies publicly criticized Bush. Only Tony Blair in England eagerly hitched his wagon to the Bush war-plan with large numbers of troops dispatched, as it turned out over the objections of many of his closest aides and advisers.
6. The Big Lie & the Downing Street Revelations. We know that those advisers warned Blair that he was about to involve the U.K. in an illegal, immoral and probably unwinnable war that would put U.K. and U.S. troops in great danger from potential insurgent forces. How do we know about these inner workings of the Blair government? Because someone from inside that body leaked the top-secret minutes from those war-Cabinet meetings, the so-called Downing Street Memos.
We also learned from those minutes that Bush & Blair agreed to make war on Iraq as early as the Spring of 2002. The intelligence, they decided, would be “fixed around the policy” to go to war, despite their telling their legislative bodies, the mass media, and their citizens that no decisions had been made. In fact, the Bush Administration had decided to attack Iraq a year before the invasion. “Fuck Saddam,” Bush told three U.S. Senators in March of 2002. “We’re taking him out.”
We know that many of Blair’s most senior advisors thought the WMD argument rested on shaky ground, and that without specific authorization from the United Nations Security Council, the legality of the war was doubtful. But the Bush Administration rushed to war anyway, because the U.N. inspectors on the ground in Iraq were not finding any WMD stockpiles. The rush to war was accomplished without proper planning and with no workable plan to secure the peace and reconstruct the country after the major fighting. Some weeks later, Bush prematurely declared, under a “Mission Accomplished” banner, that the U.S. had “prevailed” in the Iraq war. The Iraqi “insurgency” was about to blow up in their faces.
The Downing Street Memos make clear that both the U.S. and U.K. were well aware that Iraq was a paper tiger, with no significant WMD stockpiles or link to Al-Qaida and the 9/11 attacks. Nevertheless, the major thrust of Bush&Co.’s justification for going to war was based on these non-existent weapons and 9/11 links. The Big Lie Technique, repeating the same falsehoods over and over and over, drummed those lies into Americans’ heads day after day, month after month, with little if any skeptical analysis by the corporate mainstream media, which marched mostly in lockstep with Bush policy and thinking. Wolfowitz admitted later that they chose WMD as the primary reason for making war because they couldn’t agree on anything else the citizenry would accept. But frightening people with talk of nuclear weapons, mushroom clouds, toxins delivered by drone airplanes and the like would work like a charm. And so they did, convincing the American people and Congress that an attack was justified. It wasn’t.
7. Iran Is Beneficiary of U.S. Policy. We know that the real reasons for invading Iraq had precious little to do with WMD, with Islamist terrorists inside that country, with installing democracy, and the like. There were no WMD to speak of, and Saddam, an especially vicious dictator, did not tolerate religious or political zealots of any stripe. No, the reasons had more to do with American geopolitical goals in the region involving oil, control, support for its ally Israel, hardened military bases and keeping Iran from having free rein in the region.
However, as it turned out, the invasion and brutal occupation of Iraq removed the one major buffer against the expansion of Iran’s political and military power in the region. In addition, because the U.S. Occupation was so incompetently carried out, it pushed Iraq and Iran into a far closer religious and political alliance than would have been the case if Saddam had been permitted to remain in power. CheneyBush may have sacrificed thousands of American dead, tens of thousands of American wounded, and hundreds of thousands Iraqis as “collateral damage” — and now the Administration, which has constantly downsized its definition of “victory,” is quietly willing to accept a stable Islamic government that may well turn out to be more attuned to Teheran than to Washington.
8. Iraq As a Disaster Zone. We know that Bush’s war has been a thorough disaster, built on a foundation of lies, and bungled from the start. For most of its residents (those still remaining in Iraq), Iraq in 2007 is a manifestation of Hell on earth. As a result, the Occupation has provided a magnet for jihadists from other countries, billions have been wasted or lost in the corrupt system of organized corporate looting that ostensibly is designed to speed up Iraq’s “reconstruction,” etc. Indeed, so much has Bush’s war been botched that the “realists” in the Administration know the U.S. must get out as quickly as possible if they are to have any hope of exercising their considerable muscle elsewhere in the Middle East. But, so far, the neo-con strategy still rules, and “stay-the-course” remains the operating principle. Hence, the last-minute attempt for a military do-over: CheneyBush’s “surge” escalation, which they are trying to extend, in six-months chunks, through the November 2008 election.
9. The Stretched-Thin Military. We know that Bush’s Middle East agenda also is suffering because the U.S. military is spread way thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the desertion and suicide rates are high, soldiers are not re-enlisting at the usual clip, recruitment isn’t working and deceptive scams are being used to lure youngsters into signing up. In short, there are no forces to spare on the ground. Either a military draft will be instituted — which would be only as a last resort for CheneyBush — or all future attacks will have to come from air power or from missiles, which will merely deliver a message about U.S. superiority in the air but with no successful follow-up possible on the ground. The air attacks will result in making the citizens of those countries even angrier at America, and with little likelihood of success in forging U.S.-friendly “democratic” governments in Iran, Syria, et al., since the bombed populations will support their existing governments. In short, America’s failure in Iraq and Israel’s failure in Lebanon demonstrate the limits of muscle-bound, high-tech armies in the modern, nationalist-guerrillas world.
10. Hiding Facts from the Public. We know that Bush&Co. made sure that there would be no full-scale, independent probes of their role in using and abusing the intelligence that led to war on Iraq. This is the most secretive Administration in American history, and they want no investigations of any of their mistakes or corruptions of the democratic process.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, then led by Republican Pat Roberts, held hearings on the failures lower down the chain, namely at the CIA and FBI level, and promised there would be followup hearings on any White House manipulation of intelligence. But, following the 2004 election, Roberts said no purpose would be served in launching such an investigation. Likewise, the 9/11 Commission did not delve deeply into how the Bush Administration misused its pre-9/11 knowledge. In short, this secretive administration made sure that everything was done to head off at the pass any investigations whatsoever. And we’ve not learned much more about this topic now that the Democrats are in control in Congress.
THE TURN TO TYRANNY AT HOME
11. Perilously Close to Dictatorship. We know that Bush has no great love for democratic processes, certainly not inside the United States. (On at least three occasions, he has “jokingly” expressed his preference for dictatorship, as long, he said, as he can be the dictator.) He much prefers to rule as an oligarch, but to do that, he had to invent legal justifications that he could claim granted him the requisite power. So he had longtime lawyer-toady Alberto Gonzales, and Cheney’s now-chief-of-staff David Addington, devise a legal philosophy that permits Bush to do pretty much what he wants — ignore laws on the books, disappear U.S. citizens into military prisons, authorize torture, spy on citizens’ phone calls and emails, declare martial law and rule by decree, etc. — whenever Bush says he’s acting as “commander-in-chief” during “wartime.”
And, since “wartime” is the amorphous “war on terror,” from which there is no end, Bush is home free. There always will be terrorists trying to do anti-U.S. damage somewhere around the globe, or inside America, and the “commander-in-chief” will need to respond. Ergo, goes this logic, Bush (and any successor) is above the law, untouchable, in perpetuity. Bush&Co. also made sure that U.S. officials and military troops would not be subject to indictment by any international court or war-crimes tribunal.
No doubt the issue of unstoppable executive power ultimately will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, to which Bush has appointed ultra-conservative Judges John Roberts and Samuel Alito. In a chilling decision, the appeals panel, of which Roberts was a member prior to his ascension to the Supremes, ruled that the Commander-in-Chief’s arbitrarily-designated “enemies” are non-persons, with no legal rights. Bush now feels free to subject anyone he likes to the “military tribunal” system he has concocted; even the Court’s recent objections to the tribunal system has had little effect on day-to-day violations of detainees’ rights, as Bush&Co. always manage to postpone and delay implementation or find ways around the court rulings.
12. Torture As Official U.S. Policy. We know that Gonzales, Addington and Pentagon lawyers beholden to Rumsfeld devised legal rationales that make torture of suspects official state policy. These Bush-loyalist lawyers also greatly widened the definition of what is acceptable interrogation practice — basically anything this side of death or terminally abusing internal organs. They also authorized the “rendering” of key suspects to countries specializing in extreme torture. After all this, Bush and Rumsfeld professed shock, shock!, that those under their command would wind up torturing, abusing and humiliating prisoners in U.S. care. But the Administration made sure to stop all inquiries into higher-up responsibility for the endemic torture. The buck never stops on CheneyBush’s desk — if something goes wrong (and they never will admit to mistakes), it’s always someone else’s fault. If and when Iraq “falls,” the names of scapegoats are being prepared: al-Maliki, Democrats, the “liberal media” and bloggers, Bill Clinton, Gen. Petraeus, et al. Never Cheney, never Bush.
13. The Bill of Rights Goes “Quaint.” We know that the Bush Administration has been able to obtain whatever legislation it needs in its self-proclaimed “war on terror” by utilizing, and hyping, the understandable fright of the American people. John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge emerged periodically to manipulate the public’s fright by announcing yet another “terror” threat, based on “credible but unverified” evidence. As he departed from his directorate of the Homeland Security Department, Ridge admitted that he was required to issue many of those “terror” warnings when there was no justifiable reason for doing so; it has been demonstrated that those warnings were activated usually when the Administration was facing an election or when they were having an especially bad-news day — a new scandal, especially discouraging reports from Iraq, etc. Meanwhile, Congress (shame on you, Democrats!) recently made most of the Patriot Act laws permanent. Unless those can be repealed, and the tradition of habeas corpus re-introduced into American jurisprudence, that vote will be a nail into the coffin housing the remains of the Bill of Rights.
14. Outing CIA Agents for Political Reasons. The Bush Administration, for its own crass political reasons, compromised American national security by revealing the identity of two key intelligence operatives. The first was CIA agent Valerie Plame, who had important contacts in the shadowy world of weapons of mass destruction, especially in dealing with Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Wherever the leak originated, it is clear that Cheney (through Libby) and Rove disclosed Plame’s covert identity in an attempt to punish her husband for explosing Bush’s lie to the nation that Saddam was seeking supplies of uranium from central Africa. Revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent is a felony. The other outing of a CIA operative, by Condi Rice, apparently to show off how successful the Administration was in its anti-terrorism hunt, was that of a high-ranking mole close to bin Laden’s inner circle . This operative could have kept the U.S. informed as to ongoing and future plans of al-Qaida. That’s Bush’s “war-on-terrorism” at work.
15. Do You Know If Your Vote Is Counted? We know that America’s vote-counting system is corrupted. Sophisticated statistical analysis along with wide-scale exit-polling, suggests strongly that the 2004 election results were fiddled with by the private companies that tally the votes. These companies are owned by far-right Republican supporters, but the same objection would be lodged if Democrats owned the companies.
There are no good reasons to “outsource” vote-counting to private corporations. These are the same companies who make and program the voting machines, who refuse to permit inspection of their software, and whose technicians have behaved suspiciously on election nights in 2000 in Florida, in 2002 in Georgia, and in Ohio and Florida in 2004.
And we haven’t even mentioned Rove’s dirty-tricks department whose function has been, by hook or by crook, to lower the number of potential Democrat voters, especially minority voters; a favorite tactic is to purge hundreds of thousands of likely Democratic voters from the voting rolls in advance in key states such as Florida and Ohio. There are signs in 2007 that various states are concerned enough about computer-voting to make some significant changes in equipment. But because the same companies control the secret counting of the votes, unless the vote-tabulating system can be changed soon, the integrity of our elections will be suspect into the far future. Even if all the other reforms were implemented for next year’s federal election, they would mean nothing without the guarantee of honest tabulation.
16. No Privacy Anymore. We also now know that shortly after 9/11, CheneyBush authorized massive data-mining of Americans’ phone calls and emails, along with other domestic spying operations, many of them in clear violation of the FISA law establishing a separate, secret court to rule on requests for eavesdropping warrants.
17. Purging the Body Politic. We now know that CheneyBush, angered by the unwillingness of the intelligence analysts at the CIA and State Department to cook the intel books for political reasons, conducted purges of recalcitrant analysts at CIA and State.
There also were purges in the Justice Department in an attempt to have only “loyal Bushies” (their term) in place, those who would do the bidding of the White House without opposition or questioning. And so the DOJ, under Bush toady Alberto Gonzales, fired Bush-appointed U.S. Attorneys around the country and replaced them with their own guys. They tried to pretend that the firings were the result of poor performance ratings, but that wasn’t the case. It was simply partisan, to help guarantee GOP control of the election and indicting process through which the Democratic Party and it supporters could be legally hassled in court or likely Democratic voters kept from the polls. A side-effect of Bush&Co. putting their own U.S. Attorneys in power would be protection for themselves and their supporters from criminal charges.
18. There Is No Real Economic Plan. We know that the Bush Administration paid off its backers (and itself) by giving humongous tax breaks, for the next 10 years, to the already wealthy and to large corporations. In addition, corporate tax-evasion was made easier via offshore listings and by laying off thousands of IRS auditors of high-end returns. All this was done at a time when the U.S. economy was in a sorry state and when the treasury deficit from those tax-breaks was growing even larger from Iraq/Afghanistan/”war-on-terror” costs. (Those war costs are now closing in on a TRILLION dollars! and Congress is about to vote on Bush’s requests for several hundred billion more). So far as we know, the Bush Administration has no plans for how to retire that debt and no real plan (other than the discredited “trickle-down” theory) for restarting the economy and creating well-paying jobs for skilled workers, many of whom have had their positions outsourced to foreign lands.
19. Drowning Government In a Bathtub. We know that the HardRight conservatives who control Bush policy don’t really care what kind of debt and deficits their policies cause; in some ways, the more the better since, as GOP honcho Grover Norquist has admitted, they want to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.” They want to decimate and starve popular social programs from the New Deal/Great Society eras, including, most visibly, Head Start, Social Security, Medicare (and real drug coverage for seniors), student loans, welfare assistance, public education, etc. (The IRS is going to hire private tax collectors!) Bush’s plan to privatize a huge chunk of the Social Security System is still out there as a goal, though Republicans are keeping quiet about it.
20. Privatizing Government Functions. We know that in addition to trying to privatize Social Security and other government programs, CheneyBush have begun privatizing the military, partially through its all-volunteer army and by employing mercenaries (“independent contractors”) to carry out numerous national-security functions, such as intelligence-gathering. (It’s estimated that about 130,000 such mercenaries are on the ground in Iraq, close to the same number as official U.S. military forces.) The corporate army known as Blackwater is used not only in Iraq but was used domestically as well, to police New Orleans after Katrina. Private corporations built and presumably will run internment centers around the U.S. in the event of a natural or terrorist disaster. Under the ambiguous provisions of martial-law, it is possible that those who too actively oppose government policy could be classified as aiding and comforting “terrorists” and be housed in those camps.
21. Who Cares What You Drink or Breathe? We know that Bush environmental policy (dealing with air and water pollution, mineral extraction, national parks, and so on) is an unmitigated disaster, giving pretty much free rein to corporations whose bottom lines do better when they don’t have to pay attention to the public interest. It’s the worst sort of grab-the-money-and-run scenario. Perhaps the best worst example of the Administration’s attitude toward protecting the public’s health can be seen in the EPA giving the green light for residents and workers to safely return to their homes and jobs in Lower Manhattan shortly after the WTC Towers fell six years ago, even though EPA scientists had determined that the air was grossly polluted and dangerous.
22. It’s Faith Over Science, Myth Over Reality. We know that this attitude (“my mind is made up, don’t bother me with the facts”) shows up most openly in how science is disregarded by the Bush Administration in favor of faith-based thinking. A good example would be the issue of global warming. Some of this non-curiosity about reality may be based in fundamentalist religious, even Apocalyptic, beliefs. Much of Bush’s bashing of science is designed as payback to his fundamentalist base, but the scary part is that a good share of the time he actually seems to believe what he’s saying, about evolution vs. creationism, stem-cell research, abstinence education, censoring the rewriting of government scientific reports that differ from the Bush party line, cutbacks in R&D grants for the National Science Foundation, etc., ad nauseum. This closed-mind attitude helps explain, on a deeper level, why things aren’t working out in Iraq, or anywhere else for that matter. Reality, to them, is an annoyance that is best ignored.
AMERICA OR GERMANY IN THE ’30s?
In sum, we know that permanent-war policy abroad and police-state tactics at home are taking us into a kind of American fascism domestically and an imperial foreign policy overseas. All aspects of the American polity are infected with the militarist Know-Nothingism emanating from the top, with governmental and vigilante-type crackdowns on protesters, dissent, free speech, freedom of assembly happening regularly on both the local and federal levels. More and more, America is resembling Germany in the early 1930s, with group pitted against group while the central government amasses more and more power and control of its put-upon citizens, and criticizing The Leader’s policies is denounced as unpatriotic or even treasonous.
The good news is that after suffering through six-plus years of the CheneyBush presidency, and despite the Bush-compliant corporate mass-media that often disgraces the journalistic profession, the public’s blinders are falling off. The Republicans can count on no more than 30% of the voting population for support. The 2006 defeat of the Republicans in the House and Senate and Tom DeLay’s fall from power are good symbols of this, and the true nature of these men and their regime is finally starting to hit home. Cheney is acknowledged as the true power behind the throne, and Bush is seen for what he is: an insecure, uncurious, arrogant, dangerous, dry-drunk bully who is endangering U.S. national interests abroad with his reckless and incompetently-managed wars, his wrecking of the U.S. economy at home, and with his over-reaching in all areas.
If a Democratic president and vice president had behaved similarly to Bush and Cheney, they’d have been in the impeachment dock in a minute.
Given all these scandals and more, and the loss of public support for the Iraq war and Republican policies in general, it would seem that the Democrats are in an enviable position to take back the White House in 2008.
DEMS DOING “BUSINESS AS USUAL”
But the Democrats, who were given the majority in Congress by voters anxious and desperate for major change, seem content to fritter away their political advantage by nibbling around the edges of CheneyBush policy but rarely attacking them frontally, especially on the continuing war in Iraq and the attack on Iran coming down the pike, and on impeachment. It’s more or less business as usual in the nation’s capitol.
It’s possible that the Democratic leadership believes that because the war is so unpopular and the scandal-ridden GOP is self-destructing from within, the Dems should just keep their heads down and coast to a victory in 2008.
But a lot can happen between now and November 2008 that could prove disastrous for Democratic chances. For example, if the Dems nominate the wrong candidate for President, or continue to demonstrate their cowardice and timidity on the major issues of our time, the disenchanted progressive, anti-war wing of the party could decide to sit on their hands in November or join with the Greens for a third-party bid. A U.S. attack on Iran potentially could change the political chemistry, as could a Mushareff fall in Pakistan, or a bad recession or depression in the U.S. and world economy.
The Democrats are not politically pure, to be sure. Too many are beholden to the same interests that have corrupted the Republicans during the CheneyBush years. However, in enough instances that matter — and assuming their base could force them to move forward aggressively from a more activist, ideological position — the Democrats would be different enough to start to turn the ship of state away from its reckless, dangerous extremism and back more toward the center and maybe even, on some issues, in the direction of progressive liberalism. #
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government & international relations at universitites in Wasington and California, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers . To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org .
First published by The Crisis Papers 9/4/08.
Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner.