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What's Important: Seven Pillars of Misrule

By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers

May 30, 2006

There is so much political chaff swirling around that I find it useful every so often to follow the Buddhist dictum: "Don't just do something, sit there." In other words, meditate on the quiet core, pay less attention to the noisy fringe.

So what I've done here, after due reflection, and jettisoning items that are not worth total concentration, is to compose some thoughts about what I find to be exceptionally important these days. Perhaps some or all of these items will resonate with you as well -- and with many moderate and traditional Republicans with whom you may wish to share these musings between now and the November elections.

At the outset, let it be said that there are a multitude of complex factors at work below the surface of the daily news that could, and no doubt will, affect and significantly alter our society, our world, ourselves. We might title these subjects "What's REALLY Important." I'm referring to technological breakthroughs in science and medicine and agriculture, the effect of viral pandemics around the globe, seismic political and social shifts due to economic developments and catastrophes (including wars of choice) in various regions of the world, the ramifications of huge global changes in climate, and on and on. (For more on some of these events, see Ernest Partridge's companion Crisis Papers essay, "Swords Into Plowshares.").

While we need to keep the larger picture in mind -- always making our decisions with at least a glance at what is coming down the pike -- in the main, the tectonic kinds of shifts I'm talking about here are deep below the surface, barely noticeable by most politicians in the early 21st Century. Their effects may or may not show up years or even decades from now. So let's concentrate here on What's Important in our world today, and how we might want to react to those events.

1. The planet: Mother Nature is sending us loud messages; don't stop listening.

We humans have fouled our own nest for so long that we may have created a nightmare environmental scenario that could take us all down. Global warming is just the tip of the melting iceberg, but it can serve as the poster-issue for all our other crimes against the planet.

Per usual, the policies of the Bush Administration make everything worse. For years, the Bushistas denied that global warming was a problem, then dismissed any human culpability in the worsening global-warming disaster, and now are putting up obstacles in the way of doing anything about it.

The Bush Administration, which permits polluters effectively to write pollution regulations, finally has had to reckon with an unexpected opponent on the global-warming issue: evangelical Christians, who are actively engaged in calling attention to humanity's sins against our planet, which is another way of saying, in their terms, sins against God. Bush&Co. have had to pay attention and have made tiny little noises about the need for change -- but not really, and not now.

Interestingly, Al Gore ("the former next President of the United States") is climbing back into serious consideration as a viable 2008 Democratic nominee on the global-warming issue that he has been pushing for nearly three decades.

2. America's war(s) abroad: The rise and fall of empires is a mighty, terrifying thing to behold.

For three years, it's seemed as if those of us opposed to the war in Iraq were beating our heads against a wall of apathy in the American public. But, lo and behold, nearly two-thirds of that public now believe we were manipulated into that war by the Bush Administration's lies, and that the war there is a lost cause in any case. (I know and hear from a lot of traditional Republicans and not one, not one!, believes any good will come out of this stalemated conflict.)

The constancy of liberal opposition had something to do with keeping the Iraq war front and center in the American mind, but it was really what was happening on the ground there that swayed the populace -- and what was happening there largely was a response to the ideologically-based Cheney/Rumsfeld policy that got us into that war in the first place. The insurgency also was a response to the Bush Administration's indefensible torture policy that robbed the U.S. of any claim to a moral high ground. Bush can own up to using inflammatory language as a big mistake ("bring it on," "dead or alive," etc.) but isn't man enough to admit that it wasn't the words but the policy that was wrong.

Since the foundation of the Iraq war was rotten to the core, based on lies and deception, the U.S. was virtually destined to sink into that sandy quagmire, especially when Rumsfeld mismanaged every aspect of the war and Occupation from the very beginning.

In reaction, what happened in this country in the military was a covert, and in some cases overt, rebellion against the cockamamie neo-con theorists in the Bush White House; the Pentagon and CIA began leaking like sieves. This was especially the case when it became evident that having learned no lessons in Iraq, the Cheney/Rumsfeld crew were unleashing the propaganda barrage to prepare Americans for the necessity to attack Iran, for pretty much the same phony reasons they gave for why Iraq simply had to be attacked ASAP (nuclear capabilities, support for terrorists, WMD, evil rulers, etc.).

The generals know the U.S. military has been used and abused, especially so in the case of the National Guard and Reserves, which have been stretched to the limits of endurance. Those officers don't want to see the troops under their command suffer the same fate as those that are in Iraq. And so high-ranking military officers inside the Pentagon spill their anxieties and opposition to warhawk Rep. Jack Murtha and to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, and, in so doing, join the many generals and colonels who, as civilians, are free to speak their minds in opposition to Bush policies.

The Democrats may not be united with a firm position in opposition to the Iraq war, and may not have worked out their plans for extricating the U.S. from that sad country, but the American public knows who is to blame for the disaster that is Iraq, and that those responsible work at the White House. As a result, it's possible that as the Republicans continue to implode in arguments and scandals, the Democrats may take the House of Representatives in November. This would be the ultimate rejection by the American people of Bushism and what it stands for: the last throes of world domination by the U.S. imperium.

3. America's war(s) at home: If you can't control events on the ground far away, control as much as you can at home.

In one sense, it appears that the wars and oil schemes abroad are mainly designed not so much for actual conquest as for providing a powerful platform from which to control the domestic political equation at home.

Put another way, all politics is local, even (or sometimes especially) international politics.

If you're authoritarian-minded, want to keep citizen-participation democracy at bay, and get and keep your hands on all the levers of power, what do you do? Answer: Demonize somebody externally, overhype that dastardly enemy out to get you, thus rousing the nationalism and patriotism of the population internally, while at the same time identifying a scapegoat group (say gays, or Jews, or blacks, or Latino immigrants), who are deemed to be responsible for a lot of what ails you and your way of life.

In our own time, the crimes of a few Islamic extremists/terrorists provided the rationale ("a new Pearl Harbor") both for an external U.S. crackdown and a tightening of the political/legal screws internally. The population, through various phony psy-ops carried out by the government, and egged on by a complicit mass media, was manipulated into a state of hyperfear that only the federal government supposedly could assuage. "Give us carte blanche to protect you, and we'll ensure that you sleep safe and sound" -- that was the Faustian bargain.

It doesn't matter whether this bumbling Administration actually can deliver on its promises (look at the national-security sieve that is the Department of Homeland Security); the point is that the governing group remains in power, to help themselves and their friends as they loot and distort the treasury and assume control over various aspects of American economic and political and social/private life perhaps for a generation or more.

4. The Constitution: A politically sacred document or just "a goddamned piece of paper" (a slur ascribed to Bush some months back)?

In order for an extremist crew to take and maintain control of the political and social aspects of a society, the traditional foundations must be weakened, demeaned and destroyed. In American society, that foundation, which worked ably for more than two centuries, is the Constitution of the United States, founded on well-based suspicion about the tendency of all governments to assume too much power unto themselves, at the expense of the citizenry.

To counteract that tendency in the new American government, our Founding Fathers created an ingenious system of checks and balances that divided power up into many pieces; no one branch or faction or majority could easily run roughshod over another. The Legislature makes the laws and finances their implementation; the Executive administers the laws and deals with foreign policy; the Courts weigh the laws and determine which ones are congruent with the Constitution. And keeping them all honest is a protected, independent press that serves as the peoples' investigatory voice and conscience.

But, in our own time, the Executive, mainly through aggressive secrecy, has amassed nearly total power over the entirety of our political structure. Bush&Co. not only exercise control over the Executive Branch, but also over a quiescent, rubber-stamp Congress run by the same forces as in the White House (with the GOP treating the opposition Democrats as enemies to be ignored or destroyed). In addition, Bush has abrogated to himself the right to simply veto any aspect of Congressional legislation he doesn't like. So far, he's indicated that 750 bills passed by Congress are subject to his "signing statements" that assert his right to violate those laws at will; for samples of those statements, see here).

In addition, Bush and Cheney are, under both a "unitary executive" theory and an "inherent powers" theory deriving from Article 2 of The Constitution, claim that they can violate whatever laws they wish as long as they say they're doing so to "protect and defend" the American people during "wartime" -- a "war" that turns out is a permanent one, since it's against a tactic (terrorism) that will always be used somewhere. And Bush&Co. are maintaining, under the "national-security" cloak, that the courts have no right to interpret their actions; even if some courts do choose to intervene, Bush officials have appointed so many of their own ideologue judges to the federal appeals courts and to the U.S. Supreme Court that they feel they are covered for all eventualities.

One more screw gets tightened: The "press," now the "mass media," are by and large owned and controlled by the same cast of wealthy, ideologically-driven characters now in power in the Executive Branch, the result of which is that many millions of citizens rarely hear the truth of what is being done in their names by their government. The intended journalistic watchdogs have become lapdogs for those in power.

In short, Bush&Co. has pretty near a stranglehold on information and its dissemination; to get true investigative reporting on a consistent basis, citizens must seek out foreign media or head for the internet websites and blogs, our new "alternative press," which reach far fewer readers than the mainstream outlets. Even so, the government and its corporate supporters are moving to defang the internet, by severely restricting open-access to the internet superhighway by proposing privatization of the on-ramps.

The result of all this is that the balance of powers envisioned by the Founding Fathers, and kept alive and well for more than two centuries since then, is badly out of whack, so much so that a kind of native fascism is aborning (eerily reminiscent of Germany in the 1930s) and it's not clear, short of impeachment and conviction, how it can be reversed in time to prevent any more Constitutional damage and foreign wars before the next scheduled presidential election in 2008.

5. Electoral Integrity: "It's not who votes that count, it's who counts the votes." -- Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin

There is a midterm election coming up in six months, where it's conceivable that the flailing Republican majority will lose out to Democrats that presumably are less tainted by war failures, greed and corruption. But as the elections of 2000, 2002 and 2004 demonstrate fairly conclusively, as shown by investigatory reporting and statistical evidence, there was deliberate tampering with a fair and honest election and likely manipulation of the vote numbers.

The party these voting irregularities favored has effective control of the electoral voting system, computer e-voting machines and the ballot-tabulation process, and it's been demonstrated time and time again that the vote-tabulation computers themselves are easily hackable and manipulatable, leaving no evidence of being tampered with. In short, the entire electoral system cannot be trusted to yield accurate results; relying on "good faith" of the corporations in charge of the electoral system merely exacerbates the feeling in the citizenry that their votes are not honestly registered and counted, so why bother?

There are protest movements, and lawsuits, in many states demanding verified voting receipts and a return to hand-counted paper ballots, but whether the corrupted and corruptible voting systems can be replaced in time for the November 2006 election is up in the air. We must all work like crazy to get those guarantees and reforms in place as soon as we can, ideally for November's balloting but at least long before the 2008 presidential election.

6. American morality: Plants rot from the top down.

When you get right down to it, it's amazing that more young people aren't more cynical about the state of the world. Those who in previous times might have been their role models are absent without leave; it seems as if this is a dog-eats-dog world, one tainted by greed and power-hunger in virtually every once-respected institution: religion, politics, sports, communications, industry, etc.

From Bush on down to municipal government agencies, there has been a conspicuous lack of accountability, honesty and interest in the public's needs and desires. When something goes wrong, someone in charge invariably comes out with the non-denial denial, accepting that "mistakes may have been made" -- a twice-removed attempt to avoid responsibility for what went wrong -- and a feeble vow never to do that (or at least not to get caught doing it) again.

The President and Vice President and Secretary of Defense are involved in telling obvious lies and engaging in obvious illegalities -- but too many other adults don't seem particularly exercised about that. Hundreds of thousands of U.S troops and uninvolved Iraqi civilians get killed or maimed, but nobody is too worked up about all that carnage. Clerics involve themselves in shady economic deals or squalid sex scandals, sports stars buy a little extra zip via a needle, congressmen are bribed with chump change from greedy businessmen, corporate honchos cut ethical corners to conceal the actual bottom line, reporters plagiarize and fudge the truth, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

The tree rots at the top, with a lying president and his corrupt supporters draining the treasury for hyper-inflated government contracts. No wonder those down below are cynical and tired and frustrated and angry.

7. Impeachment: what's needed in this Administration is a high-colonic, thorough cleansing.

It's quite apparent that those hunkering down there in the Bush Bunker will keep on their current course until some force stops them from continuing their deadly reign of error. They will not change course unless forced to, and they will not resign. There are only two ways to pry their fingers off the reins of power: take away the House of Representatives (or the Senate) from them in the November elections, thus putting up a major roadblock to the fulfillment of their agenda, or initiate impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney at the earliest possible opportunity.

If the House is retaken by the Democrats in November (assuming an honest vote), for the first time in nearly six years true investigations can begin that finally might begin to unravel the various crimes and coverups that have brought us to our current precarious state: 9/11 pre-knowledge, the lies and deceptions that took the U.S. into the Iraq War (and that now threaten to involve America in a war of choice against Iran), the extent of corruption and sleaze emanating from the White House and its Republican allies in the Congress and lobbying community, a political climate that encouraged White House officials to reveal the name of a key CIA officer as a way of punishing her husband for pointing out the Iraq War lies, the dereliction of duty at the top in the Hurricane Katrina scandal, the grab for dictatorial power by a deliberate misreading of the Constitution, the violation of privacy of all Americans with the illegal monitoring of their emails and phone calls, the twisted philosophy that has turned America into a country openly in support of torture, and on and on.

Impeachment hearings conceivably might be the next step following the revelations of the various Congressional investigations of the Bush Administration.

Rove and his minions in Congress (who were responsible for impeaching President Clinton about a private matter) are trying to make the possibility of impeachment hearings against Bush and Cheney seem beyond the respectable pale. But recent polls indicate that at least half of those surveyed think impeachment hearings might well be justified if, as seems to be the case, Bush and Cheney based many of their policies on lies -- and, in so doing, violated their oaths and the Constitution that they had sworn to "defend and protect."

In short, the possibility of impeachment hearings should not be taken off the table. Impeachment is a drastic step, but one certainly called for in this instance, when a small group of extremist politicians, willing to do whatever it takes to remain in power, have so distorted the American governmental process.

What's Important is the willingness of the American citizenry to try to correct a government from its wayward, reckless move into extremism and misrule. Working together -- liberals, progressives, moderate and traditional Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, et al. -- can reclaim our country. But only if we put our differences aside for the duration of this campaign. Let's get to work.

Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). For comment: >>crisispapers@comcast.net >>.



Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances