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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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: