the political lamp is lit...
Following up on that article by Jonathan Schell, The Hidden State Steps Forward, in The Nation, here are two key points that need further elucidation, (continuing from Part 1.)
The first of these, Schell only alludes to.
The other, neither Schell nor anyone else seems able to make clear--
1. One of the greatest unmentioned scandals of this era is our near total lack of a legislative branch of government. The GOP majorities in both houses are simply uninterested in deliberating, in governing, or, indeed, in pursuing any agenda other than graft. They do not even try to push forward the “conservative” social agenda! (e.g. there have been no substantial efforts to affect abortion or science education or even the so called“War on Christmas.”)
Dig it. The only broadly assertive agenda pursued by Congress in this 21st Century has been to pass bills that benefit rich friends, ranging from huge aristocratic tax cuts to the greatest pork barrel frenzy in all of human history. A drive that has been so broad and intense that noncompetitive, no-bid contracts are being granted at a higher rate PER YEAR than happened during the entire Clinton Administration. (And this is capitalism?)
Beyond vampirism, the congressional GOP appears to have no interest in governing, legislating, or exercising its sovereign power of advice and consent. Take these examples of legislative nonexistence:
(a) G.W. Bush is the first president in US history to use his veto power only once after 5 years.
(b) The House Government Reform Committee issued a grand total of two subpoenas on Bush Administration officials in five years, in contrast to more than a thousand issued for former Clintonian officials.
(Again, all those subpoenas, plus a billion dollars in related efforts, resulted in a total number of Clinton-era indictments, for malfeasance of official action, amounting to ZERO. No indictments, whatsoever. I am sorry, but this fact of a TOTALLY non-smoking gun is the ghost at the neoconservative banquet. Will anyone else ever even mention it?)
(c) Actual hours spent by members on the House and Senate floor, in quorum session, or in active committee session, have not been this low in a hundred years. Yes, that is a hundred years. (This week, the Senate President Pro Tempore was reduced to talking to himself, in an empty chamber.) (Of course, this frees up plenty of time for mischief, like trawling K Street for pork-corruption dollars.)
Of course, this situation is closely related to gerrymandering. The latter led to the former. But it’s all part of the same stew.
In effect, our legislative branch does not exist... it has become a joke... because it has been sinecured into irrelevancy, just like the Roman Senate, during the era of Nero. No other comparison does justice to what has become of the august Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America.
See these contrasts laid out in: How Democrats and Republicans Wage War.
2. All of today’s “emergency” measures are being justified on the basis of a state of war that does not exist. Not only was war never declared, but there is no emergency at all!
Seriously, Iraq does not count.
Whether you think the Iraq Intervention is
(i) a great crusade (rightwing madness), or
(ii) it was totally wrong to topple Saddam (lefty madness), or
(iii) it’s a noble endeavor to spread freedom, that is being well executed (neocon madness), or
(iv) toppling Saddam was a moderately desirable - if totally optional - goal, that has been intolerably booted by monstrously venal incompetents (the position of any pragmatic moderate American)...
...whichever of these things you believe, the simple fact is that this foreign adventure has nothing to with being “at war”... at least not in the sense of justifying other Bushadmin endeavors in proto totalitarianism. Or allowing the “Commander-in-Chief clause” to be used as an excuse for presidential whim to over-rule all law.
After all the dust settled from the “WMD Fiasco,” and putting aside all the suspected ulterior motives (including those turgidly promoted by Michael Moore), what are we are left with? Only this.
The BEST POSSIBLE explanation for our presence in Iraq is a somewhat acceptable surface goal of nation-building after toppling a brutal dictator. (Neocons will never mention that, pre-2000, they savagely rebuked the “failed and hopelessly naive doctrine of so-called nation-building.” Nor will they mention that Saddam was their own boy, from start almost to finish.)
Yes. It is possibly a worthy objective to try and replace Saddam with a democratic Iraq. (Liberals who deny this only shoot themselves in the foot.) But even if we do accept this goal, the intervention is without question an example of voluntary and elective surgery. Something to which the word “emergency” can in no way be attached with any justification, whatsoever. Surgery that could have been timed to our convenience, that should have been professionally planned to achieve maximum goals while minimizing deleterious costs and consequences for all concerned, starting with our troops, our alliances, our social cohesion, our budget, our people, and especially the Iraqis themselves. (See my posting: Wars of Emergency vs. Wars of Policy).
What this totally voluntary war most definitely is NOT is a situation dire enough to warrant even the most minuscule abridgement of our citizen rights.
Indeed, we Americans have NEVER had that kind of emergency... though at least during the Civil War and WWII there was some basis for argument. Today?
Any attempt to excuse executive lawbreaking in the interest of urgent security is nothing more or less than a travesty.
No, Iraq is a distraction.
Only one relevant fact might contribute any support to the “emergency” excuse.
That fact was 9/11...
... and that fact is getting very, very tired. Elderly, in fact. Five years old and not a reasonable justification for anything, anymore. (Five years after Peal Harbor, we had won WWII! So, what does mighty, imperial America have to show for the last five years? How long must a quag-mire before it reflects upon the competence of our leaders?)
Face it... the “War on Terror” was won by the heroes of UA 93... on the very same day that it began! Since then, we have been told that “terror” justifies a reversal of our principles, a shirking of all accountability, abandonment of diplomacy, pissing upon allies, frisking us and humiliating us in airports, suspending civil rights, spying on private citizens without warrants, demolishing our military reserves, purging the officer corps, dissipating our readiness for new crises (currently at an all-time low), politicizing all of our intelligence agencies, and dozens of other measures that add up to a gradual creep toward Big Brother.
And yes, I can see the obvious! The terrifyingly obvious.
If ever a day comes when this argument gains strength -- when the American people start asking ”what emergency?” -- that’s the very moment to be wary!
Suppose people start to notice that the 5 years (or 6 or 7) before 9/11 were safer and richer and happier and less divided and more free than the equivalent period after. Suppose people start to notice that all of this creeping tyranny is justified by just ONE act of terror that might have been a fluke, and not a “war” after all. Certainly not a “war” on the scale of the Cold War... though we are being asked to accept worse restrictions on our rights than ever during the danger from Soviet Communism.
Suppose people start asking why we should stay in panic mode -- enduring spying and frisking and spiralling debt and relentless secrecy - when things have actually been pretty good for a couple of decades.
Well...then won’t we almost be BEGGING for another “incident” to conveniently happen? In the nick of time. To stoke and maintain the fabricated state of “war.” To let the emergency continue.
Stand up. This year. Stand up.
We don’t need doctrinaire leftists, organizing an ideologically rigid Democratic Party to march off - like eager lemmings - toward another of Karl Rove’s prepared cliffs. What we need is something that is even BETTER than shifting a million voters from the right hand side of an electoral chasm over to the left-hand side.
Even if the Blue States win this new civil war against the Gray States -- singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic and restoring accountability to public life -- we will all lose if that is the basis for American politics in the 21st Century.
What we need is 200 prominent American conservatives to denounce this madness. Or 200,000 who are not prominent. Either way, a small number of decent Americans who are willing to do for their country what liberals did, in 1947, when they saw their duty, gathered their courage, and turned their backs on left-wing commie madness, proving that their patriotism could rise above mythologies of dogma.
If liberals could do that, in 1947, why are there no conservatives yet (except maybe Ben Nighthorse Campbell) willing to do the same thing for their country, today?
Just 200 prominent conservatives could save the United States of America, more effectively than adding two MILLION more democratic voters! Because they would not only change the balance of power and kick out the kleptocrats....
...They would also rescue the soul of American conservatism. By helping to end the cynical, heartless, treasonous, divisive and artificially induced “culture war” that is tearing a great nation apart.
This point cannot be overstated. If each of us recruits just ONE such decent conservative, getting him or her to notice where duty lies... it may happen in time to save the soul of genuine conservatism, before this nation plunges into real class warfare. Before the seeds that have been sown by Rupert Murdoch sprout dragons more ferocious than he never imagined.
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Return to Part 1: Preventing Tyranny
See also: How Democrats and Republicans Wage War