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Can We Say Fascism Now?

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times
Mon, 02 Jul 2007 14:59 EDT



©Monte Wolverton

Today, the decider in chief of America over-ruled the decision of a U.S. court in June this year to jail Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, for two and a half years. Libby was convicted in March this year of lying to investigators probing the 2003 leak of CIA official Valerie Plame's identity.

Plame's identity was leaked to the press by the office of the Vice President in retaliation for Plame's efforts to expose the U.S. government as having lied about its reasons for the invasion of Iraq and the murder, to date, of approximately 1 million Iraqi citizens. Dick Cheney, the instigator of the leak, was not charged because he, unlike Libby, had more 'pull' to avoid jail time for his part in the conspiracy. Libby was the fall guy, but as today's news makes clear, he was always going to have a soft landing.

In his statement, Bush justified the move by stating: "with incarceration imminent, I believe it is now important to react'' to the appeals court's refusal to let Libby remain free.

H. Christopher Bartolomucci, a lawyer at Hogan & Hartson in Washington who worked on pardons in the White House from 2001 to 2003 agreed:

"This is a president who is not cowed by public opinion. This was a case involving a member of his administration, [...] so the normal rules go out the window.''

Is that clear enough?

When an American president feels confident that he can brazenly and without fear of retribution "pardon" a former member of his administration for committing treason against the State in a case the implicates the entire government in what amounts to crimes against humanity, there really is only one word to describe such a situation: dictatorship.

Just don't expect the mainstream media to use such an "inflammatory" word in tomorrow's "fair and balanced" news coverage.

3.7.07 09:28


Beavis and Butthead in London jihad

Huh-huh-huh, let's break somethin'

Published Friday 29th June 2007 17:51 GMT

Police and securocrats know that there aren't enough real terrorists in the world, which is why they have to keep manufacturing them. This is because citizens tire of being watched by cameras, frisked and x-rayed, having their belongings searched, giving fingerprints to so-called friendly nations on entry, contemplating the myriad government databases where their details and activities are preserved, and wondering if some dour little bureaucrat is reading their email or listening to them on the phone.

Citizens tire also of reading the rolls of the war dead fraudulently sacrificed in the name of counterterrorist "victory", and of seeing hundreds of billions spent on surveillance and private security, ridiculous wars, and security-related gimmicks and gizmos, when it could be so much better spent on, oh, needs like housing, medicine and pensions, and mitigating actual mass threats to life via such non-sexy routes as traffic safety, fire safety, vaccinations, buildings and infrastructure inspection, water treatment, and food safety.

But the guys with the guns and cameras and listening devices have been on a roll since 9/11, embarrassing their clip-board-toting rivals in the race for public money, even though, collectively, they've taken or made meaner far more lives than they can ever hope to protect with their strategy of violence in the name of peace, and fascism in the name of liberty.

To keep the billions rolling in, they've got to produce a terrorist every now and then. Only real terrorists are hard to come by, so clowns and stooges with harebrained schemes end up doing bin Laden's perp walk periodically.

Today we have news from London, where a "big [explosive] device" was discovered inside a parked car near Piccadilly Circus. The device consisted of petrol, propane gas cylinders, and nails. The car containing it had been abandoned after its driver was observed piloting it erratically, crashing it, then running off, like a true professional. Ambulance workers called to assist nearby noticed what they initially thought was smoke inside the car, but which likely was petrol vapour, and contacted police.

Bomb disposal specialists made it safe, and police officials and politicians began slyly invoking the terrorist bogeyman. Heaven forbid the public should be starved of their regular fear rations.

"As the police and security services have said on so many occasions, we face a serious and continuous threat to our country", day-old PM Gordon Brown said. "But this incident does recall the need for us to be vigilant at all times and the public to be alert at any potential incidents."

And what an incident. "It is obvious that if the device had detonated there could have been serious injury or loss of life", Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke intoned gravely.

Ah, if it had detonated. Yes, it could have been a real horror. Only, the device could not have detonated. Not under any circumstances. You see, the terrorist wannabe clown who built it left out a crucial element: an oxidiser. The device was pure pre-teen boy fantasy.

"We'll heat up these propane cylinders with burning petrol, and they'll go off like bombs", boys the world over have remarked with glee. They don't realise that air is a poor oxidiser, and the only "explosion" they will get is when gas pressure inside the cylinders is great enough to burst them. Then the propane will ignite, and a nice fireball will blossom. A fireball, not an explosion.

Oh, the Piccadilly fireball would have blown the car's windows out, and popped its doors open, and sent various bits like mirrors and so forth into the air at velocities possibly fatal to people nearby. It would have looked really cool, that's for sure. But an explosive event...a detonation? Not in a million years. Sorry lads: you failed car bombing 101; you did not attend a single lecture; you did not even open the textbook.

Some stupid people did a stupid thing. Yes, they might have injured or killed one or two passers-by, but any body count would have come in spite of them, not as a product of their efforts. You and I are more likely to have been killed accidentally by the lousy driver than intentionally by his Beavis and Butthead car bomb.

This should have been dismissed for what it is: an event on the level of some teenagers getting a tremendously foolish notion, and being drunk enough for it to appeal to them. But we're hearing whispers of terrorism instead - much as we heard from the Americans when they foiled a "terrorist plot" to blow up fuel storage tanks at Kennedy International. It would have been devastating, prosecutors told us. Only that "plot" had the same hole in it: air makes a lousy oxidiser. If it had been carried out, it would certainly have made a bigger fireball than the one in London would have made. But that's about it.

So why is this such big news? Because clowns have got to be passed off as terrorists. Because a vast industry depends on terrorists, real and imagined, to justify its existence. We live now in the grip of the security-industrial complex, and that hungry beast demands to be fed. We feed it money hand over fist, and in return, it feeds us fear biscuits, which we are expected to accept with gratitude.

Roll over. Sit up and beg. See the bad man? Good citizen; here's your bickie.
2.7.07 10:53


Fascist America, in 10 easy steps

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all


Tuesday April 24, 2007
The Guardian


Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.

Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy

After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a "war footing"; we were in a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation". There have been other times of crisis in which the US accepted limits on civil liberties, such as during the civil war, when Lincoln declared martial law, and the second world war, when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned. But this situation, as Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda notes, is unprecedented: all our other wars had an endpoint, so the pendulum was able to swing back toward freedom; this war is defined as open-ended in time and without national boundaries in space - the globe itself is the battlefield. "This time," Fein says, "there will be no defined end."

Creating a terrifying threat - hydra-like, secretive, evil - is an old trick. It can, like Hitler's invocation of a communist threat to the nation's security, be based on actual events (one Wisconsin academic has faced calls for his dismissal because he noted, among other things, that the alleged communist arson, the Reichstag fire of February 1933, was swiftly followed in Nazi Germany by passage of the Enabling Act, which replaced constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency). Or the terrifying threat can be based, like the National Socialist evocation of the "global conspiracy of world Jewry", on myth.

It is not that global Islamist terrorism is not a severe danger; of course it is. I am arguing rather that the language used to convey the nature of the threat is different in a country such as Spain - which has also suffered violent terrorist attacks - than it is in America. Spanish citizens know that they face a grave security threat; what we as American citizens believe is that we are potentially threatened with the end of civilisation as we know it. Of course, this makes us more willing to accept restrictions on our freedoms.

2. Create a gulag

Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space" - where torture takes place.

At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders: troublemakers, spies, "enemies of the people" or "criminals". Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders - opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists - are arrested and sent there as well.

This process took place in fascist shifts or anti-democracy crackdowns ranging from Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to the Latin American coups of the 1970s and beyond. It is standard practice for closing down an open society or crushing a pro-democracy uprising.

With its jails in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, of course, Guantánamo in Cuba, where detainees are abused, and kept indefinitely without trial and without access to the due process of the law, America certainly has its gulag now. Bush and his allies in Congress recently announced they would issue no information about the secret CIA "black site" prisons throughout the world, which are used to incarcerate people who have been seized off the street.

Gulags in history tend to metastasise, becoming ever larger and more secretive, ever more deadly and formalised. We know from first-hand accounts, photographs, videos and government documents that people, innocent and guilty, have been tortured in the US-run prisons we are aware of and those we can't investigate adequately.

But Americans still assume this system and detainee abuses involve only scary brown people with whom they don't generally identify. It was brave of the conservative pundit William Safire to quote the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who had been seized as a political prisoner: "First they came for the Jews." Most Americans don't understand yet that the destruction of the rule of law at Guantánamo set a dangerous precedent for them, too.

By the way, the establishment of military tribunals that deny prisoners due process tends to come early on in a fascist shift. Mussolini and Stalin set up such tribunals. On April 24 1934, the Nazis, too, set up the People's Court, which also bypassed the judicial system: prisoners were held indefinitely, often in isolation, and tortured, without being charged with offences, and were subjected to show trials. Eventually, the Special Courts became a parallel system that put pressure on the regular courts to abandon the rule of law in favour of Nazi ideology when making decisions.

3. Develop a thug caste

When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.

The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution

Yes, but that is in Iraq, you could argue; however, after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security hired and deployed hundreds of armed private security guards in New Orleans. The investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed one unnamed guard who reported having fired on unarmed civilians in the city. It was a natural disaster that underlay that episode - but the administration's endless war on terror means ongoing scope for what are in effect privately contracted armies to take on crisis and emergency management at home in US cities.

Thugs in America? Groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000. If you are reading history, you can imagine that there can be a need for "public order" on the next election day. Say there are protests, or a threat, on the day of an election; history would not rule out the presence of a private security firm at a polling station "to restore public order".

4. Set up an internal surveillance system

In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China - in every closed society - secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.

In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.

In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about "national security"; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.

5. Harass citizens' groups

The fifth thing you do is related to step four - you infiltrate and harass citizens' groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.

Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents". The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track "potential terrorist threats" as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as "terrorism". So the definition of "terrorist" slowly expands to include the opposition.

6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release

This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a "list" of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list.

In 2004, America's Transportation Security Administration confirmed that it had a list of passengers who were targeted for security searches or worse if they tried to fly. People who have found themselves on the list? Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela's government - after Venezuela's president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens.

Professor Walter F Murphy is emeritus of Princeton University; he is one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the nation and author of the classic Constitutional Democracy. Murphy is also a decorated former marine, and he is not even especially politically liberal. But on March 1 this year, he was denied a boarding pass at Newark, "because I was on the Terrorist Watch list".

"Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," asked the airline employee.

"I explained," said Murphy, "that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution."

"That'll do it," the man said.

Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist. History shows that the categories of "enemy of the people" tend to expand ever deeper into civil life.

James Yee, a US citizen, was the Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo who was accused of mishandling classified documents. He was harassed by the US military before the charges against him were dropped. Yee has been detained and released several times. He is still of interest.

Brandon Mayfield, a US citizen and lawyer in Oregon, was mistakenly identified as a possible terrorist. His house was secretly broken into and his computer seized. Though he is innocent of the accusation against him, he is still on the list.

It is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the list, you can't get off.

7. Target key individuals

Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile's Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.

Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if they do not "coordinate", in Goebbels' term, ideologically. Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically "coordinate" early on: the Reich Law for the Re-establishment of a Professional Civil Service was passed on April 7 1933.

Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them.

Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.

Most recently, the administration purged eight US attorneys for what looks like insufficient political loyalty. When Goebbels purged the civil service in April 1933, attorneys were "coordinated" too, a step that eased the way of the increasingly brutal laws to follow.

8. Control the press

Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 30s, East Germany in the 50s, Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China in the 80s and 90s - all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration.

Other reporters and writers have been punished in other ways. Joseph C Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger. His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy - a form of retaliation that ended her career.

Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though, compared with how the US is treating journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC. While westerners may question the accounts by al-Jazeera, they should pay attention to the accounts of reporters such as the BBC's Kate Adie. In some cases reporters have been wounded or killed, including ITN's Terry Lloyd in 2003. Both CBS and the Associated Press in Iraq had staff members seized by the US military and taken to violent prisons; the news organisations were unable to see the evidence against their staffers.

Over time in closing societies, real news is supplanted by fake news and false documents. Pinochet showed Chilean citizens falsified documents to back up his claim that terrorists had been about to attack the nation. The yellowcake charge, too, was based on forged papers.

You won't have a shutdown of news in modern America - it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it's not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can't tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.

9. Dissent equals treason

Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage'. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor". When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times' leaking of classified information "disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the "treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.

Conason is right to note how serious a threat that attack represented. It is also important to recall that the 1938 Moscow show trial accused the editor of Izvestia, Nikolai Bukharin, of treason; Bukharin was, in fact, executed. And it is important to remind Americans that when the 1917 Espionage Act was last widely invoked, during the infamous 1919 Palmer Raids, leftist activists were arrested without warrants in sweeping roundups, kept in jail for up to five months, and "beaten, starved, suffocated, tortured and threatened with death", according to the historian Myra MacPherson. After that, dissent was muted in America for a decade.

In Stalin's Soviet Union, dissidents were "enemies of the people". National Socialists called those who supported Weimar democracy "November traitors".

And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.

Even if you or I are American citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused us of doing, he has the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin's gulag had an isolation cell, like Guantánamo's, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)

We US citizens will get a trial eventually - for now. But legal rights activists at the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens fair trials. "Enemy combatant" is a status offence - it is not even something you have to have done. "We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model - you look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we're going to hold you," says a spokeswoman of the CCR.

Most Americans surely do not get this yet. No wonder: it is hard to believe, even though it is true. In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests - usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn't real dissent. There just isn't freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.

10. Suspend the rule of law

The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens.

Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."

Critics see this as a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act - which was meant to restrain the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial law. It also violates the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did: having seen citizens bullied by a monarch's soldiers, the founders were terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias' power over American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction.

Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.

Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.

It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."

As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" - a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president - without US citizens realising it yet - the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone.

That means a hollowness has been expanding under the foundation of all these still- free-looking institutions - and this foundation can give way under certain kinds of pressure. To prevent such an outcome, we have to think about the "what ifs".

What if, in a year and a half, there is another attack - say, God forbid, a dirty bomb? The executive can declare a state of emergency. History shows that any leader, of any party, will be tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed. With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani - because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.

What if the publisher of a major US newspaper were charged with treason or espionage, as a rightwing effort seemed to threaten Keller with last year? What if he or she got 10 years in jail? What would the newspapers look like the next day? Judging from history, they would not cease publishing; but they would suddenly be very polite.

Right now, only a handful of patriots are trying to hold back the tide of tyranny for the rest of us - staff at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who faced death threats for representing the detainees yet persisted all the way to the Supreme Court; activists at the American Civil Liberties Union; and prominent conservatives trying to roll back the corrosive new laws, under the banner of a new group called the American Freedom Agenda. This small, disparate collection of people needs everybody's help, including that of Europeans and others internationally who are willing to put pressure on the administration because they can see what a US unrestrained by real democracy at home can mean for the rest of the world.

We need to look at history and face the "what ifs". For if we keep going down this road, the "end of America" could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before - and this is the way it is now.

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands ... is the definition of tyranny," wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the founders asked us to carry.

· Naomi Wolf's The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot will be published by Chelsea Green in September.

 

 

25.4.07 10:17


The crime of being born Palestinian

Another case of inhumane abuse by Israel. The frequency of such reports and the now obvious apartheid nature of the illegal occupation is deeply disturbing. This Zionist regime has NO conscience.


If this were an Israeli family whose child died due to being stopped by Palestinians you can be sure it would make the six o'clock news. But not this.

 

From The Electronic Intifada : Anna Baltzer writing from the occupied West Bank, Live from Palestine, 25 March 2007

Dawud Fakaah, father of six-month-old Khalid who died at Atara checkpoint outside Ramallah.

21 March 2007

Almost two weeks ago, my friend Dawud, a high school English teacher from Kufr 'Ain, called me nearly in tears to report the checkpoint hold-up that had cost him his six-month-old son. Shortly after midnight on March 8th, my friend's baby began having trouble breathing. His parents quickly got a taxi to take him to the nearest hospital in Ramallah, where they hoped to secure an oxygen tent, which had helped him recover from difficult respiratory episodes in the past. As the family was rushing from their Palestinian town in the West Bank to their Palestinian hospital in the West Bank, they were stopped at Atara checkpoint, where an Israeli soldier asked for the father's, mother's, and driver's IDs. Dawud explained to the soldier that his son needed urgent medical care, but the soldier insisted on checking the three IDs first, a process that usually takes a few minutes. Dawud's was the only car at the checkpoint in the middle of the night, yet the soldier held the three IDs for more than twenty minutes, even as Dawud and his wife began to cry, begging to be allowed through. After fifteen minutes, Dawud's baby's mouth began to overflow with liquid and my friend wailed at the soldier to allow them through, that his baby was dying. Instead, the soldier demanded to search the car, even after the IDs had been cleared. At 1:05am, six-month-old Khalid Dawud Fakaah died at Atara Checkpoint. As the soldier checked the car, he shined his flashlight on the dead child's face and, realizing what had happened, finally returned the three ID cards and allowed the grieving family to pass.

Samaa Fakaah, Khalid's mother, holds a picture of her baby who died in her arms at Atara checkpoint.
Checkpoints and ID cards. Mention these words and any victim or witness of Apartheid can produce dozens of horror stories like Dawud's. South Africa employed a similar system with its former Apartheid "Pass Laws," which the South African Government used to monitor the movement of Black South Africans. Blacks had to carry personal ID documents, which required permission stamps from the government before holders could move around within their country. Similarly, Palestinians in the West Bank are required to carry Israeli-issued ID cards that indicate which areas, roads, and holy sites they are or are not allowed access to. Pass Laws enabled South African police to arrest Blacks at will. Similarly, Israeli occupation forces use ID cards not only to monitor Palestinian movement, but also to justify frequent arbitrary detention and arrest with general impunity. Jewish inhabitants of the West Bank (like all Jewish Israelis) have different ID cards, proclaiming their "Jewish" nationality, granting them automatic permission to access the modern roads and almost all holy sites that most Palestinians are restricted from.

Forty-seven years ago today, on March 21, 1960, hundreds of Black South Africans gathered in Sharpsville, South Africa and marched together in protest of the racist and dehumanizing Apartheid Pass Law system. South African white-controlled police forces fired on the unarmed crowd, killing at least 67 and injuring almost three times as many, including men, women, and children. Witnesses say that most of the people shot were hit in the back as they fled.

Almost fifty years after the Sharpsville Massacre, pass laws still plague the lives of the oppressed. Every day I meet West Bank Palestinians living without permits and ID cards, either because Israel never granted them residency on their land, or because soldiers or police confiscated their IDs as punishment or just harassment. I recently interviewed the family of Ibrahim, a twenty-year-old veterinary student who was arrested three years ago for the crime of not having an Israeli-issued ID card. Ibrahim's parents were born and raised in the West Bank and own land in their small village of Fara'ata, where I interviewed them. In 1966, as newlyweds, the couple moved to Kuwait where they began working abroad. The year after, Israel occupied the West Bank and shortly after took a census. Any Palestinians who were not recorded due to absence -- whether studying abroad, visiting family, or anything else -- became refugees. Israel, the new occupier, stripped Ibrahim's parents and hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians of their right to return to their homes and land, and effectively opened up the West Bank to colonization by any Jews who were willing to come.

At a West Bank checkpoint a Palestinian man holds his ID up to the glass for an Israeli soldier to see.

Israel's census strategy of 1967 bears a striking resemblance to the Absentee Property Law that Israel employed after the 1948 expulsions. According to Passia, the law "defines an 'absentee' as a person who 'at any time' in the period between 29 November 1947 and 1 Sept 1948, 'was in any part of the Land of Israel that is outside the territory of Israel (meaning the West Bank or the Gaza Strip) or in other Arab states'. The law stipulates that the property of such an absentee would be transferred to the Custodian of Absentee Property, with no possibility of appeal or compensation. From there, by means of another law, the property was transferred, so that effectively the property that was left behind by Palestinian refugees in 1948 (and also some of the property of Palestinians who are now citizens of Israel) was transferred to the State of Israel." To this day, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which inherited much of the refugees' land, combined with the Israeli state owns about 93 percent of the land of Israel. This land is exclusively reserved for the Jewish people and almost impossible to obtain for Palestinian citizens of Israel or the owners of the land themselves: the 1947-1948 refugees.

When I say 93 percent of "the land of Israel," I am implying land within the internationally recognized 1967 borders of Israel, unlike the text of the 1950 Absentee Property Law itself, which defines "the Land of Israel" as all of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip together. This was long before 1967, but makes the territories' occupation less than two decades later either a tremendous coincidence or entirely unsurprising.

To this day, Palestinians like Ibrahim's parents who were in the wrong place during the 1967 occupation and census -- and their children -- must apply for what is called "family reunification" from the Ministry of the Interior in order to legally reside in their own homes and villages. Passia writes, "the decision to grant or deny these applications is, according to Israeli Law, ultimately at the discretion of the Interior Minister, who is not required to justify refusal. In May 2002, Israel suspended the processing of family reunification claims between Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to prevent the latter from acquiring Israeli citizenship, arguing that the growth in the non-Jewish population of Israel due to family reunification was a threat to the 'Jewish character' of the state."

Family reunification applications not involving citizens of Israel were also frozen last year after the Hamas election, including the claims of Ibrahim and his family. The family returned legally to the West Bank in 1998 when Oslo projected Palestinians would have their own state, but when Israel's occupation and settlement only accelerated, Ibrahim and his parents and five siblings were left with even fewer rights than the Palestinians with West Bank residency. Although the Palestinian Authority and DCO agreed that Ibrahim's family could live in their village (and even provided them free education and health care), they still needed permission from Israel.

Ibrahim began veterinary school at An-Najah University in 2000, but had to commute over the Nablus hills since soldiers manning the checkpoints would never allow him to enter the city without an ID card. On March 23, 2004, during Ibrahim's last semester before graduation, the Israeli Army caught him walking to school inside Nablus and put him in prison. This Friday marks three years exactly that Ibrahim -- now 23 -- has been in jail, his only crime that he has no Israeli-issued ID card. The first year Israel imprisoned Ibrahim within the West Bank, but the past two years he was held within Israel, a violation of international law -- occupiers cannot hold prisoners and detainees from the occupied population in the occupying power's land, because of how severely it limits prisoners' rights. Indeed, Israel's policy of generally imprisoning Palestinians in Israel means that their families often cannot visit them without permits to enter Israel, and they cannot even have a Palestinian lawyer since the lawyers from the West Bank and Gaza don't have permits to practice law in Israel. Ibrahim's father, for example, is a lawyer but can do nothing to help his son without an ID, let alone an Israeli license to practice law. Since he returned from Kuwait he has worked as a shepherd, since he can't safely go anywhere outside his village without an ID.

Ibrahim's situation is worse than most. Since his family has no ID cards they cannot even apply to enter Israel to visit him. Even Ibrahim's sister, who obtained an ID via her husband back when Israel sometimes granted residency through marriage, cannot visit her brother since it is impossible to prove to Israel her relation to a person with no official name or identity.

"Nobody from the family has seen Ibrahim in two years," his mother Hanan told me with my hand in hers after the report interview ended. "I send him gifts and receive news via the mother of another West Bank inmate in the same jail, a friend who occasionally gets permission from Israel to visit her son. Ibrahim is not even allowed the use the phone." Hanan began to cry. "He's the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing before I go to sleep. I cannot bear to imagine him there in prison, perhaps for the rest of his life, knowing how much he must be suffering, knowing that I can do nothing to help him. He did nothing wrong. His only crime is that he was born a Palestinian."

Hanan has six children total, three of whom decided to settle in Jordan, where they could enjoy citizenship (Palestinians in the West Bank before 1967 had Jordanian ID cards), and Hanan hasn't seen them in nine years. She wept again as she told me she has grandchildren and sons and daughters-in-law that she's never met. Even if she wanted Jordanian citizenship now, she's lost her chance having stayed outside Jordan for so long. And the family members who returned to claim their land and rights in the West Bank are now stateless, like so many millions of other Palestinian refugees in the diaspora.

Soldiers enclose and search a Palestinian man at Atara checkpoint.

In recognition of the tragic events of the 1960 Sharpsville Massacre, the UN declared May 21st the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, pushing states around the world to redouble their efforts to combat all types of ethnic discrimination. Yet within Israel, a member of the United Nations, ethnicity still determines nationality (there is no Israeli nationality: Palestinians are "Arabs," Jews are "Jewish", resource allocation, and rights to own JNF and state land. There are discriminatory laws separating Palestinian families in Israel and threatening to revoke Palestinians' Israeli citizenship and Tel Aviv University Medical School just announced a rule that defacto targets Palestinian prospective students.

In the rest of the so-called "Land of Israel," the ethnic discrimination is much worse, from segregated roads to separate legal systems. I know what Israel will say: this is only self-defense. On some level this is correct: if Israel desires control the territory that it has for more than two-thirds of its history, and to remain the state exclusively of the Jewish people, and to be democratic as well, it must find a way to create a Jewish majority on a strip of land in which the majority of inhabitants are not Jewish. There are only so many possible solutions: there's forced mass transfer (as was tried successfully in 1948, and is currently advocated by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman), there's mass imprisonment (10,000 plus Palestinians are being held in Israeli jails as I write), there's genocide ... or there is apartheid. The more humane alternatives of Israel withdrawing to the 1967 borders or becoming a state of all citizens are not even on the bargaining table.

Apartheid and segregation failed in South Africa and the United States and they will fail in Israel and Palestine. Ethnocentric nationalism failed in Nazi Germany and it will fail in Zionist Israel. But until they do, the Ibrahims and baby Khalids of Palestine are counting on you and me to do something, to say something, since they themselves cannot. Silence is complicity. We cannot wait for things to get worse. The ethnic cleansing and apartheid have gone on long enough.

All images by Anna Baltzer.

Anna Baltzer is a volunteer with the International Women's Peace Service in the West Bank and author of the book, Witness in Palestine: Journal of a Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories. For information about her writing, photography, DVD, and speaking tours, visit her website at www.AnnaInTheMiddleEast.com

28.3.07 10:22


Same old same old

Just in case there were any in doubt that the change of hands over to the Democrats was going to make the slightest bit of difference, the article below might help disabuse that notion.

Like the man says: "this Congress is more intimidated by political propagandists and special interests than the American electorate". Go figure.

From Counter Punch

 

This Joke's on Us

The Gutless Mini-Politics of the Congressional Democrats

By DAVE LINDORFF

Despite polls showing that 6 in 10 Americans want the U.S. out of Iraq asap, the best that this crew can come up with is a call-not binding, or course-for the president to pull out the troops by next spring or even summer. That would be over a year from now, and more than five years (!) into this criminal and incredibly stupid war.

At the rate things have been going, it would also be perhaps 1000 more dead Americans, 14,000 more gravely wounded Americans, and 100-150,000 more dead Iraqis later.

And in offering this limp request, Congress is in the process of approving the appropriation of another $122 million in spending on the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan.

This is action? They could be blocking that funding altogether, and shutting the damned war down. Why can't Democrats, who were put in their position of power in Congress by the voters, at least show the courage and principle of Republican Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex), who is opposing the funding and says, "It's amazing to me that this Congress is more intimidated by political propagandists and special interests than the American electorate, who sent a loud, clear message about the war in November."

And those subpoenas. Congress is boldly demanding the appearance of Bush's Rasputin Karl Rove and his ousted legal adviser Harriet Meirs. Fine as far as it goes, but what about the clear evidence at the Libby trial that his regent, Dick Cheney, orchestrated a smear campaign against administration critic Joe Wilson and his CIA wife Valerie Plame, obstructed the Justice Department investigation into that effort, and lied about what he had done? Shouldn't there be subpoenas issued to the Veep himself and all of his staff?

What about the evidence at that same trial that the president himself was in on the cover-up and obstruction of justice conspiracy. Shouldn't there be subpoenas of staff to pin that down, and a letter of interrogatories to the president himself?

While they're at it, shouldn't this 110th Congress that the people elected last fall in an effort to clean out the Augean stables of the Bush White House and to end the war be initiating an impeachment of the president, at least on his admitted felonious violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Law? After all, a federal judge already tried that case and determined that the president is a felon. That's an easy case to impeach on.

They could also be revoking the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. That's the resolution Congress passed on September 18, 2001, which the president has ever since been claiming makes him a dictator-that is commander in chief in a borderless, endless "war" on terror-not beholden to the Constitution, and free to ignore or invalidate acts of Congress at will. It's an astonishing abuse of power, exactly what the Founding Fathers feared could happen, and yet Congress is doing exactly nothing about it.

There's no need for the 2001 AUMF. We're not at war in Afghanistan anymore, after all. There is a new, elected government there, and it has invited in NATO to help it fight a resurgent Taliban. We're just there as part of NATO, and so hardly need a special AUMF-especially one that can be falsely construed as an authorization to be a dictator. So why isn't Congress revoking the damned thing?

The could revoke the 2002 AUMF too. Bush misued that one as an authorization to go to war against Iraq, since it actually required him to go to the UN for authorization-something he never bothered to do. In any event, we're not at war in Iraq either, as much as it might look like we are. The war in Iraq is over folks. We're not even occupiers there any more. Remember, we handed sovereignty over to the Iraqis in 2004! There's an elected government in Iraq-an independent government-and we're there at their invitation to help them with an insurrection problem. That's not a war, any more than it's a war in Columbia, where we've also sent troops at the Columbian government's request. So why doesn't Congress revoke the AUMF? It would be a good idea, because Bush is liable to misuse it further and claim it gives him the right to attack Iran at will. He's said as much.

Again, listen to Republican Ron Paul, who says, "Congress should admit its mistake and repeal the authority wrongfully given to the executive branch in 2002. Repeal the congressional sanction and disavow presidential discretion in starting wars. Then start bringing our troops home. If anyone charges that this approach does not support the troops, take a poll. Find out how reservists, guardsmen, and their families--many on their second or third tour in Iraq--feel about it. The constant refrain that bringing our troops home would demonstrate a lack of support for them must be one of the most amazing distortions ever foisted on the American public." (Of course, Rep. Paul has his own issues when it comes to guts. He has publicly stated that the president has committed impeachable crimes, and yet he has shied away from doing the obvious, and appropriate, thing: submitting a bill of impeachment. If he does do it, it would be the ultimate shaming of Democrats in the House.)

I'm fed up with the gutless mini-politics of this Congress. Who gives a damn whether they've passed a minimum wage bill? It'll never get past Bush anyhow. Neither will anything else of consequence that this Congress passes.

Unless they don't start challenging the Bush administration directly and forcefully, Congressional Democrats aren't going to do bupkis in two years and people are going to start wondering why they were voted in in the first place. People might even start to think seriously about letting the Democratic Party just wither away.

Wouldn't make much of a difference without it, really, and we might even come up with something better. It wouldn't be too hard to do.

Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can't be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff's newest book is "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com

24.3.07 15:02


Impeachment and Patriotism

From Signs of the Times a great peice today by Richard W. Behan. The opening quote says it all.

When people who are honestly mistaken learn the truth,
they will either cease being mistaken, or cease being honest. -Anon.

We the American people would not do what George Bush and Richard Cheney have done in Iraq, all of it in our name. We would not, for utterly fabricated reasons, invade and occupy a sovereign country without provocation, killing hundreds of thousands of its citizens, driving millions more from their homes as refugees, torturing prisoners, destroying the country's economy and infrastructure, fomenting a vicious sectarian civil war, sacrificing 3,200 American lives, squandering half a trillion dollars, dangerously destabilizing the Middle East, blackening our country's character, and defaming every American citizen.

We are not a devious, savage, and warlike people. With considerable merit we think of Americans as honest, decent, and law-abiding, generous, tolerant, and humane. And we are patriotic, devoted to our country and to its ideals of freedom, democracy, peace, justice, and honesty in government.

The huge disconnect between who we are and what our government is doing in Iraq is painfully apparent, and the gap is insuperable.

It is imperative, therefore, that we hold the President and Vice President accountable not only for breaking domestic and international laws, but for violating the ethical and institutional essence of America and the ideals of her people. To rescue our country's elemental decency and to assure the security of its governing principles, it is our patriotic duty to impeach George Bush and Richard Cheney.

We consented to the invasion of Iraq because history told us we could trust our government to tell the truth. We were not naïve: the Vietnam war was also launched on a fabrication, but that was an aberration. We would not and did not expect it to be repeated. So we trusted and believed George Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell when they spoke to us. They said Saddam Hussein was complicit in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. They said he had terrifying weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them to our shores. They said he could soon trigger a nuclear device in our country, killing hundreds of thousands of American people.

None of this was true. It was propaganda, intentionally designed by the White House Iraq Group to mislead the Congress and the American people. That is fraud, and fraud is a crime. Given the magnitude at which it was practiced, and the epic consequences, few would disagree: it is a high crime and misdemeanor. We need to impeach Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, as Elizabeth de la Vega has written, not as a matter of politics but as a matter law.

Brilliantly and knowingly, the Bush Administration introduced full-strength surrealism into our public discourse, in the form of their amorphous and fraudulent "global war on terrorism." They asked for our consent and the consent of the Congress to undertake it; thoroughly deceived, both the public and Congress acquiesced. There was no way a trusting country could know the "war on terrorism" was a fantasy: what the Bush Administration launched in fact was an international crime of military aggression. But, still denied the truth, we reaffirmed our consent by re-electing George Bush in 2004.

There were doubters and skeptics in the beginning, and the number of them grew. They dug deeply, researched carefully, and wrote clearly. In books and blogs the lies and deceptions of the Bush Administration were gradually unearthed and described for what they were. We began to sense we were honestly mistaken about the war and its rationale.

No source of an honest mistake is more insidious than a deliberate lie from a trusted party. No one wants to believe a betrayal has taken place. Even to suspect it is uncomfortable. That is why it has taken so long for some of us-and why it is taking so long for all of us-to learn the truth.

The election of 2006 measured our progress in doing so: many of us by then were no longer mistaken-enough to tip the Congress barely against the President and his war.

The books and blogs became a flood. The facts are there, and if we are willing to confront them we cannot refute them: the Bush Administration is unmatched in our history for its duplicity and criminal behavior.

At least six books make compelling cases for impeachment: The Impeachment of George W. Bush, by Elizabeth Holtzman and Cynthia Cooper; The Genius of Impeachment, by John Nichols; The Articles of Impeachment, by the Center for Constitutional Rights; Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, by Dennis Loo and Peter Phillips; The Case for Impeachment, by David Lindorff and Barbara Olshansky, and U.S. v Bush, by Elizabeth de la Vega. Tallying an overwhelming succession of impeachable offenses, all fraudulently disguised as worthy, even noble initiatives, the books tell the astonishing story of what the Bush Administration has done.

Why they resorted to fraudulence and lies about the wars is another story, and that has been assembled and documented, too.

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were not prompted by the terrorist attacks. They were conceived long before the events of September 11, 2001, and the planning for both of them, done in guarded secrecy, was well underway by that time. The wars were not waged to bolster security at home, nor to spread democracy in the Middle East, and by no means do they constitute a "war on terrorism." All this is the carefully crafted propaganda that was and remains the central core of the fraudulence.

The truth about the wars is distinctly otherwise. They are bald acts of retrograde imperialism undertaken, as many have long suspected, for oil: to secure a pipeline route across Afghanistan for the Unocal Corporation and to force access to 115 billion of barrels of Iraqi crude for American and British oil companies-specifically Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, Conoco/Phillips, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch Shell. This is not speculation; it is sordid fact. This story is also found in the books and blogs, but a summary can be found on the AlterNet website, and a video documentary entitled "The Oil Wars" is in development.

We were honestly mistaken because a trusted government betrayed us, but now we have learned the truth. We have a choice to make: we can cease being mistaken-or cease being honest.

If we are not honest, if we excuse the criminality of the Bush Administration through indifference to it, then we become accomplices. In doing so we accept the damage done to the American ideals of freedom, democracy, peace, justice, and honesty in government. And if we opt for appeasement now, we jeopardize those ideals in the future. Nothing could be less patriotic than failing to face, accept, and act on the truth we have learned.

Criminal behavior must be held accountable and justice must prevail. That is the rule of law, the fundamental premise of the American social contract, and it must not be compromised. If we are devoted to our country and to the sanctity of its ideals we must impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Nothing could be more patriotic.

Impeachment must be fully and clearly understood. To be impeached by the House of Representatives is to be indicted, to be formally accused: only that. It does not establish guilt or innocence: that is determined in a formal trial, with the Senate sitting as jury and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court serving as judge.

Beyond any conceivable doubt George Bush and Richard Cheney deserve to be formally accused.

And yet the 110th Congress dallies. It serves up a "non-binding resolution" of protest that passes the House and fails in the Senate, while asserting "impeachment is off the table." Impeachment is too "divisive" and a "waste of time."

The Congress can learn the truth about the Iraqi war as easily as the rest of us. Many of its members, however, nurture their ignorance of the hideous facts or remain indifferent, instead mouthing stern platitudes about our praiseworthy troops and keeping America safe.

They play the game the Administration has orchestrated. They take the surreal and fraudulent "war on terrorism" as a given, refusing to acknowledge its true nature-petroleum imperialism-or the criminal deception of the Bush Administration in packaging and selling it that way.

There is a glaring explanation for this timid behavior: the obscenely premature launch of the 2008 presidential campaign. The leadership of both parties and a dozen presidential candidates-many from the Senate--game the system, jockey for advantage and favorable imagery, and refuse to attack head-on the greatest episodes of Presidential malfeasance in the nation's history.

In their indifference-in their unwillingness to face, accept, and act on the truth and to call for impeachment-these public figures are less patriots than traitors, trading off the rule of law, trading off justice for partisan or presidential ambitions. That must stop. We desperately need the candidates and the Congress to subordinate presidential politics and focus instead on defending of our Constitution. And defending the Constitution demands impeachment.

Only impeachment can assure us and our children that America cannot and will not tolerate a dishonest government that mocks the rule of law. Only impeachment can persuade the world America truly stands for what its people revere: honesty, peace, justice, and a respected place among the community of nations.

Only impeachment can proclaim, with unambiguous clarity, the American people have ceased being mistaken.

Richard W. Behan lives and writes on Lopez Island, off the northwest coast of Washington state. He is the author of Plundered Promise: Capitalism, Politics, and the Fate of the Federal Lands (Island Press, 2001) and he is working on his next book, To Provide Against Invasions: Corporate Dominion and America's Derelict Democracy. He can be reached at rwbehan@rockisland.com.

(This essay is deliberately not copyrighted: It may be reproduced without restriction.)

Technorati tags: [Richard W. Behan] [Impeach Bush]

21.3.07 13:28


Laura Knight Jadczyk BBC Interview

Interesting interview with Laura Knight Jadczyk discussing 'The Secret History of the World', with Adam Walton on BBC Radio Wales yesterday: http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/radiowales/

To check it out, click on "listen again" on the right hand side, then in the new window that pops up under "A-Z OF ALL SHOWS" click the "MON" edition of the "Adam and Mal" show, the interview is about five minutes in. The link should be good until next Monday.

I really enjoyed the show, it gave a good overview of some of the themes in the book, and there were some interesting moments as Adam 'adjusted' to some of the new ideas coming to him.

Tags:[Laura Knight Jadczyk] [Secret History] [Cassiopaea]

15.2.07 14:03


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