Twenty Things We Now Know Five Years After 9/11
By Bernard Weiner, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers
August 29, 2006
The imminent fifth anniversary of 9/11 provides the proper moment for a good, ol'-fashioned sum-up of the past half-decade under CheneyBush, especially because so much has happened in the past 12-months:
The Bush Administration's Katrina debacle, Iraq being sucked deeper into the civil-war vortex, Afghanistan turning once again into a major war theater, more and more military leaders speaking out about the disaster that is CheneyBush foreign policy, the defection of so many moderate conservatives from their GOP home, the plummeting of Bush's popularity to not much more than his fundamentalist base, the revelation that Bush&Co. have been spying on citizens' phone calls and emails without court warrants, the indictment of CheneyBush's chief aide Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice in the case of the White House's outing of a covert CIA agent, the "rendering" of detainees abroad for extreme torturing, etc. etc.
I'll get to the annual list in a moment. But first let's step back and take a deeper overview. Buckle your seat belts, here we go.
WHAT 9/11 PERMITTED BUSH TO DO
Whatever you may think of 9/11, and the extent of involvement of Bush&Co., it's crystal-clear that the events of that tragic day were and continue to be used as an excuse for a wide variety of immoral and illegal actions by the CheneyBush Administration. The radical agenda that was barely on the public's horizon five years ago has since become all too evident, both domestically and in terms of foreign/military policy, which is why so many traditional conservatives are abandoning the extremism of the Republican Party.
Launching a war against, and then occupying, Iraq is the most obvious foreign result of the 9/11 tragedy -- even though Bush has admitted several times that there was no connection between Iraq and 9/11, and no WMD either. In one of the worst strategic mistakes in modern American foreign policy, the war against the al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan was precipitously abandoned and U.S. troops were dispatched to Iraq, a country of no real threat to the U.S.
Domestically, the near-3000 deaths of 9/11 -- and, let us not forget, the spreading of deadly anthrax spores around the halls of Congress by someone still unknown -- led to the passage of the so-called "Patriot" Act. This collection of martial provisions gave the federal government and its agents unprecedented police power to violate the Constitution and Bill of Rights in its supposed hunt for terrorists. All this while very little has been done to actually make the country more secure, such as checking containers entering ports, improving security at nuclear and chemical plants, x-raying all air freight, and so on.
In short, Bush&Co. used and then grossly abused the awful events of 9/11 -- and continues to do so -- in order to expand and maintain power, to move aggressively in the world, to pay off corporate and wealthy-individual supporters through huge tax breaks (in the middle of a war!), to create a one-party system of government, to neuter the legislative and judicial branches and thus violate our time-honored checks-and-balances system that provides a brake on executive excesses, to amass more and more police powers in federal hands, to effectively control the mass-media and the vote-counting system in this country, etc. etc.
9/11 also gave Karl Rove the fear-tools with which to manipulate the populace whenever he wished. Rove knows he has a lock on about 1/3 of the electorate, the GOP's fundamentalist "base." In several elections since 9/11, he has revved up the fear machine by rolling out the required buzzwords (abortion, terrorists, gay marriage, the flag, illegal immigrants, Muslims, et al.) to cobble together enough support to "win" the elections, even if by the slimmest of margins. (In reference to those margins, election experts have found that there is enough statistical and experiential evidence to say with some confidence that in key states and regions, those balloting-results were fraudulently obtained.)
We'll talk some about what can be done to change the situation toward the end of this essay; right now, let's take a look at this year's compilation of what we now know five years after 9/11.
THE 9/11 LIST
1. The Facts of 9/11. We know that the Bush Administration didn't want the public to learn much, if anything, about the events of that day five years ago. Bush&Co. had to be dragged kicking and screaming into agreeing to the appointment of the official 9/11 Commission, and they named the executive director, one of their made men (now an Administration official).
As it turned out, the Administration wasn't all that cooperative in furnishing documents, Bush would not testify under oath and would deign to appear only with Cheney by his side (here's my imagined transcript of that testimony), and just recently we learned that the commission was so angered by the constantly-shifting stories told by the Pentagon/NORAD that they were ready to urge that legal charges be filed.
We know that a growing number of academics and scientists hhave raised serious questions about the official government explanation of the 9/11 events, especially about whether the Twin Towers fell straight down on their own or were guided in that free-fall-speed path by pre-set explosives. Behind all these and other conspiracy theories rests a nagging suspicion among many Americans -- heightened by the admission that the Pentagon lied outright to the 9/11 Commission -- that the Bush Administration may have been complicit in helping orchestrate the 9/11 tragedies. (I do not accept much of that surmising, but until the Administration comes clean on a number of troublesome questions, Bush&Co. will always be, and justifiably so, under a cloud of suspicion for complicity. These questions include why the Secret Service didn't immediately grab Bush at that Florida school and get him on a plane, why NORAD fighter-jets were MIA on that fateful morning, why airline stocks were "shorted" just prior to the attacks. Click here for more info on 9/11 skeptic groups.
We now know -- no matter what one believes about the Bush Administration's level of complicity in 9/11 -- that at the very least the inner Bush circle knew that a huge al-Qaida attack was coming in late-Summer/early-Fall, but they did absolutely nothing to prevent it or prepare the public for its consequences. They knew because fairly detailed, red-hot warnings about planes being used as weapons were supplied to the CheneyBush inner circle by numerous countries' intelligence services around the world. But CheneyBush didn't even call a meeting of involved advisors and counter-terrorism honchos to move on the intel they were getting. In short, Bush&Co. had advance word that something "spectacular" was about to go down, and, for their own reasons, did nothing. Indeed, when the CIA sent a briefer to Crawford, Texas, to go over the ominously-titled August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." -- which talked about N.Y. buildings being cased, preparations for hijacking of planes, terrorists in the U.S. with explosives, etc. -- Bush barely listened and then insultingly dismissed the briefer, saying "All right. You've covered your ass, now."
We know that Bush&Co. saw, in Condi Rice's apt term at the time, the "opportunity" offered by the 9/11 attacks to move quickly and forcefully with the Administration's foreign and domestic agenda. PNAC talked about its Pax Americana plan for global "benevolent hegemony" taking forever to implement unless a "new Pearl Harbor" changed the equation in the public mind. 9/11 came along and served as that "new Pearl Harbor." (See "How We Got Into This Imperial Pickle: A PNAC Primer.)
2. PNAC & the Neo-Cons. We know that a FarRight segment of the conservative movement was dedicated to using America's sole superpower status to move aggressively in the world while no other country or international force could put up much resistance. The key neo-con leaders in charge of U.S. foreign/military policy (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Perle, Khalilzad, et al.) were founders of, and affiliated with, The Project for The New American Century (PNAC).
The neo-cons realized that presidents enjoy enormous patriotic support during wartime, but when the war ends, those leaders lose their compelling luster, as was the case with Bush#1. Ergo, Bush#2 would become a PERMANENT wartime president, and those who opposed him could then be tarred forever with the "unpatriotic" brush, and their political opposition marginalized. And it worked: the Democrats cowered and gave Bush virtually everything he wanted, up until relatively recently, when occasionally they remember they have spines in their bodies and stand up and fight as an opposition party should.
3. Oil & the Politics of PNAC. We know that after 9/11, Bush seemed to bring the entire country along with him when he launched an attack on al-Qaida and its Taliban-government supporters in Afghanistan. But there's no oil in that destitute country -- and, as Rumsfeld reminded us, not much worth bombing -- and thus no lessons could be drawn by Middle East leaders from the U.S. attack. But, as Cheney's secret energy panel was aware, there was another country in the region that did have oil, and lots of it, and which could be taken easily by U.S. forces. Thus Iraq became the object-lesson to other autocratic leaders in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iran: If you do not do our bidding, prepare to accept a massive dose of "shock&awe": You will be removed, replaced by democratic-looking governments as arranged by the U.S.
The neo-cons -- most of whom were members of PNAC and similar organizations, such as the American Enterprise Institute and Foundation for the Defense of Democracies -- had urged Clinton to depose Saddam Hussein in 1998, but he demurred, seeing a mostly contained dictator there, whereas Osama bin Laden, and those terrorists like him, actually were successfully attacking U.S. assets inside the country and abroad.
But the PNAC crowd had larger ambitions than simply toppling a brutal dictator. Among their other recommendations: "pre-emptively" attacking countries devoid of imminent danger to the U.S., abrogating agreed-upon treaties when they conflict with U.S. goals, making sure no other nation (or organization, such as the United Nations) can ever achieve power-parity with the U.S., installing U.S.-friendly governments to do America's will, expressing a willingness to use tactical nuclear weapons, and so on. All of these extreme PNAC suggestions, once regarded as lunatic, were enshrined in 2002 as official U.S. policy in the National Security Strategy of the United States of America and were renewed in Bush's 2004's National Security Strategy.
4. Sexing Up the Intel. We know that given the extreme nature of the neo-con agenda, the Bush Administration had their work cut out for them in fomenting support for an invasion and occupation of Iraq. Therefore, among the first moves by Rumsfeld following 9/11 was to somehow try to connect Saddam to the terror attacks. The various intelligence agencies reported to Rumsfeld that there was no Iraq connection to 9/11, that it was an al-Qaida operation, but those finds were merely bothersome impediments. Since the CIA and the other intelligence agencies would not, or could not, supply the intelligence needed to justify a war on Iraq, Rumsfeld set up his own rump "intelligence" agency, the Office of Special Plans, stocked it with political appointees of the PNAC persuasion and soon was stovepiping cherry-picked raw intel, much of it untrue from self-interested Iraqi exiles, straight to Cheney and others in the White House. Shortly thereafter, the White House Iraq Group -- the in-house marketing cabal, with such major players as Libby, Rove, Card, Rice, Hadley, Hughes, Matalin, et al. -- went big-time with the WMD and mushroom-cloud scares and the suspect melding of Saddam Hussein with the events of 9/11.
Based on this sexed-up and phony intelligence, Cheney, Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld and the others began warning about mushroom clouds over the U.S., drone planes dropping biological agents over the East Coast, huge stockpiles of chemical weapons in Iraq, etc. Secretary of State Colin Powell, regarded as the most believable of the bunch, was dispatched to the United Nations to make the case, which he did, reluctantly, by presenting an embarrassingly weak litany of surmise and concocted facts. While the U.S. mainstream media was unanimous in its opinion that Powell had cinched the case, the world didn't buy it (Powell, who resigned in 2004, has since lamented his role in this charade), and the opposition to the U.S. war plan was palpable and huge: 10 million citizens throughout the world hit the streets to protest, former allies publicly criticized Bush. Only Tony Blair in England eagerly hitched his wagon to the Bush war-plan with large numbers of troops dispatched, as it turned out over the objections of many of his closest aides and advisers.
5. The Downing Street Revelations. We know that those advisers warned Blair that he was about to involve the U.K. in an illegal, immoral and probably unwinnable war that would put U.K. and U.S. troops in great danger from potential insurgent forces. How do we know about these inner workings of the Blair government? Because someone from inside that body leaked the top-secret minutes from those war-Cabinet meetings, the so-called Downing Street Memos.
We also learned from those minutes that Bush & Blair agreed to make war on Iraq as early as the Spring of 2002. The intelligence, they decided, would be "fixed around the policy" to go to war, despite their telling their legislative bodies and their citizens that no decisions had been made. In fact, the Bush Administration had decided to go to war a year before the invasion. "Fuck Saddam," Bush told three U.S. Senators in March of 2002. "We're taking him out."
We know that many of Blair's most senior advisors thought the WMD argument rested on shaky ground, and that the legality of the war was in question without specific authorization from the United Nations Security Council. But the Bush Administration rushed to war anyway, in haste because the U.N. inspectors on the ground in Iraq were not finding any WMD stockpiles; the rush to war was accomplished without proper planning and with no workable plan to secure the peace and reconstruct the country after the major fighting. Some weeks later, Bush prematurely declared, under a "Mission Accomplished" banner, that the U.S. had "prevailed" in the Iraq war.
6. The Big Lie Technique & WMD. We know (again, thanks to the Downing Street Memos) that both the U.S. and U.K. were well aware that Iraq was a paper tiger, with no significant WMD stockpiles or link to Al-Qaida and the 9/11 attacks. Nevertheless, the major thrust of Bush&Co.'s justification for going to war was based on these non-existent weapons and 9/11 links. The Big Lie Technique, repeating the same falsehoods over and over and over, drummed those lies into our heads day after day, month after month, with little if any skeptical analysis by the corporate mainstream media, which marched mostly in lockstep with Bush policy and thinking. Wolfowitz admitted later that they chose WMD as the primary reason for making war because they couldn't agree on anything else the citizenry would accept. But frightening people with talk of nuclear weapons, mushroom clouds, toxins delivered by drone airplanes and the like would work like a charm. And so they did, convincing the American people and Congress that an attack was justified. It wasn't.
7. Iran Is Beneficiary of U.S. Policy. We know that the real reasons for invading Iraq had precious little to do with WMD, with Islamist terrorists inside that country, with installing democracy, and the like. There were no WMD to speak of, and Saddam, an especially vicious dictator, did not tolerate religious or political zealots of any stripe. No, the reasons had more to do with American geopolitical goals in the region involving oil, control, support for its ally Israel, hardened military bases and keeping Iran from having free rein in the region.
However, as it turned out, by invading and occupying Iraq, it removed the one buffer against the expansion of Iran's political and military power in the region; in addition, because the U.S. Occupation was so incompetently carried out, it pushed Iraq and Iran into a far closer religious and political alliance than would have been the case if Saddam had been permitted to remain in power. CheneyBush may have sacrificed thousands of American dead, tens of thousands of American wounded, and more than 100,000 Iraqis as "collateral damage" -- and now the Administration is quietly willing to accept an Islamist government that may well turn out to be more attuned to Teheran than to Washington.
8. Iraq As a Disaster Zone. We know that Bush's war has been a thorough disaster, built on a foundation of lies, and bunglingly managed from the start. As a result, the Occupation has provided a magnet for jihadists from other countries, billions have been wasted or lost in the corrupt system of organized corporate looting that ostensibly is designed to speed up Iraq's "reconstruction," etc. etc. Indeed, so much has Bush's war been botched that the "realists" in the Administration know the U.S. must get out as quickly as possible if they are to have any hope of exercising their considerable muscle elsewhere in the Middle East. But, so far, the neo-con strategy still rules, and "stay-the-course" remains the operating principle.
9. The Stretched-Thin Military Needs Bodies. We know that Bush's Middle East agenda also is suffering because the U.S. military is spread way thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the desertion rates are high, soldiers are not re-enlisting at the usual clip, recruitment isn't working and illegal scams are being used to lure youngsters into signing up. In short, there are no forces to spare on the ground. Either a military draft will be instituted -- and the recent call up of thousands of ready-reserve Marines is a draft by a different name -- or all future attacks will have to come from air power or from missiles, which will merely deliver a message. The air attacks will result in making the citizens of those countries even angrier at America, and with little likelihood of success in forging U.S.-friendly "democratic" governments in Iran, Syria, et al., since the bombed populations will support their existing governments. In short, America's and Israel's failures in Iraq and Lebanon demonstrate the limits of highly-armed powers in the modern, nationalist-guerrillas world.
10. Hiding the Facts from the Public. We know that Bush&Co. made sure that there would be no full-scale, independent probes of their role in using and abusing the intelligence that led to war on Iraq. This is the most secretive Administration in American history, and they want no investigations of any of their mistakes or corruptions of the democratic process.
The Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Republican Pat Roberts, held hearings on the failures lower down the chain, namely at the CIA and FBI level, and promised there would be followup hearings on any White House manipulation of intelligence. But, following the 2004 election, Roberts said no purpose would be served in launching such an investigation. Likewise, the 9/11 Commission did not delve deeply into how the Bush Administration misused its pre-9/11 knowledge. In short, this secretive administration made sure that everything was done to head off at the pass any investigations whatsoever.
11. Perilously Close to Dictatorship. We know that Bush has no great love for legitimate democratic processes, certainly not inside the United States. (On at least three occasions, he has "jokingly" expressed his preference for dictatorship, as long, he said, as he can be the dictator.) He much prefers to rule as an oligarch, but to do that, he had to invent legal justifications that he could claim granted him the requisite power. So he had his longtime lawyer-toady, Alberto Gonzales, devise a legal philosophy that permits Bush to do pretty much what he wants -- ignore laws on the books, disappear U.S. citizens into military prisons, authorize torture, spy on citizens' phone calls and emails, etc. -- whenever Bush says he's acting as "commander-in-chief" during "wartime."
And, since "wartime" is the amorphous "war on terror," from which there is no end, Bush is home free. There always will be terrorists trying to do anti-U.S. damage somewhere around the globe, or inside America, and the "commander-in-chief" will need to respond. Ergo, goes this logic, Bush is above the law, untouchable, in perpetuity. Bush&Co. also made sure that U.S. officials and military troops would not be subject to indictment by any international court or war-crimes tribunal.
Neither Gonzales, nor Bush, has disavowed this legal philosophy of a dictator-like President being beyond the reach of the law. No doubt the issue ultimately will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, to which Bush has appointed ultra-conservative Judges John Roberts and Samuel Alito. In a chilling decision, the appeals panel, of which Roberts was a member prior to his ascension to the Supremes, ruled that the Commander-in-Chief's arbitrarily-designated "enemies" are non-persons, with no legal rights. Bush now feels free to subject anyone he likes to the "military tribunal" system he has concocted; even the Court's recent objections to the tribunal system has had little effect on day-to-day violations of detainees' rights, as Bush&Co. always manage to postpone and delay implementation or find ways around the court rulings.
12. Torture As Official U.S. Policy. We know that Gonzales, then Bush's White House Counsel, and Pentagon lawyers beholden to Rumsfeld, devised legal rationales that make torture of suspects official state policy. These Bush-loyalist lawyers also greatly widened the definition of what is acceptable interrogation practice -- basically anything this side of death or terminally abusing internal organs. They also authorized the "rendering" of key suspects to countries specializing in extreme torture. After all this, Bush and Rumsfeld professed shock, shock!, that those under their command would wind up torturing, abusing and humiliating prisoners in U.S. care. But the Administration made sure to stop all inquiries into higher-up responsibility for the endemic torture. The buck never stops on Bush's desk -- if something goes wrong (and he never will admit to mistakes), it's always someone else's fault.
13. The Bill of Rights Goes "Quaint." We know that the Bush Administration has been able to obtain whatever legislation it needs in its self-proclaimed "war on terror" by utilizing, and hyping, the understandable fright of the American people. John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge emerged periodically to manipulate the public's fright by announcing yet another "terror" threat, based on "credible but unverified" evidence. As he departed his directorate of the Homeland Security Department, Ridge admitted that he was required to issue many of those "terror" warnings when there was no justifiable reason for doing so; it has been demonstrated that those warnings were activated usually when the Administration was facing an election or when they were having an especially bad-news day -- a new scandal, especially discouraging reports from Iraq, etc. Meanwhile, Congress (shame on you, Democrats!) recently made most of the Patriot Act laws permanent. Unless those can be repealed, that vote will be a nail into the coffin housing the remains of the Bill of Rights.
14. Outing CIA Agents for Political Reasons. The Bush Administration, for its own crass political reasons, compromised American national security by revealing the identity of two key intelligence operatives -- one, CIA agent Valerie Plame, who had important contacts in the shadowy world of weapons of mass destruction, especially in dealing with Iran's nuclear capabilities. It is possible that the first of "senior Administration officials" to reveal her identity was from the State Department (Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage), but wherever the leak originated, it is clear that Cheney (through Libby) and Rove deliberately piled on the Plame story in an attempt to punish her husband for telling the world that Bush's Iraq war was based on phony intelligence. Revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent, not incidentally, is a felony. The other outing of a CIA operative, by Condi Rice, apparently to show off how successful the Administration was in its anti-terrorism hunt, was that a high-ranking mole close to bin Laden's inner circle. This operative could have kept the U.S. informed as to ongoing and future plans of al-Qaida. That's our war-on-terrorism government at work.
15. Do You Know If Your Vote Is Counted? We know that America's voting system and, more importantly, the vote-counting system are corrupted. Sophisticated statistical analysis along with wide-scale exit-polling, suggests strongly that the 2004 election results were fiddled with by the private companies that tally the votes. These companies are owned by far-right Republican supporters, but the same objection would be lodged if Democrats owned the companies. There are no good reasons to "outsource" vote-counting to private corporations. These are the same companies who make and program the voting machines, who refuse to permit inspection of their software, and whose technicians have behaved suspiciously on election nights in 2000 in Florida, in 2002 in Georgia, and in Ohio and Florida in 2004. And we haven't even mentioned Rove's dirty-tricks department whose function has been, by hook or by crook, to lower the number of potential Democrat voters, especially minority voters; a favorite tactic is to knock hundreds of thousands of likely Democratic voters off the voting rolls in advance in key states such as Florida and Ohio. Unless the vote-counting system can be changed soon -- and the vote-tallying scandal will not be adequately dealt with voter-verified receipts -- the integrity of our elections will be suspect into the far future. Even if all the other reforms were implemented, they would mean nothing without the guarantee of honest elections.
16. There Is No Real Economic Plan. We know that the Bush Administration paid off its backers (and itself) by giving humongous tax breaks, for 10 years out, to the already wealthy and to large corporations. In addition, corporate tax-evasion was made easier via offshore listings and by laying off thousands of IRS auditors of high-end returns. All this was done at a time when the U.S. economy was in a sorry state and when the treasury deficit from those tax-breaks was growing even larger from Iraq/Afghanistan/"war-on-terror" costs. (Those war costs are now closing in on half a TRILLION dollars!) So far as we know, the Bush Administration has no plans for how to retire that debt and no real plan (other than the discredited "trickle-down" theory) for restarting the economy and creating well-paying jobs for skilled workers, many of whom have had their positions outsourced to foreign lands.
17. Drowning Government In a Bathtub. We know that the HardRight conservatives who control Bush policy don't really care what kind of debt and deficits their policies cause; in some ways, the more the better, since as GOP honcho Grover Norquist has admitted, they want to shrink government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." They want to decimate and starve popular social programs from the New Deal/Great Society eras, including, most visibly, Head Start, Social Security, Medicare (and real drug coverage for seniors), student loans, welfare assistance, public education, etc. (The IRS is going to hire private tax collectors!) Bush's plan to privatize a huge chunk of the Social Security System is still on track, though Republicans are keeping quiet about it prior to the November elections.
18. Who Cares What You Drink or Breathe? We know that Bush environmental policy -- dealing with air and water pollution, mineral extraction, national parks, and so on -- is an unmitigated disaster, giving pretty much free rein to corporations whose bottom line does better when they don't have to pay attention to the public interest. It's the worst sort of grab-the-money-and-run scenario. Perhaps the best worst example of the Administration's attitude toward protecting the public's health can be seen in the EPA giving the green light for residents and workers to safely return to their homes and jobs in Lower Manhattan shortly after the Twin Towers fell five years ago, even though EPA scientists had determined that the air was grossly polluted and dangerous.
19. It's Greed for Money, Control, Power. We know from "insider" memoirs and reports by former Bush Administration officials -- Joseph DeIulio, Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, et al. -- that the public interest plays little role in the formulation of policy inside the Bush Administration. The motivating factors are mainly greed and ideological control and remaining in political power. Further, they say, there is little or no curiosity in this Administration to think outside the political box, or even to hear other opinions.
20. It's Faith Over Science, Myth Over Reality. We know that this attitude -- "my mind is made up, don't bother me with the facts" -- shows up most openly in how science is disregarded by the Bush Administration (good example: global warming) in favor of faith-based thinking. Some of this non-curiosity about reality may be based in fundamentalist religious, even Apocalyptic, beliefs. Much of Bush's bashing of science is designed as payback to his fundamentalist base, but the scary part is that a good share of the time he actually seems to believe what he's saying, about evolution vs. intelligent-design, stem-cell research, abstinence education, censoring the rewriting of government scientific reports that differ from the Bush party line, cutbacks in research&development grants for the National Science Foundation, etc., ad nauseum. This closed-mind attitude helps explain, on a deeper level, why things aren't working out in Iraq, or anywhere else for that matter.
AMERICA OR GERMANY IN THE '30s?
In sum, we know that permanent-war policy abroad and police-state tactics at home are taking us into a kind of American fascism domestically and an imperial foreign policy overseas. All aspects of the American polity are infected with the militarist Know-Nothingism emanating from the top, with governmental and vigilante-type crackdowns on protesters, dissent, free speech, freedom of assembly happening regularly on both the local and federal levels. More and more, America is resembling Germany in the early 1930s, group pitted against group while the central government amasses more and more power and control of its put-upon citizens, and criticizing The Leader's policies is denounced as unpatriotic or treasonous.
The good news is that after suffering through six-plus years of the CheneyBush presidency, the public's blinders are falling off. The fall from power of Tom DeLay is a good symbol of this, and the true nature of these men and their regime is finally starting to hit home. Cheney is acknowledged as the true power behind the throne, and Bush is seen for what he is: an insecure, uncurious, arrogant, dangerous, dry-drunk bully who is endangering U.S. national interests abroad with his reckless and incompetently-managed wars, his wrecking of the U.S. economy at home, and with his over-reaching in all areas.
If a Democratic president and vice president had behaved similarly to Bush and Cheney, they'd have been in the impeachment dock in a minute.
IF REPUBLICANS LOSE IN NOVEMBER
But there is no way for that to happen unless and until the Republicans lose control of one or both of the houses of Congress in the November election. If the Dems were to take over the House, for example, they would have subpoena power to compel witnesses to testify under oath for the first time in nearly seven years, which could lead to productive investigations of the machinations that sent the U.S. to war in Iraq, to what really happened on 9/11, to the other myriad scandals and embarrassments: torture, domestic spying, the punishment and outing of CIA agents for political ends, the Abramoff corruption network, etc., etc.
The Democrats are not politically pure, to be sure -- with too many beholden to the same interests that have corrupted the Republicans during the CheneyBush years -- but in enough instances that matter, they would be different enough to start to turn the ship of state away from its reckless, dangerous extremism and back more toward the center and maybe even, on some issues, in the direction of progressive liberalism.
That is why for the next two-plus months, we need to work our butts off to ensure a Republican defeat in the House, and, if we're lucky, in the Senate as well -- by a huge margin. We know that Rove and his minions will be doing everything to steal and manipulate this election. There will be more sleaze and slime and dirty tricks, and perhaps even some October "surprises," and we need to factor those in and work even harder, including sueing election officials who refuse to take steps for honest balloting and vote-counting. Landslide victories would make it more risky for Rove and his minions to try to fiddle with the vote totals.
Winning in November is our job, our moral duty. If we don't take them down in this midterm election, we may not have another good shot for a decade or more. It's crank-it-up time. Let's get to work.
Copyright 2006 by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at Western Washington and San Diego State Universities, worked as a writer-editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for 19 years, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers. To comment: >> crisispapers@comc