If any country is always at war, perpetually threatened by one enemy or another, what once seemed impossible soon becomes inevitable. Jason Raimondo at Antiwar.com has it exactly right when he writes:
The price of perpetual war is a police state, one in which a permanent state of “emergency” – the threat of a terrorist attack – is utilized to break down institutional safeguards, the system of constitutional checks and balances, that protect us from dictatorship.
A foreign policy driven by the imperial impulse is bound to have grave domestic consequences, none of them conducive to the American form of government. . .
Some may think the Bush administration is an extreme aberration brought on by an overreaction to the 9/11 attacks, and Bush’s willingness to exploit that event to garner more power, both for his own Party electorally, and for the Executive Branch of the Federal Government of which he is the head. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Bush is merely the culmination of a trend that began a half century ago upon the conclusion of the World War II, and with the beginning of the US/Soviet conflict.
(cont. below the fold)
The Republican Party first began to fixate on the use of smear campaigns and charges of treason by Democrats and liberals at the beginning of the Cold War. What had once been a party of isolationist fervor, determined enough to deny President Wilson his dream of a strong League of Nations at the end of World War I, took the opportunity the Cold War handed it to create fear and generate the myth of Democratic weakness in the area of National Defense. GOP leaders who had once railed against foreign entanglements and international intervention now raised the specter of Communism as a cudgel to browbeat Democrats and accuse them of being soft, weak and ill prepared to defend America against the Satanic menace of an all powerful International Communist Movement.
Thus, we saw the rise in the GOP of smear merchants, fear mongers and rank opportunists like Nixon, Roy Cohn, the House Unamerican Activities Committee members and, most of all, Senator Joseph McCarthy. It is no surprise that the height of their power came during the Korean War when many innocent men and women in the State Department and elsewhere in the Federal Government had their careers ruined through the judicious use of slander, innuendo and outright lies by these political assassins. Even the great General George Marshall, the man who had successfully led our armed forces during World War II, and then conceived and executed the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe was accused of being a traitor and of assisting the Communist drive for world domination.
For the next 40 years, it was a standard refrain of the Republicans that Democrats could not be trusted to protect our National Security from the monolithic and monstrous enemy of International Communism. Democrats were blamed for Soviet domination in Eastern Europe, for losing China to Mao’s Red Army and for the resurgence of Communist parties in Europe and across the Third World. That these charges had no basis in fact made no difference to those shameless Republican politicians who proclaimed that at every opportunity.
It mattered little that it had been the Democratic Party, under the stewardship of Franklin Roosevelt, that had foreseen the menace of the Nazis and Japanese militarism, and led us through a difficult and brutal world war to ultimate victory. Nor did it matter that Truman’s policy of containment through the use of defensive alliances and a host of international institutions (originally proposed by FDR and Churchill) formed after the war to aid and assist developing countries, ultimately proved to be the means by which Soviet imperialism was held in check. The slander proved to be so successful that it led the Kennedy and Johnson administrations to pursue a disastrous policy in Vietnam, a war that would end up killing thousands of Americans and millions of Vietnamese, in large part to prove their anticommunist bona fides.
The fear of Communist bogeymen also led to abuses by the FBI at home, and by the CIA abroad.
Democratically elected governments in Greece, Iran, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Congo and Nicaragua were overturned by CIA backed military coups and armed rebellions. We supported military dictators around the world by supplying them with arms and other forms of aid so long as they claimed to be opposed to communism, and permitted our largest American corporations to reap economic benefits from the exploitation of their cheap labor and plentiful natural resources. The crimes these “authoritarian” regimes committed against their own people were swept under the rug and ignored, all in the name of fighting the advance of communism.
But the American government’s excesses were not restricted to CIA’s activities abroad. In the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, the FBI, under J. Edgar Hoover and his successors, ran rampant over the constitutional rights of American citizens whose only crime was to support civil rights or oppose the Vietnam War. Civil rights and antiwar leaders were illegally wiretapped and their mail opened. Under the COINTELPRO program, FBI agents infiltrated antiwar and civil rights groups violating a number of criminal statutes in the process, including, among other things, the use of “dirty tricks”, illegal surveillance, threats and “extralegal violence” against such groups. The host of illegal and unconstitutional practices the FBI and CIA pursued against ordinary Americans was exposed in the wake of Watergate by the Church Commission, and led to many of the laws to guard our fourth amendment rights from such egregious governmental intrusion, such as FISA, that our current President so willfully ignores under his claim of absolute executive power in time of war.
The Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and China’s capitalist reforms ushered in under the rule of Deng Xiaoping. Most Americans breathed a sigh of relief and looked forward to the promised “peace dividend” which would include a reduction in international tensions and reduced expenditures on Defense. Many Republicans, however, never abandoned their Cold War attitudes, and Manichean geopolitical outlooks. Prominent members of the Republican Party and the Conservative Movement formed the Project for a New American Century to advocate for the use of US military might to impose and maintain an American global hegemony. Its members included a host of former Nixon and Reagan administration officials, and other Republican and conservative luminaries as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Elliot Abrams, John Negroponte, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Bennett, Gary Bauer, James Woolsey, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Vin Weber, Dan Quayle, John Bolten, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, and Norman Podheretz.
No doubt you recognize many of these names. Some of them play prominent roles in the current administration, and others are familiar voices on TV and radio, or widely syndicated columnists and pundits. All of them have played a major role in Republican politics over the last 30-40 years. They came of age during the tumultuous years of the 50’s and 60’s when the Cold War was at its height. Their attitudes were shaped by their anticommunist zeal, and by their reaction against the tremendous social and political changes wrought by the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and the downfall of their idol (and in many cases mentor), Richard Nixon as a result of the Watergate scandals.
Many of them are deeply suspicious of civil liberties, and have what can only be described as a “black and white” outlook toward international relations and America’s role in the world. The Cold War paranoia that drove defense budgets into the upper stratosphere and led to the creation of tens of thousands of dangerous and unnecessary nuclear weapons in the Soviet and US arsenals (more than enough to blow up the world several times over) still pervades their thinking today. They came into office with concerns about “rogue states” like Iraq, Iran and North Korea, a desire to dominate the volatile Middle East and secure its supplies of crude oil and natural gas, and to increase the power and authority of the Presidency. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 handed them a golden opportunity to achieve all of these goals.
However, doing so has led to an unprecedented accumulation of power in the Executive Office, and unprecedented abuses of that power by the President, the Vice President and their many minions. Abuses far worse than those of Nixon in Watergate, and far worse than those of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI (which, for all their excess, did not affect the vast majority of Americans). Under Bush, all of us have been swept up into the National Security State’s need for an ever increasing control and accumulation of information about its citizens. Information regarding the private lives of every American, from our telephone call records, our email exchanges, our political affiliations and even our medical records, are all now subject to warrantless seizures by the Federal Government acting under the guise of investigating threats of terrorism or espionage.
Sadly, there has been no organized resistance to these excesses. Indeed, quite the opposite. The institutions, corporations and political factions that enable the Bush administration in its march toward a police state are varied, but each of them has a vested interest in staying the course. Right Wing Dominionist Christians such as James Dobson have no concern about eliminating the right to privacy, because they view that as a potential tool in their efforts to eliminate access to abortion and contraception, to demonize and discriminate against homosexuals, and to re-criminalize sexual behaviors which fall outside the norms of their Christian belief system.
The defense and energy industries favor the war policy since it enormously boosts their profits while concomitantly reducing their risks. Lobbyists and Republican politicians support the war, since they gain clients and campaign contributions from those very same companies in need Congressional largesse and other favors. The Telecommunication companies simply don’t want their monopolistic practices disturbed, or the promised deregulation of their businesses from federal restrictions, by opposing government requests for information on their customers. In addition, the mainstream media is afraid of losing access to administration sources, while their corporate bosses are afraid of political retaliation, should they raise too much of a stink in their news broadcasts and newspapers regarding the power grab that Bush and Cheney have engineered, and the trashing of the Constitution that has happened on their watch.
Worst of all has been the failure of the Democratic Party’s elected officials and other leaders to unite in opposition to the Constitutional crisis the Bush administration has engineered. Individual politicians have spoken out, yes, but when push comes to shove, all too often these brave souls have been abandoned by their colleagues, left to twist in the wind and forced to endure the massive assault of the Right Wing Wurlitzer alone. Remember Conyers on the Ohio election fraud and the Downing Street Memos; Feingold on his censure motion; Kerry’s attempt to filibuster Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court; and John Murtha on Iraq? Again and again, too many Democratic officials have adopted a passive approach, hoping that Republican actions alone will bring them victory in the coming mid-term elections. Too many of them have tempered their criticism of, and opposition to, Bush’s policies on the war, torture, unlawful detentions, the environment, tax cuts for the wealthy, the Medicare drug scam, attacks on gay marriage, women’s health issues, etc., out of fear of offending that illusive and nebulous independent voter, and thus their cherished sinecures in Congress.
Perhaps now, in the light of these recent revelations, and Bush’s extremely low approval ratings, they will find their collective voice and stand as one to oppose this massive invasion of our civil liberties. I for one hope that they do, and that it is already not too late. As Justin Raimondo concludes the time is now to act before the next war of Bush’s choice is already underway:
[T]he price of interventionism is liberty itself. With each war, the power of government increases, until, at some point, it spills over the dike of the Constitution, washes away the Bill of Rights, and drowns us all in a flood tide of tyranny.
As recent events have shown, the danger is not theoretical or postponed to some future time: we are not speaking here of some dark dystopia as a kind of “what if” experiment. The danger is imminent: the dystopia is here and now. The only question is: will the American people stand for it?
Bush administration’s assault on privacy rights
Project for a New American Century
Political smears and attacks on Democrats by Republicans