"If You Build It, They Will Come"
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
March 13, 2007
Why all the shocked surprise that the
FBI was found to have grossly violated Americans' civil liberties
under the revised so-called "Patriot" Act, and lied to Congress about
how often its agents broke the law in doing so?
History has shown us that if you grant more police and surveillance
powers to those in charge of law and order -- and if there is no
effective oversight mechanism in place -- those powers will be abused.
This is as true under the Bush Administration as it was in ancient Rome
and in Hitler's Germany.
In other words, if you build an authoritarian structure, they will come.
If ignorant and/or insecure bullies are appointed as administrators, or
as prison guards, or as surveillance experts, you should not be shocked
when they exceed their authority and run roughshod over the rights,
civil liberties and privacy of citizens under their control.
That's what authoritarian types do -- and, as key experiments have
shown, even non-authoritarian types on occasion when they are put into
similar positions of untrammeled power. ("Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts absolutely." -- Lord Acton.)
BREAKING POWER UP INTO PIECES
The fact that CheneyBush have nearly a full two years to go until the
next president is inaugurated (unless they're impeached and removed
before that) is creating political frustration and tension in the body
politic: If truth be known, a great majority of Americans, Democrat and
Republican, would be happy if Bush and Cheney and Rove just resigned
now, disappeared, left, vamoosed into the night.
But that is not likely to happen. In the period until they are gone,
they can carry out further depredations on the Constitution and launch
more military wars abroad, and seem determined to do both. And, in their
back pocket is their statutory
authorization to declare martial law whenever they see fit. Shame on
those who voted to give the Administration such police-state powers!
SOME REASONS FOR HOPE
But the news is not all bad. Current events offer some encouragement and
issues to use in helping turn this ship around:
1. The Opposition. The Democrats, after more than six years
divorced from the reins of power, are slowly, fitfully, almost
reluctantly at times, moving toward becoming an actual "opposition
party." But they seem unsure how far and fast to proceed in righting the
balance among the three branches of government, both in terms of ending
the Iraq War (and prohibiting a likely attack on Iran) and,
domestically, in restoring many of the protections guaranteed under the
Constitution and Bill of Rights -- such as habeas corpus-- that
have been ignored or decimated by the Bush Administration.
True, the Dem leadership is moving in fits and starts in such directions
-- almost as if they aren't willing to admit to themselves how desperate
the situation really is in this country -- and can't seem to shake their
timidity-addiction, but they face enormous obstacles within their own
ranks, and from an Executive that doesn't mind fighting back and
Still, despite their slow-as-molasses progress, the Dems are beginning
to move in the right direction on some issues and should be thanked and
encouraged to do more. Corollary: The Dems should be slammed upside the
head on other issues where they become enablers of CheneyBush's
reckless, dangerous policies, especially with regard to Iraq and Iran.
THE U.S. ATTORNEYS SCANDAL
2. The Fired U.S. Attorneys. When the Democrats do manage to
unite on key issues, and bring enough moderate-Republican allies along
with them, the Bush Administration has shown that it will back down.
Case in point: They've backtracked on aspects of the fired U.S.
attorneys scandal. After one of the most embarrassingly contorted spin
campaigns ever about why the U.S. attorneys were fired, A.G. Alberto
Gonzales finally said the Bush Administration will alter its way of
appointing new U.S. attorneys, and will accept limitations on its
ability to appoint interim ones.
It did the heart good to see Gonzales get roughed up by both Democratic
and Republican senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and for him
to eat some humble pie in public, admitting to gross mistakes. Doesn't
happen often with this crew, which makes the rare times when they do own
up to their bad policies all the more delicious.
However, despite Gonzales being yelled at, I don't believe he will be
forced to resign or that any of the recent firings and replacements will
be reversed (unless unrelenting pressure forces them to), not even that
of Tim Griffiths, the newly-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Eastern
District in Arkansas. The former aide to Karl Rove
have engaged in illegal activities, in a scheme to wipe out the
voting rights of 70,000 citizens, many of them African-American, prior
to the 2004 election. Under a little-noticed Patriot Act provision
slipped into the bill, he and the other new U.S. Attorneys can be
appointed to fill out terms of the those fired and Senate confirmation
is not required.
Speaking of Rove, it's quite possible that a more thorough
investigation, supported by Dems and Repubs, will reveal the details of
his and the White House's dirty hands on many of the
politically-motivated firings, especially in getting U.S. Attorney David
Iglesias canned in New Mexico. (Rove reportedly leaned on GOP heavies in
that state to get Iglesias removed because he wasn't indicting more
Senator Pete Domenici, who put partisan pressure on Iglesias to
indict some Dems before the 2006 election, has lawyered up, and Rep.
Heather Wilson, also of New Mexico, may choose to do so shortly.)
"SIGNING STATEMENTS" AID LAW-BREAKING
3. FBI Lawlessness. In yet another violation of provisions of the
revised "Patriot" Act, the Justice Department's inspector general
revealed that the FBI for years has been breaking the law in surveilling
citizens, and in not reporting accurately to the Congress, as required,
the number of times this has happened.
The Democrats seem eager to continue digging into this scandal, joined
by a number of appalled GOP moderates, to see how high this law-breaking
goes, up to and including Bush himself.
Bush signed the revised "Patriot" Act in a public ceremony last year,
but after everyone had left the premises, he issued a complementary
Glenn Greenwald reminds us that in that signing statement, Bush
indicated "that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how
the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's
requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that
disclosure would 'impair foreign relations, national security, the
deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the
executive's constitutional duties'." These exceptions parallel the
violations the FBI is shown to have committed.
Still, though FBI Director Mueller has accepted responsibility for his
agency's illegal behavior, he's still in his job, and nobody else has
paid any penalty for this rape of the Constitution and violation of laws
passed by Congress.
THE LIBBY FALLOUT
4. Fitzmas in March. Cheney's chief-of-staff for five years, I.
Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of
justice in the Plame spy-outing case. Libby is the fall guy, the patsy,
the loyal aide who falls on his sword to protect his bosses, Cheney and
Bush. But just the fact that Libby may be heading for the federal
slammer is satisfaction enough right now and whets one's appetite for
seeing his superiors
dragged into the investigatory spotlight.
And if and when Bush pardons Libby, that act will be yet another nail in
the coffin of the GOP's chances for 2008. (But it's rumored that Rove
may have Bush wait until after the 2008 voting, to remove it as an issue
in the campaign.)
Bulldog Congressman Henry Waxman has already invited Valerie Plame
Wilson and Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald to testify on the Libby
case, the verdict, and perhaps the extent of known or reasonably
surmised White House involvement in the affair. This should be good,
especially if Fitzgerald chooses to reveal even a smidgen of what he has
5. Faux News Boycott. Candidates for the Democratic presidential
nomination, led by John Edwards, were able to force a cancellation of
the Nevada debate among Dem presidential competitors, which was
scheduled to be aired on the worst possible news-source network, Fox.
The Democrats finally wised up to the fact that consorting with the
ideological Neanderthals and unabashed bigots that inhabit the Fox
Network sent exactly the wrong message.
Once again, as in all these stories, the liberal blogosphere was
partially instrumental in keeping this issue alive and helping to give
Democrats some informational ammunition to get the policy changed.
6. Treatment of Wounded Soldiers. The term "Walter Reed Hospital"
is this year's "Katrina," further evidence of cold-heartedness,
incompetent bureaucracy, meanness of spirit, and botched coverups in the
Bush Administration. Yet another nail in the GOP coffin for 2008.
It turns out that the disgraceful treatment of wounded soldiers at
Walter Reed is just the tip of the iceberg of how the Bush
Administration chants the "support-our-troops" mantra for
political-propaganda reasons, but in no way actually supports them when
they come back gravely wounded and in great need of TLC and adequate
medical care. Instead, they are shunted aside, ignored, forgotten, or
buried under bureaucratic paperwork.
The wartime need for warm bodies has gotten so desperate, and the troops
are stretched so thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, that the Bush
Administration is sending badly damaged soldiers (physically and
mentally) back to Iraq before they are adequately healed up. After all,
cannon fodder is cannon fodder and must be utilized to the full extent
of wartime requirements. But, don't forget, everyone, to "support our
LOCAL IMPEACHMENT MOVES
7. More states and cities have either passed or are
impeachment resolutions against Cheney and Bush. The momentum
builds. This is not an academic exercise, as one of the ways impeachment
can begin in the U.S. Congress is by way of state demand.
The states debating the issue in their legislatures include California,
Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, and Washington. Latest news:
38 separate towns
in Vermont have passed resolutions urging the state legislature to
approve the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, thus joining other cities
across the country.
It is inexplicable to me why the Democratic leaders in Washington (read:
Pelosi and Reid) are trying to squelch these state and local moves for
impeachment. Don't they read the polls? More than half of the American
people are in favor of beginning impeachment hearings in reference to
the lies and deceptions that took the U.S. into war in Iraq -- and most
of the other congressional probes involving CheneyBush scandals haven't
even had public sessions yet.
8. Iraq Escalation. Even CheneyBush's handpicked new leader for
the Iraq campaign, Gen. David Petreaus, admits that the military
escalation in Iraq is senseless unless it's accompanied by serious
political negotiations among the affected Iraqi groups.
"There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq. Military
action is necessary to help improve security. ... But it is not
sufficient. There needs to be a political aspect," said Petraus in his
first press conference in Iraq since Bush's escalation began. Read
between the lines: Bush's "surge" is destined to fail, but it being
pushed for domestic political reasons; the Pentagon has begun planning
for a fallback position when the U.S. has to abandon the "surge" plan.
Not incidentally, and as could have been predicted, Bush has asked
Congress for several more billion dollars to pay for 8,000 more troops
for the escalation, in addition to the 21,000 already in-country or in
the pipeline. One can hope that Congress will refuse to enable more
deaths and turn down the supplemental request.
KEEP THE MOMENTUM BUILDING
True, the positive news seems to move at a glacial pace, while the
negative seems to be growing exponentially each day. But think about it:
The past six years have been dominated mainly by bad news for the
Constitution and for those weak countries we've invaded.
Now at least there are positive developments, encouraging rays of hope
in the air as the CheneyBush administration continues to unravel and
collapse in on itself.
That's why it's so vital that we keep up and even increase the momentum
of progressive developments in our effort to restore Constitutional
government, and to end the wars in the Greater Middle East. And as we
do, we must not allow the Busheviks to catch their breath and regain
their balance and control of the political agenda.
Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught
government & international relations at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two
decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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