Monday, October 29, 2007

A lesson in humility for the smug West By William Dalrymple

Many of the western values we think of as superior came from the East and our blind arrogance hurts our standing in the world

10/18/07 "The Times" -- -- About 100 miles south of Delhi, where I live, lie the ruins of the Mughal capital, Fateh-pur Sikri. This was built by the Emperor Akbar at the end of the 16th century. Here Akbar would listen carefully as philosophers, mystics and holy men of different faiths debated the merits of their different beliefs in what is the earliest known experiment in formal inter-religious dialogue.

Representatives of Muslims (Sunni and Shi’ite as well as Sufi), Hindus (followers of Shiva and Vishnu as well as Hindu atheists), Christians, Jains, Jews, Buddhists and Zoroastrians came together to discuss where they differed and how they could live together.

Muslim rulers are not usually thought of in the West as standard-bearers of freedom of thought; but Akbar was obsessed with exploring the issues of religious truth, and with as open a mind as possible, declaring: “No man should be interfered with on account of religion, and anyone is to be allowed to go over to any religion that pleases him.” He also argued for what he called “the pursuit of reason” rather than “reliance on the marshy land of tradition”.

All this took place when in London, Jesuits were being hung, drawn and quartered outside Tyburn, in Spain and Portu-gal the Inquisition was torturing anyone who defied the dogmas of the Catholic church, and in Rome Giordano Bruno was being burnt at the stake in Campo de’Fiori.

It is worth emphasising Akbar, for he – the greatest ruler of the most populous of all Muslim states – represented in one man so many of the values that we in the West are often apt to claim for ourselves. I am thinking here especially of Douglas Murray, a young neocon pup, who wrote in The Spectator last week that he “was not afraid to say the West’s values are better”, and in which he accused anyone who said to the contrary of moral confusion: “Decades of intense cultural rela-tivism and designer tribalism have made us terrified of passing judgment,” he wrote.

The article was a curtain-opener for an Intelligence Squared debate in which he and I faced each other, along with David Aaronovitch, Charlie Glass, Ibn Warraq and Tariq Ramadan, over the motion: “We should not be reluctant to assert the superiority of western values”. (The motion was eventually carried, I regret to say.)

Murray named western values as follows: the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, equality, and freedom of expression and conscience. He also argued that the Judeo-Christian tradition is the ethical source of these values.

Yet where do these ideas actually come from? Both Judaism and Christianity were not born in Washington or London, however much the Victorians liked to think of God as an Englishman. Instead they were born in Pales-tine, while Christianity received its intellectual superstructure in cities such as Antioch, Constanti-nople and Alexandria. At the Council of Nicea, where the words of the Creed were thrashed out in 325, there were more bishops from Persia and India than from western Europe.

Judaism and Christianity are every bit as much eastern religions as Islam or Buddhism. So much that we today value – universities, paper, the book, printing – were transmitted from East to West via the Islamic world, in most cases entering western Europe in the Middle Ages via Islamic Spain.

And where was the first law code drawn up? In Athens or London? Actually, no – it was the invention of Hammurabi, in ancient Iraq. Who was the first ruler to emphasise the importance of the equality of his subjects? The Buddhist Indian Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC, set down in stone basic freedoms for all his people, and did not exclude women and slaves, as Aristotle had done.

In the real world, East and West do not have separate and compartmentalised sets of values. Does a Midwestern Baptist have the same values as an urbane Richard Dawkins-read-ing atheist? Do Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama belong to the same ethical tradition as Osama Bin Laden?

In the East as in the West there is a huge variety of ethical systems, but surprisingly similar ideals, and ideas of good and evil. To cherry-pick your favourite universal humanistic ideals, and call them western, then to imply that their opposites are somehow eastern values is simply bigoted and silly, as well as unhistorical.

The great historian of the Crusades, Sir Steven Runciman, knew better. As he wrote at the end of his three-volume history: “Our civilisation has grown . . . out of the long sequence of interaction and fusion between Orient and Occident.” He is right. The best in both eastern and western civilisation come not from asserting your own superiority, but instead from having the humility to learn from what is good in others, as well as to recognise your own past mistakes. Ramming your ideas down the throats of others is rarely a productive tactic.

There are lessons here from our own past. European history is full of monarchies, dictatorships and tyrannies, some of which – such as those of Salazar, Tito and Franco – survived into the 1970s and 1980s. The relatively recent triumph of democracy across Europe has less to do with some biologically inherent western love of freedom, than with an ability to learn humbly from the mistakes of the past – notably the millions of deaths that took place due to western ideologies such as Marxism, fas-cism and Nazism.

These movements were not freak departures from form, so much as terrible expressions of the darker side of western civilisation, including our long traditions of antisemitism at home.

Alongside this we also have history of exporting genocide abroad in the worst excesses of western colonialism – which, like the Holocaust, comes from treating the nonwestern other as untermenschen, as savage and somehow subhuman.

For though we like to ignore it, and like to think of ourselves as paragons of peace and freedom, the West has a strong militaristic tradition of attacking and invading the countries of those we think of as savages, and of wiping out the less-developed peoples of four continents as part of our civilising mission. The list of western genocides that preceded and set the scene for the Holocaust is a terrible one.

The Tasmanian Aborigines were wiped out by British hunting parties who were given licences to exterminate this “inferior race” whom the colonial authorities said should be “hunted down like wild beasts and destroyed”. Many were caught in traps, before being tortured or burnt alive.

The same fate saw us exterminate the Caribs of the Caribbean, the Guanches of the Canary Islands, as well as tribe after tribe of Native Americans. The European slave trade forcibly abducted 15m Africans and killed as many more.

It was this tradition of colonial genocide that prepared the ground for the greatest western crime of all – the industrial extermination of 6m Jews whom the Nazis looked upon as an inferior, nonwestern and semitic intrusion in the Aryan West.

For all our achievements in and emancipating women and slaves, in giving social freedoms and human rights to the individual; for allthat is remarkable and beautiful in ourart, literature and science, our continuing tradition of arrogantly asserting this perceived superiority has led to all that is most shameful and self-de-feating in western history.

The complaints change – a hundred years ago our Victorian ancestors accused the Islamic world of being sensuous and decadent, with an overdeveloped penchant for sodomy; now Martin Amis attacks it for what he believes is its mass sexual frustration and homophobia. Only the sense of superiority remains the same. If the East does not share our particular sensibility at any given moment of history it is invariably told that it is wrong and we are right.

Tragically, this western tradition of failing to respect other cultures and treating the other as untermenschen has not completely died. We might now recognise that genocide is wrong, yet 30 years after the debacle of Vietnam and Cambodia and My Lai, the cadaver of western colonialism has yet again emerged shuddering from its shallow grave. One only has to think of the massacres of Iraqi civilians in in Falluja or the disgusting treatment meted out to the prisoners of Abu Ghraib to see how the cultural assertiveness of the neocons has brought these traditions of treating Arabs as subhuman back from the dead.

Yet the briefest look at the foreign policy of the Bush administration surely gives a textbook example of the futility of trying to impose your values and ideas – even one so noble as democracy – on another people down the barrel of a gun, rather than through example and dialogue.

In Iraq itself, we have succeeded in destroying a formerly prosperous and secular country, and creating the largest refugee problem in the modern Middle East: 4m Iraqis have now been forced abroad.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the US attempt to push democracy in the region has succeeded in turning Muslim opinion against its old client proxies – by and large corrupt, decadent monarchies and decaying nationalist parties. But rather than turning to liberal secular parties, as the neocons assumed they would, Muslims have everywhere lined up behind those parties that have most clearly been seen to stand up against aggressive US intervention in the region, namely the religious parties of political Islam.

Last week, the Islamic world showed us the sort of gesture that is needed at this time. In a letter addressed to Pope Benedict and other Christian leaders, 138 prominent Muslim scholars from every sect of Islam urged Christian leaders “to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions.” It will be interesting to see if any western leaders now reciprocate.

We have much to be proud of in the West; but it is in the arrogant and forceful assertion of the superiority of western values that we have consistently undermined not only all that is most precious in our civilisation, but also our own foreign policies and standing in the world. Another value, much admired in both East and West, might be a simple solution here: a little old-fashioned humility.

William Dalrymple’s new book, The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty, Delhi 1857, published by Bloomsbury, has just been awarded the Duff Cooper Prize for history

World War III Is Going To Be Hilarious - Your president giggled and grinned while discussing World War III today.

by Bob Cesca

"But this -- we got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel. So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding [grinning] World War III [end grinning], it seems like you [begin giggling] ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge [end giggling] necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

Hahahaha! Yeah! Zinger! That's funny shit. For the record, here's his expression while saying the words "World War Three":

To the rest of the known world, however, World War III a scary thing. It's just below abortion and above rape on the list of the all time unfunniest topics.

Let's break it down.

1. Iran doesn't have a nuclear weapon, and if they ever developed one, they'd be smart enough to know (despite how we caricaturize Ahmadinejad) that using it would invite their own destruction a thousand times over. Thus, there is no Iranian nuclear threat.

2. Yet the administration is drawing up plans to illegally and preemptively attack anyway, based on the lie that Iran is a nuclear threat.

3. Congress, despite the president's 24-percent approval rating, won't stop the White House because of, 1) The Fear, and 2) because Congress has allowed the president and vice president to seize unprecedented power which almost entirely circumvents Article I of the Constitution (among other things).

4. Meanwhile, if we do attack, it appears as if Pooty-Poot might bring Russia in on the Iranian side.

5. And there you go. Knee slapping boners all around. Milk just came out of my nose.

They're marketing Iran with more psychotic voracity than Michelle Malkin attacking an injured baby -- and no one can stop them.

As near as I can tell, there doesn't appear to be a governing body or citizen group who can stop them from carrying this out. Congress won't and, honestly, they can't. Last night's Frontline episode, "Cheney's Law," underscored what we've all been worried about: Congress has been rendered ineffectual against the current power madness of the executive.

For example, has Congress clamped down on the president's rampant use of torture? Sure. (Torture is number five on the unfunny syllabus.) The Republican controlled Congress did this, but the president rendered the law pointless with a signing statement.

Ah yes. Torture. Not to digress too far into this thing, but you know how the president can look us in the eye and say, "we don't torture," as he did in today's press conference? He can say this with impunity because the administration has authored its own definition of torture which is so narrow that anything else -- anything you and I would consider to be torture -- isn't.

If it don't cause organ failure, it ain't torture, Stretchy McStretch-o-rama-funny-pants. In a sense, the president isn't lying when he says "we don't torture." It depends on what your definition of torture is.

This excuse, of course, is the same excuse future enemies will use when they torture... us.

Republican cowards who demand security at the expense of liberty/honor/law have facilitated the Bush executive branch with extraordinary power. Now we're trapped in the shadow of the White House's unprecedented strength, and there doesn't appear to be any conceivable way to stop these people. If Cheney wrangles the military hardware to attack Iran, the air strikes will commence with lightning zealotry. Bet on it. Congress can try to stop him, but they don't have the power any more. According to the Bush administration, Article II is Article II and the Commander in Chief rules.

It's as simple as that. Just try telling him he's wrong on this. You could be the most conservative wingnut ever and you'd lose that debate -- not for a lack of rational arguments either.

Is it any wonder why we occasionally succumb to outrage fatigue: that deflated, windless sense of numbing futility we feel when confronted with the illogical and the absurd? We've only begun to dig into the upper strata of lawlessness this regime has perpetrated over the last seven years. And now, in this desperate dying twilight of their existence -- now that they're gravely unpopular and on their way out the door -- reckless and without anything to lose -- why shouldn't they do all the crazy shit they've talked about? Bomb Tehran? Yeah, that'll be awesome and hilarious. More war means more war powers. If you thought the administration's war powers were crazy huge, just imagine their World War powers. Score!

The president always says that history will vindicate him. 15 months from now, he'll be done. Pretending to be a cowboy down there -- raising melanomas in the harsh Crawford sunshine, laughing at the third hilarious war he started all by himself.

Once he's done, by his twisted reasoning, it's someone else's problem. By "someone else" he naturally means "everyone else."

Just like so many powerful men, he appears to be able to switch off his conscience (if one exists in the first place). It's the same switch that allows him to say "we don't torture," or to smirk and laugh while discussing Iraq casualties and World War III. "Everyone else" won't include him because he'll always be safe. He'll always have Crawford and the twins; his fake accent and his delusional view of history; his nicknames and his eh-eh-eh laugh.

The rest of us -- unless we can find a way to stop this Iran drumbeat -- won't be laughing so much.

Building God's (Christian) Army By Jane Lampman

At Speicher base in Iraq, U.S. Army Spec. Jeremy Hall got permission from a chaplain in August to post fliers announcing a meeting for atheists and other nonbelievers. When the group gathered, Specialist Hall alleges, his Army major supervisor disrupted the meeting and threatened to retaliate against him, including blocking his reenlistment in the Army.

Months earlier, Hall charges, he had been publicly berated by a staff sergeant for not agreeing to join in a Thanksgiving Day prayer.

On Sept. 17, the soldier and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) filed suit against Army Maj. Freddy Welborn and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, charging violations of Hall's constitutional rights, including being forced to submit to a religious test to qualify as a soldier.

The MRFF plans more lawsuits in coming weeks, says Michael "Mikey" Weinstein, who founded the military watchdog group in 2005. The aim is "to show there is a pattern and practice of constitutionally impermissible promotions of religious beliefs within the Department of Defense."

For Mr. Weinstein -- a former Air Force judge advocate and assistant counsel in the Reagan White House -- more is involved than isolated cases of discrimination. He charges that several incidents in recent years -- and more than 5,000 complaints his group has received from active-duty and retired military personnel -- point to a growing willingness inside the military to support a particular brand of Christianity and to permit improper evangelizing in the ranks. More than 95 percent of those complaints come from other Christians, he says.

Others agree on the need for the watchdog group, but question the conspiratorial view and some of its tactics. They say dealing with religious issues is a complex matter, and the military is trying to address them appropriately.

At the Defense Department, spokeswoman Cynthia Smith says the DOD doesn't comment on litigation, but "places a high value on the rights of members of the Armed Forces to observe the tenets of their respective religions."

Since the Revolutionary War, the armed services have tried to ensure that soldiers can practice their faiths, and that chaplains serve not only those of their own sect but all who may need pastoral care. The services have also sought to adhere to the First Amendment prohibition of any government "establishment of religion."

In the 1990s, for instance, the Air Force's Little Blue Book of core values highlighted religious tolerance, emphasizing that military professionals "must not take it upon themselves to change or coercively influence the religious views of subordinates."

Weinstein insists, however, that there are improper actions at high levels that not only infringe on soldiers' rights but, at a very dangerous time, also send the wrong message to people in the Middle East that those in the US military see themselves engaged in Christian warfare.

For example, he says, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, who gave speeches at churches while in uniform that disparaged Islam and defined the war on terror in fundamentalist, "end times" terms, was not fired but promoted. (Speaking of a Muslim warlord he had pursued, Lt. Gen. Boykin said, "I knew my God was a real God and his was an idol." And our enemies "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus.")

"There's an eschatologically obsessed version of Christianity that ... is trying to make American foreign and domestic policy conterminous with their biblical worldview," Weinstein charges. And "there's improper pressure within the military command structure to make members join them."

The most serious allegations from the field cannot be corroborated for this article. A few will be raised in the lawsuits, but some incidents have been documented.

Perhaps the most visible situation -- and the one that set Weinstein off on his mission -- involved the evangelizing of cadets on the part of some faculty and staff at the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Colorado Springs, Colo., which came to light in 2004. Congress held hearings, DOD conducted an investigation, and the head of the academy acknowledged significant problems. Weinstein's cadet son experienced the pressures as a Jew.

Col. David Antoon (ret.), another alumnus of the AFA and now a 747 commercial pilot, says his heart was broken when he took his son, Ryan, to an orientation at the academy in the spring of 2004. An overt evangelistic approach during part of the orientation so upset them, he says, that they decided his son would reject the treasured appointment and instead go to Ohio State University.

"My son had dreamed of doing what I had done, but it was no longer the institution I went to," Colonel Antoon says, his voice cracking with emotion.

The Air Force set about reaffirming basic principles in religion guidelines, as a basis for widespread training, but a pushback by Evangelicals later led to Congress setting them aside until hearings could be held. The hearings have not taken place.

In 2006, MRFF learned of a video produced by Christian Embassy, a group that conducts Bible studies at the Pentagon and seeks to evangelize within the armed services. Aimed at fundraising for the group, the video was improperly taped in the Pentagon and involved endorsements by Army and Air Force generals in uniform.

MRFF's public alert spurred a DOD investigation. In a report critical of the senior officers, the Inspector General said they gave the appearance of speaking for the military. One general defended his role by saying "Christian Embassy had become a quasi-federal entity."

The report noted that Maj. Gen. Paul Sutton participated while he served as chief of the US Office of Defense Cooperation in Turkey, a largely Muslim nation whose military takes pride in protecting the country's secular status. After a Turkish newspaper wrote about the video as promoting a "fundamentalist sect," General Sutton was called in and questioned by members of the Turkish General Staff.

"They had to give him a lesson in the separation of church and state," Weinstein says. "Imagine the propaganda bonanza! And how this upset Muslims."

The DOD report on the video recommended "appropriate corrective action" be taken against the officers. According to Army spokesman Paul Boyce, "The Army has not yet completed any planned actions associated with the Christian Embassy review."

MRFF claims a victory in the case of the evangelical group Operation Stand Up. Earlier this year, OSU was preparing to send "freedom packages" to soldiers in Iraq as part of an Army program. Along with socks and snacks, the packages included proselytizing materials in English and Arabic, and the apocalyptic video game, "Left Behind: Eternal Forces." In it, Christians carry on warfare against people of other faiths.

After the plans were made public, the Pentagon announced in August that the materials would not be mailed. OSU did not respond to a request for comment.

Weinstein -- an intense, voluble attorney who prizes blunt, no-holds-barred language -- has struck more than one nerve with his bird-dogging. He says numerous threats have been made on his life. Last week, the front window of his house was shot out for the second time. After the lawsuit was filed, talk of "fragging" (killing) Specialist Hall surfaced on some military blogs. The Army is investigating.

Others sympathetic to Weinstein's concerns say some tactics undermine his efforts, and they question aims.

"He's uncovered some very disturbing stuff that shouldn't be going on in the armed forces," says Marc Stern, a religious liberty expert at American Jewish Congress. "But it's important that you not go too far." Mr. Stern disagrees, for instance, with Weinstein's stance on the Air Force guidelines, such as preventing military supervisors from ever speaking of religion to people under their command.

"He did a disservice to his and our cause by taking a position beyond what the law requires, and in fact may intrude on people's rights," Stern adds.

Several conservative Christian ministries publicly proclaim an evangelistic aim "to transform the nations of the world through the militaries of the world," and they are active at US military installations in many countries. (See or

MRFF sees that as a harbinger of a volunteer military falling under the sway of increasing numbers of Christian soldiers. Others see a military leadership, with the exception of a few generals here or there, well aware of its constitutional responsibilities, but challenged by the demands of training on these issues in a military of millions. A group such as MRFF can provide a crucial service, they say, if it is willing to work with the military.

Right now, Weinstein is counting on a set of lawsuits to bring serious issues to the fore. The question is whether those suits will go beyond individual cases of discrimination to prove an unconstitutional pattern within the armed forces.

Jane Lampman is a staff writer at the Christian Science Monitor.

Bush's Pentagon Papers - The Urge to Confess - Do We Already Have Our Pentagon Papers?

By Tom Engelhardt

They can't help themselves. They want to confess.
How else to explain the torture memorandums that continue to flow out of the inner sancta of this administration, the most recent of which were evidently leaked to the New York Times. Those two, from the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department, were written in 2005 and recommitted the administration to the torture techniques it had been pushing for years. As the Times noted, the first of those memorandums, from February of that year, was "an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency." The second "secret opinion" was issued as Congress moved to outlaw "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" treatment (not that such acts weren't already against U.S. and international law). It brazenly "declared that none of the C.I.A. interrogation methods violated that standard"; and, the Times assured us, "the 2005 Justice Department opinions remain in effect, and their legal conclusions have been confirmed by several more recent memorandums."
All of these memorandums, in turn, were written years after John Yoo's infamous "torture memo" of August 2002 and a host of other grim documents on detention, torture, and interrogation had already been leaked to the public, along with graphic FBI emailed observations of torture and abuse at Guantanamo, those "screen savers" from Abu Ghraib, and so much other incriminating evidence. In other words, in early 2005 when that endorsement of "the harshest interrogation techniques" was being written, its authors could hardly have avoided knowing that it, too, would someday become part of the public record.
But, it seems, they couldn't help themselves. Torture, along with repetitious, pretzled "legal" justifications for doing so, were bones that administration officials -- from the President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense on down -- just couldn't resist gnawing on again and again. So, what we're dealing with is an obsession, a fantasy of empowerment, utterly irrational in its intensity, that's gripped this administration. None of the predictable we're shocked! we're shocked! editorial responses to the Times latest revelations begin to account for this.
Torture as the Royal Road to Commander-in-Chief Power

So let's back up a moment and consider the nature of the torture controversy in these last years. In a sense, the Bush administration has confronted a strange policy conundrum. Its compulsive urge to possess the power to detain without oversight and to wield torture as a tool of interrogation has led it, however unexpectedly, into what can only be called a confessional stance. The result has been what it feared most: the creation of an exhausting, if not exhaustive, public record of the criminal inner thinking of the most secretive administration in our history.

Let's recall that, in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the administration's top officials had an overpowering urge to "take the gloves off" (instructions sent from Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's office directly to the Afghan battlefield), to "unshackle" the CIA. They were in a rush to release a commander-in-chief "unitary executive," untrammeled by the restrictions they associated with the fall of President Richard Nixon and with the Watergate era. They wanted to abrogate the Geneva Conventions (parts of which Alberto Gonzales, then White House Council and companion-in-arms to the President, declared "quaint" and "obsolete" in 2002). They were eager to develop their own categories of imprisonment that freed them from all legal constraints, as well as their own secret, offshore prison system in which their power would be total. All of this went to the heart of their sense of entitlement, their belief that such powers were their political birthright. The last thing they wanted to do was have this all happen in secret and with full deniability. Thus, Guantanamo.

That prison complex was to be the public face of their right to do anything. Perched on an American base in Cuba just beyond the reach of The Law -- American-leased but not court-overseen soil -- the new prison was to be the proud symbol of their expansive power. It was also to be the public face of a new, secret regime of punishment that would quickly spread around the world -- into the torture chambers of despotic regimes in places like Egypt and Syria, onto American bases like the island fastness of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, onto U.S. Navy and other ships floating in who knew which waters, into the former prisons of the old Soviet Empire, and into a growing network of American detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, when those first shots of prisoners, in orange jumpsuits, manacled and blindfolded, entering Guantanamo were released, no one officially howled (though the grim, leaked shots of those prisoners being transported to Guantanamo were another matter). After all, they wanted the world to know just how powerful this administration was -- powerful enough to redefine the terms of detention, imprisonment, and interrogation to the point of committing acts that traditionally were abhorred and ruled illegal by humanity and by U.S. law (even if sometimes committed anyway).

Though certain administration officials undoubtedly believed that "harsh interrogation techniques" would produce reliable information, this can't account for the absolute fascination with torture that gripped them, as well as assorted pundits and talking heads (and then, through "24" and other TV shows and movies, Americans in general). In search of a world where they could do anything, they reached instinctively for torture as a symbol. After all, was there any more striking way to remove those "gloves" or "unshackle" a presidency? If you could stake a claim the right to torture, then you could stake a claim to do just about anything.

Think of it this way: If Freud believed that dreams were the royal road to the individual unconscious, then the top officials of the Bush administration believed torture to be the royal road to their ultimate dream of unconstrained power, what John Yoo in his "torture memo" referred to as "the Commander-in-Chief Power."

It was via Guantanamo that they meant to announce the arrival of this power on planet Earth. They were proud of it. And that prison complex was to function as their bragging rights. Their message was clear enough: In this world of ours, democracy would indeed run rampant and a vote of one would, in every case, be considered a majority.

The Crimes Are in the Definitions

This, then, was one form of confession -- a much desired one. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and their subordinates (with few exceptions) wished to affirm their position as directors of the planet's "sole superpower," intent as they were on creating a Pentagon-led Pax Americana abroad and a Rovian Pax Republicana at home. But there was another, seldom noted form of confession at work.

As if to fit their expansive sense of their own potential powers, it seems that these officials, and the corps of lawyers that accompanied them, had expansive, gnawing fears. Given this cast of characters, you can't talk about a collective "guilty conscience," but there was certainly an ongoing awareness that what they were doing contravened normal American and global standards of legality; that their acts, when it came to detention and torture, might be judged illegal; and that those who committed -- or ordered -- such acts might someday, somehow, actually be brought before a court of law to account for them. These fears, by the way, were usually pinned on low-level operatives and interrogators, who were indeed fearful of the obvious: that they had no legal leg to stand on when it came to kidnapping terror suspects, disappearing them, and subjecting them to a remarkably wide range of acts of torture and abuse, often in deadly combination over long periods of time.

Perhaps Bush's men (and women) feared that even a triumphantly successful commander-in-chief presidency might -- à la the Pinochet regime in Chile -- have its limits in time. Perhaps they simply sensed an essential contradiction that lay at the very heart of their position: The urge to take pride in their "accomplishments," to assert their powers, and to claim bragging rights for redefining what was legal could also be seen as the urge to confess (if matters took a wrong turn as, in the case of the Bush administration, they always have). And so, along with the pride, along with the kidnappings, the new-style imprisonment, the acts of torture (and, in some cases, murder), the pretzled documents began to pour out of the administration -- each a tortured extremity of bizarre legalisms (as with Yoo's August 2002 document, which essentially managed to reposition torture as something that existed mainly in the mind of, and could only be defined by, the torturer himself); each was but another example of legalisms following upon and directed by desire. (Yoo himself was reportedly known by Attorney General John Ashcroft as Dr. Yes, "for his seeming eagerness to give the White House whatever legal justifications it desired.") Each, in the end, might also be read as a confession of wrongdoing.

What made all this so strange was not just the "tortured" nature of the "torture memo" (just rejected by the new attorney general nominee as "worse than a sin, it was a mistake"), but the repetitious nature of these dismantling documents which, with the help of an army of leakers inside the government, have been making their way into public view for years. Or how about the strange situation of an American president, who has, in so many backhanded ways, admitted to being deeply involved in the issues of detainment and torture -- as, for instance, in a February 7, 2002 memorandum to his top officials in which he signed off on his power to "suspend [the] Geneva [Conventions] as between the United States and Afghanistan" (which he then declined to do "at this time") and his right to wipe out the Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War when it came to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. That document began with the following: "Our recent extensive discussions regarding the status of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees confirm…"

"Our recent extensive discussions…" You won't find that often in previous presidential documents about the abrogation of international and domestic law. It wasn't, of course, that the U.S. had never imprisoned anyone abroad and certainly not that the U.S. had never used torture abroad. Water-boarding, for instance, was first employed by U.S. soldiers in the Philippine Insurrection at the dawn of the previous century; torture was widely used and taught by CIA and other American operatives in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, and elsewhere. But American presidents didn't then see the bragging rights in such acts, any more than a previous American president would have sent his vice president to Capitol Hill to lobby openly for torture (however labeled). Past presidents held on to the considerable benefits of deniability (and perhaps the psychological benefits of not knowing too much themselves). They didn't regularly and repeatedly commit to paper their "extensive discussions" on distasteful and illegal subjects.

Nor did they get up in public, against all news, all reason (but based on the fantastic redefinitions of torture created to fulfill a presidential desire to use "harsh interrogation techniques") to deny repeatedly that their administrations ever tortured. Here is an exchange on the subject from Bush's most recent press conference:

"Q What's your definition of the word ‘torture'?


"Q The word ‘torture.' What's your definition?

"THE PRESIDENT: That's defined in U.S. law, and we don't torture.

"Q Can you give me your version of it, sir?

"THE PRESIDENT: Whatever the law says."

After a while, this, too, becomes a form of confession -– that, among other things, the President has never rejected John Yoo's definition of torture in that 2002 memorandum. Combine that with the admission of "extensive discussions" on detention matters and, minimally, you have a President, who has proven himself deeply engaged in such subjects. A President who makes such no-torture claims repeatedly cannot also claim to be in the dark on the subject. In other words, you're already moving from the Clintonesque parsing of definitions ("It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is'") into unfathomable realms of presidential definitional darkness.

On the Record

Of course, plumbing the psychology of a single individual while in office -- of a President or a Vice President -- is a nearly impossible task. Plumbing the psychology of an administration? Who can do it? And yet, sometimes officials may essentially do it for you. They may leave bureaucratic clues everywhere and then, as if seized by an impulsion, return again and again to what can only be termed the scene of the crime. Documents they just couldn't not write. Acts they just couldn't not take. Think of these as the Freudian slips of officials under pressure. Think of them as small, repeated confessions granted under the interrogation of reality and history, under the fearful pressure of the future, and granted in the best way possible: willingly, without opposition, and not under torture.

Sometimes, it's just a matter of refocusing to see the documents, the statements, the acts for what they are. Such is the case with the torture memos that continue to emerge. Never has an administration -- and hardly has a torturing regime anywhere -- had so many of its secret documents aired while it was still in the act. Seldom has a ruling group made such an open case for its own crimes.

We're talking, of course, about the most secretive administration in American history -- so secretive, in fact, that Congressional representatives considering classified portions of an intelligence bill, have to go to "a secret, secure room in the Capitol, turn in their Blackberrys and cellphones, and read the document without help from any staff members." Such briefings are given to Congressional representatives, but under ground rules in which "participants are prohibited from future discussions of the information -- even if it is subsequently revealed in the media…" So representatives who are briefed are also effectively prohibited from discussing what they have learned in Congress.

And yet, none of this mattered when it came to the administration establishing its own record of illegality -- and exhibiting its own outsized fears of future prosecution. Let's just take one labor intensive -- and exceedingly strange, if now largely forgotten -- example of these fears in action. In 2002, a new tribunal, the International Criminal Court (ICC), was established in the Hague to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. "[T]hen-Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton nullified the U.S. signature on the International Criminal Court treaty one month into President Bush's first term" and Congress subsequently passed the American Servicemembers' Protection Act which prohibited "certain types of military aid to countries that have signed on to the International Criminal Court but have not signed a separate accord with the United States, called an Article 98 agreement." The Bush administration, opposed to international "fora" of all sorts, then proceeded to go individually, repeatedly, and over years, to more than 100 countries, demanding that the representatives of each sign such an agreement "not to surrender American citizens to the international court without the consent of officials in Washington."

In other words, they put the sort of effort that might normally have gone into establishing an international agreement into threatening weak countries with the loss of U.S. aid in order to give themselves -- and of course those lower-level soldiers and operatives on whom so much is blamed -- a free pass for crimes yet to be committed (but which they obviously felt they would commit). We're talking here about small, impoverished lands like Cambodia, still attempting to bring its own war criminals of the Pol Pot era to justice.

In the process of twisting arms, the administration suspended over $47 million in military aid "to 35 countries that ha[d] not signed deals to grant American soldiers immunity from prosecution for war crimes." In this attempt to get every country on the planet aboard the American no-war-crimes-prosecution train before it left the station, you can sense once again the administration's obsessional intensity on this subject (especially since experts agreed that the realistic possibility of the ICC bringing Americans up on war crimes was essentially nil).

The Bush administration regularly reached for its dictionaries to redefine reality, even before it reached for its guns. It not only wrote its own rules and its own "law," but when problems nonetheless emerged from its secret world of detention and pain and wouldn't go away -- at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere -- it proceeded to investigate itself with the expectable results. For Bush's officials, this should have seemed like a perfect way to maintain a no-fault system that would never reach up any chain of command. Indeed, as Mark Danner has commented, such practices plunged us into an age of "frozen scandals" in which, as with the latest torture memos, the shocked-shocked effect repeats itself but nothing follows. As he has written: "One of the most painful principles of our age is that scandals are doomed to be revealed -- and to remain stinking there before us, unexcised, unpunished, unfinished."

How true. And yet, looked at another way, the administration -- with outsized help from outraged government officials who knew crimes when they saw them and were willing to take chances to reveal them -- has already created a remarkable record of its own criminal activity, which can now be purchased in any bookstore in the land.

Back in the early fall of 2004, when the first collection of such documents arrived in the bookstores, Mark Danner's Torture and Truth, America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror, it was already more than 600 pages long. In early 2005, when Karen J. Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law, and Josh Dratel, the civilian defense attorney for Guantanamo detainee David Hicks, released their monumental The Torture Papers, The Road to Abu Ghraib, another collection of secret memoranda, official investigations of Abu Ghraib, and the like, it was already an oversized book of more than 1,200 pages -- a doorstopper large enough to keep a massive prison gate open. And, of course, even it couldn't hold all the documents. A later Greenberg book, The Torture Debate in America, for instance, has military documents not included in the first volume.

Then, there were the two-years worth of FBI memos and emails about Guantanamo that the ACLU pried loose from the government and released on line, also in 2005. This material was damning indeed, including direct reports from FBI agents witnessing -- and protesting as well as pointing fingers at -- military interrogators at the prison, as in an August 2, 2004 report that said: "On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water…Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more." Or a Jan. 21, 2004 email in which an FBI agent complained that the technique of a military interrogator impersonating an FBI agent "and all of those used in these scenarios, was approved by the DepSecDef," a reference to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz.

Other paperback volumes have also been published that include selections from these and other documents like Crimes of War: Iraq by Richard Falk, Irene Gendzier, and Robert Jay Lifton and In the Name of Democracy: American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond by Jeremy Brecher, Jill Cutler, and Brendan Smith. If all of these documents, including the latest ones evidently in the hands of the New York Times, were collected, you would have a little library of volumes -- all functionally confessional -- for a future prosecutor. (And there are undoubtedly scads more documents where these came from, including perhaps a John Yoo "torture memo," rumored to exist, that preceded the August 2002 one.)

What an archive, then, is already available in our world. It's as if, to offer a Vietnam comparison, the contents of The Pentagon Papers had simply slipped out into the light of day, one by one, without a Daniel Ellsberg in sight, without anyone quite realizing it had happened.

The urge of any criminal regime -- to ditch, burn, or destroy incriminating documents, or erase emails -- has, in a sense, already been obviated. So much of the Bush/Cheney "record" is on the record. As Karen J. Greenberg wrote, back in December 2006, "What more could a prosecutor want than a trail of implicit confessions, consistent with one another, increasingly brazen over time, and leading right into the Oval Office?"

Looking back on these last years, it turns out that the President, Vice President, their aides, and the other top officials of this administration were always in the confessional booth. There's no exit now.

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's, is the co-founder of the American Empire Project. His book, The End of Victory Culture (University of Massachusetts Press), has just been thoroughly updated in a newly issued edition that deals with victory culture's crash-and-burn sequel in Iraq.

Copyright 2007 Tom Engelhardt

A message from Fidel to Bush

BUSH is obsessed with Cuba. Yesterday, the news was received that a White House spokesman announced the president would present new initiatives for the transition period now begun. Another spokesman from the State Department later confirmed the statement, reiterating Bush’s demanding and threatening tone.

As affirmed by Ricardo Alarcón, the president of our National Assembly, a comrade who is well-informed about Bush’s scheming and intentions, after that would come the firing squads of the Cuban-American mafia, with permission to kill everyone suspected of being a faithful member of the Party, the Youth or the mass organizations.

Mr. Bush: Your genocidal blockade, your support for terrorism, your murderous Cuban Adjustment Act, your wet-foot/dry-foot policy, your protection of the worst terrorists in this hemisphere, your unjust punishment of the five Cuban heroes who exposed the danger posed to U.S. citizens and those of other countries of dying in mid-flight, must all end.

Sovereignty is non-negotiable.

Likewise, the shameful torture being carried out in the occupied territory of Guantánamo must also end.

We were never intimidated by your threats of preemptive and surprise attacks on the 60 or more dark corners of the Earth. The outcome of that has now been seen in a single country: Iraq.

Do not attack others; do not threaten humanity with a nuclear war. The peoples will defend themselves, and all would perish in that inferno.

Thank you for your attention.

Fidel Castro Ruz

October 21, 2007

Time: 6:12 a.m.

Is a Presidential Coup Under Way? By Jim Hightower

Where is Congress? It's way past time for members to stand up. Historic matters are at stake. The Constitution is being trampled, the very form of our government is being perverted, and nothing less than American democracy itself is endangered -- a presidential coup is taking place. I think of Barbara Jordan, the late congresswoman from Houston. On July 25, 1974, this powerful thinker and member of the House Judiciary Committee took her turn to speak during the Nixon impeachment inquiry.

"My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total," she declared in her thundering voice. "And I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution."Where are the likes of Barbara Jordan in today's Congress? While the BushCheney regime continues to establish a supreme, arrogant, autocratic presidency in flagrant violation of the Constitution, members of Congress largely sit there as idle spectators -- or worse, as abettors of Bush's usurpation of their own congressional authority.

Why it matters

Separation of powers. Rule of law. Checks and balances. These may seem to us moderns to be little more than a set of dry, legal precepts that we had to memorize in high-school history class but need not concern us now. After all, the founders (bless their wigged heads!) established these principles for us back in 17-something-or-other, so we don't really have to worry about them in 2007. Think again. These are not merely arcane phrases of constitutional law, but the very keystones of our democracy, essential to sustaining our ideal of being a self-governing people, free of tyrants who would govern us on their own whim. The founders knew about tyranny. The monarch of the time, King George III, routinely denied colonists basic liberties, spied on them and entered their homes at will, seized their property, jailed anyone he wanted without charges, rounded up and killed dissidents, and generally ruled with an iron fist. He was both the law and above the law, operating on the twin doctrines of "the divine rule of kings" and "the king can do no wrong."

(Alert: Ready or not, the following is a high-school refresher course on American government. There will be a test.) At the front of the founders' minds was the necessity of breaking up the authority of their new government in order to avoid re-creating the autocracy they had just defeated. The genius of their structure was that legislating, administering, and judging were to be done by three separate but coequal branches, each with powers to check the other two, and none able to aggregate all three functions into its own hands (a result that James Madison called the very definition of tyranny). Just as important, to deter government by whim, all members of the three branches were to be subject to the laws of the land (starting with the Constitution and Bill of Rights), with no one above the law. As Thomas Paine said, "The law is king."

These were not legal niceties but core restraints designed to protect citizens from power grabs by ambitious autocrats. Such restrictions also make our country stronger by vetting policies through three entities rather than one. This balanced authority helps avoid many serious policy mistakes (or at least offers a chance to correct them later), and it is intended to prevent the one mistake that's fatal to democracy -- allowing one branch to seize the power to rule unilaterally.

Of course, sound schemes are oft screwed up by unsound leaders, and we've had some horrible hiccups over the years. John Adams went astray early in our democratic experiment by claiming the unilateral authority to imprison his political enemies; Abe Lincoln took it upon himself to suspend habeas corpus during the Civil War; Woodrow Wilson launched his notorious Palmer Raids; FDR rounded up and imprisoned Japanese-Americans; J. Edgar Hoover and the infamous COINTEL program spied on and arrested thousands in the Vietnam War years; and Ronnie Reagan ran his own illegal, secret war out of the White House basement.

In all these cases of executive excess and abuse, however, outrage flowed from the public, courts stood up to the White House, congressional investigations ensued, and the American system regained its balance relatively quickly. As Jefferson put it when he succeeded Adams and repealed the Alien and Sedition Acts, "Should we wander [from the essential principles of our government] in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."

This time is different

Now, however, come two arrogant autocrats like we've never seen in the White House. George W and his snarling enabler, Dick Cheney, are making a power grab so unprecedented, so audacious, so broad and deep, so secretive, so stupefying, and so un-American that it has not yet been comprehended by the media, Congress, or the public. The dictionary defines "coup" not just as an armed takeover in some Third World country, but as "a sudden and decisive action in politics, especially one affecting a change of government illegally or by force."

Constantly waving the bloody flag of 9/11 and swaggering around in commander-in-chief garb, the BushCheney duo are usurping authority from Congress, the courts, and the people, while also asserting arbitrary power that does not belong to the presidency. Their coup is changing our form of government, rewriting the genius of the founders by imposing a supreme executive that functions in secret and insists that it is above the law, unaccountable either to congressional oversight or to judicial review.

As Al Gore pointed out in a powerful speech he gave last year (read it here), the BushCheney push for imperial power is much more dangerous and far-reaching than other presidential excesses for a couple of big reasons. First, the Bushites make no pretension that they want these powers only temporarily, instead contending that a super-powerful presidency is necessary to cope with a terrorist threat that they say will last "for the rest of our lives." Second, they are not merely pushing executive supremacy as a response to an outside threat, but as an ideological, right-wing theory of what they allege the Constitution actually meant to say.

Called the "unitary executive theory," this perverse, antidemocratic construct begs us to believe that the president has inherent executive powers that cannot be reviewed, questioned, or altered by the other branches. Bush himself has asserted that his executive power "must be unilateral and unchecked." Must? Extremist theorists aside, this effectively establishes an executive with arbitrary power over us. It creates the anti-America.

The list of Bushite excesses is long...and growing:

  • Their sweeping, secret program of warrantless spying on Americans -- in direct violation of a long-standing federal law intended to forestall such flagrant intrusions into people's privacy.
  • The usurpation of legislative authority by attaching "signing statements" to laws passed by Congress, openly asserting Bush's intention to disobey or simply ignore the laws. He has used this artifice to challenge over 1,150laws, even though the Constitution and the founders never conceived of such a dodge (signing statements were concocted by Ed Meese, Reagan's attorney general, and were pushed at that time by a young Reaganite lawyer who is now ensconced for life on the Supreme Court, Sam Alito).
  • Suspension of habeas corpus for anyone whom Bush deems to be an "enemy combatant"-allowing innocent people to be detained indefinitely in prison without charges or civil trial, subjected to abuse and even torture, and denied access to judicial review of their incarceration (thus usurping the power of the courts). The routine and illegal assertion of "executive privilege" to stonewall Congress's legitimate efforts to perform its constitutional obligation of executive oversight and to prevent the questioning of top officials engaged in outright violations of American law.
  • The assertion of a "state secrets" doctrine to prevent citizens and judges from pursuing legitimate lawsuits on the spurious grounds that even to have the executive's actions brought before the court would endanger national security and infringe on executive authority.
  • An ever-expanding grab bag of autocratic actions, including using "national security letters" to sidestep the courts and spy on American political groups and individuals with no connection at all to terrorism; censoring executive-branch employees and government information for political purposes and using federal officials and tax dollars to push the regime's political agenda; and, of course, outright lying to Congress and the public, including lying for the most despicable purpose of all -- putting our troops, our public treasury, and our nation's good name into a war based on nothing but hubris, oil, and ideological fantasies (including Bush's latest blatant lie that "progress" in Iraq warrants the killing and maiming of additional thousands of American troops -- none of whom comes from his family).

Democratic capitulation

What we have is a lawless presidency. But our problem is not Bush. He is who he is -- a bonehead. He won't change, and why should he? He's getting away with his power grab! So he has no reason to step back, and every reason to keep pushing and to keep trying to institutionalize his coup.

Rather, our problem is those weaselly, wimpy, feckless members of Congress who have failed to confront the runaway executive, who have sat silent or (astonishingly) cheered and assisted as their own constitutional powers have been taken and their once-proud, coequal branch has been made subservient to the executive.

In the first six years of BushCheney, the Republican Congress operated as no more than a rubber stamp for the accretion of presidential power, shamelessly surrendering its own autonomy in a burst of mindless partisan zeal. Too many Democrats just went along, either buying the lies or being cowed by the unrelenting politics of fear and intimidation whipped up by Bush and Cheney. (The Bushites are still using these bullying tactics, as when they demanded this past summer that Congress legalize their illegal domestic spy program and CIA chief Mike McConnell warned publicly that "Americans are going to die" if Democrats failed to pass it.)

Which brings us to the new Congress run by Democrats. Where are they? Yes, I know they have only slim majorities and that the GOP uses veto threats, filibusters, and demagogic lies to fight them -- but, come on, suck it up! At least stop voting for "the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution." For example, the party now in charge did indeed cave in to Bush's summer demand that it legalize his warrantless spying on Americans (a Lowdowner sent an email to me saying he hopes Bush gets caught smoking pot, because then the Democrats will immediately legalize it).

The founders would be stunned that Congress has failed to assert itself. They saw checks and balances not as an option but as an obligation, a fundamental responsibility that goes to the very heart of each lawmaker's oath faithfully to support and defend the Constitution.

It's important to note that Congress is not a weak institution. It has powerful muscles to flex, including control of the purse, which Congress used in 1973 to tell Nixon, "No, we will not provide money for you to extend the Vietnam War into Laos and Cambodia." Nixon had to back off. Legislators also have clear constitutional mandates to oversee, probe, and expose presidential actions (remember the extensive Fulbright hearings in the '60s and the Church investigations of the '70s, for example). Members of Congress have wide-ranging subpoena power, as well as something called "inherent contempt" power to make their own charges against outlaw executive officials and to hold their own trials. And, of course, they have impeachment power -- which the founders saw not only as a way to remove an outlaw president (or veep or cabinet officer), but also as a means to compel a recidivist constitutional violator to come before the bar of Congress and to be held accountable. The process itself, even if it does not lead to conviction in the Senate, is educational and chastening, putting the executive branch back in its place.

None of this is about making a partisan attack on BushCheney. It's really not about them at all. Rather, Congress must find its backbone because our democracy cannot function without a vigilant legislative branch. Outlaw presidents must finally leave office, but their precedents live beyond them if left unchecked. As historian Arthur Schlesinger wrote of the power-grabbing Nixon administration, "If the Nixon White House escaped the legal consequences of its illegal behavior, why would future presidents not suppose themselves entitled to do [the same]?"

Bang pots and pans

Sam Adams, the organizer of the Boston Tea Party, knew that it is the citizenry itself that ultimately has to do the heavy lifting of democracy building. "If ever a time should come when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats of government," he declared, "our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin."

That's us. And now is that time.

What can we do? We can do what millions have been doing-only more of it, more insistently, more loudly, more creatively. Our friend Molly Ivins, just before she died this year, urged us to start "banging pots and pans" to make the bastards hear us. Raise a ruckus through street demonstrations, peace actions, visits (and/or confrontations) with lawmakers, political campaigns, alliances with military families, religious ceremonies, coalitions with constitutional conservatives, outreach to young people, and grassroots media action, including blogs, email blasts, call-in radio, letters to editors, op-eds, bumperstickers, and whatever you've got. Make a mighty noise.

Don't forget our friends in office. Such Democrats as John Conyers, Henry Waxman, Barbara Lee, Lynn Woolsey, Russ Feingold, Pat Leahy, and Dennis Kucinich are all over Bush and Cheney with investigations, subpoenas, censure motions, impeachment bills, and exposes -- not only on the war, but most emphatically on constitutional abuses. Thank them, find out what you can do to help them, demand that your own Congress critter join them.

And here's a creative idea from Garret Keizer. I have no idea who he is, but he wrote a punchy piece in the October issue of Harper's Magazine (read it here) that I like and that Lowdowners might want to embrace. He's calling for a general strike. Not by unions, but by us-you and me. As a symbolically appropriate day, he suggests the first Tuesday of November, the traditional date for our elections -- this year, Nov. 6. He dubs it "The Feast of the Hanging Chads."

A general strike means that We The People, as many of us as possible, would disobey the inept, corrupt, undemocratic (add your own adjective here) system by withholding our presence at for least one day. Don't go to work. Stay home. Better yet, take some political action. Also, don't go to the mall, the supermarket, or the bank; don't use your credit card or make any commercial transaction. This would be the ultimate affront to the corporate president who so pathetically told us after 9/11 that our highest patriotic response to the attack was to "go shopping." So don't fly, use your cell phone (hard, I know), watch TV, or otherwise participate. Sometimes, silence is the loudest sound of all. As Keizer says, "As long as we're willing to go on with our business, Bush and Cheney will feel free to go on with their coup."

On one level, the strike is against the war, against Bush thumbing his nose at the American majority that has already emphatically said -- OUT! -- and against the Democratic leadership that can't seem to muster the will to rein in the Bush administration. On another level, however, this is a strike for the Constitution, a strike against the betrayal of the rule of law and our democratic ideals. It's a strike for the America we thought this was. It's an affirmation that the people are the only "larger force" that can stop the BushCheney coup and make America whole again.

From "The Hightower Lowdown," edited by Jim Hightower and Phillip Frazer, October 2007. Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Thieves In High Places: They've Stolen Our Country and It's Time to Take It Back.

On the Eve of Destruction by Scott Ritter

Don’t worry, the White House is telling us. The world’s most powerful leader was simply making a rhetorical point. At a White House press conference last week, just in case you haven’t heard, President Bush informed the American people that he had told world leaders “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” World War III. That is certainly some rhetorical point, especially coming from the man singularly most capable of making such an event reality.

Pundits have raised their eyebrows and comics are busy writing jokes, but the president’s reference to Armageddon, no matter how cavalierly uttered and subsequently brushed away, suggests an alarming context. Some might note that the comment was simply an offhand response to a reporter’s question, the kind of free-thinking scenario that baffles Bush so. In a way, this makes what the president said even more disturbing, since we now have an insight into the vision, and related terminology, which hovers just below the horizon in the brain of George W. Bush.

When I was a weapons inspector with the United Nations, there was a jostling that took place at the end of each day, when decisions needed to be made and authorization documents needed to be signed. In an environment of competing agendas, each of us who championed a position sought to be the “last man in,” namely the person who got to imprint the executive chairman (our decision maker) with the final point of view for the day. Failure to do so could find an inspection or point of investigation sidetracked for days or weeks after the executive chairman became distracted by a competing vision. I understand the concept of “imprinting,” and have seen it in action. What is clear from the president’s remarks is that, far from an innocent rhetorical fumble, his words, and the context in which he employed them, are a clear indication of the imprinting which is taking place behind the scenes at the White House. If the president mentions World War III in the context of Iran’s nuclear program, one can be certain that this is the very sort of discussion that is taking place in the Oval Office.

A critical question, therefore, is who was the last person to “imprint” the president prior to his public allusion to World War III? During his press conference, Bush noted that he awaited the opportunity to confer with his defense secretary, Robert Gates, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following their recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. So clearly the president hadn’t been imprinted recently by either of the principle players in the formulation of defense and foreign policy. The suspects, then, are quickly whittled down to three: National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Vice President Dick Cheney, and God.

Hadley is a long-established neoconservative thinker who has for the most part operated “in the shadows” when it comes to the formulation of Iran policy in the Bush administration. In 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Hadley (then the deputy national security adviser) instituted what has been referred to as the “Hadley Rules,” a corollary of which is that no move will be made which alters the ideological positioning of Iran as a mortal enemy of the United States. These “rules” shut down every effort undertaken by Iran to seek a moderation of relations between it and the United States, and prohibited American policymakers from responding favorably to Iranian offers to assist with the fight against al-Qaida; they also blocked the grand offer of May 2003 in which Iran outlined a dramatic diplomatic initiative, including a normalization of relations with Israel. The Hadley Rules are at play today, in an even more nefarious manner, with the National Security Council becoming involved in the muzzling of former Bush administration officials who are speaking out on the issue of Iran. Hadley is blocking Flynt Leverett, formerly of the National Security Council, from publishing an Op-Ed piece critical of the Bush administration on the grounds that any insight into the machinations of policymaking (or lack thereof) somehow strengthens Iran’s hand. Leverett’s article would simply underscore the fact that the Bush administration has spurned every opportunity to improve relations with Iran while deliberately exaggerating the threat to U.S. interests posed by the Iranian theocracy.

The silencing of informed critics is in keeping with Hadley’s deliberate policy obfuscation. There is still no official policy in place within the administration concerning Iran. While a more sober-minded national security bureaucracy works to marginalize the hawkish posturing of the neocons, the administration has decided that the best policy is in fact no policy, which is a policy decision in its own right. Hadley has forgone the normal procedures of governance, in which decisions impacting the nation are written down, using official channels, and made subject to review and oversight by those legally and constitutionally mandated and obligated to do so. A policy of no policy results in secret policy, which means, according to Hadley himself, the Bush administration simply does whatever it wants to, regardless. In the case of Iran, this means pushing for regime change in Tehran at any cost, even if it means World War III.

But Hadley is simply a facilitator, bureaucratic “grease” to ease policy formulated elsewhere down the gullet of a national security infrastructure increasingly kept in the dark about the true intent of the Bush administration when it comes to Iran. With the Department of State and the Pentagon now considered unfriendly ground by the remaining hard-core neoconservative thinkers still in power, policy formulation is more and more concentrated in the person of Vice President Cheney and the constitutionally nebulous “Office of the Vice President.”

Cheney and his cohorts have constructed a never-never land of oversight deniability, claiming immunity from both executive and legislative checks and balances. With an unchallenged ability to classify anything and everything as secret, and then claim that there is no authority inherent in government to oversee that which has been thus classified, the Office of the Vice President has transformed itself into a free republic’s worst nightmare, assuming Caesar-like dictatorial authority over almost every aspect of American national security policy at home and abroad. From torture to illegal wiretapping, to arms control (or lack of it) to Iran, Dick Cheney is the undisputed center of policy power in America today. While there are some who will claim that in this time of post-9/11 crisis such a process of bureaucratic streamlining is essential for the common good, the reality is far different.

It is said that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this has never been truer than in the case of Cheney. What Cheney is doing behind his shield of secrecy can be simply defined: planning and implementing a preemptive war of aggression. During the Nuremberg tribunal in the aftermath of World War II, the chief American prosecutor, Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, stated, “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Today, we have a vice president who articulates publicly about global conflict, and who speaks in not-so-veiled language about a looming Armageddon. If there is such a future for America and the world, let one thing be certain; World War III, as postulated by Dick Cheney, would be an elective war, and not a conflict of tragic necessity. This makes the crime even greater.

Sadly, Judge Jackson’s words are but an empty shell. The global community lacks a legally binding definition of what constitutes a war of aggression, or even an act of aggression. But that isn’t the point. America should never find itself in a position where it is being judged by the global community regarding the legality of its actions. Judge Jackson established a precedent of jurisprudence concerning aggression based upon American principles and values, something the international community endorsed. The fact that current American indifference to the rule of law prevents the international community from certifying a definition of criminality when it comes to aggression, whether it be parsed as “war” or simply an “act,” does not change the fact that the Bush administration, in the person of Dick Cheney, is actively engaged in the committing of the “supreme [war] crime,” which makes Cheney the supreme war criminal. If the world is not empowered to judge him as such, then let the mantle of judgment fall to the American people. Through their elected representatives in Congress, they should not only bring this reign of unrestrained abuse of power to an end, but ensure that such abuse never again is attempted by an American official by holding to account, to the full extent of the law, those who have trampled on the Constitution of the United States and the ideals and principles it enshrines.

But what use is the rule of law, even if fairly and properly implemented, if in the end he who is entrusted with executive power takes his instructions from an even higher authority? President Bush’s relationship with “God” (or that which he refers to as God) is a matter of public record. The president himself has stated that “God speaks through me” (he acknowledged this before a group of Amish in Pennsylvania in the summer of 2004). Exactly how God speaks through him, and what precisely God says, is not a matter of speculation. According to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, President Bush told him and others that “God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.” As such, at least in the president’s mind, God has ordered Bush to transform himself into a modern incarnation of St. Michael, smiting all that is evil before him. “We are in a conflict between good and evil. And America will call evil by its name,” the president told West Point cadets in a speech in 2002.

The matter of how and when an individual chooses to practice his faith, or lack thereof, is a deeply personal matter, one which should be kept from public discourse. For a president to so openly impose his personal religious beliefs, as Bush has done, on American policy formulation and implementation represents a fundamental departure from not only constitutional intent concerning the separation of church and state but also constitutional mandate concerning the imposition of checks and balances required by the American system of governance. The increasing embrace by this president of the notion of a unitary executive takes on an even more sinister aspect when one realizes that not only does the Bush administration seek to nullify the will of the people through the shackling of the people’s representatives in Congress, but that the president has forgone even the appearance of constitutional constraint by evoking the word of his personal deity, as expressed through his person, as the highest form of consultation on a matter as serious as war. As such, the president has made his faith, and how he practices it, a subject not only of public curiosity but of national survival.

That George W. Bush is a born-again Christian is not a national secret. Neither is the fact that his brand of Christianity, evangelicalism, embraces the notion of the “end of days,” the coming of the Apocalypse as foretold (so they say) in the Book of Revelations and elsewhere in the Bible. President Bush’s frequent reference to “the evil one” suggests that he not only believes in the Antichrist but actively proselytizes on the Antichrist’s physical presence on Earth at this time. If one takes in the writing and speeches of those in the evangelical community today concerning the “rapture,” the numerous references to the current situation in the Middle East, especially on the events unfolding around Iran and its nuclear program, make it very clear that, at least in the minds of these evangelicals, there is a clear link between the “end of days” prophesy and U.S.-Iran policy. That James Dobson, one of the most powerful and influential evangelical voices in America today, would be invited to the White House with like-minded clergy to discuss President Bush’s Iran policy is absurd unless one makes the link between Bush’s personal faith, the extreme religious beliefs of Dobson and the potential of Armageddon-like conflict (World War III). At this point, the absurd becomes unthinkable, except it is all too real.

Thomas Jefferson, one of our nation’s greatest founders, made the separation of church and state an underlying principle upon which the United States was built. This separation was all-inclusive, meaning that not only should government stay out of religion, but likewise religion should be excluded from government. “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself,” Jefferson wrote in a letter to Francis Hopkinson in 1789. “Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.” If only President Bush would abide by such wisdom, avoiding the addictive narcotic of religious fervor when carrying out the people’s business. Instead, he chooses as his drug one which threatens to destroy us all in a conflagration derived not from celestial intervention but individual ignorance and arrogance. Again Jefferson, in a letter written in 1825: “It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.”

Nightmares, more aptly, unless something can be done to change the direction Bush and Dobson are taking us. The problem is that far too many Americans openly espouse not only the faith of George W. Bush but also the underlying philosophy which permits this faith to be intertwined with the governance of the land. “God bless America” has become a rallying cry for this crowd, and those too ignorant and/or afraid to speak out in opposition. If this statement has merit, what does it say for the 6.8 billion others in the world today who are not Americans? That God condemns them? The American embrace of divine destiny is not unique in history (one only has to recall that the belt buckles of the German army during World War II read “God is with us”). But for a nation born of the age of reason to collectively fall victim to the most base of fear-induced theology is a clear indication that America currently fails to live up to its founding principles. Rather than turning to Dobson and his ilk for guidance in these troubled times, Americans would be well served to reflect on President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, delivered in the middle of a horrific civil war which makes all of the conflict America finds itself in today pale in comparison:

“Both [North and South] read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. … The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. … [T]hat He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?”

God is not on our side, or the side of any single nation or people. To believe such is the ultimate expression of national hubris. To invoke such, if one is a true believer, is to embrace sacrilege and heresy. This, of course, is an individual right, granted as an extension of religious freedom. But it is not a collective right, nor is it a right born of governance, especially in a land protected by the separation of church and state.

The issue of Iran is a national problem which requires a collective debate, discussion and dialogue inclusive of all the facts, and stripped of all ideology and theocracy which would seek to deny reasoned thought conducted within a framework of accepted laws and ideals. It is grossly irresponsible of an American president to invoke the imagery of World War III without first sharing with the American people the framework of thought that produced such a comparison. Such openness will not be forthcoming from this administration or president. Not in the form of Stephen Hadley’s policy of no policy, designed with intent to avoid and subvert both bureaucratic and legislative process and oversight, or Dick Cheney’s secret government within a government, operating above and beyond the law and in a manner which violates both legal and moral norms and values, and certainly not in the president’s own private conversations with “God,” either directly or through the medium of lunatic evangelicals who embrace the termination of all we stand for, and especially the future of our next generation, in a fiery holocaust born from the fraudulent writings of centuries past. The processes which compelled George W. Bush to speak of a World War III are intentionally not transparent to the American people. The president has much to explain, and it would be incumbent upon every venue of civic and public pressure to demand that such an explanation be forthcoming in the near future. The stakes regarding Iran have always been high, but never more so than when a nation’s leader invokes the end of days as a solution.

Scott Ritter was a Marine Corps intelligence officer from 1984 to 1991 and a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He is the author of numerous books, including “Iraq Confidential” (Nation Books, 2005) , “Target Iran” (Nation Books, 2006) and his latest, “Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement” (Nation Books, April 2007).


Suicide Is Not Painless


IT was one of those stories lost in the newspaper’s inside pages. Last week a man you’ve never heard of — Charles D. Riechers, 47, the second-highest-ranking procurement officer in the United States Air Force — killed himself by running his car’s engine in his suburban Virginia garage.

Mr. Riechers’s suicide occurred just two weeks after his appearance in a front-page exposé in The Washington Post. The Post reported that the Air Force had asked a defense contractor, Commonwealth Research Institute, to give him a job with no known duties while he waited for official clearance for his new Pentagon assignment. Mr. Riechers, a decorated Air Force officer earlier in his career, told The Post: “I really didn’t do anything for C.R.I. I got a paycheck from them.” The question, of course, was whether the contractor might expect favors in return once he arrived at the Pentagon last January.

Set against the epic corruption that has defined the war in Iraq, Mr. Riechers’s tragic tale is but a passing anecdote, his infraction at most a misdemeanor. The $26,788 he received for two months in a non-job doesn’t rise even to a rounding error in the Iraq-Afghanistan money pit. So far some $6 billion worth of contracts are being investigated for waste and fraud, however slowly, by the Pentagon and the Justice Department. That doesn’t include the unaccounted-for piles of cash, some $9 billion in Iraqi funds, that vanished during L. Paul Bremer’s short but disastrous reign in the Green Zone. Yet Mr. Riechers, not the first suicide connected to the war’s corruption scandals, is a window into the culture of the whole debacle.

Through his story you can see how America has routinely betrayed the very values of democratic governance that it hoped to export to Iraq. Look deeper and you can see how the wholesale corruption of government contracting sabotaged the crucial mission that might have enabled us to secure the country: the rebuilding of the Iraqi infrastructure, from electricity to hospitals. You can also see just why the heretofore press-shy Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater USA, staged a rapid-fire media blitz a week ago, sitting down with Charlie Rose, Lara Logan, Lisa Myers and Wolf Blitzer.

Mr. Prince wasn’t trying to save his employees from legal culpability in the deaths of 17 innocent Iraqis mowed down on Sept. 16 in Baghdad. He knows that the legal loopholes granted contractors by Mr. Bremer back in 2004 amount to a get-out-of-jail-free card. He knows that Americans will forget about another 17 Iraqi casualties as soon as Blackwater gets some wrist-slapping punishment.

Instead, Mr. Prince is moving on, salivating over the next payday. As he told The Wall Street Journal last week, Blackwater no longer cares much about its security business; it is expanding into a “full spectrum” defense contractor offering a “one-stop shop” for everything from remotely piloted blimps to armored trucks. The point of his P.R. offensive was to smooth his quest for more billions of Pentagon loot.

Which brings us back to Mr. Riechers. As it happens, he was only about three degrees of separation from Blackwater. His Pentagon job, managing a $30 billion Air Force procurement budget, had been previously held by an officer named Darleen Druyun, who in 2004 was sentenced to nine months in prison for securing jobs for herself, her daughter and her son-in-law at Boeing while favoring the company with billions of dollars of contracts. Ms. Druyun’s Pentagon post remained vacant until Mr. Riechers was appointed. He was brought in to clean up the corruption.

Yet the full story of the corruption during Ms. Druyun’s tenure is even now still unknown. The Bush-appointed Pentagon inspector general delivered a report to Congress full of holes in 2005. Specifically, black holes: dozens of the report’s passages were redacted, as were the names of many White House officials in the report’s e-mail evidence on the Boeing machinations.

The inspector general also assured Congress that neither Donald Rumsfeld nor Paul Wolfowitz knew anything about the crimes. Senators on the Armed Services Committee were incredulous. John Warner, the Virginia Republican, could not believe that the Pentagon’s top two officials had no information about “the most significant defense procurement mismanagement in contemporary history.”

But the inspector general who vouched for their ignorance, Joseph Schmitz, was already heading for the exit when he delivered his redacted report. His new job would be as the chief operating officer of the Prince Group, Blackwater’s parent company.

Much has been made of Erik Prince and his family’s six-digit contributions to Republican candidates and lifelong connections to religious-right power brokers like James Dobson and Gary Bauer. Mr. Prince maintains that these contacts had nothing to do with Blackwater’s growth from tiny start-up to billion-dollar federal contractor in the Bush years. But far more revealing, though far less noticed, is the pedigree of the Washington players on his payroll.

Blackwater’s lobbyist and sometime spokesman, for instance, is Paul Behrends, who first represented the company as a partner in the now-defunct Alexander Strategy Group. That firm, founded by a former Tom DeLay chief of staff, proved ground zero in the Jack Abramoff scandals. Alexander may be no more, but since then, in addition to Blackwater, Mr. Behrends’s clients have includeda company called the First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Company, the builder of the new American embassy in Iraq.

That Vatican-sized complex is the largest American embassy in the world. Now running some $144 million over its $592 million budget and months behind schedule, the project is notorious for its deficient, unsafe construction, some of which has come under criminal investigation. First Kuwaiti has also been accused of engaging in human trafficking to supply the labor force. But the current Bush-appointed State Department inspector general — guess what — has found no evidence of any wrongdoing.

Both that inspector general, Howard Krongard, and First Kuwaiti are now in the cross hairs of Henry Waxman’s House oversight committee. Some of Mr. Krongard’s deputies have accused him of repeatedly halting or impeding investigations in a variety of fraud cases.

Representative Waxman is also trying to overcome State Department stonewalling to investigate corruption in the Iraqi government. In perverse mimicry of his American patrons, Nuri al-Maliki’s office has repeatedly tried to limit the scope of inquiries conducted by Iraq’s own Commission on Public Integrity. The judge in charge of that commission, Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, has now sought asylum in America. Thirty-one of his staff members and a dozen of their relatives have been assassinated, sometimes after being tortured.

The Waxman investigations notwithstanding, the culture of corruption, Iraq war division, remains firmly entrenched. Though some American bribe-takers have been caught — including Gloria Davis, an Army major who committed suicide in Kuwait after admitting her crimes last year — we are asked to believe they are isolated incidents. The higher reaches of the chain of command have been spared, much as they were at Abu Ghraib.

Even a turnover in administrations doesn’t guarantee reform. J. Cofer Black, the longtime C.I.A. hand who is now Blackwater’s vice chairman, has signed on as a Mitt Romney adviser. Hillary Clinton’s Karl Rove, Mark Penn, doubles as the chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, the P.R. giant whose subsidiary helped prepare Mr. Prince for his Congressional testimony. Mr. Penn said the Blackwater association was “temporary.”

War profiteering happens even in “good” wars. Arthur Miller made his name in 1947 with “All My Sons,” which ends with the suicide of a corrupt World War II contractor whose defective airplane parts cost 21 pilots their lives. But in the case of Iraq, this corruption has been at the center of the entire mission, from war-waging to nation-building. As the investigative reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele observed in the October Vanity Fair, America has to date “spent twice as much in inflation-adjusted dollars to rebuild Iraq as it did to rebuild Japan — an industrialized country three times Iraq’s size, two of whose cities had been incinerated by atomic bombs.” (And still Iraq lacks reliable electric power.)

The cost cannot be measured only in lost opportunities, lives and money. There will be a long hangover of shame. Its essence was summed up by Col. Ted Westhusing, an Army scholar of military ethics who was an innocent witness to corruption, not a participant, when he died at age 44 of a gunshot wound to the head while working for Gen. David Petraeus training Iraqi security forces in Baghdad in 2005. He was at the time the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq.

Colonel Westhusing’s death was ruled a suicide, though some believe he was murdered by contractors fearing a whistle-blower, according to T. Christian Miller, the Los Angeles Times reporter who documents the case in his book “Blood Money.” Either way, the angry four-page letter the officer left behind for General Petraeus and his other commander, Gen. Joseph Fil, is as much an epitaph for America’s engagement in Iraq as a suicide note.

“I cannot support a msn that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars,” Colonel Westhusing wrote, abbreviating the word mission. “I am sullied.”

Christian-Jewish Fascism Awareness Week

by Margaret Kimberley / October 24th, 2007

Right wing propagandist David Horowitz has declared October 22nd through October 26th Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week. Horowitz is one of the biggest beneficiaries of right wing welfare, mostly from the hands of ultra-conservative foundations run by the Scaife and Bradley families. He has received more than $15 million in handouts to promote a white supremacist, pro-war agenda.

The current Horowitz obsession is focused on Islam and on keeping Americans whipped into a frenzy of fear and hatred against all Muslims. The very term Islamo-Fascism is a cynical creation of neoconservatives, designed to insure blind adherence to the Bush war on terror scheme.

The biggest perpetrators of terrorist acts are and always have been governments, not individuals of any religion. When the United States refers to “state sponsored” terror, it must be looking in the mirror. War is the very worst act of terror that can be practiced, giving governments permission to kill and commit brutal atrocities that would be loudly condemned if committed by individuals.

If the world’s major religions are compared in terms of body count, it is clear that Islam should not be seen as the enemy. The two nations now in the fifth year of a plan to commit wars of aggression in the Middle East are Israel and the United States. If there should be warnings about particular religions and allegations of fascist connections, the perpetrators are Christianity and Judaism, not Islam.

It is manifestly unfair to label entire groups based on the behavior of a few. The Israeli lobby actively promotes war, but it can’t be said that all American Jews are themselves pro-war. Around the world Bush is seen as the bogeyman representative of American Christianity. Many Christians may resent the verdict of guilt by association, but they would do well to remember that Muslims are also entitled to make their own pleas of individual innocence.

Instead Muslims are called upon to denounce any act of brutality committed by another Muslim, and to defend their religion from slanderous attacks. What is good for the Muslim goose, should also be good for the Christian and Jewish ganders. Therefore, October 22nd to October 26th in the year 2007 should also be known as Christian-Jewish Fascism Awareness Week.

The lawyers who wrote memos defending torture are all Jews and Christians, so are the members of Congress who advocate for endless warfare. All of the neocons who spent years plotting the occupation of Iraq and now the destruction of Iran are Christians or Jews. None are Muslim, nor are they atheist, agnostic, Baha’i, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Hindu, or practitioners of Voodoo. All attend churches and synagogues and in fact brag about their religious piety.

Norman Podhoretz, father of neocondom, said of the prospect of bombing Iran, “I hope and pray we will…” Crackpot preacher Rev. John Hagee founded Christians United for Israel, whose sole reason for existing is to guarantee the killing of thousands of Iranians. Hagee wants war and wants Bush to start it whenever he feels like it. “We do not have a declaration of war for Iraq, and neither does the president need one to expand it into Iran.” Giving political leaders permission to kill as they please is Fascism 101.

Horowitz and his gang have carried out a very sinister plan. They fit the description of fascists to a T. They believe in endless wars of aggression, the destruction of the last vestiges of civil liberties, and subservience to a corporate power. Yet they have succeeded in wielding the epithet of fascism because of Democratic party treason to Bush, a corporate media that deliberately withholds information from the public, and the apathy and confusion that dominate American life.

Americans do need to be aware of a fascist threat, a threat that comes straight from the White House, Wall Street, and the halls of Congress. It can only be fought if its presence is acknowledged and if citizens know that they still have the power to stop it.

Politicians will be of no help in this struggle. Looking to them for salvation is useless when they are in fact the source of the problem. The Democratic congressional victory is nearly one year old and has yielded nothing but one victory after another for the Bush regime.

In a little more than a year, November 4, 2008, a new president will be elected. Another Fascism Awareness Week should be declared at that time. It should be declared to remind us that the fight to maintain democracy will not end with George W. Bush. That is the awareness we really need now.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached at: Margaret.Kimberley@BlackAgendaReport.Com. Read other articles by Margaret, or visit Margaret's website.