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But the sine quo non for successful subversion of our Constitutional process is this: cowardly members of Congress so afraid of being painted pastel on terrorism that they abdicate their oversight responsibility. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney may have "misunderestimated" some things, but not Congress. They held it in scorn and contempt, and the Congress' behavior gave them every reason to believe they were right.
The Bush White House gave very high priority to "terrorification" of Congress and it paid off handsomely. The most senior congressional leaders caved, winking even at torture, kidnapping, warrantless eavesdropping, etc., etc., etc.
And on the subject of contracting, Congress' oversight role was, in a real sense, "contracted out" -- to eight invertebrate leaders from the House and Senate. Their see-no-evil acquiescence in whatever Bush and Cheney painted as a weapon in the so-called "war on terror" was driven solely by the lawmakers' felt need to appear tough on terrorism.
"After 9/11 everything changed," is certainly an overused aphorism. But it does apply to what happened to the spirit and soul of our country after President Bush was given the pulpit at the National Cathedral. Vengeance is ours, said the President. And the vast majority of Christian leaders were cowed into razoring out of their Bibles "Blessed are the Peacemakers."
Clergy and Congress clapped, and so did the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM). Don't you remember?
The situation bears striking resemblance to that described by German writer Sebastian Haffner, who was in Berlin in 1933 after the Reichstag fire (Germany's 9/11):
"What was missing is what in animals is called 'breeding.' This is a solid inner kernel that cannot be shaken by external pressures, something noble and steely, a reserve of pride, principle, and dignity to be drawn on in the hour of trial. It is missing in Germans.
"As a nation they are without backbone. That was shown in March 1933. At the moment of truth, when other nations rise spontaneously to the occasion, the Germans collectively and limply collapsed, yielded to a nervous breakdown, and became a nightmare to the rest of the world." ("Defying Hitler," p. 135)
Congress' Stormy Applause"
And our Congress? During the President's infamous State-of-the-Union address on Jan. 28, 2003 (yes, the one with the uranium-from-Africa-to-Iraq and other make-believe), Bush got the most unbridled applause when, after bragging about the 3,000 "suspected terrorists" whom he said had been arrested, he added:
"And many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: They are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies."
The lawmakers' reaction and the cheering that followed in the FCM reminded me of the short italicized note that Pravda regularly tacked onto the bottom of paragraphs recording similarly fulsome leadership speeches: Burniye aplodismenty; vce stoyat! -- Stormy applause; all rise! Even so, Soviet leaders generally avoided (as not quite presidential) seeking applause for thinly veiled allusions to extrajudicial killing.