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America on its Knees Before Tyranny

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"The Star-Spangled Banner" painted the United States in 1814 as "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave." These words, though still mumbled by apathetic consumers at sporting events, amount to a cruel satire of the American people in 2007. The 4th sentence of the Declaration of Independence reads "...That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends (ie, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness) it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government..." It would be hard to find a more apt description of the US government in 2007, or a more appropriate remedy for this oppressive regime, increasingly loathed and feared by the citizenry. We have a Constitution which defines a separation of powers. It also defines procedures for impeaching officials who violate its bedrock principles -- in particular, its Bill of Rights, its separation of powers, and its foundational notion that power derives from the consent of the governed. We make elected officials swear an oath to "protect and defend" this Constitution. Why bother with all this, if, when the day of tyranny finally arrives, the Constitution's own provisions are not used to defend the document's principles against the would-be tyrants who have so egregiously violated them? In November, US voters told Washington that the public does not support the war; sees with increasing clarity that it is immoral and was launched on false pretexts; and wants it terminated. In response, Vice-Emperor Cheney snarled in a TV interview with an obsequious Bush toady that regardless of what the public or Congress might say about it, the White House intends not only to continue the war, but to escalate it. Let's examine this extraordinary position. Here is a top official of a "democracy" -- in a war marketed as an effort to "spread democracy" -- stating publicly & with imperial scorn that he and his co-conspirators have the right to order the US war machine to bombard and occupy any nation they wish to target, even if their war is launched under demonstrably false pretexts. They claim the right to compel the public to furnish lives and bodies to be killed and maimed in the war, and to bear the moral and financial burdens of the war, in an action which not incidentally lets administration allies in the "defense" and oil industries profit handsomely from the ensuing mayhem. Needless to say, from Cheney's viewpoint, it's also of no moment that the war violates the Nuremberg Principles and UN Charter forbidding aggressive war, and that the conduct of the war violates international accords to which the US is a signatory. If that position does not constitute tyranny and abuse of power, what would? The "long train of abuses and usurpations" cited against King George in the Declaration of Independence was no worse an abuse of power than this. And nothing Britain ever did to its American colonies came anywhere near the monstrous outrages perpetrated by the US on modern-day Iraq. The war in Iraq is not merely "the most serious foreign policy blunder in American history," as even members of the political establishment have conceded. It represents, rather, a crisis derived from the decaying framework of the US political system, posing the most fundamental question about the relationship between the rulers and ruled in this country. Though the Bush regime led the way, the war is the joint product of both parties and the corporate media -- that is, of the entire political establishment -- with each part playing its own supporting role. It's not a question of "Well, if only Gore had won in 2000, we wouldn't be in this mess." The mess springs from the very structure of US society -- the unequal distribution of power among its social classes, its economic and political relations with the rest of the world, its ruling ideology. As errors go, there's an immense qualitative difference between a system malfunctioning because its framework is rotting, & the more limited type of error due to a component glitch within an otherwise healthy framework. The war in Iraq is the first type of malfunction: systemic. The official forms of discourse in US society have degenerated to the point that they no longer permit acknowledgement -- or even mention -- of the main issues confronting us. The problems run too deep. The issues which must be discussed, because they're so important, cannot be discussed, because they're too threatening to the powers controlling the system. The crises facing our society are like those an individual must confront, when events force upon him a choice of either internally acknowledging a dark & terrible truth about himself, or continuing in denial. The truth seems too terrible to bear -- so the denial continues, & the pressure of the crisis intensifies. What would a genuine discussion of the issues look like? If we were to attempt a genuine discussion of the Bush regime, one might formulate the main issues as these:
  • Is the regime legitimate? After all, it took office by what millions recognize was a stolen election enabled by a corrupt Supreme Court and the president's brother's political machine in Florida.
  • Is the regime guilty of massive war crimes? After all, they invaded a country that posed no threat to the US, killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, and have permanently destroyed Iraqi society in their rush to plunder its oil. (This, while not permitting the slightest acknowledgement that oil has anything to do with it.)
  • Is the regime guilty of high crimes against the Constitution? They have eavesdropped on millions of citizens. They torture detainees, many of whom are probably guilty of little more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They have repealed such basic democratic rights as habeas corpus, smeared political opponents, pandered to rightwing theocrats, stacked the judiciary & federal agencies with political cronies, and quietly sneaked into legislation passages making easier the declaration of martial law.
  • Is the regime a de facto dictatorship? After all, not only do they insist that the president can label anyone an "enemy combatant" and then disappear them; not only do they openly assert their belief in the "unitary executive;" they have also created an artificial state of permanent war, then claimed that a "nation at war" must grant its executive unlimited powers. They have openly claimed the right to wage war on anyone, even on false pretexts, using our bodies & tax dollars to feed a war machine owned by their cronies -- and added with sneering condescension that we have no say in any of this. Anyone who objects is a traitor! All this, in the name of "protecting Americans, freedom and democracy!" The mainstream media are unwilling to even recognize the existence of such questions. Their comfort zones and expertise are better suited to "reporting" on the astronaut/love-triangle/diaper story, or the intriguing battles raging over Anna Nicole's corpse. There's a story in today's news that Iraq's cabinet has approved a draft of a new "oil law," which would largely turn control of Iraq's oil over to Western oil companies. But we know by now that Anna Nicole's corpse will get far more press in the days ahead, and that no media "analyst" will perceive any noteworthy connection between the new oil law and the Iraq War, originally launched because of imaginary WMD's. (That little boo-boo is regularly ascribed by the media to "flawed intelligence," an interesting phrase deserving further examination, if, against rising odds, we survive the next several months without a world-altering conflagration.) What does it mean to "Support the Troops?" In the giddy prosperity following WWII, it became commonplace in American culture to sneer contemptuously about the German soldiers who defended their wartime actions by claiming they were "just following orders." Underlying these sneers was the principle set forth at Nuremberg -- that a soldier has a moral responsibility to refuse to obey orders which their conscience tells them violate a higher ethical code. In today's United States, however, courageous and principled soldiers like Lt. Ehren Watada, who try to do exactly what Americans sneered at German soldiers for not doing, are jailed, court-martialed, and summarily dismissed by the press as "insubordinate." "Supporting the Troops" should mean supporting soldiers like Watada, and removing the troops from situations where they must kill or be killed in an unjust war. It should mean prosecuting the venal figures in Washington who have sent the troops on this criminal mission, and lied to the world about the reasons for it. Yet these same venal politicians, who won't even adequately fund medical facilities for maimed soldiers, shamelessly use the phrase "supporting the troops" as an argument for forcing them to continue fighting a war for oil and defense company profits. The Treacherous Role of the Democrats The Democrats gained control of Congress only by virtue of the fact that they are not Republicans, under conditions where the electorate instructed them to oppose Bush's deranged warmongering. Though "victorious," they immediately surrendered to the Republicans, taking "off the table" the only two measures which could possibly stop the US war drive: impeachment and cutting off funding for the war. They then wasted two months fussing ineffectually with non-binding resolutions of feeble disapproval (of the "surge," not the war itself), bleating pitifully to their Republican colleagues for "bipartisanship." Almost comically, the toothless Senate resolution didn't even make it to the floor for a vote. It should be clear from this performance that the Democrats, like the media, are terminally corrupt, and are in effect collaborating with the Bush regime against the voters who put them in office. We have before us the spectacle of the Bush administration committing crimes which, if attempted by any foreign power, would rightly be met by torrential denunciation from Congress and the US media. But when the Bush administration commits these crimes, the media is basically supportive, while the Democrats make cynical pretenses of opposition. The Democrats' "criticism" usually amounts to complaining that Bush's crimes were clumsily executed or not entirely successful; and that had they been at the helm they could have pulled off the capers with more finesse. Corruption is present to some degree in all governments, but the critical test of whether a government is beyond all salvation is whether it has the capacity to acknowledge great crimes committed by the leadership, and to rectify them. In today's Washington, however, the Democrats function as a buffer between the Bush regime and the increasingly angry population. On the one hand, the Democrats posture dishonestly as administration "critics"; on the other hand, they ensure that no serious effort is made to rein the criminals in -- not to mention bringing them to justice. Rectifying the corruption should include restoration of the staggering wealth that in effect has been stolen from the American people, when Bush and Cheney ladled it out to their friends at Enron, Bechtel, Halliburton, the oil companies, and the other defense industries. The $400 million CEO severance packages, the billions in non-bid government contracts to defense companies and mercenaries, Cheney's own Halliburton stock options -- all this and more should be confiscated, and returned to the rightful possessors of that wealth. It should be clear that the Democrats would scarcely be able to comprehend what is being spoken of, here, let alone act as honorable advocates of its implementation. Today's America is no democracy -- it's a degenerating tyranny, disfigured by its military-industrial-governmental cancer. Our people are increasingly ashamed and terrified of their government, and rightly so, because we have no control over it, and it's become a deceitful monstrous danger to us and to the health of the planet. We're not "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave." To the contrary: We, the people, are on our knees, cringing and whimpering in dismay and confusion, prostrate before the forces that have betrayed us.

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    Richard Mynick is a US citizen who, despite the best efforts of the corporate media, noticed something disturbing about how the 2000 election was decided, & felt it augured poorly for democracy.
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