A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D.
The unfolding of events over the past 7 years and the recent emergence of certain key facts point to the prospect of an ominous conclusion: before the summer is up, America will be brought under martial law with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney at the helm.
In May 2007, Bush posted a national continuity policy to the White House Web site that bypasses Congress and puts him in charge of all three branches of the federal government if there is a "catastrophic emergency" -- vaguely defined to include anything from a destructive hurricane to a terrorist attack. This leaves democracy in America dangling on a thin thread of chance that such a "catastrophe" doesn't happen.
On Wednesday, Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said he has a "gut" feeling that Al Qaeda will launch another terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland sometime this summer. Chertoff's "gut feeling" comes on the heels of the latest National Intelligence Estimate, which maintains that in the past year, Al Qaeda has reconstituted its core structure and has grown stronger along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border.
This neoconservative organization also prescribed forced regime change in Iraq and buildup of a permanent U.S. military presence there. The primary goal for invading Iraq was not to quell tensions or stop the threat of terrorism posed by the Hussein regime but instead to advance U.S. interests in the region through military force. The 2000 report stated, "while the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." Regime change was therefore pretense for the invasion.
Clearly, the invasion of Iraq was never conceived as a means of stopping Saddam Hussein from instigating terrorism. This was made plain in the official British documents known as the Downing Street memos, which said that Bush was attempting to make the facts "fit" the policy in order to justify invading Iraq -- since Hussein's WMD capability was in fact "less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." The redeployment of U.S. troops and special forces to Iraq was done in spite of the fact that the hub of Al Qaeda was in Pakistan and Afghanistan. So the Bush administration permitted Al Qaeda to regroup and strengthen in Pakistan and Afghanistan to pursue its ideology of global dominance in Iraq.
Add to these facts that the Bush administration has displayed consistent disregard for the rule of law by canceling habeas corpus, disregarding the Geneva Conventions in the torture of prisoners of war, using signing statements to override congressional lawmaking authority, eavesdropping on Americans without court warrants, summarily refusing to comply with Congressional subpoenas, firing federal prosecutors for political reasons, outing a covert CIA agent, threatening to jail journalists for disclosing leaked government documents, censoring mainstream media and infusing it with government propaganda ("prepackaged news" staged by PR firms working for the government), placing "gatekeepers" in all federal agencies who report directly to the White House, eliminating legal protections for government whistle blowers, arresting peaceful protestors, manipulating the terror alert system to instill fear in Americans, and stacking the Supreme Court.
In a press conference on Thursday regarding the war in Iraq, Bush indicated that he will not be discouraged by what the American people believe. He said that, while he preferred to be loved, he had to do the right thing.
Do what is right by whose standards? Not those of the generals; and certainly not those of the majority of Americans. While the mainstream media brought out its analysts to comment on Bush's press conference, none drew the obvious conclusion. In a democracy, it is the will of the people, not that of a single man, that is paramount. But, according to Bush, respecting the will of the American people would be nice if it happened to accord with his own will, but not in the least essential to shaping U.S. policy, even if that policy happened to affect the lives and limbs (and tax dollars) of the American people. This is dictatorship (or "decidership") at its core, not democracy.
All of these facts, among others, point to the willingness of this administration to stop at little or nothing to advance its ideology. It has proven its resolve to lie to the American people, violate their civil liberties, and discount their will. It has shown little respect for the rule of law or the U.S. Constitution.
So, this summer (or sometime before the 2008 presidential elections), will America officially become a totalitarian state brought under martial law by a ruthless dictator? If Chertoff's gut is right, just add the current national continuity policy and the conclusion follows.
Like a game of chess drawing to a close, there is a chilling aura that the final checkmate is imminent. In the least, democracy in America is in grave danger and at best dependent on chance.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D. is a media ethicist and critic. His most recent book is The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and Power-Hungry Government are turning America into a Dictatorship. He is also first prize winner of the 2007 Project Censored Award.