Who's Going to Stop Bush?

jacdon at earthlink.net jacdon at earthlink.net
Wed Jul 31 23:52:36 MDT 2002

The following article appears in the August 1, 2002, edition of the
Mid-Hudson Activist Newsletter, published in New Paltz, NY, by the
Mid-Hudson National People's Campaign/IAC.

By Jack A. Smith

Since Sept. 11, the U.S. left has been warning that the Bush
administration was exploiting the tragedy to pursue a right-wing agenda
at home, including restraints on civil liberties, and a policy of war
and empire-building abroad.

Now, as the nation prepares for next month's commemoration of the first
anniversary of the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, the
full implications of Washington's war on terrorism are emerging.

As the pieces begin to complete the puzzle, it appears the left may have
underestimated the extent to which the Bush administration would be able
to gravitate to the far right.  It may likewise have misjudged how far
to the center and center-right the Democratic Party was drifting during
its dozen or so years as captive to the Democratic Leadership Council.
This has rendered the Democrats virtually neutralized in the face of
George Bush's  most dangerously reactionary domestic, foreign and
military maneuvers.

What follows is an analysis of Bush administration initiatives, first in
domestic affairs, then in foreign and military matters.  In combination,
these proposals and programs constitute a serious challenge to democracy
in America and to peace in the world.

Domestically, the Bush administration is using the war on terrorism as a
pretext to construct a national security state with considerably
increased police and military powers accompanying sharp abrogations in
democratic liberties.   President Bush's principal means of obtaining
public support -- which remains  relatively high -- has been to greatly
exaggerate the threat of terrorism, applying a veneer of red, white and
blue hyperpatriotism to all his programs, and to lie about his motives
and goals.  Unwilling to appear one whit less patriotic and God-fearing
than the Commander-in-Chief, the opposition party has been supportive of
several ultra-conservative administration initiatives, such as the USA
Patriot Act, though it has been sharply critical recently on the economy
and corporate scandals in hopes of gaining congressional seats in
November.  Here are a few of the Bush administration's less savory
stated goals or programs:

(1) For nearly 125 years, the U.S. has safeguarded the supremacy of
civilian rule with the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the armed
forces from a role in domestic civilian law enforcement and in other
areas of civil life.  In recent months, however, the White House has
been orchestrating a review of this tradition in the name of insuring
"wartime" domestic security against "the terrorist enemy." Lawyers in
the Justice and Defense Departments have been instructed to analyze the
pros and cons of the 1878 law in view of today's security
requirements.   On July 17, the New York Times reported that Air Force
Gen. Ralph Eberhart, designated chief of the newly formed Northern
Command, "said he would favor changes in existing law to give greater
domestic powers to the military to protect the country against terrorist
strikes."  The general, who was obviously under White House instructions
to make this statement, was directly quoted as saying, "We should always
be reviewing things like Posse Comitatus and other laws if we think it
ties our hands in protecting the American people."  Of course, the
formation of the Northern Command itself is an aspect of the
militarization of American society.

(2)   The Justice Department recently decided to remove certain
restraints imposed on the FBI in the mid-'70s by Congress in an effort
to halt decades of unbridled spying on left and progressive
organizations and individuals during the agency's COINTELPRO period.
Likewise, Congress just permitted the termination of  similar restraints
against the CIA, imposed as recently as 1995.  For example, CIA station
chiefs were no longer allowed to hire murders, crooks and others of
similar disrepute as informants and agents unless they received
case-by-case approval from headquarters.  This "guideline" was
officially rescinded July 18.

(3)   The House on July 26 approved -- and the Senate is expected to do
so with some changes in September -- the creation of the Department of
Homeland Security, which transfers seven different agencies into one
super department.  Included are the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Border
Patrol, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Secret Service,
Transportation Security Administration and the border inspection
division of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.  The
well-funded Homeland Security Dept., in combination with powers already
(or soon to be) granted to the Justice Department, the Northern Command,
the possibility of a weakened Posse Comitatus Act, and enhanced security
and police authority at the state and local level, portends the
establishment of a domestic policing apparatus unparalleled in American
history.  In this connection, the House bill exempts private
corporations involved with the Homeland Security office from Freedom of
Information laws, protecting them -- and their storehouse of industrial
knowledge and information about the nation's infrastructure -- from
public scrutiny.  This latter may face a challenge from the
Democrat-controlled Senate, as undoubtedly will provisions allowing the
new department to virtually ignore union and civil service protections
(see article, Unions Ambushed, below).

(4) The USA Patriot Act, passed by a hysterical and cowed Congress in
October, curbs political dissent under the guise of protecting the
country from domestic terrorism; greatly broadens the government's
ability to conduct secret searches without judicial review, subjects
immigrants to draconian treatment including indefinite detention,
military tribunals, disclosure of attorney-client confidences and the
like; and creates a national DNA database.

(5)  The Justice Department is about to launch a pilot project in 10
cities called the Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS),
which is part of the USA Freedom Corps and Citizens Corps that President
Bush called for in his State of the Union address.  The program is
designed to deputize a million or more strategically placed workers as
voluntary spies on their fellow citizens.  Especially sought are truck
drivers, employees of utility companies, postal workers and others
similarly situated to observe and report "suspicious" activities as they
make their rounds.  The White House sought to insert the TIPS system
into the Homeland Security Department, but House Republicans -- under
pressure from the libertarian and small-government sector of the right
wing -- eliminated it.  The Senate may do the same.  In any event, the
Justice Department intends to proceed with the program, which is due to
start in late summer or early fall.  (The government website for the two
corps and TIPS is www.citizencorps.gov/)

(6)  Already on the books, but not yet implemented, are scores of
Executive Orders -- not subject to congressional oversight -- signed by
various Presidents over the years.  All they await is a national
emergency of sufficient magnitude for a sitting President to invoke
them.  Such orders include the right for the government to seize and
control the communications media; the right to mobilize civilians into
work brigades under government supervision; the authorization for the
Postmaster General to operate a national registration of all persons;
and the right of FEMA "to develop plans to establish control over the
mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages,
salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institutions"
in a national emergency. A national emergency does in fact exist --
President Bush declared it so by proclamation Sept. 14 -- although the
various executive powers have not been invoked.

(7)  Space considerations preclude more than a brief mention of such
additional threats to traditional civil liberties as the following:  The
CIA is poised to play an unprecedented role in domestic surveillance and
investigations; issuance of a national identity card of one type or
another remains a future possibility (this was included in the Homeland
Security bill but eliminated, mainly by the Republican House leaders);
the Bush administration evidently has established a "secret government"
in the aftermath of Sept. 11, about which the public knows little;  mass
roundups of immigrants after the terror attacks may be a prelude to
eventual roundups of citizens in times of national emergency.

In foreign and military matters,  the world's only superpower, under the
direction of the Republican government with the support of its
Democratic "opposition," obviously seeks to extend U.S. hegemony
throughout the world and appears to conceive of itself as the center of
an American empire answerable only unto itself.  Here is a portion of
the Bush administration's international record in the last several
months, almost entirely with the acquiescence of the Democrats. None of
these actions has been the subject of national political debate or a
discourse between the government and the governed:

(1) The Pentagon has been ordered to prepare for the command to launch a
preemptive war against Iraq, although that country is innocent of
complicity in the Sept. 11 events and absolutely no evidence has been
presented to substantiate White House allegations that the regime of
President Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction and is
prepared to use them to attack the United States.

(2)  Several additional countries have been targeted for possible future
attack -- especially North Korea and Cuba, which have been accused
without a hint of evidence of likewise possessing weapons of mass
destruction intended to cripple the United States.

(3) The U.S. not only militarily ousted the government of Afghanistan,
but selected the new "democratically elected" government as well;
meanwhile, Washington is using the war in Afghanistan to secure
permanent military bases throughout Central Asia -- an obvious threat to
China -- and in preparation for a move to gain control over massive oil
deposits in the southern sector of the former USSR.

(4) In Israel and Palestine, President Bush has openly joined with Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon in the suppression of Palestinian aspirations for
independence and self-determination.

(5)  The Bush administration has arrogated to itself the right to launch
first-strike nuclear weapons against any country it pleases (after
unilaterally demolishing the ABM treaty).

(6)  In Latin America and the Caribbean,  the Pentagon has increased its
involvement in the Colombian civil war, while the White House supported
the recent foiled anti-democratic coup in Venezuela,  is attempting to
secure the victory for the right-wing candidate in Bolivia's  election
in early August, and has stipulated it will veto legislation easing the
travel ban and/or sanctions against Cuba.

(7)  Diplomatically, the U.S. government has decided that it is powerful
enough to disregard the will of the United Nations and the desires of a
great majority of countries as it turns its back on the new
International Criminal Court and dozens of treaties and proposals to
prevent an ecological catastrophe,  create a more secure and democratic
world order, and relieve growing poverty in the former colonized world.

All of these dangerous right-wing domestic, foreign, and military
initiatives are predicated on the supposition that the United States is
involved in a war.  In fact, the U.S. is not at war in any rational
sense of the word.   Three symbolic buildings (military and financial)
in two major cities were destroyed or damaged by a handful of fanatics
belonging to a relatively small terror network, causing some 3,000
tragic deaths.  There were any number of ways to respond to the outrage
of Sept. 11 that would have been more successful in undermining the
terrorists than the measures Washington has taken, not the least being
to critically examine the underlying roots of the widespread antagonism
throughout the world to the policies of the U.S. government of the last
50 years.  Reasonable security measures  and reliance on international
policing to close down the network were in order -- but the war against
Afghanistan was a travesty that produced little, if anything, in terms
of crushing Al Qaeda.

As for the administration's war plans against Iraq and other countries,
they will do nothing to dispatch terrorism and everything to extend
Washington's political, economic and military empire.   The repressive
apparatus  being put into place at enormous expense throughout the
nation will do far more to subvert the liberties of the American people
and the good things about U.S. society than it will protect the masses
of people from a few terrorists.

The Bush administration has traveled farther to the right these last 20
months than its most severe critics predicted.  A large part of the
reason was Sept. 11, which resurrected a swiftly decaying presidency
with a vengeance.  Another part was the failure of the Democrats to
function as an opposition party (this at least exposes the two-party
system as the one party with two somewhat different faces that it always
was, but it is little consolation at this stage).  Another part, of
course, was the weakness of the international left, which virtually
imploded with the USSR and the global socialist movement over a decade
ago, and without the existence of which the U.S. now feels free to bully
the world.

Considering that the majority of the American people, due to a lifetime
of governmental, societal and media manipulation, are in thrall to the
notion that the U.S. is engaged in a major patriotic war worthy of a
$400 billion defense budget and a $60 billion homeland defense effort,
arbitrary wars and the suspension of some civil liberties, what is to be
done to reverse the rightward trend?

There's no easy solution, of course. There are some remaining liberal
Democrats and Greens that progressives will vote for in Congressional
elections,  and visiting the voting booth in November may be useful in
such cases. But no one thinks supporting a few liberal or Green
candidates can impede Bush's endless wars strategy or his quick-march to
the right.

The working people of the United States have the power to stop the wars
and halt the rightward trend. But they have to become aware of what's
really going on despite a maze of propaganda from official sources, and
get organized into opposition.  That's where the left and progressive
movements can make a strong contribution, if they are willing to reject
sectarianism, abjure red-baiting, and  unite in action for a common
objective despite differences in outlook.

Progressive and left forces are small and extremely distant from the
levers of power, but that's often been the case -- and yet there have
been times when the broad left has made important advances. The movement
against the Vietnam war, which also began under difficult circumstances,
is a classic example.  While not large, our forces are experienced,
fairly savvy, and dedicated.  Our real strength, in these circumstances,
is through intense activism with a strong, radical and uncompromising
demand for peace, social justice, civil liberties and equality, reaching
masses of people through rallies, marches and public meetings, in
letters to the editor and discussions with family, friends and fellow
workers, in strengthening the left's media, in volunteering time and
money for good causes, and joining organizations that are willing to
speak truth to power with deeds as well as words.

If the left and progressive movements do not work together on a mission
of accelerated activism to beat back the Bush attack, who will?

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