Archive for the ‘Constitution’ Category

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, 12 Books in Search of a Policy By Tom Engelhardt

October 23, 2007

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, 12 Books in Search of a Policy By Tom Engelhardt

By Tom Engelhardt
October 22, 2007

They came in as unreformed Cold Warriors, only lacking a cold war — and looking for an enemy: a Russia to roll back even further; rogue states like Saddam’s rickety dictatorship to smash. They were still in the old fight, eager to make sure that the “Evil Empire,” already long down for the count, would remain prostrate forever; eager to ensure that any new evil empire like, say, China’s would never be able to stand tall enough to be a challenge. They saw opportunities to move into areas previously beyond the reach of American imperial power like the former SSRs of the Soviet Union in Central Asia, which just happened to be sitting on potentially fabulous undeveloped energy fields; or farther into the even more fabulously energy-rich Middle East, where Saddam’s Iraq, planted atop the planet’s third largest reserves of petroleum, seemed so ready for a fall — with other states in the region visibly not far behind.

It looked like it would be a coming-out party for one — the debutante ball of the season. It would be, in fact, like the Cold War without the Soviet Union. What a blast! And they could still put their energies into their fabulously expensive, ever-misfiring anti-missile system, a subject they regularly focused on from January 2000 until September 10, 2001.

They were Cold Warriors in search of an enemy — just not the one they got. When the Clintonistas, on their way out of the White House, warned them about al Qaeda, they paid next to no attention. Non-state actors were for wusses. When the CIA carefully presented the President with a one-page, knock-your-socks-off warning on August 6, 2001 that had the screaming headline, “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.,” they ignored it. Bush and his top officials were, as it happened, strangely adrift until September 11, 2001; then, they were panicked and terrified — until they realized that their moment had come to hijack the plane of state; so they clambered aboard, and like the Cold Warriors they were, went after Saddam.

Chalmers Johnson was himself once a Cold Warrior. Unlike the top officials of the Bush administration, however, he retained a remarkably flexible mind. He also had a striking ability to see the world as it actually was — and a prescient vision of what was to come. He wrote the near-prophetic and now-classic book, Blowback, published well before the attacks of 9/11, and then followed it up with an anatomy of the U.S. military’s empire of bases, The Sorrows of Empire, and finally, to end his Blowback Trilogy, a vivid recipe for American catastrophe, Nemesis: The Fall of the American Republic. All three are simply indispensable volumes in any reasonable post-9/11 library. Here is his latest consideration of that disastrous moment and its consequences as part of a series of book reviews he is periodically writing for Tomdispatch. Tom

A Guide for the Perplexed

Intellectual Fallacies of the War on Terror

By Chalmers Johnson

[This essay is a review of The Matador’s Cape, America’s Reckless Response to Terror by Stephen Holmes (Cambridge University Press, 367 pp., $30).]

There are many books entitled “A Guide for the Perplexed,” including Moses Maimonides’ 12th century treatise on Jewish law and E. F. Schumacher’s 1977 book on how to think about science. Book titles cannot be copyrighted. A Guide for the Perplexed might therefore be a better title for Stephen Holmes’ new book than the one he chose, The Matador’s Cape: America’s Reckless Response to Terror. In his perhaps overly clever conception, the matador is the terrorist leadership of al Qaeda, taunting a maddened United States into an ultimately fatal reaction. But do not let the title stop you from reading the book. Holmes has written a powerful and philosophically erudite survey of what we think we understand about the 9/11 attacks — and how and why the United States has magnified many times over the initial damage caused by the terrorists.

Stephen Holmes is a law professor at New York University. In The Matador’s Cape, he sets out to forge an understanding — in an intellectual and historical sense, not as a matter of journalism or of partisan politics — of the Iraq war, which he calls “one of the worst (and least comprehensible) blunders in the history of American foreign policy” (p. 230). His modus operandi is to survey in depth approximately a dozen influential books on post-Cold War international politics to see what light they shed on America’s missteps. I will touch briefly on the books he chooses for dissection, highlighting his essential thoughts on each of them.

Holmes’ choice of books is interesting. Many of the authors he focuses on are American conservatives or neoconservatives, which is reasonable since they are the ones who caused the debacle. He avoids progressive or left wing writers, and none of his choices are from Metropolitan Books’ American Empire Project. (Disclosure: This review was written before I read Holmes’ review of my own book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic in the October 29 issue of The Nation.)

He concludes: “Despite a slew of carefully researched and insightful books on the subject, the reason why the United States responded to the al Qaeda attack by invading Iraq remains to some extent an enigma” (p. 3). Nonetheless, his critiques of the books he has chosen are so well done and fair that they constitute one of the best introductions to the subject. They also have the advantage in several cases of making it unnecessary to read the original.

Holmes interrogates his subjects cleverly. His main questions and the key books he dissects for each of them are:

* Did Islamic religious extremism cause 9/11? Here he supplies his own independent analysis and conclusion (to which I turn below).

* Why did American military preeminence breed delusions of omnipotence, as exemplified in Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (Knopf, 2003)? While not persuaded by Kagan’s portrayal of the United States as “Mars” and Europe as “Venus,” Holmes takes Kagan’s book as illustrative of neoconservative thought on the use of force in international politics: “Far from guaranteeing an unbiased and clear-eyed view of the terrorist threat, as Kagan contends, American military superiority has irredeemably skewed the country’s view of the enemy on the horizon, drawing the United States, with appalling consequences, into a gratuitous, cruel, and unwinnable conflict in the Middle East” (p. 72).

* How was the war lost, as analyzed in Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor (Pantheon, 2006)? Holmes regards this book by Gordon, the military correspondent of the New York Times, and Trainor, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, as the best treatment of the military aspects of the disaster, down to and including U.S. envoy L. Paul Bremer’s disbanding of the Iraqi military. I would argue that Fiasco (Penguin 2006) by the Washington Post’s Thomas Ricks is more comprehensive, clearer-eyed, and more critical.

• How did a tiny group of individuals, with eccentric theories and reflexes, recklessly compound the country’s post-9/11 security nightmare? Here Holmes considers James Mann’s Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (Viking, 2004). One of Mann’s more original insights is that the neocons in the Bush administration were so bewitched by Cold War thinking that they were simply incapable of grasping the new realities of the post-Cold War world. “In Iraq, alas, the lack of a major military rival excited some aging hard-liners into toppling a regime that they did not have the slightest clue how to replace…. We have only begun to witness the long-term consequences of their ghastly misuse of unaccountable power” (p. 106).

* What roles did Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld play in the Bush administration, as captured in Michael Mann’s Incoherent Empire (Verso, 2003)? According to Holmes, Mann’s work “repays close study, even by readers who will not find its perspective altogether congenial or convincing.” He argues that perhaps Mann’s most important contribution, even if somewhat mechanically put, is to stress the element of bureaucratic politics in Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s manipulation of the neophyte Bush: “The outcome of inter- and intra-agency battles in Washington, D.C., allotted disproportionate influence to the fatally blurred understanding of the terrorist threat shared by a few highly placed and shrewd bureaucratic infighters. Rumsfeld and Cheney controlled the military; and when they were given the opportunity to rank the country’s priorities in the war on terror, they assigned paramount importance to those specific threats that could be countered effectively only by the government agency over which they happened to preside” (p. 107).

* Why did the U.S. decide to search for a new enemy after the Cold War, as argued by an old cold warrior, Samuel Huntington, in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Simon and Schuster, 1996)? It is not clear why Holmes included Huntington’s eleven-year-old treatise on “Allah made them do it” in his collection of books on post-Cold War international politics except as an act of obeisance to establishmentarian — and especially Council-on-Foreign-Relations — thinking. Holmes regards Huntington’s work as a “false template” and calls it misleading. Well before 9/11, many critics of Huntington’s concept of “civilization” had pointed out that there is insufficient homogeneity in Christianity, Islam, or the other great religions for any of them to replace the position vacated by the Soviet Union. As Holmes remarks, Huntington “finds homogeneity because he is looking for homogeneity” (p. 136).

* What role did left-wing ideology play in legitimating the war on terror, as seen by Samantha Power in “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (Basic, 2002). As Holmes acknowledges, “The humanitarian interventionists rose to a superficial prominence in the 1990s largely because of a vacuum in U.S. foreign-policy thinking after the end of the Cold War…. Their influence was small, however, and after 9/11, that influence vanished altogether.” He nonetheless takes up the anti-genocide activists because he suspects that, by making a rhetorically powerful case for casting aside existing decision-making rules and protocols, they may have emboldened the Bush administration to follow suit and fight the “evil” of terrorism outside the Constitution and the law. The idea that Power was an influence on Cheney and Rumsfeld may seem a stretch — they were, after all, doing what they had always wanted to do — but Holmes’ argument that “a savvy prowar party may successfully employ humanitarian talk both to gull the wider public and to silence potential critics on the liberal side” (p. 157) is worth considering.

* How did pro-war liberals help stifle national debate on the wisdom of the Iraq war, as illustrated by Paul Berman in Power and the Idealists (Soft Skull Press, 2005)? Wildly overstating his influence, Holmes writes, Berman, a regular columnist for The New Republic, “first tried to convince us that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, far from being a tribal war over scarce land and water, is part of the wider spiritual war between liberalism and apocalyptic irrationalism, not worth distinguishing too sharply from the conflict between America and al Qaeda. He then attempted to show that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden represented two ‘branches’ of an essentially homogeneous extremism” (p. 181). Berman, Holmes points out, conflated anti-terrorism with anti-fascism in order to provide a foundation for the neologism “Islamo-fascism.” His chief reason for including Berman is that Holmes wants to address the views of religious fundamentalists in their support of the war on terrorism.

* How did democratization at the point of an assault rifle become America’s mission in the world, as seen by the apostate neoconservative Francis Fukuyama in America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy (Yale University Press, 2006)? Holmes is interested in Fukuyama, the neoconservatives’ perennial sophomore, because he offers an insider’s insights into the chimerical neocon “democratization” project for the Middle East.

Fukuyama argues that democracy is the most effective antidote to the kind of Islamic radicalism that hit the United States on September 11, 2001. He contends that the root of Islamic rebellion is to be found in the savage and effective repression of protestors — many of whom have been driven into exile — in places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Terrorism is not the enemy, merely a tactic Islamic radicals have found exceptionally effective. Holmes writes of Fukuyama’s argument, “[T]o recognize that America’s fundamental problem is Islamic radicalism, and that terrorism is only a symptom, is to invite a political solution. Promoting democracy is just such a political solution” (p. 209).

The problem, of course, is that not even the neocons are united on promoting democracy; and, even if they were, they do not know how to go about it. Fukuyama himself pleads for “a dramatic demilitarization of American foreign policy and a re-emphasis on other types of policy instruments.” The Pentagon, in addition to its other deficiencies, is poorly positioned and incorrectly staffed to foster democratic transitions.

* Why is the contemporary American antiwar movement so anemic, as seen through the lens of history by Geoffrey Stone in Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (W. W. Norton, 2004)? Holmes has nothing but praise for Stone’s history of expanded executive discretion in wartime. A key question raised by Stone is why the American public has not been more concerned with what happened in Iraq at Abu Ghraib prison and in the wholesale destruction of the Sunni city of Fallujah. As Holmes sees it, the Bush administration, at least in this one area, was adept at subverting public protest. Among the more important lessons George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, and others learned from the Vietnam conflict, he writes, was that if you want to suppress domestic questioning of foreign military adventures, then eliminate the draft, create an all-volunteer force, reduce domestic taxes, and maintain a false prosperity based on foreign borrowing.

* How did the embracing of American unilateralism elevate the Office of the Secretary of Defense over the Department of State, as put into perspective by John Ikenberry in After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton University Press, 2001)? This book is Holmes’ oddest choice — a dated history from an establishmentarian point of view of the international institutions created by the United States after World War II, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and NATO, all of which Ikenberry, a prominent academic specialist in international relations, applauds. Holmes agrees that, during the Cold War, the United States ruled largely through indirection, using seemingly impartial international institutions, and eliciting the cooperation of other nations. He laments the failure to follow this proven formula in the post-9/11 era, which led to the eclipse of the State Department by the Defense Department, an institution hopelessly ill-suited for diplomatic and nation-building missions.

* Why do we battle lawlessness with lawlessness (for example, by torturing prisoners) and concentrate extra-Constitutional authority in the hands of the president, as expounded by John Yoo in The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11 (University of Chicago Press, 2005)? In this final section, Holmes puts on his hat as the law professor he is and takes on George Bush’s and Alberto Gonzales’ in-house legal counsel, the University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo, who authored the “torture memos” for them, denied the legality of the Geneva Conventions, and elaborated a grandiose view of the President’s war-making power. Holmes wonders, “Why would an aspiring legal scholar labor for years to develop and defend a historical thesis that is manifestly untrue? What is the point and what is the payoff? That is the principal mystery of Yoo’s singular book. Characteristic of The Powers of War and Peace is the anemic relations between the evidence adduced and the inferences drawn” (p. 291).

Holmes then points out that Yoo is a prominent member of the Federalist Society, an association of conservative Republican lawyers who claim to be committed to recovering the original understanding of the Constitution and which includes several Republican appointees to the current Supreme Court. His conclusion on Yoo and his fellow neocons is devastating: “[I]f the misbegotten Iraq war proves anything, it is the foolhardiness of allowing an autistic clique that reads its own newspapers and watches its own cable news channel to decide, without outsider input, where to expend American blood and treasure — that is, to decide which looming threats to stress and which to downplay or ignore” (p. 301).

Is Islam the Culprit or Merely a Distraction?

In addition to these broad themes, Holmes investigates hidden agendas and their distorting effects on rational policy-making. Some of these are: Cheney’s desire to expand executive power and weaken Congressional oversight; Rumsfeld’s schemes to field-test his theory that in modern warfare speed is more important than mass; the plans by some of Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s advisers to improve the security situation of Israel; the administration’s desire to create a new set of permanent U.S. military bases in the Middle East to protect the U.S. oil supply in case of a collapse of the Saudi monarchy; and the desire to invade Iraq and thereby avoid putting all the blame for 9/11 on al Qaeda — because to do so would have involved admitting administration negligence and incompetence during the first nine months of 2001 and, even worse, that Clinton was right in warning Bush and his top officials that the main security threat to the United States was a potential al Qaeda attack or attacks.

This is not the place to attempt a comprehensive review of Holmes’ detailed critiques. For that, one should buy and read his book. Let me instead dwell on three themes that I think illustrate his insight and originality.

Holmes rejects any direct connection between Islamic religious extremism and the 9/11 attacks, although he recognizes that Islamic vilification of the United States and other Western powers is often expressed in apocalyptically religious language. “Emphasizing religious extremism as the motivation for the [9/11] plot, whatever it reveals,” he argues, “…terminates inquiry prematurely, encouraging us to view the attack ahistorically as an expression of ‘radical Salafism,’ a fundamentalist movement within Islam that allegedly drives its adherents to homicidal violence against infidels” (p. 2). This approach, he points out, is distinctly tautological: “Appeals to social norms or a culture of martyrdom are not very helpful…. They are tantamount to saying that suicidal terrorism is caused by a proclivity to suicidal terrorism” (p. 20).

Instead, he suggests, “The mobilizing ideology behind 9/11 was not Islam, or even Islamic fundamentalism, but rather a specific narrative of blame” (p. 63). He insists on putting the focus on the actual perpetrators, the 19 men who executed the attacks in New York and Washington — 15 Saudi Arabians, two citizens of the United Arab Emirates, one Egyptian, and one Lebanese. None of them was particularly religious. Three were living together in Hamburg, Germany, where they did appear to have become more interested in Islam than they had been in their home countries. Mohamed Atta, the leader of the group, age 33 on 9/11, had Egyptian and German degrees in architecture and city planning and became highly politicized in favor of the Palestinian cause against Zionism only after he went abroad.

Holmes notes, “According to the classic study of resentment, [Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals (1887)] ‘every sufferer instinctively seeks a cause for his suffering; more specifically, an agent, a “guilty” agent who is susceptible of pain — in short, some living being or other on whom he can vent his feelings directly or in effigy, under some pretext or other.’ If suffering is seen as natural or uncaused it will be coded as misfortune instead of injustice, and it will produce resignation rather than rebellion. The most efficient way to incite, therefore, is to indict” (p. 64).

The role of bin Laden was, and remains, to provide such a hyperbolic indictment — one that men like Atta would never have heard back in authoritarian Egypt but that came through loud and clear in their German exile. Bin Laden demonized the United States, accusing it of genocide against Muslims and repeatedly contending that the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia ever since the first Gulf War in 1991 was a far graver offense than the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, even though that had led to the death of one million Afghans and had sent five million more into exile.

The fact that the 9/11 plot involved the attackers’ own self-destruction suggests possible irrationality on their part, but Holmes argues that this was actually part of the specific narrative of blame. Americans feel contempt for Muslims and ascribe little or no value to Muslim lives. Therefore, to be captured after a terrorist attack involved a high likelihood that the Americans would torture the perpetrator. Suicide took care of that worry (and provided several other advantages discussed below).

The United States as “Sole Remaining Superpower”

Another subject about which Holmes is strikingly original is the subtle way in which the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the United States’ self-promotion as the sole remaining superpower clouded our vision and virtually guaranteed the catastrophe that ensued in Iraq. “Because Americans…. have sunk so much of their national treasure into a military establishment fit to deter and perhaps fight an enemy that has now disappeared,” he argues, “they have an almost irresistible inclination to exaggerate the centrality of rogue states, excellent targets for military destruction, [above] the overall terrorist threat. They overestimate war (which never unfolds as expected) and underestimate diplomacy and persuasion as instruments of American power” (pp. 71-72).

Holmes draws several interesting implications from this American overinvestment in Cold-War-type military power. One is that the very nature of the 9/11 attacks undermined crucial axioms of American national security doctrine. In a much more significant way than in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, a non-state actor on the international stage successfully attacked the United States, contrary to a well-established belief in Pentagon circles that only states have the capability of menacing us militarily. Equally alarming, by employing a strategy requiring their own deaths, the terrorists ensured that deterrence no longer held sway. Overwhelming military might cannot deter non-state actors who accept that they will die in their attacks on others. The day after 9/11, American leaders in Washington D.C. suddenly felt unprotected and defenseless against a new threat they only imperfectly understood. They responded in various ways.

One was to recast what had happened in terms of Cold-War thinking. “To repress feelings of defenselessness associated with an unfamiliar threat, the decision makers’ gaze slid uncontrollably away from al Qaeda and fixated on a recognizable threat that was unquestionably susceptible to being broken into bits” (p.312). Holmes calls this fusion of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein a “mental alchemy, the ‘reconceiving’ of an impalpable enemy as a palpable enemy.” He endorses James Mann’s thesis that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and others did not change the underlying principles guiding American foreign policy in response to the 9/11 attacks; that, in fact, they did the exact opposite: “[T]he Bush administration has managed foreign affairs so ineptly because it has been reflexively implementing out-of-date formulas in a radically changed security environment” (p. 106).

Unintended consequences also played a role, Holmes argues: “If conservative Congressmen had not blocked [Pennsylvania Governor] Tom Ridge’s nomination as Defense Secretary [in 2000] for the ludicrously immaterial reason that he was wobbly on abortion, then the Cheney-Rumsfeld group, including Wolfowitz and [Douglas] Feith, would have been in no position to hijack the administration’s reaction to 9/11″ (pp. 93-94). Rumsfeld enthusiastically endorsed Bush’s description of his “new” policies as a “war” because the Office of the Secretary of Defense then became the lead agency in designing and carrying out America’s response.

There was little or no countervailing influence. “By sheer chance,” Holmes writes, “Rice and Powell — no doubt orderly managers — have pedestrian minds and perhaps deferential personalities. Neither provided a gripping and persuasive vision of the United States’ role in the world that might have counteracted the megalomania of the neoconservatives, and neither was capable of outfoxing the hard-liners in an interagency power struggle” (p. 94).

The costs of equating al Qaeda with Iraq and of concentrating on a military response were high. “It meant that some of the troops sent to Iraq in the first wave believed, disgracefully, that they were avenging the 3,000 dead from September 11…. Cruel and arbitrary behavior by some U.S. forces helped stoke the violent insurgency that followed” (p. 307).

American confusion about the nature of the enemy — rogue state vs. non-state terrorist organization — produced two different counterstrategies, both of which almost certainly made the situation worse. First, by focusing on a rogue state (Iraq), rather than on a non-state actor (al Qaeda), the Pentagon drew attention to what it came to call the “hand-off scenario” in which a nuclear-armed rogue state might hand over weapons of mass destruction to terrorists who would use them against the U.S. To counter this threat, the Pentagon developed a strategy of preventive war against rogue states with the objective of bringing about regime change in them. The only way to prevent nuclear proliferation to terrorist groups — so the argument went — was to forcibly democratize Middle Eastern authoritarian regimes, some of which had long been allied with the United States.

The other strategy was a return to what seemed like a form of deterrence: a “scare the Muslims” campaign. This involved a resort to massive “shock and awe” bombing raids on Baghdad with the intent of demonstrating the futility of defying the United States.

By reacting to the threat of modern terrorism with an attack on a substitute target — without even bothering to calculate the enormous potential costs involved — the Pentagon greatly overestimated what military force could achieve. Both the regime-change and overawe-the-Muslims approaches carried with them potentially devastating unintended consequences — particularly if any of the premises, such as about who possessed WMD, were wrong. Overly abstract ideas were substituted for empirical knowledge of, and logical responses to, an enemy’s capabilities. Thus, insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, two devastated, poor countries, have managed to fight one of the most powerful American expeditionary forces in history to a virtual standstill. In short, “America’s bellicose response to the 9/11 provocation was not only dishonorable and unethical, given the cruel suffering it has inflicted on thousands of innocents, but also imprudent in the extreme because it was bound to produce as much hatred as fear, as much burning desire for reprisal as quaking paralysis and docility. Some of the sickening effects are unfolding before our eyes. That even more malevolent consequences remain in store is a grim possibility not to be wished away” (p. 10).

Complicity of the Left in American Imperialism

Holmes is also interesting on why the American Left has been so ineffectual in countering the efforts of Washington’s pro-war party. Deeply guilt-ridden over the Clinton administration’s failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda and frustrated by the constraints of international law and United Nations procedures, some influential progressives in America had already advocated a preemptive and unilateralist turn in American foreign policy that the Bush administration hijacked. Human rights activists had heavily promoted intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo to halt ethnic cleansing — and doing so without any international sanction whatsoever. Some of them became as enthusiastic about using the American armed forces to achieve limited foreign policy goals as many neocons. Even U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright made herself notorious with her 1993 wisecrack to then Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell: “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Although Holmes tries not to overstate his case, he suspects that the humanitarian interventionism of the 1990s — at one point he speaks of “human rights as imperial ideology” (p. 190) — may have played at least a small role in the public’s acceptance of Bush’s intervention in Iraq. If so, it is hard to imagine a better example of the disasters that good intentions can sometimes produce. The result in Iraq, in turn, has more or less silenced calls from the Left for further campaigns of military intervention for humanitarian purposes. The U.S. is conspicuously not participating in the U.N. intervention in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The Rule of Law

As a legal scholar, Holmes is committed to the rule of law. “[L]aw is best understood,” he writes, “not as a set of rigid rules but rather as a set of institutional mechanisms and procedures designed to correct the mistakes that even exceptionally talented executive officials are bound to make and to facilitate midstream readjustments and course corrections. If we understand law, constitutionalism, and due process in this way, then it becomes obvious why the war on terrorism is bound to fail when conducted, as it has been so far, against the rule of law and outside the constitutional system of checks and balances” (p. 5).

This short-circuiting of normal constitutional procedures he sees as probably the most consequential post-9/11 blunder of the Bush administration. The President’s repeated claims that he needs high levels of secrecy and the ability to arbitrarily cancel established law in order to move decisively against terrorists draw his utter contempt. “By dismantling checks and balances, along the lines idealized and celebrated by [John] Yoo, the administration has certainly gained flexibility in the ‘war on terror.’ It has gained the flexibility, in particular, to shoot first and aim afterward” (p. 301). Although such an assumption of dictatorial powers has happened before during periods of national emergency in the United States, Holmes is convinced that the humanitarian interventionism of the 1990s helped anesthetize many Americans to the implications of what the government was doing after 9/11.

Even now, with the Iraq War all but lost and public opinion having turned decisively against the President, there is still a flabbiness in mainstream criticism that reveals a major weakness in the conduct of American foreign policy. For example, while many hawks and doves today recognize that Rumsfeld mobilized too few forces to achieve his military objectives in Iraq, they tend to concentrate on his rejection of former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki’s advice that he needed a larger army of occupation. They almost totally ignore the true national policy implications of Rumsfeld’s failed leadership. Holmes writes, “If Saddam Hussein had actually possessed the tons of chemical and biological weapons that, in the president’s talking points, constituted the casus belli for the invasion, Rumsfeld’s slimmed-down force would have abetted the greatest proliferation disaster in world history” (p. 82). He quotes Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor: “Securing the WMD required sealing the country’s borders and quickly seizing control of the many suspected sites before they were raided by profiteers, terrorists, and regime officials determined to carry on the fight. The force that Rumsfeld eventually assembled, by contrast, was too small to do any of this” (pp. 84-85). As a matter of fact, looters did ransack the Iraqi nuclear research center at al Tuwaitha. No one pointed out these flaws in the strategy until well after the invasion had revealed that, luckily, Saddam had no WMD.

With this book, Stephen Holmes largely succeeds in elevating criticism of contemporary American imperialism in the Middle East to a new level. In my opinion, however, he underplays the roles of American imperialism and militarism in exploiting the 9/11 crisis to serve vested interests in the military-industrial complex, the petroleum industry, and the military establishment. Holmes leaves the false impression that the political system of the United States is capable of a successful course correction. But, as Andrew Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, puts it: “None of the Democrats vying to replace President Bush is doing so with the promise of reviving the system of checks and balances…. The aim of the party out of power is not to cut the presidency down to size but to seize it, not to reduce the prerogatives of the executive branch but to regain them.”

There is, I believe, only one solution to the crisis we face. The American people must make the decision to dismantle both the empire that has been created in their name and the huge, still growing military establishment that undergirds it. It is a task at least comparable to that undertaken by the British government when, after World War II, it liquidated the British Empire. By doing so, Britain avoided the fate of the Roman Republic — becoming a domestic tyranny and losing its democracy, as would have been required if it had continued to try to dominate much of the world by force. To take up these subjects, however, moves the discussion into largely unexplored territory. For now, Holmes has done a wonderful job of clearing the underbrush and preparing the way for the public to address this more or less taboo subject.

Chalmers Johnson is the author of the bestselling Blowback TrilogyBlowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2007).

Copyright 2007 Chalmers Johnson

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George W. Bush’s Thug Nation by Robert Parry

September 24, 2007

George W. Bush’s Thug Nation by Robert Parry

by Robert Parry
Global Research, September 23, 2007
consortiumnews.com

It’s said that over time Presidents – especially two-termers – imbue the nation with their personalities and priorities, for good or ill. If that’s true, it could help explain the small-minded mean-spiritedness that seems to be pervading the behavior of the United States these days, both at home and abroad.

On a global level, the world reads about trigger-happy Blackwater “security contractors” mowing down civilians in Baghdad, the U.S. military killing unarmed people under loose “rules of engagement” in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and the CIA “rendering” suspected Islamists to secret prisons or to third-country dungeons where torture is practiced.

Inside the United States, too, a police-state mentality is taking hold. After more than six years of having dissent against President George W. Bush equated with disloyalty, police from Capitol Hill to college campuses are treating vocal disagreement as grounds for violently “taking down” citizens, while bouncers at campaign rallies hustle away prospective hecklers and police preemptively detain protesters or stick them in faraway “free-speech zones.”

On Sept. 17 at a University of Florida public forum with Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, journalism student Andrew Meyer asked an animated question about Kerry’s hasty concession after Election 2004.

Meyer then was accosted by several campus police officers who dragged him away and wrestled him to the ground. Despite pleading with police “don’t tase me, bro,” Meyer was “tasered” with powerful electric shocks as he screamed in pain. [Watch the YouTube video by clicking here.]

Overseas, it now appears that Bush has authorized “rules of engagement” that have transformed U.S. Special Forces into “death squads,” much like those that roamed Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s identifying “subversives” and murdering them.

According to evidence emerging from a military court hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, U.S. Special Forces are empowered to kill individuals who have been designated “enemy combatants,” even if they are unarmed and present no visible threat.

The hearing involves two Special Forces soldiers who took part in the cold-blooded execution of an Afghani who was suspected of leading an insurgent group. Though the Afghani, identified as Nawab Buntangyar, responded to questions and offered no resistance when encountered on Oct. 13, 2006, he was shot dead by Master Sgt. Troy Anderson on orders from his superior officer, Capt. Dave Staffel.

Classified Mission

As described at the hearing, Staffel and Anderson were leading a team of Afghan soldiers when an informant told them where a suspected insurgent leader was hiding. The U.S.-led contingent found a man believed to be Nawab Buntangyar walking outside his compound near the village of Hasan Kheyl.

While the Americans kept their distance out of fear the suspect might be wearing a suicide vest, the man was questioned about his name and the Americans checked his description against a list from the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan, known as “the kill-or-capture list.”

Concluding that the man was insurgent leader Nawab Buntangyar, Staffel gave the order to shoot, and Anderson – from a distance of about 100 yards away – fired a bullet through the man’s head, killing him instantly.

The soldiers viewed the killing as “a textbook example of a classified mission completed in accordance with the American rules of engagement,” the International Herald Tribune reported. “The men said such rules allowed them to kill Buntangyar, whom the American military had designated a terrorist cell leader, once they positively identified him.”

Staffel’s civilian lawyer Mark Waple said the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command concluded in April that the shooting was “justifiable homicide,” but a two-star general in Afghanistan instigated a murder charge against the two men. That case, however, has floundered over accusations that the charge was improperly filed. [IHT, Sept. 17, 2007]

The major news media has given the case only minor coverage focusing mostly on the legal sparring. The New York Times’ inside-the-paper, below-the-fold headline on Sept. 19 was “Green Beret Hearing Focuses on How Charges Came About.”

However, the greater significance of the case is its confirmation that the U.S. chain of command, presumably up to President Bush, has approved standing orders that allow the U.S. military to assassinate suspected militants on sight.

In effect, these orders have reestablished what was known during the Vietnam War as Operation Phoenix, a program that assassinated Vietcong cadre, including suspected communist political allies.

Through a Pentagon training program known as “Project X,” the lessons of Operation Phoenix from the 1960s were passed on to Third World armies in Latin America and elsewhere, allegedly giving a green light to some of the “dirty wars” that swept the region in the following decades. [For details, see Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.]

Blackwater Killings

Besides the periodic controversies over U.S. military killings of unarmed Iraqis and Afghanis, the Bush administration also is facing a challenge from the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over the U.S. Embassy’s reliance on Blackwater security contractors despite their reputation as crude and murderous bullies.

On Sept. 16, Blackwater gunmen accompanying a U.S. diplomatic convoy apparently sensed an ambush and opened fire, spraying a busy Baghdad square with bullets. Eyewitness accounts, including from an Iraqi police officer, indicated that the Blackwater team apparently overreacted to a car moving into the square and killed at least 11 people.

“Blackwater has no respect for the Iraqi people,” an Iraqi Interior Ministry official told the Washington Post. “They consider Iraqis like animals, although actually I think they may have more respect for animals. We have seen what they do in the streets. When they’re not shooting, they’re throwing water bottles at people and calling them names. If you are terrifying a child or an elderly woman, or you are killing an innocent civilian who is riding in his car, isn’t that terrorism?” [Washington Post, Sept. 20, 2007]

The highhandedness of the Blackwater mercenaries on the streets of Baghdad or the contempt for traditional rules of war in the hills of Afghanistan also resonate back to the marble chambers and well-appointed salons of Washington, where swaggering tough-guyism reigns from the Oval Office to the TV talk shows to Georgetown dinner parties.

Inside the Beltway, it seems there’s little political mileage in standing up for traditional American values, such as the rule of law or even the Founders’ historic concept of inalienable rights for all mankind.

On Sept. 19, Senate Republicans blocked an up-or-down vote on a bill seeking to restore habeas corpus rights against arbitrary imprisonment for people whom Bush unilaterally has designated “unlawful enemy combatants.”

Bush’s supporters portrayed those who favored habeas corpus restoration as impractical coddlers of America’s enemies.

“This is purely a matter of congressional policy and national policy on how we want to conduct warfare now and in the future,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama. “Are we going to do it in a way that allows those we capture to sue us?”

The Republicans also prevented a direct vote on a plan to grant longer home leaves to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those two factors – obedience to Bush’s claim of unlimited power as he wages his “war on terror” and refusal to relieve some of the pressure on American troops facing repeated deployments to the front lines – are almost certain to keep making matters worse.

The mix of tired and desperate soldiers operating in an environment in which every person on the street is viewed as a potential suicide bomber is a formula for continued abuses, endless slaughter and deepening hatreds.

Back home, Americans who ask too many annoying questions or don’t demonstrate the right attitude toward government leaders can expect to encounter the hostility of an incipient police state, a thug nation that reflects the pugnacious arrogance and the contempt for dissent that is the stock and trade of the nation’s current two-term President.

[For more on how Bush rules, see our new book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there. Or go to Amazon.com

Robert Parry is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Robert Parry

 


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Preventing a Rogue President from Committing a War Crime

September 19, 2007

Preventing a Rogue President from Committing a War Crime: Open Letter to the New Generation of Military Officers by Lt. Col. Robert M. Bowman

by Lt. Col. Robert M. Bowman
Global Research, September 13, 2007
thepatriots.us/

Should some civilian order you to initiate a nuclear attack on Iran, you are duty-bound to refuse that order

“I contend that should some civilian order you to initiate a nuclear attack on Iran (for example), you are duty-bound to refuse that order. I might also suggest that you should consider whether the circumstances demand that you arrest whoever gave the order as a war criminal.” (Dr., Lt. Col. Bob Bowman)


Duty, Honor, Country 2007

An Open Letter to the New Generation of Military Officers Serving and Protecting Our Nation

By Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret., National Commander, The Patriots

Dear Comrades in Arms,

You are facing challenges in 2007 that we of previous generations never dreamed of. I’m just an old fighter pilot (101 combat missions in Vietnam , F-4 Phantom, Phu Cat, 1969-1970) who’s now a disabled veteran with terminal cancer from Agent Orange. Our mailing list (over 22,000) includes veterans from all branches of the service, all political parties, and all parts of the political spectrum. We are Republicans and Democrats, Greens and Libertarians, Constitutionists and Reformers, and a good many Independents. What unites us is our desire for a government that (1) follows the Constitution, (2) honors the truth, and (3) serves the people.

We see our government going down the wrong path, all too often ignoring military advice, and heading us toward great danger. And we look to you who still serve as the best hope for protecting our nation from disaster.

We see the current Iraq War as having been unnecessary, entered into under false pretenses, and horribly mismanaged by the civilian authorities. Thousands of our brave troops have been needlessly sacrificed in a futile attempt at occupation of a hostile land. Many more thousands have suffered wounds which will change their lives forever. Tens of thousands have severe psychological problems because of what they have seen and what they have done. Potentially hundreds of thousands could be poisoned by depleted uranium, with symptoms appearing years later, just as happened to us exposed to Agent Orange. The military services are depleted and demoralized. The VA system is under-funded and overwhelmed. The National Guard and Reserves have been subjected to tour after tour, disrupting lives for even the lucky ones who return intact. Jobs have been lost, marriages have been destroyed, homes have been foreclosed, and children have been estranged. And for what? We have lost allies, made new enemies, and created thousands of new terrorists, further endangering the American people.

But you know all this. I’m sure you also see the enormous danger in a possible attack on Iran , possibly with nuclear weapons. Such an event, seriously contemplated by the Cheney faction of the Bush administration, would make enemies of Russia and China and turn us into the number one rogue nation on earth. The effect on our long-term national security would be devastating.

Some of us had hoped that the new Democratic Congress would end the occupation of Iraq and take firm steps to prevent an attack on Iran , perhaps by impeaching Bush and Cheney. These hopes have been dashed. The lily-livered Democrats have caved in, turning their backs on those few (like Congressman Jack Murtha) who understand the situation. Many of us have personally walked the halls of Congress, to no avail.

This is where you come in.

We know that many of you share our concern and our determination to protect our republic from an arrogant, out-of-control, imperial presidency and a compliant, namby-pamby Congress (both of which are unduly influenced by the oil companies and other big-money interests). We know that you (like us) wouldn’t have pursued a military career unless you were idealistic and devoted to our nation and its people. (None of us do it for the pay and working conditions!) But we also recognize that you may not see how you can influence these events. We in the military have always had a historic subservience to civilian authority.

Perhaps I can help with whatever wisdom I’ve gathered from age (I retired in 1978, so I am ancient indeed).

Our oath of office is to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Might I suggest that this includes a rogue president and vice-president? Certainly we are bound to carry out the legal orders of our superiors. But the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) which binds all of us enshrines the Nuremberg Principles which this country established after World War II (which you are too young to remember). One of those Nuremberg Principles says that we in the military have not only the right, but also the DUTY to refuse an illegal order. It was on this basis that we executed Nazi officers who were “only carrying out their orders.”

The Constitution which we are sworn to uphold says that treaties entered into by the United States are the “highest law of the land,” equivalent to the Constitution itself. Accordingly, we in the military are sworn to uphold treaty law, including the United Nations charter and the Geneva Convention.

Based on the above, I contend that should some civilian order you to initiate a nuclear attack on Iran (for example), you are duty-bound to refuse that order. I might also suggest that you should consider whether the circumstances demand that you arrest whoever gave the order as a war criminal.

I know for a fact that in recent history (once under Nixon and once under Reagan), the military nuclear chain of command in the White House discussed these things and were prepared to refuse an order to “nuke Russia .” In effect they took the (non-existent) “button” out of the hands of the President.. We were thus never quite as close to World War III as many feared, no matter how irrational any president might have become. They determined that the proper response to any such order was, “Why, sir?” Unless there was (in their words) a “damn good answer,” nothing was going to happen.

I suggest that if you in this generation have not had such a discussion, perhaps it is time you do. In hindsight, it’s too bad such a discussion did not take place prior to the preemptive “shock and awe” attack on Baghdad . Many of us at the time spoke out vehemently that such an attack would be an impeachable offense, a war crime against the people of Iraq , and treason against the United States of America . But our voices were drowned out and never reached the ears of the generals in 2003. I now regret that I never sent a letter such as this at that time, but depended on the corporate media to carry my message. I must not make that mistake again.

Also in hindsight, President Bush could be court-martialed for abuse of power as Commander-in-Chief. Vice President Cheney could probably be court-martialed for his performance as Acting Commander-in-Chief in the White House bunker the morning of September 11, 2001 .

We in the U.S. military would never consider a military coup, removing an elected president and installing one of our own. But following our oath of office, obeying the Nuremberg Principles, and preventing a rogue president from committing a war crime is not a military coup. If it requires the detention of executive branch officials, we will not impose a military dictatorship. We will let the Constitutional succession take place. This is what we are sworn to. This is protecting the Constitution, our highest obligation. In 2007, this is what is meant by “Duty, Honor, Country.”

Thank you all for your service to this nation. May God bless America , and sustain us in this difficult time. And thanks for listening to the musings of an old junior officer.

Respectfully,

Robert M. Bowman, PhD, Lt. Col., USAF, ret.

Global Research Articles by Robert M. Bowman

America and Venezuela: Constitutional Worlds Apart by Stephen Lendman

August 22, 2007

America and Venezuela: Constitutional Worlds Apart by Stephen Lendman


by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, August 22, 2007

Although imperfect, no country anywhere is closer to a model democracy than Venezuela under President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias. In contrast, none is a more shameless failure than America, but it was true long before the age of George W. Bush. The difference under his regime is that the mask is off revealing a repressive state masquerading as a democratic republic. This article compares the constitutional laws of each country and how they’re implemented. The result shows world’s apart differences between these two nominally democratic states – one that’s real, impressive and improving and the other that’s mostly pretense and under George Bush lawless, corrupted, in tatters, and morally depraved.

US Constitutional Law from the Beginning

Before they’re old enough to understand its meaning, young US children are taught to “pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands,” and, by inference, its bedrock supreme constitutional law of the land. At that early age, they likely haven’t yet heard of it, but soon will with plenty of misinformation about a document far less glorious than it’s made out to be.

This article draws on Ferdinand Lundberg’s powerfully important 1980 book, “Cracks in the Constitution,” that’s every bit as relevant today as then. In it, he deconstructs the nation’s foundational legal document, separating myth from reality about what he called “the great totempole of American society.” He analyzed it, piece by piece, revealing its intentionally crafted flaws. It’s not at all the “Rock of Ages” it’s cracked up to be, but students at all levels don’t learn that in classrooms from teachers going along with the deception or who simply don’t know the truth about their subject matter.

The Constitution falls far short of a “masterpiece of political architecture,” but it’s even worse than that. It was the product of very ordinary scheming politicians (not the Mt. Rushmore types they’re portrayed as in history books) and their friends crafting the law of the land to serve themselves while leaving out the greater public that was nowhere in sight in 1787 Philadelphia. Unlike the Venezuelan Constitution, discussed below, “The People” were never consulted or even considered, and nothing in the end was put to a vote beyond the state legislative bodies that had to ratify it. In contrast to popular myth, the framers crafted a Constitution that didn’t constrain or fetter the federal government nor did they create a government of limited powers.

They devised a government of men, not laws, that was composed of self-serving devious officials who lied, connived, used or abused the law at their whim, and pretty much operated ad libitum to discharge their duties as they wished. In that respect, things weren’t much different then from now except the times were simpler, the nation smaller, and the ambitions of those in charge much less far-reaching than today.

The Constitution can easily be read in 30 minutes or less and just as easily be misunderstood. The opening Preamble contains its sole myth referring to “We the people of the United States of America.” The only people who mattered were white male property owners. All others nowhere entered the picture, then or mostly since, proving democracy operatively is little more than a fantasy. But try explaining that to people today thinking otherwise because that’s all they were taught from the beginning to believe.

They were never told the American revolution was nothing more than a minority of the colonists seceding from the British empire planning essentially the same type government repackaged under new management. Using high-minded language in Article I, Section 8 of the supreme law of the land, the founders and their successors ignored the minimum objective all governments are, or should be, entrusted to do – “provide for….(the) general welfare” of their people under a system of constitutional law serving everyone. But that’s not its only flaw build in by design.

Our revered document is called “The Living Constitution,” and Article VI, Section 2 defines it as the supreme law of the land. In fact, it’s loosely structured for governments to do as they wish or not wish with the notion of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” a nonstarter. “The People” don’t govern either directly or through representatives, in spite of commonly held myths. “The People” are governed, like it or not, the way sitting governments choose to do it. As a consequence, “The Living Constitution” was a “huge flop” and still is.

Setting the Record Straight on the Framers

Popular myth aside, the 55 delegates who met in Philadelphia from May to September, 1787 were very ordinary self-serving, privileged, property-owning white men. They weren’t extraordinarily learned, profound in their thinking or in any way special. Only 25 attended college (that was pretty rudimentary at the time), and Washington never got beyond the fifth grade.

Lundberg described them as a devious bunch of wheeler-dealers likely meeting in smoke-filled rooms (literally or figuratively) cutting deals the way things work today. He called them no “all-star political team” (except for George Washington) compared to more distinguished figures who weren’t there like Jefferson, Adams (the most noted constitutional theorist of his day), John Jay (the first Supreme Court Chief Justice), Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry and others. Madison and Alexander Hamilton, who did attend, were virtual unknowns at the time, yet ever since Madison has been mischaracterized as the Constitution’s father. In fact, he only played a modest role.

The delegates came to Philadelphia in May, 1887, assembled, did their work, sent it to the states, and left in a despondent mood. They disliked the final product, some could barely tolerate it, yet 39 of the 55 attendees knowingly signed a document they believed flawed while we today extoll it like it came down from Mt. Sinai. The whole process we call a first-class historical event was, in fact, an entirely routine uninspiring political caucus producing no “prodigies of statecraft, no wonders of political (judgment), no vaulting philosophies, no Promethean vistas.” Contradicting everything we’ve been “indoctrinated from ears to toes” to believe, the notion that the Constitution is “a document of salvation….a magic talisman,” or a gift to the common man is pure fantasy.

The central achievement of the convention, and a big one (until the Civil War changed things), was the cobbling together of disparate and squabbling states into a union. It held together, tenuously at best, for over seven decades but not actually until Appomattox “at bayonet point.” The convention succeeded in gaining formal approval for what the leading power figures wanted and then got it rammed through the state ratification process to become the law of the land.

After much wheeling and dealing, they achieved mightily but not without considerable effort. Enough states balked to thwart the whole process and had to be won over with concessions like legitimizing slavery for southern interests and more. Then consider the Bill of Rights, why they were added, for whom, and why adopting them made the difference. It came down to no Bill of Rights, no Constitution, but they weren’t for “The People” who were out of sight and mind.

These “glorified” first 10 Amendments were first rejected twice, then only added to assure enough state delegates voted to ratify the final document with them included. Many in smaller states were displeased enough to want a second convention that might have derailed the whole process had it happened. To prevent it, concessions were made including adding the Bill of Rights because they addressed key state delegate concerns like the following:

– prohibitions against quartering troops in their property,

– unreasonable searches and seizures there as well,

– the right to have state militias,

– the right of people to bear arms, but not as the 2nd Amendment today is interpreted,

– the rights of free speech, the press, religion, assembly and petition, all to serve monied and propertied interests alone – not “The People,”

– due process of law with speedy public trials for the privileged, and

– various other provisions worked out through compromise to become our acclaimed Bill of Rights. Two additional amendments were proposed but rejected by the majority. They would have banned monopolies and standing armies, matters of great future import that might have made a huge difference thereafter. We’ll never know for sure.

In the end and in spite of its defects, the framers felt it was the best they could do at the time and kept their fingers crossed it would work to their advantage. None of them suggested or wanted “a sheltered haven….for the innumerable heavily laden, bedraggled, scrofulous and oppressed of the earth.” On the contrary, they intended to keep them that way meaning things weren’t much different then than now, and the founders weren’t the noble characters they’re made out to be.

There were no populists or civil libertarians among them with men like Washington and Jefferson (who was abroad and didn’t attend) being slave-owners. In fact, they were little more than crass opportunists who willfully acted against the will of “The People” they ignored and disdained. In spite of it, they’re practically deified and ranked with the Apostles, and one of them (Washington) sits in the most prominent spot atop Mt. Rushmore.

The constitutional convention ended September 17, 1787 “in an atmosphere verging on glumness.” Of the 55 attending delegates, 39 signed as a pro forma exercise before sending it to the states with power to accept or reject it. Again, “The People” were nowhere in sight in Philadelphia or at the state level where the real tussle began before the founders could declare victory.

What Was Achieved and What Wasn’t

Contrary to popular myth, the new government wasn’t constrained by constitutional checks and balances of the three branches created within it. In fact, then and since, sitting governments have acted expediently, with or without popular approval, and within or outside the law. In this respect, our system functions no differently than most others operating as we do. It’s accomplished through “the narrowest possible interpretations of the Constitution,” but it’s free to go “further afield under broader or fanciful official interpretations.” History records many examples under noted Presidents like Lincoln, T. and F. Roosevelt and Wilson along with less distinguished ones like Reagan, Clinton, Nixon, GHW Bush and his bad seed son, the worst ever of a bad lot.

Key to understanding the American system is that “government is completely autonomous, detached, (and) in a realm of its own” with its “main interest (being) economic (for the privileged) at all times.” Constitutional shackles and constraining barriers are pure fantasy. Regardless of law, custom or anything else, sitting US governments have always been freelancing and able to operate as they please. They’ve also consistently been unresponsive to the public interest, uncaring and disinterested in the will and needs of the majority, and generally able to get around or remake the law to suit their purpose. George W. Bush is only the latest and most extreme example of a tradition begun under Washington, who when elected unanimously (by virtual coronation) was one of the two richest men in the country.

The Legislative Branch

The Constitution then and since confers unlimited powers on the government constituted under its three branches of the Congress, Executive and Judiciary. Article I (with seven in all plus 27 Amendments) deals with the legislative branch. Section 8, Sub-section 18 states Congress has power “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution….or in any department or officer thereof.” It’s for government then to decide what’s “necessary” and “proper” meaning the sky’s the limit under the concept of sovereignty.

The Executive and Judiciary branches are dealt with below with the three branches comprising a labyrinthine system the framers devised under the Roman notion of “divide and rule” as follows:

– a powerful (and at times omnipotent) chief executive at the top,

– a bicameral legislature with a single member in the upper chamber able to subvert all others in it through the power of the filibuster (meaning pirate in Spanish),

– a committee system controlled mostly by seniority or a political powerbroker,

– delay and circumlocution deliberately built into the system,

– a separate judiciary able to overrule the Congress and Executive, but too often is a partner, not an adversary,

– staggered elections to assure continuity by preventing too many officials being voted out together,

– a two-party system with multiple constituencies, especially vulnerable to corruption and the influence of big (corporate) money that runs everything today making the whole system farcical, dishonest and a democracy only in the minds of the deceived and delusional.

The Judiciary

Article III of the Constitution establishes the Supreme Court saying only: “The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” Congress is explicitly empowered to regulate the Court, but, in fact, the opposite often happens or, at times, it cuts both ways. The function of Congress is to make laws with the Court in place to interpret them and decide their constitutionality if challenged and it decides to adjudicate.

As for the common notion of “judicial review,” it’s nowhere mentioned in the Constitution nor did the framers authorize it. Nonetheless, courts use it to judge the constitutionality of laws in place and public sector body actions. They derive their power to do it by deduction from two separate parts of the Constitution: Article VI, Section 2 saying the Constitution, laws and treaties are the supreme law of the land and judges are bound by them; then in Article III, Section 1 saying judicial power applies to all cases, implying judicial review is allowed. Under this interpretation of the law, appointed judges, in theory, “have a power unprecedented in history – to annul acts of the Congress and President.”

With or without this power, Lundberg makes a powerful case overall that the constitutional story comes down to a question of money and money arrangement – who gets it, how, why, when, where, what for, and under what conditions. Also addressed is who the law leaves out. The story has nothing whatever to do with guaranteeing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Jefferson’s Orwellian language meaning property); establishing justice; upholding the rule of law equitably for everyone; promoting the general welfare; or securing the blessings of freedom for “The People” unconsidered, unimportant and ignored by the three branches of government serving monied and property interests only, of which they are a part.

The Executive Branch

Lundberg’s theme is clear and unequivocal. Under US constitutional law, the President is the most powerful political official on earth, bar none under any other system of government. “The office he holds is inherently imperial,” regardless of the occupant or how he governs, and the Constitution confers this on him. Unlike the British model, with the executive as a collectivity, the US system “is absolutely unique, and dangerously vulnerable” with one man in charge fully able to exploit his position. “The American President (stands) midway between a collective executive and an absolute dictator (and in times of war like now) becomes, in fact, quite constitutionally, a full-fledged dictator.” Disturbingly, the public hasn’t a clue about what’s going on.

A single sentence, easily passed over or misunderstood, constitutes the essence of presidential power. It effectively grants the Executive a near-limitless source, only constrained to the degree he chooses. It’s from Article II, Section 1 reading: “The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. Article II, Section 3 then almost nonchalantly adds: “The President shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed” without saying Presidents are virtually empowered to make laws as well as execute them even though nothing in the Constitution specifically permits this practice. More on that below.

To understand how the US government works, it’s essential to know what executive power is, in fact, knowing it’s concentrated in the hands of one man for good or ill. Also crucial is how Presidents are elected – “literally (by) electoral (unelected by the public) dummies” in an Electoral College. The scheme is a long-acknowledged constitutional anomaly as these state bodies are able to subvert the popular vote, never meet or consult like the College of Cardinals electing a Pope, and, in effect, reduce and corrupt the process into a shameless farce.

Once elected, it only gets worse because the power of the presidency is awesome and frightening. The nation’s chief executive:

– is commander-in-chief of the military functioning as a virtual dictator in times of war; although Article I, Section 8 grants only Congress that right, the President, in fact, can do it any time he wishes “without consulting anyone” and, of course, has done it many times;

– can grant commutations or pardons except in cases of impeachment;

– can make treaties that become the law of the land, with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate (not ratification as commonly believed); can also terminate treaties with a mere announcement as George Bush did renouncing the important ABM Treaty with the former Soviet Union; in addition, and with no constitutional sanction, he can rule by decree through executive agreements with foreign governments that in some cases are momentous ones like those made at Yalta and Potsdam near the end of WW II. While short of treaties, they then become the law of the land.

– can appoint administration officials, diplomats, federal judges with Senate approval, that’s usually routine, or can fill any vacancy through (Senate) recess appointments; can also discharge any appointed executive official other than judges and statutory administrative officials;

– can veto congressional legislation, and history shows through the book’s publication they’re sustained 96% of the time;

– while Congress alone has appropriating authority, only the President has the power to release funds for spending by the executive branch or not release them;

– Presidents also have a huge bureaucracy at their disposal, including powerful officials like the Secretaries of Defense, State, Treasury, and Homeland Security and the Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department;

– Presidents also command center stage any time they wish. They can request and get national prime time television for any purpose with guaranteed extensive post-appearance coverage promoting his message with nary a disagreement with it on any issue;

– throughout history, going back to George Washington, Presidents have issued Executive Orders (EOs) although the Constitution “nowhere implicitly or explicitly gives a President (the) power (to make) new law” by issuing “one-man, often far-reaching” EOs. However, Presidents have so much power they can do as they wish, only constrained by their own discretion.

– George Bush also usurped “Unitary Executive” power to brazenly and openly declare what this section highlights – that the law is what he says it is. He proved it in six and a half years of subverting congressional legislation through a record-breaking number of unconstitutional “signing statements.” – They rewrote over 1132 law provisions through 147 separate “statements,” more than all previous Presidents combined. Through this practice, George Bush expanded presidential power well beyond the usual practices recounted above.

– Presidents are, in fact, empowered to do almost anything not expressively forbidden in the Constitution, and very little is; more importantly, with a little ingenuity and lots of creative chutzpah, the President “can make almost any (constitutional) text mean whatever (he) wants it to mean” so, in fact, his authority is practically absolute or plenary. And the Supreme Court supports this notion as an “inherent power of sovereignty.” If the US has sovereignty, it has all powers therein, and the President, as the sole executive, can exercise them freely without constitutional authorization or restraint.

In effect, “the President….is virtually a sovereign in his own person.” Compared to the power of the President, Congress is mostly “a paper tiger, easily soothed or repulsed.” The courts, as well, can be gotten around with a little creative exercise of presidential power, and in the case of George Bush, at times just ignoring their decisions when they disagree with his. As Lundberg put it: “One should never under-estimate the power of the President….nor over-estimate that of the Supreme Court. The supposed system of equitable checks and balances does not exist, in fact, (because Congress and the courts don’t effectively use their constitutional authority)….the separation in the Constitution between legislative and the executive is wholly artificial.”

Further, it’s pure myth that the government is constrained by limited powers. Quite the opposite is true “which at the point of execution (resides in) one man,” the President. In addition, “Until the American electorate creates effective political parties (which it never has done), Congress….will always be pretty much under (Presidents’) thumb(s).” Under the “American constitutional system (the President) is very much a de facto king,” and under George Bush a corrupted, devious, criminal and dangerous one.

As for impeaching and convicting a President for malfeasance, Article II, Section 4 states it can only be for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” Based on the historical record, it’s near-impossible to do with no President ever having been removed from office this way, and only two were impeached, both unjustly. John Adams, the most distinguished constitutional theorist of his day, said it would take a national convulsion to remove a President by impeachment, which is not to say it won’t ever happen and very likely one day will with no time better than the present to prove it.

In sum from the above, the US system of constitutional law is full of flaws and faults. “The People” were deliberately and willfully left out of the process proving the Constitution doesn’t recognize democracy in America in spite of the commonly held view it does. In addition, the President, at his own discretion, can usurp dictatorial powers and end republican government by a stroke of his pen. That should awaken everyone to the clear and present danger that any time, for any reason, the President of the United States can declare a state of emergency, suspend the law of the land and rule by decree.

Constitutional Government in Venezuela

How does America’s system of government contrast with rule under the 1999 Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela? Hugo Chavez was first elected president in December, 1998 and took office in February, 1999. He then held a national referendum so his people could decide whether to convene a National Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution to embody his visionary agenda. It passed overwhelmingly followed three months later by elections to the National Assembly to which members of Chavez’s MVR party and those allied with it won 95% of the seats. They then drafted the revolutionary Constitucion de la Republica Bolivariana de Venezuela. It was put to a nationwide vote in December, 1999 and overwhelmingly approved changing everything for the Venezuelan people.

It established a model humanistic participatory social democracy, unimaginable in the US, providing real (not imagined) checks and balances in the nation’s five branches of government. They comprise the executive, legislative and judicial ones plus two others. One is the independent national electoral council that regulates and handles state and civil society organization electoral procedures to assure they conform to the law requiring free, fair and open elections. The other is a citizen or public power branch functioning as a unique institution. It lets ordinary people serve as ombudsmen to assure the other government branches comply with constitutionally-mandated requirements. This branch includes the attorney general, the defender of the people, and the comptroller general.

The Legislative Branch

Venezuela is governed under a unicameral legislative system called the National Assembly. It’s composed of 167 members (compared to 535 in the two US Houses) elected to serve for five years and allowed to run two more times. It differs from the bicameral system in the US but is broadly similar to governments like in the UK. Although it’s bicameral, it’s governed solely by publicly elected members of the House of Commons that includes the Prime Minister and his cabinet as members of Parliament. The upper House of Lords is merely token and advisory, there by tradition like the Queen, with no power to overrule the lower House that runs everything.

The Office of the President

The President is elected with a plurality of universally guaranteed suffrage. Article 56 of the Bolivarian Constitution states: “All persons have the right to be registered free of charge with the Civil Registry Office after birth, and to obtain public documents constituting evidence of the biological identity, in accordance with law.” In addition, all Venezuelans are enfranchised to vote under one national standard and are encouraged to do it under a model democratic system with the vast majority in it actively participating.

In contrast, the US system is quite different. Precise voting rights qualifications are for the states to decide with no constitutionally mandated suffrage standard applying across the board for everyone. The result is many US citizens are denied their franchise right. They’re unable to participate in the electoral process for a variety of reasons no democratic state should tolerate, but America built it into the system by design.

The Judicial System

Under Article 2 in The Bolivarian Constitution, the judicial system shares equal importance to the law of the land. But it wasn’t always that way earlier when the Venezuelan judiciary had an odious reputation before Chavez was elected. It had a long history of corruption, a disturbing record of being beholden to political benefactors, and a tradition of failing to provide an adequate system of justice for most Venezuelans. Chavez vowed to change things and undertook a major restructuring effort after taking office. He put this government branch under the Supreme Tribunal of Justice and made it independent of the others. The law now requires those serving be elected by a two-thirds legislative majority (not the previous simple one), and tighter requirements are in place regarding eligible candidates along with public hearings to vet them.

In addition, to root out long-standing corrupt practices, Chavez created a Judicial Restructuring Commission to review existing judgeships and replace those not fit to serve. Henceforth, all sitting judges with eight or more corruption charges pending are disqualified. It effectively eliminated 80% of those on the bench in short order and showed the extent of malfeasance in the national judicial culture. It also suggested the huge amount throughout the government from generations of institutionalized privilege. Those in power were licensed to steal the country blind and enrich themselves and foreign investors at the expense of the vast majority.

Reform in all areas of government is still a work in progress, including in the judiciary needing much of it. The process hasn’t been perfect because of the enormity of the task. By the end of 2000, about 70% of sitting judges in the so-called capital region of Caracas, Miranda and Vargas states were replaced by provisional ones with charges of old judges removed for equally beholden new ones. It may be true and points to how hard the going is to change the long-standing culture of privilege and institute real democratic reforms throughout the government.

Nonetheless, the Constitution established Chavez’s vision for a foundation and legal framework for revolutionary structural change. He’s been working since to transform the nation incrementally into a model participatory social democracy serving all Venezuelans instead of for the privileged few alone the way it traditionally was in the past and how US framers designed American constitutional law. The differences between the two nations couldn’t be more stark.

The spirit of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Constitution is stated straightaway in its Preamble:….”to establish a democratic, participatory and self-reliant, multiethnic and multicultural society in a just, federal and decentralized State that embodies the values of freedom, independence, peace, solidarity, the common good, the nation’s territorial integrity, comity and the rule of law for this and future generations;”

It further “guarantees the right to life, work, learning, education, social justice and equality, without discrimination or subordination of any kind; promotes peaceful cooperation among nations and further strengthens Latin American integration in accordance with the principle of nonintervention and national self-determination of the people, the universal and indivisible guarantee of human rights, the democratization of imitational society, nuclear disarmament, ecological balance and environmental resources as the common and inalienable heritage of humanity;……”

This language would be unimaginable in the US Constitution, and, unlike our federal law, they’re more than words. This is Hugo Chavez’s commitment to all Venezuelans ordained under nine Title headings, 350 Articles, and 18 Temporary Provisions. It’s a first class democratic document, little known in the West, that greatly outclasses and shames what US framers’ enacted for themselves and privileged friends alone. Democracy was nowhere in sight then nor has it shown up since. In Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, it’s resplendent, glorious, still imperfect and a work in progress, but heading in the right direction with newly proposed changes discussed below.

The contrast with America today couldn’t be greater. The nation under George Bush is ruled by Patriot and Military Commissions Act justice under an institutionalized imperial system of militarized savage capitalism empowering the rich to exploit all others. A state of permanent war exists; civil liberties are disappearing and human rights are a nonstarter; dissent is a crime; social decay is growing; a culture of secrecy and growing fear prevail; torture is practically sanctified; injustice is tolerated; the dominant media function as virtual national thought-control police gatekeepers; and the law is what a boy-emperor president says it is. Aside from the privileged it serves, democracy in America is only in the minds of the bewildered and last of the true-believers who sooner or later will discover the truth.

Consider Venezuela’s Bolivarian spirit in contrast. The people freely and openly choose their leaders in honest, independently monitored elections. They’re unemcumbered by a farcical electoral college voting scheme (for Presidents) and a system of rigged electronic voting machine and other electoral engineered fraud corrupting the entire process sub rosa. They also have unimaginable benefits like free quality health and dental care (mandated in Articles 83 – 85) as a “fundamental social right and….responsibility of the state….to guarantee….to improve the quality of life and common welfare.” It’s administered through a national public health system proscribed from being privatized. That’s how health delivery in America gets corrupted for profit. The result is 47 million and counting are uninsured, many millions more have too little coverage, and the cost of care is unaffordable for all but the well-off or those on Medicare, Medicaid (if qualify) or under disappearing company-paid plans.

The Constitution also enacted the principle of participatory democracy from the grassroots for everyone. It’s mandated in Articles 166 and 192 establishing citizen assemblies as a constitutional right for ordinary people to be empowered to participate in governing along with their elected officials. Constitutionally guaranteed rights also ban discrimination; promote gender equity; and insure free speech; a free press; free, fair, and open elections; equal rights for indigenous people (assured a minimum three National Assembly legislative seats); and mandates government make quality free education available for all to the highest levels, as well as housing and an improved social security pension system for seniors, and much more.

Hugo Chavez brought permanent change, and most Venezuelans won’t tolerate returning to the ugly past. Why should they? They never got these essential social services before. Under a leader who cares, they do now, and their lives improved enormously.

Other Venezuelan Constitutionally Guaranteed Rights

The Bolivarian Constitution is a glorious document, fundamentally different in spirit and letter from its US counterpart it shames by comparison. Before Chavez took office in February, 1999, Venezuela only paid lip service to civil liberties, human rights and needs. They’re now mandated by law. It encompasses an impressive array of basic rights and essential services like government-paid health care, education, housing, employment and human dignity enforced and funded by a caring government as the law requires.

Article 58 in the Constitution also guarantees the right to “timely, true, and impartial” information “without censorship, in accordance with the principles of this constitution.” The opposite is true in America where major media are state propaganda instruments for the privileged.

Articles 71 – 74 establish four types of popular national referenda never imagined or held in America outside the local or state level where they’re often non-binding. The US is one of only five major democracies never to have permitted this type citizen participation. In Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, the practice is mandated by law and institutionalized to give people at the grass roots a say in running their government. Four types of referenda are allowed:

–consultative – for a popular, non-binding vote on “national transcendent” issues like trade agreements;

– recall – applied to all elected officials up to the President;

– approving – a binding vote to approve laws, constitutional amendments, and treaties relating to national sovereignty; and

– rescinding – to rescind or change existing laws.

Referenda can be initiated by the National Assembly, the President, or by petition from 10 – 20% of registered voters, with different procedural requirements applying for each.

Social, family, cultural, educational and economic rights are guaranteed under Chapters V – VII with the government backing them financially.

Indigenous Native Peoples’ rights are covered in Chapter VIII. Even environmental rights are addressed with Article 127 stating “It is the right and duty of each generation to protect and maintain the environment for its own benefit and that of the world of the future….The State shall protect the environment, biological and genetic diversity, ecological processes….and other areas of ecological importance.” Try imagining any US federal law with teeth containing this type language let alone the Constitution that includes nothing in its Articles or Amendments.

Citizen Power gets considerable attention under Articles 273 – 291. It’s exercised by “the Republican Ethics Council, consisting of the People Defender, the General Prosecutor and the General Comptroller of the Republic….Citizen Power is independent and its organs enjoy operating, financial and administrative autonomy.” Citizen Power organs are legally charged with “preventing, investigating and punishing actions that undermine public ethics and administrative morals, to assure lawful sound management of public property….(to help) create citizenship, together with solidarity, freedom, democracy, social responsibility, work” and more.

Venezuela’s Constitution covers much more as well under each of its nine Titles from:

– stating its fundamental Bolivarian principles in Title I, to

– National Security in Title VII,

– Protection of the Constitution in Title VIII to assure its continuity in the event of “acts of force” or unlawful repeal with each citizen having a duty to reinstate it if that need arises; and finally

– Constitutional Reforms in Title IX in the form of amendments, other reforms to revise or replace any of its provisions, and the National Constituent Assembly with power “resting with the people of Venezuela.” They’re empowered to call an Assembly to transform the State, create a new “juridical order” and draft a new Constitution to be submitted to a national referendum for the people to accept or reject. That’s how democracy is supposed to work. In Venezuela it does. In the US, it doesn’t, never did, and was never conceived or intended to from the nation’s founding to the present.

This happens because Americans know painfully little about their law of the land hidden from them in plain view. They’re taught misinformation about it and the framers who drafted it. Few ever read it beyond a quoted line or two and even fewer ever think about it. In contrast, in Venezuela, the Bolivarian Constitution is sold in pocket-sized form almost everywhere. People buy, read and study it. Why? Because it’s a vital unifying part of their lives codifying core democratic values and principles Venezuelan people cherish and wish to keep.

Prospective Venezuelan Constitutional Reforms

In July, President Chavez announced he’d be sending the National Assembly a proposal of suggested constitutional reforms to debate and consider. He stressed Venezuelans would then get to vote on them in a national referendum so that “the majority will decide if they approve….constitutional reform.”

Chavez submitted his proposal in an August 15 address to the National Assembly that will debate and rule on them in three extraordinary sessions over the next 60 to 90 days. Included are amendments to 33 of the Constitution’s 350 articles to “complete the death of the old, hegemonic oligarchy and the old, exploitative capitalist system, and complete the birth of the new state.” Chavez stressed the need to update the 1999 Constitution because it’s “ambiguous (and) a product of that moment. The world (today) is very different from (then). (Reforms now are) essential for continuing the process of revolutionary transition.” They include:

– extending presidential terms from six to seven years;

– unlimited reelections (that countries like England, France, Germany and others now allow); Chavez wants the reelection option to be “the sovereign decision of the constituent people of Venezuela;”

– guaranteeing the right to work and establishing policies to develop and generate productive employment;

– creation of a Social Stability Fund for “non-dependent” or self-employed workers so they have the same rights as other workers including pensions, paid vacations and prenatal and postnatal leave entitlements;

– reducing the workday to six hours so businesses would have to employ more workers and hold unemployment down;

– ending the autonomy of Venezuela’s Central Bank;

– recognition of different kinds of property defined as social, collective, mixed and private;

– redefining the role of the military so henceforth “The Bolivarian Armed Forces (will) constitute an essential patriotic, popular and anti-imperialist body organized by the state to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the nation…;” and

– guaranteeing state control over the nation’s oil industry to prevent any future privatization of this vital resource;

Chavez also wants other changes to strengthen the nation’s participatory democracy at the grassroots. He stresses “one of the central ideas is my proposal to open, at the constitutional level, the roads to accelerate the transfer of power to the people” in an “Explosion of Communal (or popular) Power.” It’s already there in more than 26,000 democratically functioning grassroots communal councils. They’re government-sanctioned, funded, operating throughout the country, and may double in number and be strengthened further under proposed constitutional changes.

Chavez wants “Popular (people) Power” to be a “State Power” along with the Legislature, Executive, Judicial, Citizen and Electoral ones and considers this constitutional change the most important one of all. If it happens, various sovereign powers and duties now handled at the federal, state and municipal levels will be transfered to local communal, worker, campesino, student and other councils. This will strengthen Venezuela’s bedrock participatory democracy making it even more unique and impressive than it already is.

In America, it’s unimaginable a President or other government officials would recommend “People Power” become our fourth government branch, co-equal with the others, with citizens empowered to vote in national referenda on crucial proposed changes in law.

Chavez also proposed a “new geometry of power” by amending article 16 that now states “the territory of the nation is divided into those of the States, the Capital District, federal dependencies and federal territories. The territory is organized into Municipalities.” Chavez wants this amended so popular referenda can create “federal districts” in specific areas to serve as states. He called this idea “profoundly revolutionary (and needed) to remove the old oligarchic, exploiter hegemony, the old society, and (quoting Gramsci weaken the former) historic block. If we don’t change the (old) superstructure (it) will defeat us.”

Chavez also stressed this new structure is needed to be in place when “Venezuela (grows to) 40 – 50 million people.” His plan includes “restructur(ing) Caracas” into a Federal District with more local autonomy, as it was at an earlier time.

These proposals and other initiatives are part of his overall socialism for the 21st century plan that’s also very business-friendly. Chavez opposes savage capitalism, not private enterprise, and under his stewardship domestic and foreign businesses have thrived. They’re a dominant force powering the economy to accelerated growth since 2003 with latest Central Bank 2nd quarter, 2007 figures coming in at 8.9%. With oil prices high and world economies prospering, this trend is likely to continue. That’s good news for business and households sharing in the benefits through greater purchasing power.

Chavez wants his new United Socialist Party (PSUV) to drive the revolutionary process and continue his agenda of reform for all Venezuelans. He wants everyone to enjoy the benefits, not just a privileged few like in the past and in the US today. Under his leadership, their future is bright while in America poverty is growing, the middle class is dying, and the darkness of tyranny threatens everyone under George Bush with his agenda likely continuing under a new president in 2009.

Governance differences exist between these two nations because their constitutional laws are mirror opposite, and America has no one like Hugo Chavez. He’s a rare leader who cares and backs his rhetoric with progressive people-friendly policies. In the US, there’s George Bush, and that pretty much explains the problem. Knowing that, which leader would you choose and under which system of government would you prefer to live?

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on TheMicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central time.

Stephen Lendman is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Stephen Lendman

The Timeline to Tyranny

August 8, 2007

The Timeline to Tyranny
Ten advances towards the end of freedom and privacy in the United States

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Tuesday, August 7, 2007

reddit_url=’http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/august2007/070807_timeline_to_tyranny.htm’ reddit_title=’The Timeline to Tyranny’

digg_title = ‘The Timeline to Tyranny’; digg_bodytext = ‘The top ten advances towards tyranny in the United States during the tenure of the Bush administration, from the Patriot Act to the latest expansion of the illegal eavesdropping surveillance program.’;

The top ten advances towards tyranny in the United States during the tenure of the Bush administration, from the Patriot Act to the latest expansion of the illegal eavesdropping surveillance program.

1) The USA Patriot Act

The party line often heard from Neo-Cons in their attempts to defend the Patriot Act either circulate around the contention that the use of the Patriot Act has never been abused or that it isn’t being used against American citizens. Here is an archive of articles that disproves both of these fallacies.

The Patriot Act was the boiler plate from which all subsequent attacks on the Constitution were formed.

2) Total Information Awareness

“Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as “a virtual, centralized grand database,” infamously wrote New York Times writer William Safire, announcing the birth of Total Information Awareness, a kind of Echelon on steroids introduced a year after 9/11.

TIA was not canned, it was simply removed from the newspaper, renamed and continues to operate under a guise of different programs. 3) USA Patriot Act II

The second Patriot Act was a mirror image of powers that Julius Caesar and Adolf Hitler gave themselves. Whereas the First Patriot Act only gutted the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, and seriously damaged the Seventh and the Tenth, the Second Patriot Act reorganized the entire Federal government as well as many areas of state government under the dictatorial control of the Justice Department, the Office of Homeland Security and the FEMA NORTHCOM military command.

The Domestic Security Enhancement Act 2003, also known as the Second Patriot Act is by its very structure the definition of dictatorship.

Military Commissions Act

Slamming the final nail in the coffin of everything America used to stand for, the boot-licking U.S. Senate gave President Bush the legal authority to abduct and sexually mutilate American citizens and American children in the name of the war on terror in passing the Military Commissions Act and officially ending Habeas Corpus.

There is nothing in the “detainee” legislation that protects American citizens from being kidnapped by their own government and tortured.

The New York Times stated that the legislation introduced, “A dangerously broad definition of “illegal enemy combatant” in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted.”

Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman states in the L.A. Times, “The compromise legislation….authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights.”

Similarly, law Professor Marty Lederman explains: “this [subsection (ii) of the definition of ‘unlawful enemy combatant’] means that if the Pentagon says you’re an unlawful enemy combatant — using whatever criteria they wish — then as far as Congress, and U.S. law, is concerned, you are one, whether or not you have had any connection to ‘hostilities’ at all.”

John Warner Defense Authorization Act

The Bush Junta quietly “tooled up” to utilize the U.S. military in engaging American dissidents after the next big crisis, with a frightening and overlooked piece of legislation that was passed alongside the Military Commissions Act, the John Warner Defense Authorization Act, which greased the skids for armed confrontation and abolishes posse comitatus.

Illegal Domestic Wiretapping Program

“Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials,” reported the New York Times on December 16, 2005

The secret warrantless spying program was a complete violation of both the 4th Amendment and FISA.

Expansion of Illegal Domestic Wiretapping Program

 

Not content with now being lawfully allowed to force ISP’s and cell phone companies to turn over data about customers without a warrant, the Bush administration is pushing for even more authority to spy on American citizens, and has already been handed a 6 month window within which to impose any surveillance policy it likes, and for that program to remain legal in perpetuity.

The administration has a 6 month window in which to impose any surveillance program it chooses and that program will go unchallenged and remain legally binding in perpetuity – it cannot be revoked. Under the definitions of the legislation, Bush has been granted absolute dictator status for a minimum of 6 months.

If he so chooses, and so long as it’s implemented within the next half year, Bush could build a database of every website visited by every American – and the policy would be immune from Congressional challenge even after the “surveillance gap” legislation reaches its sunset

Martial Law Presidential Decision Directive 51

New legislation signed on May 9, 2007, declares that in the event of a “catastrophic event”, the President can take total control over the government and the country, bypassing all other levels of government at the state, federal, local, territorial and tribal levels, and thus ensuring total unprecedented dictatorial power.

The National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive, which also places the Secretary of Homeland Security in charge of domestic “security”, was signed earlier this month without the approval or oversight of Congress and seemingly supercedes the National Emergency Act which allows the president to declare a national emergency but also requires that Congress have the authority to “modify, rescind, or render dormant” such emergency authority if it believes the president has acted inappropriately.

Destruction of the Dollar

Former World Bank Vice President, Chief Economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz has predicted a global economic crash within 24 months – unless the current downturn is successfully managed. Asked if the situation was being properly handled Stiglitz emphatically responded “no,”.

Stiglitz caused controversy in October 2001 when he exposed rampant corruption within the IMF and blew the whistle on their nefarious methods of inducing countries to fall under their debt before stripping them of sovereignty and hollowing out their economies. Stiglitz agreed that the process of hijacking and looting key infrastructure on the part of the IMF and World Bank, as an offshoot of predatory globalization, had now moved from the third world to Europe, the United States and Canada.

Amnesty & The North American Union

The open plan to merge the US with Mexico and Canada and create a Pan American Union has long been a Globalist brainchild but its very real and prescient implementation on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations has finally been reported on by mainstream news outlets.

The framework on which the American Union is being pegged is the NAFTA Super Highway, a four football-fields-wide leviathan that stretches from southern Mexico through the US up to Montreal Canada .Coupled with Bush’s blanket amnesty program, the Pan American Union is the final jigsaw piece for the total dismantling of America as we know it.

———————————

For an explanation of the timeline to tyranny in a wider context, click here to listen to Alex Jones’ rant on the subject.

Freedom or Totalitarianism, the Choice is Yours

August 7, 2007

Freedom or Totalitarianism, the Choice is Yours

By Sgt. Kevin Benderman

08/06/07 “ICH” — — The apathetic American public needs to pull their heads out of the comfortable little hole in the sand where it has been for far too long and do something about the way our country is being stolen from us by an administration that has its well-being and only its well- being in mind.

Our congressional representatives have no spine when it comes to doing what needs to be done to stop the war that the Project for the New American Century has pushed down the throats of the American public. This group has hi-jacked the country out from under us and we are standing by and letting them get away with it.

I remember my father watching the Watergate trials of the Nixon White House and I remember the nation having the spine to go after them with a vengeance for something that is much less worse than what the current White House is doing. The Nixon White House wanted to know what the opposition party was doing to get elected to the presidency and they staged the break-in of the opposition headquarters to get that information.

President Nixon was impeached for this, yet now we sit back and let a so-called President violate the United States Constitution, The Geneva Convention, and the Nuremberg Tribunals by starting a war in Iraq. This is a country that has been proven time and time again to have nothing to do with the September, 11th 2001 attacks on our country. The “interrogation” methods used and authorized by this administration very specifically violate our constitution because our constitution states that any treaty we sign and ratify becomes the law of the land. We signed and ratified the Geneva Conventions of 1949 which made it a law of America.

“Article. VI. – Debts, Supremacy, Oaths”

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

Below is the date the United States congress signed and ratified the Geneva Convention into United States law.

Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949.

United States of America – Signed 12 August 1949 and 2 August 1955.

We have been bound by law and the United States Constitution to adhere to the Geneva Convention since August 2, 1955 but we have allowed this administration to waltz into office and break our laws as we do nothing about it. Yet we bitch and moan about our freedoms being taken from us, well, America, as long as you let them be taken from you they will be.

America, we are forgetting who we are and who we are supposed to be, which, is a people who do the right thing no matter what, and yet we set by and let this group of demagogues destroy our country and constitution.

More people in this country are worried about the latest gossip about Hollywood than things that really matter. I can’t believe I went to jail for trying to defend my constitution from this group of anti-constitutionalists while the country just sits back and watches while it takes place. I also cannot believe the people who put those magnets on their car and then think that absolves them of any responsibility to do anything more substantial than this. If this is the best you can do to support the “troops”, then don’t bother yourself.

Never mind that soldiers are dying every damn day in Iraq.

I was told by many groups that I would have their un-ending support for taking a principled stand against this, but as I sat in military prison waiting to see some justice from the people who should come up with a sound and reasoned argument that would put and end to this madness, I watched those same groups go their merry way.

For those who did support me as much as they could I am very grateful, but for those who went and bought pink shirts and paid for balloons to put on the mall in Washington, thanks for nothing. These actions have done nothing to hold this administration to account for starting this war, as a matter of fact; these actions have hindered those of us who are working on a serious plan to provide some real assistance to the service members that continue to die in this war of choice (of choice for a select few).

So to the ones who made the promises to me about continuing to support the stand I took and the promises to help me set up a program of grass roots solutions to help with the problems returning service members and our communities face, I am waiting to see if you meant what you said or if you are like the politicians you claim to want to set straight; all talk and no action.

Sgt. Kevin Benderman is a ten year Army veteran who served a combat tour in Iraq at the time of the initial invasion. He returned to file a conscientious objector application as his legal show of refusal to further participate in a military action he knew to be wrong. He served over a year in prison for his actions. Please visit www.BendermanDefense.org to learn more.

You may write to Kevin at info@BendermansBridge.org

Will Bush Cancel the 2008 Election? by Harvey Wasserman & Bob Fitrakis

August 1, 2007

Will Bush Cancel the 2008 Election? by Harvey Wasserman & Bob Fitrakis

Jump to CommentsDandelion Salad

by Harvey Wasserman & Bob Fitrakis

Tuesday, 31 July 2007
Speaking Truth to Power
Reprinted from CommonDreams.org

The authors of this article blatantly use the “D” word–dictatorship.

It is time to think about the “unthinkable.”

The Bush Administration has both the inclination and the power to cancel the 2008 election.

The GOP strategy for another electoral theft in 2008 has taken clear shape, though we must assume there is much more we don’t know.

But we must also assume that if it appears to Team Bush/Cheney/Rove that the GOP will lose the 2008 election anyway (as it lost in Ohio 2006) we cannot ignore the possibility that they would simply cancel the election. Those who think this crew will quietly walk away from power are simply not paying attention.

The real question is not how or when they might do it. It’s how, realistically, we can stop them.

In Florida 2000, Team Bush had a game plan involving a handful of tactics. With Jeb Bush in the governor’s mansion, the GOP used a combination of disenfranchisement, intimidation, faulty ballots, electronic voting fraud, a rigged vote count and an aborted recount, courtesy of the US Supreme Court.

A compliant Democrat (Al Gore) allowed the coup to be completed.

In Ohio 2004, the arsenal of dirty tricks exploded. Based in Columbus, we have documented more than a hundred different tactics used to steal the 20 electoral votes that gave Bush a second term. More are still surfacing. As a result of the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville federal lawsuit (in which we are plaintiff and attorney) we have now been informed that 56 of the 88 counties in Ohio violated federal law by destroying election records, thus preventing a definitive historical recount.

As in 2000, a compliant Democrat (John Kerry) allowed the coup to proceed.

For 2008 we expect the list of vote theft maneuvers to escalate yet again. We are already witnessing a coordinated nationwide drive to destroy voter registration organizations and to disenfranchise millions of minority, poor and young voters.

This carefully choreographed campaign is complemented by the widespread use of electronic voting machines. As reported by the Government Accountability Office, Princeton University, the Brennan Center, the Carter-Baker Commission, US Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and others, these machines can be easily used to flip an election. They were integral to stealing both the 2000 and 2004 elections. Efforts to make their source codes transparent, or to require a usable paper trail on a federal level, have thus far failed. A discriminatory Voter ID requirement may also serve as the gateway to a national identification card.

Overall, the GOP will have at its command even more weapons of election theft in 2008 than it did in Ohio 2004, which jumped exponentially from Florida 2000. The Rovian GOP is nothing if not tightly organized to do this with ruthless efficiency. Expect everything that was used these past two presidential elections to surface again in 2008 in far more states, with far more efficiency, and many new dirty tricks added in.

But in Ohio 2006, the GOP learned a hard lesson. Its candidate for governor was J. Kenneth Blackwell. The Secretary of State was the essential on-the-ground operative in the theft of Ohio 2004.

When he announced for governor, many Ohioans joked that “Ken Blackwell will never lose an election where he counts the votes.”

But lose he did….along with the GOP candidates for Secretary of State, Attorney-General and US Senate.

By our calculations, despite massive grassroots scrutiny, the Republicans stole in excess of 6% of the Ohio vote in 2006. But they still lost.

Why? Because they were so massively unpopular that even a 6% bump couldn’t save them. Outgoing Governor Bob Taft, who pled guilty to four misdemeanors while in office, left town with a 7% approval rating (that’s not a typo). Blackwell entered the last week of the campaign down 30% in some polls.

So while the GOP still had control of the electoral machinery here in 2006, the public tide against them was simply too great to hold back, even through the advanced art and science of modern Rovian election theft.

In traditional electoral terms, that may also be the case in 2008. Should things proceed as they are now, it’s hard to imagine any Republican candidate going into the election within striking distance. The potential variations are many, but the graffiti on the wall is clear.

What’s also clear is that this administration has a deep, profound and uncompromised contempt for democracy, for the rule of law, and for the US Constitution. When George W. Bush went on the record (twice) as saying he has nothing against dictatorship, as long as he can be dictator, it was a clear and present policy statement.

Who really believes this crew will walk quietly away from power? They have the motivation, the money and the method for doing away with the electoral process altogether. So why wouldn’t they?

The groundwork for dismissal of both the legislative and judicial branch has been carefully laid. The litany is well-known, but worth a very partial listing:

The continuation of the drug war, and the Patriot Act, Homeland Security Act and other dictatorial laws prompted by the 9/11/2001 terror attacks, have decimated the Bill of Rights, and shredded the traditional American right to due process of law, freedom from official surveillance, arbitrary violence, and far more.

The current Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzales, has not backed away from his announcement to Congress that the Constitution does not guarantee habeas corpus. The administration continues to act on the assumption that it can arrest anyone at any time and hold them without notification or trial for as long as it wants.

The establishment of the Homeland Security Agency has given it additional hardware to decimate the basic human rights of our citizenry. Under the guise of dealing with the “immigration problem,” large concentration camps are under construction around the US.

The administration has endorsed and is exercising its “right” to employ torture, contrary to the Eighth Amendment and to a wide range of international treaties, which Gonzales has labeled “quaint.”

With more than 200 “signing statements” the administration acts on its belief that the “unitary executive” trumps the power of the legislative branch in any instance it chooses. This belief has been further enforced with the administration’s use of a wide range of precedent-setting arguments to keep its functionaries from testifying before Congress.

There is much more. In all instances, the 109th Congress—and the public—have rolled over without significant resistance.

Most crucial now are Presidential Directive #51, Executive Orders #13303, #13315, #13350, #13364, #13422, #13438, and more, by which Bush has granted himself an immense arsenal of powers for which the term “dictatorial” is a modest understatement.

The Founders established our government with checks and balances. But executive orders have accumulated important precedent. The Emancipation Proclamation by which Lincoln declared an end to slavery in the South, was issued under the “military necessity” of adding blacks to the Union Army, a step without which the North might not have won the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order #8802 established the Fair Employment Practices Commission. Harry Truman’s Executive Order #9981 desegregated the military.

Most to the point, FDR’s Executive Order #9066 ordered the forcible internment of 100,000 people of Japanese descent into the now infamous concentration camps of World War II.

There is also precedent for a president overriding the Supreme Court. In the 1830s Chief Justice John Marshall enshrined the right of the Cherokee Nation to sovereignty over its ancestral land in the Appalachian Mountains. But President Andrew Jackson scorned the decision. Some 14,000 native Americans were moved at gunpoint to Oklahoma. More than 3,000 died along the way.

All this will be relevant should Team Bush envision a defeat in the 2008 election and decide to call it off. It’s well established that Richard Nixon—mentor to Karl Rove and Dick Cheney—commissioned the Huston Plan, which detailed how to cancel the 1972 election.

Today we must ask: who would stop this administration from taking dictatorial power in the instance of a “national emergency” such as a terror attack at a nuclear power plant or something similar?

Nothing in the behavior of this Congress indicates that it is capable of significant resistance. Impeachment seems beyond it. Nor does it seem Congress would actually remove Bush if it did put him on trial.

Short of that, Bush clearly does not view anything Congress might do as a meaningful impediment. After all, how many divisions does the Congress command?

The Supreme Court, as currently constituted, would almost certainly rubber stamp a Bush coup. If not, like Jackson, he could ignore it as easily as he would ignore Congress.

What does that leave? There is much idle speculation now about what the armed forces would do. We also hear loose talk about “90 million gun owners.”

From the public side, the only conceivable counter-force might be a national strike or an effective long-term campaign of general non-cooperation.

But we can certainly assume the mainstream media will give lock-step support to whatever the regime says and does. It’s also a given that those likely to lead the resistance will immediately land in those new prisons being built by Halliburton et. al.

So how do we cope with the harsh realities of such a Bush/Cheney/Rove dictatorial coup?

We may have about a year to prepare. Every possible scenario needs to be discussed in excruciating detail.

For only one thing is certain: denial will do nothing.

HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES is at www.solartopia.org, along with SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH, A.D. 2030. The FITRAKIS FILES are at www.freepress.org (where this article was originally published), along with HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION & IS RIGGING 2008, which Bob and Harvey co-wrote.

Defying the Imperial Presidency

July 26, 2007

 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/26/opinion/26thu1.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

July 26, 2007

Editorial

Defying the Imperial Presidency

The House Judiciary Committee did its duty yesterday, voting to cite Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, and Joshua Bolten, the White House chief of staff, for contempt. The Bush administration has been acting lawlessly in refusing to hand over information that Congress needs to carry out its responsibility to oversee the executive branch and investigate its actions when needed. If the White House continues its obstruction, Congress should use all of the contempt powers at its disposal.

The committee really had no choice but to hold Ms. Miers in contempt. When she was subpoenaed to testify about the administration’s possibly illegal purge of nine United States attorneys, she simply refused to show up, citing executive privilege. Invoking privilege in response to particular questions might have been warranted — the courts could have decided that later. But simply flouting a Congressional subpoena is not an option.

Mr. Bolten has refused to provide Congress with documents it requested in the attorney purge investigation, also citing privilege, and he has been equally unforthcoming about why he thinks it applies. Together, Ms. Miers’s and Mr. Bolten’s response to Congress has simply been: “Go away” — a position that finds no support in the Constitution.

If these privilege claims make it to court, it is likely that Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten will lose. The Supreme Court has held that a president’s interest in keeping communications private must be balanced against an investigator’s need for them. In this case, the president’s privacy interest is minimal, since the White House has said he was not involved in purging the United States attorneys. Congress’s need for the information, though, is substantial. It has already turned up an array of acts by administration officials that may have been criminal.

The administration’s contemptuous attitude toward the constitutional role of Congress was on display again this week when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. He repeatedly refused to answer legitimate questions, and he contradicted himself so frequently that it is hard to believe he was even trying to tell the truth.

Congress must not capitulate in the White House’s attempt to rob it of its constitutional powers. Now that the committee has acted, the whole House must vote to hold Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten in contempt. The administration has indicated that it is unlikely to allow the United States attorney for the District of Columbia to bring Congress’s contempt charges before a grand jury. That would be a regrettable stance. But if the administration sticks to it, Congress can and should proceed against Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten on its own, using its inherent contempt powers.

It is not too late for President Bush to spare the country the trauma, and himself the disgrace, of this particular constitutional showdown. There is a simple way out. He should direct Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten to provide Congress with the information to which it is entitled.

I Announce My Candidacy Against Nancy Pelosi in California’s 8th. By Cindy Sheehan

July 25, 2007

I Announce My Candidacy Against Nancy Pelosi in California’s 8th. By Cindy Sheehan


By Cindy Sheehan

07/24/07  “ICH

Journey for Humanity and Accountability, Day 14

I am lying in my hotel bed at the end of a very busy, productive, yet sad day.

About 300 people gathered today and marched the 3½ miles from the entrance of Arlington Cemetery to Congressman John Conyers’ office to demand impeachment and accountability from one of the leading figures in American politics for the last four decades.

We were so thrilled with the turnout and the energy of the group. There was great media coverage and about one dozen freepers on the opposite corner with signs such as: “Traitors go to Hell” and “Cindy Sheehan go to Hell.” Nice. I have learned that hell can be on earth and if there is anything worse than burying a child, I don’t want to know about it.

At the end of the march, Reverend Lennox Yearwood, President of the Hip Hop Caucus, Ray McGovern (retired CIA analyst), and I met with Congressman John Conyers to implore him to institute impeachment proceedings against the pretenders to the White House who are destroying our democracy, making a mockery out of our rule of law and who are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

This was my third meeting with Congressman Conyers about impeachment. I hold a special place in my heart for him and I revere him for his decades-long service to this nation. But for the life of me, I cannot understand why he will not go forward with impeachment now.

A year ago, he introduced HR635 to impeach George Bush while he was Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee and not even chairman. He wrote the book on impeachment called: The Constitution in Crisis and he readily admits that BushCo have committed impeachable offenses.

It’s about partisan politics, pure and simple. The Congressman claims there is absolutely no way that impeachment can go forward and, when I was nearing the end of my hope, I cried out: “So, if the people’s house won’t help us then we the people have no recourse against the executive branch.” To which he replied: “Yes you do, vote the enablers out in ‘08.” Firstly, Congressman Conyers told us to put Democrats back in Congress to end the war and impeach BushCo. We did that and instead of ending the war, they gave George Bush more money to wage it and to conduct his deadly and tragic surge. Secondly, ‘08 will be too late to hold George and Dick accountable. Thirdly, thousands of more people will die in these last months of the worst Presidency in American history. Lastly, after Dick proclaimed that he was not part of the executive branch and that his office does not have to comply with requests to turn over documents to the National Archives: 435 Congress Reps should have signed onto H Res 333 to impeach Cheney. Only 14 have co-signed Congressman Kucinich’s bill, so that makes 421 elected Congressional officials enablers of the crimes of the Bush Regime.

At the end of this day, Speaker Pelosi has not supported impeachment and has not upheld her oath of office to “protect and defend” the Constitution. Like Congressman Conyers said almost a year ago, our Constitution is in crisis and we can’t wait for more meetings and more stalling from Reps who think the problem will go away in ‘08. The Middle East is rapidly falling apart under this regime and our country is sliding rapidly into a state of one-branch tyranny while our “heroes,” the Democrats, fiddle.

It was with very heavy hearts that Rev. Yearwood, Ray, and I reported back to the media that the Congressman had said that with over 1 million signatures on petitions, one phone call coming into his office every 30 seconds supporting impeachment, and with 300 activists in the hall to support him, he was still not going to move forward with the most urgent duty of his career. The Rev and I were particularly disheartened and broken because we do love the Congressman so much, but we love our country and the people of Iraq and the Middle East more. The Rev and Ray spent many years serving their country in the military and the CIA and I had a son who gave his life to do what the Congress is supposed to do: protect our freedoms, not hand them over to the mob that runs our country.

It is also with a heavy heart that I announce my candidacy against Nancy Pelosi in California’s 8th. If anybody would dare think I am not serious, I would hope they would look back at the last 3 years of my life and everything I have sacrificed to restore our nation to one that obeys the rule of law and can be looked up to with respect once again in the international community and not as the hated laughingstock on the block.

I am committed to challenging a two-party system that has kept us in a state of constant warfare for the last 60 years and has become more and more beholden to special interests and has forgotten the faces of the people whom it represents.

I am committed to using our strength as a country to wage peace and to elevate the status of every citizen in our country by converting the enduring war economy to a prosperous one with lasting peace.

Someone needs to step up to the plate to do this and I challenge other Americans to do the same. Challenge the status quo, because the status quo is no good. We need to become plugged into our government once again as active participants not just passive voters.

It is up to us.

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Sheehan who was killed in Bush’s war of terror on 04/04/04. She is the co-founder and president of Gold Star Families for Peace and The Camp Casey Peace Institute.


Just What the Founders Feared: An Imperial President Goes to War

July 24, 2007

July 23, 2007

Editorial Observer

Just What the Founders Feared: An Imperial President Goes to War

The nation is heading toward a constitutional showdown over the Iraq war. Congress is moving closer to passing a bill to limit or end the war, but President Bush insists Congress doesn’t have the power to do it. “I don’t think Congress ought to be running the war,” he said at a recent press conference. “I think they ought to be funding the troops.” He added magnanimously: “I’m certainly interested in their opinion.”

The war is hardly the only area where the Bush administration is trying to expand its powers beyond all legal justification. But the danger of an imperial presidency is particularly great when a president takes the nation to war, something the founders understood well. In the looming showdown, the founders and the Constitution are firmly on Congress’s side.

Given how intent the president is on expanding his authority, it is startling to recall how the Constitution’s framers viewed presidential power. They were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not accidentally create a kingdom. To guard against it, they sharply limited presidential authority, which Edmund Randolph, a Constitutional Convention delegate and the first attorney general, called “the foetus of monarchy.”

The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war. They were haunted by Europe’s history of conflicts started by self-aggrandizing kings. John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”

Many critics of the Iraq war are reluctant to suggest that President Bush went into it in anything but good faith. But James Madison, widely known as the father of the Constitution, might have been more skeptical. “In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed,” he warned. “It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle.”

When they drafted the Constitution, Madison and his colleagues wrote their skepticism into the text. In Britain, the king had the authority to declare war, and raise and support armies, among other war powers. The framers expressly rejected this model and gave these powers not to the president, but to Congress.

The Constitution does make the president “commander in chief,” a title President Bush often invokes. But it does not have the sweeping meaning he suggests. The framers took it from the British military, which used it to denote the highest-ranking official in a theater of battle. Alexander Hamilton emphasized in Federalist No. 69 that the president would be “nothing more” than “first general and admiral,” responsible for “command and direction” of military forces.

The founders would have been astonished by President Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly. Madison described Congress’s control over spending as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

The framers expected Congress to keep the president on an especially short leash on military matters. The Constitution authorizes Congress to appropriate money for an army, but prohibits appropriations for longer than two years. Hamilton explained that the limitation prevented Congress from vesting “in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.”

As opinion turns more decisively against the war, the administration is becoming ever more dismissive of Congress’s role. Last week, Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman brusquely turned away Senator Hillary Clinton’s questions about how the Pentagon intended to plan for withdrawal from Iraq. “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq,” he wrote. Mr. Edelman’s response showed contempt not merely for Congress, but for the system of government the founders carefully created.

The Constitution cannot enforce itself. It is, as the constitutional scholar Edwin Corwin famously observed, an “invitation to struggle” among the branches, but the founders wisely bequeathed to Congress some powerful tools for engaging in the struggle. It is no surprise that the current debate over a deeply unpopular war is arising in the context of a Congressional spending bill. That is precisely what the founders intended.

Members of Congress should not be intimidated into thinking that they are overstepping their constitutional bounds. If the founders were looking on now, it is not Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who would strike them as out of line, but George W. Bush, who would seem less like a president than a king.