Americans are afraid of their government, their laws, their police and they have been afraid too long. There are groups that, for political gain, have always exploited fear, this is to be expected. The “neocon” movement was built from wild conspiracy theories spread by the Fox/Murdoch empire and its cabal of hidden cohorts. Fearful Americans voted in even more corrupt governments than usual and economic disasters were engineered, perhaps a bit of government terrorism too.
Americans we lulled into the complacency of sheep and, as they awakened, a few at a time, they saw how the visions and ideals they once held had disappeared.
What they didn’t know was that this dark time and the darker times to follow would, when seen in retrospect, seem as though they were a golden era.
There is real fear in America, strangely uniting people as only hopelessness can.
While America slept, thieves came in the night and stole her soul. First the new laws, the foreign threats, terrorism, militias, extremism, Orwell’s 1984.
Then came the endless wars, more Orwellian nightmares followed by more laws, new bureaucracies, new humiliations, the author’s nightmares of a century past, Orwell and Kafka.
America went away. It was replaced by “Fusion Centers” run by the Department of Homeland Security, where data on the behavior of everyone, children in school, gossip in the workplace, emails, telephone calls, all became fodder for analysis and classification.
This veteran is prone to violence, this church is a cult, this group is a militia, this meeting is a conspiracy.
This is one agency, there are 16. This is only the “Fusion Center.” The NSA (National Security Agency), NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) and 16 other agencies, all with undefined and overlapping powers, are spending billions on super computers to watch, to think, to predict and to, eventually, intervene.
“Capabilities” are being built to answer “threats” that have never existed and, as predicted, when the “Frankenstein monster” America has built is unleashed, it will have no duty but to turn on its unknowing creators.
Thus, every phone call, every email, every Facebook post, perhaps every glance or expression will be recorded and analyzed.
Orwell’s “Thought Police,” exist, 16 agencies full, and those are only those with Federal or national designations. Each state, county, each city or town, all are accumulating heavy weapons, surveillance equipment, all a duplication of the Israeli model.
USA IN CRISIS: DESTROYED DREAMS
The worst part is Americans have forgotten how to deal with tyranny. Americans met the British the way the Viet Cong and Taliban have met our own troops.
This was before 15 million Americans languished in prisons. This was before a million police, indoctrinated, no, really “brainwashed,” fed on steroids, human growth hormone, sniper rifles, armoured cars and specialist gear of America’s elite special operations forces now “standard issue” for traffic police and meter maids, America has created a culture of power and oppression.
Behind the police is government, layer upon layer, each more corrupt than the last. Behind the police are endless prisons and jails, many privately run, all as filthy and violent as any on earth, innocent and guilty alike share one thing in common, lack of money to buy their way to freedom.
Only the poor go to jail in America.
Sheriffs and police chiefs, judges and magistrates are empowered to fill the “for pay” prisons owned by corporations that finance their campaigns.
In America, sheriffs and judges are elected, nominated by the powerful, financed by those they are sworn to protect, the privileged classes, those of organized crime, the drug cartels, and, most of all, their political overlords who then serve a greater class of criminals, onward and upward until the elite bankers and moguls of world crime sit at their table and divide their spoils.
The grand criminal conspiracy tried to form their own political base. It was called the “Tea Party” and many fell for the message of hate and divisiveness from Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and their masters, the Koch Brothers, those whose exist through bleeding America dry by manipulating fuel prices.
“Occupy,” a real America activist movement, the best of America, hope, ideals, intelligence, clearly recognizing the true enemy and resisting tyranny, certainly worthy but, call me a cynic, and I am certainly that, but two generations bred for complacency and, little are they aware, slaughter, too many stood by and did nothing.
Moreover, tyranny and violence came out in force, rights to free assembly and speech had long disappeared and no one had been there to notice. Worse still, more openly sold those rights for nothing more than the promise of security, with only those of intellect, fewer each day it seems, aware that the enemy was and is…us.
As things are now, in very real “America,” rural, urban, black, white, Jews and Gentiles, there is a feeling that it is wise to be armed.
There is also a need to be organized and also a fear, knowing that no group of any kind is safe if it is legally armed, organized and openly advocating a return to real representative government and the very minimal safeguards of a constitution even fewer realize is long outdated.
It has gone further. In regions of the United States, people live in actual terror of their government. Knowing I am speaking to a largely international audience, such a statement may seem almost humorous. Imprisonment for crimes of thought or for exercising dissent are commonplace in most of the world.
America really was very different and, I can only hope, there are Americans out there who are as concerned as I am.
What has made this situation so pervasive is orchestrating of complacency, of submission, the acceptance of fear and hopelessness that pervades many.
Conversely, there is an equal and opposite culture of brutality, of indifference to human values, of feeling, of respect and honor, a disrespect for truth, for rights of the individual, a need to oppress the weak and defend the powerful
We have bred, it seems, a race of sociopaths, be they cartel “hit men” or corrupt police or guards at military prisons, perhaps even well paid contractors loading planes with narcotics to destroy the lives of our children, they are our creation.
Jim Morrison of the Doors once sang “They’ve got the guns, we’ve got the numbers.”
Morrison died in a bathtub in Paris many years ago, I visit his grave periodically. The stone bust has long been removed as much as his message has been forgotten.
The balance has well changed, they have the guns and they have the numbers, “we” no longer seem to exist, not a “we” that respects liberty and honor anyway.
The military, through its service academies, West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy, actually purposefully endeavor to mold a race of military leaders that function more as insects than humans.
There are exceptions, but they live in the shadows and are cowed into silence.
Funny thing, our papers are filled with Syria, how their government is “repressing the revolution” with violence. Were Americans to rise up and demand real freedom, there is little doubt nuclear weapons would be unleashed.
Do make a note of that.
Last night was the first presidential debate, part of an election year ritual that first began in 1960, the year of the Kennedy/Nixon election. Great issues stood before Americans, or so most believed, racial divides, pervasive religious discrimination, rural poverty and disease, urban decay, a crumbling manufacturing base, America under Eisenhower had stagnated.
American elections are much like wars or sporting events. People choose teams for reasons none understand, vilify the opposition, show loyalty to the “home team,” whether a game or one of the endless wars that have sapped the economies and futures of this small planet since man first emerged, from a tree, a cave or from a scriptural paradise.
Now, it is all falling apart. Old divisions are no longer believable. Old ideals of hard work, saving for the future have proven to bring only poverty and hopelessness. Ideals of justice and honor, of truth, these things have become a joke.
Americans that choose religious faith find themselves guided into extremism and hatred. Those who choose rational problem solving, who choose to seek solutions, inevitably sink into cynicism and bitterness.
America has sought leaders to stand for the people. They are killed, “lone gunmen,” or plane accidents, some are imprisoned, some simply destroyed through a deluge of laundered drug money, America’s new “currency of violence” as per the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Citizens United.
If a new leader arises, he or she will be of sterner stuff, merciless and cruel. This is also what is whispered behind closed doors.
It is my suspicion that a Romney presidency would bring it about, a war in Iran, a return to compulsory military service, elimination of universal education, massive homelessness, a nation pushed into decay as we see a “short sale” on America, a nation broken up and peddled off wholesale, as Romney has done so many times before.
I remember my first visit to the Tower of London. The tours have been the same for generations. The part that sticks, for me at least, is the idea of “hanging, drawing and quartering,” followed by placing the head of the traitor on a “pike” at the gate.
The tales of the Beefeaters at the Tower, meant to shock the American tourists no longer seem as out of place.
Bush lied to us when he said the Muslims hated us for our freedom and wanted to take that away. The proof? After 911 the State Department did a worldwide major survey of Muslim attitudes toward America. The results were startling, with upwards to 90% liking the American people and most wanting to move here if they could. The majority of their negative comments all focused around the American ‘government’ policies in the Mid East.
Bush was of course aware of this study. But he went ahead and shamed our country by lying through his teeth about the Muslims all wanting to come after us. Why did he do it? He knew the report was on record that totally refuted what he was saying.
Bush was not going to let anything get in his way of exploiting 911 to play the big man and go after Saddam. The NeoCon crowd had been harping for years about pre-emptive strikes, eliminating ‘potential’ enemies.
Israeli Intelligence was all on board and the Lobby made sure their Congressional lackeys followed suit.
Donald Rumsfeld is on record for stating that because we had spent all this money on the American military it should be used for something, I guess like starting some wars.
He anointed himself the ‘war on the cheap’ architect, the modern warrior. Victory would not take long, the cost predictable. We could put in another puppet government to deal with the locals. The expat Iraqis were rejected out of hand.
Almost everything the Bush Neocons told us was a lie…the estimates that we could recover the war cost with just a few years of Iraqi oil revenues, that there would be no real resistance because we would build Disney land parks, MacDonalds, and bring Madonna in for free concerts so everyone would love America.
The NeoCon crowd was clueless and delusional about what was facing them. Anybody in the Pentagon who put legitimate warnings on the table was purged. General Eric Shinseki was the first of many. Terror started in the Pentagon. Open your mouth and you got kicked out, period. The officer corps got the message and the dual Israeli citizens there were taking names as always.
When Shinseki told the truth his career got car bombed by Donald Rumsfeld and the Army abandoned him as they usually do when political corruption steps in.
The war contracting graft was just a jump start. They were also looking at oil and taking over the heroin business. Someone came up with the concept that leaving it in the hands of drug dealers was a national security risk.
So American service men and women would fight and die for oil pipelines and a War on Terror excuse that would put an Amway billionaire’s son-in-law in the private army business, funded by the American taxpayer, but available to moonlight on jobs only for the home team.
Veterans Today still has a reward out for a photo of the Taliban’s flying mules who are airlifting that $60 billion in heroin out of Afghanistan and into the criminal cabal coffers. The cabal makes a good part of that available to buy both political and prosecution protection from current and future national leaderships who want to say goodbye to campaign funding problems.
Our own Supreme Court left the foreign campaign funding back door wide open with their Citizens United case ruling. And our Intel sources tell us that international drug dealers were not only attending Romney’s fundraisers overseas, but even got to fly on the plane.
To most American politicians and constituents there is no such thing as wasted funding as long as they are getting it. Taking good care of state law enforcement is always a political priority. When the recession started kicking in with forced early retirements and layoffs even for government workers, taking care of those people buys you a lot of campaign support..
Fancy Fusion Centers became another pork barrel scam
The DHS Fusion Center billions coordinating federal and state Intel were used as a piggy bank for law enforcement with the right connections. The report describes training for the report personnel was only five days (the bells went ringing on that).
There was no further testing or follow up after that. And the states would be put in control of how the money was spent (more bells).
In plain English that meant the Fusion funds would replace recession budget cuts in departments, fund patronage, and help buy commando toys.
For example even smaller cities wanted their expensive emergency mobile command centers, things they could never get their local taxpayers to fund.
Because they all knew there was no significant terrorism going on here there would be plenty of money to divert, and as the Senate report shows they certainly did. As for reports they just generated some garbage, some so bad they shocked the investigators. Six hundred reviewed for one year had nothing to do with terrorism. But it gets worse.
There was no federal oversight for the first five years folks. The grant process was so complicated that DHS could only estimate how much they spent on the fusion centers. This was not left out by accident. It was a designed graft fraud by people who already had a lot of experience in doing this. With no real terrorists to catch, the Barney Fife’s at the Fusion Centers started making up threats of terrorists hiding about every bush.
The corruption went so deep that we had reports of Abe Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League and Morris Dee’s Southern Poverty Law Center infiltrating DHS to get some bad reports issued on selected targets. They need these to create some new bogeyman fundraising initiatives.
Both organizations are considered subversive by many high level Intel professionals for this and other activities. The ADL’s long history of creating bogus threat intel to get law enforcement to harass and smear their ideological opponents is documented back to the Hoover days.
The FBI director would never speak at an ADL convention because he knew they just wanted to use that to help their penetration of American law enforcement. This Hoover firewall remained in place until Ronald Reagan came in and order all FBI offices to formally liaison with local ADL snitches and smearmeisters in their own attack on America.
The FBI and DoJ do not escape some of the responsibility in all this. To generate some statistics for their ‘terrorist’ work they began their sting operations, most of them shocking in their transparent entrapment. When they snagged the border line black kids in North Miami they held a big press conference.
The stage was so full with those wanting to get camera face time I feared it might collapse. And when they began reading off all the names of the different agencies involved, it was so long I almost went to sleep. I knew right there that paychecks were being validated to keep the money flowing, the American dream for a certain kind of American who hides his true colors and loyalties.
The old school Intel community was embarrassed and ashamed by this circus act. The later ‘assassination’ sting on the Saudi ambassador was so shocking in it’s attempt to frame Iran that even mass media had to finally start pointing out the charade. We also noticed that these cases seemed to break into the news at politically important times.
Cadet Shinseki at West Point – 1965
After all their lies, all of their failures, their looting and selling the troops out for thirty pieces of silver, there is no loyalty to the command structure. Everyone in a position to be crooked is considered a potential threat and dealt with as such.
When Congress had the chance to turn the tide a bit with the new whistle blower legislation that Sibel Edmonds and her crew spent years pushing for, Congress shut it down, putting another nail in the public’s dwindling respect for them.
Fifty percent of West Pointers have been punching out after their five year commitment. I have interviewed some parents. Many saw it all for what it was, a mercenary imperial exercise of looting and graft that had absolutely nothing to do with protecting America, but quite the opposite. That was a bitter post college education to have to swallow.
We could have done a better job defending ourselves by building hospitals and schools throughout the Muslim world at a fraction of the War cost, and saved all of those lives and suffering.
PROTECT THE GOOD ORIGINAL USA AMMENDMENTS:Against Lack of accountability
Clearly the lack of accountability in Washington, D.C., did not begin with Nancy Pelosi taking Dubya's impeachment off the table, or with Congress' decision to avoid impeachment for President Ronald Reagan (a decision that arguably played a large role in installing Prescott Bush's son George H.W. Bush as president), or with the failure to investigate the apparent deal that George H.W. Bush and others made with Iran to not release American hostages until Reagan was made president, or with the failure to prosecute Richard Nixon after he resigned. Lack of accountability is a proud tradition in our nation's capital. Or maybe I should say our former nation's capital. The place is hardly recognizable anymore, and credit that to George W. Bush's efforts to fulfill his grandfather's dream using far subtler and more effective means than a military coup.
Bush the grandson took office through a highly fraudulent election that he nonetheless lost. The Supreme Court blocked a recount of the vote and installed Dubya.
Prescott's grandson proceeded to weaken or eliminate most of the Bill of Rights in the name of protection from a dark foreign enemy. He even tossed out habeas corpus. The grandson of Prescott, that dreamer of the 1930s, established with very little resistance that the U.S. government can kidnap, detain indefinitely on no charge, torture, and murder. The United States under Prescott Bush's grandson adopted policies that heretofore had been considered only Nazi policies, most strikingly the willingness to openly plan and engage in aggressive wars on other nations.
At the same time, Dubya has accomplished a huge transfer of wealth within the United States from the rest of us to the extremely wealthy. He's also effected a major privatization of public operations, including the military. And he's kept tight control over the media.
Dubya has given himself the power to rewrite all laws with signing statements. He's established that intentionally misleading the Congress about the need for a war is not a crime that carries any penalty. He's given himself the right (just as Hitler did) to open anyone's mail. He's created illegal spying programs and then proposed to legalize them. Prescott would be so proud!
That Bush has accomplished much more smoothly than his grandfather could have imagined a feat that was one of the goals of Prescott's gang, namely the elimination of Congress.
THE Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their ADOPTING the CONSTITUTION expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.
RESOLVED by the SENATE and HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES of the United States of America in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, That the following articles be proposed to the legislatures of the several states, as amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all or any of which articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution, viz.
ARTICLES in addition to, and Amendment of the CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution.
ARTICLE THE FIRST
AFTER the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.
ARTICLE THE SECOND
No law varying the compensation for the services of Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.
ARTICLE THE THIRD
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
ARTICLE THE FOURTH
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
ARTICLE THE FIFTH
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner; nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
ARTICLE THE SIXTH
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
ARTICLE THE SEVENTH
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
ARTICLE THE EIGHTH
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.
ARTICLE THE NINTH
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved; and no fact tried by jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
ARTICLE THE TENTH
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
ARTICLE THE ELEVENTH
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparge others retained by the people.
ARTICLE THE TWELFTH
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
"The Twilight of Democracy: The Bush Plan for America" written in 2005. It's a clear and powerfully relevant analysis of the threat to freedom, democracy and justice in America today under the Bush regime. As the author puts it: "(We live in a time when) civil liberties have been broadly violated to an unprecedented degree....The goal (in the book) is to lay bare what the government does and is doing, and why it is so profoundly anti-democractic" and a danger to everyone.
Deciphering the Democratic Code
The clear and present danger of a president who disdains the law and ignores it in pursuit of whatever he wishes. The result is "Freedom and democracy in America are in grave danger," and all humanity is affected as well. By his actions, Van Bergen believes the Bush administration declared war on the Republic and has gone so far astray, "there may be no going back." She may be right, it may already be too late, and she explains why in her opening chapter.
Down the Road to Fascism
The following signs of a nation "already more than three-quarters of the way down the road to fascism:" the stolen 2000 presidential election, Patriot Acts I and II, illegal mass surveillance, torture-prison gulag, culture of extreme secrecy and fear, contempt for the rule of law, a permanent state of war and more. We may already be past the tipping point of its classical definition:
-- a state combining corporatism with strong elements of patriotism and nationalism;
-- a claimed messianic Almighty-directed mission; and
-- characterized by authoritarian rule backed by iron-fisted militarism and homeland security enforcers, mass illegal spying, and intolerance of dissent under a president who disdains the law.
"The Bush Plan to subvert and overthrow democratic systems" and values. It's not just the work of one man or a group of loyalist supporters. It's become part of our corporate culture that thrives on achieving imperial global dominance. It's being pursued by waging war on the world under a national security Patriot Act-governed police state tolerating no dissent. Van Bergen discusses the Act briefly before getting into a more in-depth treatment in Book II. She shows how the law dilutes constitutional standards by amending and combining three separate but parallel legal systems listed below. They use different courts, are now merged and are exploited under Patriot Act justice:
Post 9/11, Van Bergen notes people are out of the loop believing "constitutional law is hard to understand" and strictly the realm of theoreticians. How does the Constitution relate to "getting ahead in life, with making money," she asks. It's central to it if people begin realizing it's what guarantees their rights in a free society without which nothing is guaranteed but government repression against anyone considered a threat, true or not. The basic laws of the land aren't hard to understand. What's hard is getting people to know their rights under them, realize they're now at risk and be willing to take a stand for what they can't afford to ignore.
The Law is King - If We Can Keep It
We like believing we're a country of laws, not men. It's far from true, won't ever be unless demanded from the grassroots, and under the Bush administration it's pure fantasy. Its officials scorn the law at home and abroad. Van Bergen counts the ways:
-- refusing to adhere to the four Geneva Convention treaties that are the supreme law of the land;
-- opting out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) 104 other nations belong to, including virtually all Western democracies; in addition 42 others signed the Rome Statute but haven't yet ratified it;
-- condoning torture and allowing or ignoring other human rights abuses; the Nazis called torture "Verscharfte Vernehmung," or "enhanced interrogation" leaving few telltale signs of abuses committed; George Bush secretly authorized his own version of harsh "enhanced interrogation" in a July, 2006 executive order; it was unmentioned on October 5 when he confronted a public uproar and contemptuously stated: "This government does not torture people;" he also ignored secret Department of Justice (DOJ) legal opinions confirming his administration condones "the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the CIA;"
-- scorning Bill of Rights laws that guarantee free expression, religion, assembly, representation by competent counsel in a criminal proceeding, fair and speedy trials by a jury of peers, protection from illegal searches and seizures and much more.
These and other rights are constitutionally guaranteed that in a nation of laws "is considered the bottom line" and inviolate. Not so in the age of George Bush with the DOJ and courts taking great "balancing test" liberties when the administration raises issues of national security, justified or not. Van Bergen asks "Do we want a country of laws and not of power-mongering men?" Getting it means earning it and that begins with understanding our rights and how legal systems work.
They're all underpinned by the supreme law of the land in the benchmark Constitution most people know about but not what's in it, what it means, and how, in fact, it works for good or ill. In spite of it, governments always side with privilege and especially capital interests. Ordinary private citizens are hard-pressed to get justice without competent and generally expensive legal counsel few can afford.
Our Individual Rights
Here Van Bergen focuses on due process, free speech and association, legal representation, and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. She notes these rights aren't absolute because democratic governments try to balance the "good of the one" against "the good of the many" when it comes to issues of peace and security. The result is individuals often lose out for the supposed greater good that may only be the workings of a repressive state. That's what's happening today in America.
Also called "procedural due process," this term only applies when a person's "life, liberty, or property" is at stake, and the government is constitutionally required to provide due process legal procedures so a person gets a proper defense. Often in the past, this right wasn't afforded. Today it's being willfully swept away under police state justice.
First Amendment Freedoms - Speech, the Press, Religion, Assembly and Association
No rights are more vital than these as without them no others are possible, but today, under George Bush, they're being lost. As Van Bergen puts it: "democracy cannot exist without these freedoms." Indeed not, and it's why earlier crumbs of them are now threatened more than ever under Patriot Act justice and other harsh laws like the Military Commissions Act enacted after Van Bergen's book was published. She points out free expression, the press and right to assemble are most threatened today even though they're constitutionally guaranteed.
That doesn't deter George Bush who on July 17, 2007 issued another of his "one-man" Executive Order (EO) decrees "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq." Nothing in the Constitution implicitly or explicitly allows for EOs, but once issued, even illegally, they become the law of the land unless or until courts rule otherwise. This one criminalizes dissent so that all anti-war protests are now illegal, and persons participating in them are subject to arrest, prosecution and loss of their property. That's how a police state works, and that's the condition in America under George Bush's contemptuous flouting of the law to crush all opposition.
Fourth Amendment Rights
This law protects people from illegal searches and seizures, it's not absolute under the best of conditions, and it's practically null and void today. Later in her book, Van Bergen shows how the Patriot Act allows the government "to mix standards from different, incompatible areas of law" (such as criminal investigations, foreign intelligence and immigration) that amounts to a "witch's brew....of ingredients poisonous to a democratic government or way of life."
The Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel
This law provides that defendants shall "have the assistance of counsel" in all criminal prosecutions during and prior to trial and to free assistance if unable to pay for it. In addition, attorney-client confidentiality and privilege are protected under law. Patriot Act justice threatens these rights for immigrants, so-called "unlawful enemy combatants," cases in which the government feels national security trumps confidentiality, and in situations where lawyers (like Lynne Stewart) are targeted for defending "unpopular" clients.
Van Bergen concludes this section saying 9/11 changed everything, the gloves came off, and constitutionally protected rights no longer apply at the government's discretion. Real democracies don't work that way, America always fell short in the past, but the bar was lowered to bottom-scraping standards post-9/11. Now the unjustifiable is justified in the name of national security because the president says so, law or no law. That, however, openly constitutes "an exact reversal of the principles in our Constitution." That's the condition today and why Van Bergen's book is so important to explain it.
The Constitutional Code
Van Bergen calls the constitutional doctrines of separation of powers, judicial review and probable cause "code words invest(ing) the Constitution with meaning." How they're abused, however, explains a lot about today's frightening situation under a president who thinks and acts (in his words) like the Constitution is "just a goddamned piece of paper."
Lord James of Blackheath, House of Lords February 16 2012
Congressional Grifters Scam U.S. Taxpayers
Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan is $1,202,614,324,202
The $1,202,614,324,202 dollar cost to date and counting, for the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan is the low estimate, or rather the literal cost. This does not include the cost of borrowing that money, or the cost of 5 or 6 decades of medical care and disability pensions for several hundred thousand American soldiers.
These figures don’t include the health and education services and other social programs which were robbed to pay for the war, which will probably never be funded again. And most important, the direct costs and the opportunity costs to the Iraqi people and their economy, including the lost income and pain and suffering of more than a million dead and many million Iraqis turned into refugees in an illegal assault on their nation.
Suddenly, life in the U.S.A. doesn’t seem so stable anymore, if you believe half of what you read in the press and there is no reason not to.
Unemployment is as high or higher than it has ever been, and this is reflected in statistics of which enumerating procedure is ever-changing in order to minimize the impression and impact. Those hundreds of thousands of healthy, trained, capable and willing “workers” who are unemployed and looking for work, taking anything they can to earn enough to put something on the table, are probably even greater than they were during The Great Depression in 1929.
The “real” numbers of unemployed, have always been manipulated to hide the hard truths because it is simply impolitic to let the people know how badly off they actually are. It is one thing to worry about not having enough to feed, clothe and house the kids, it is another thing to know that it is endemic, and that there is little hope that things will improve at any time in the foreseeable future.
American Industry, one of the most powerful in the world a hundred years ago, has,with the support of years of American government policy, exported overseas almost all of America’s jobs in the search for ever more profitability at any costs to anyone but the American Corporate elites and the career Government oligarchy who manage the system.
Think of the $25 billion that the US automakers would like to borrow, and have been denied by Congress. That same Congress has agreed to pay that much money, every month for more than 100 months, for the illegal war in Iraq. US automakers lack the chutzpah to ask Congress, which better serves US interests and National Security?
Most Americans have been equally victimized by the Bank and Stock Market manipulators, actually very same people, who seeing the profitable housing mortgage business evaporate along with the loss of employment and subsequent inability of their clients to buy even bigger and more expensive homes in order to keep up with the Joneses and “The American Dream,” reengineered the Housing Mortgage Industry in such a deceitful and illegal manner that it not only preserved their already immense profits, but raised them to heretofore unseemly and unimaginably obscene levels!
1. Separation of Powers
The framers crafted a government in three parts so no one of them got too much power although it never worked out that way from the start. Nonetheless, their idea was for the legislative branch to make laws, the executive to execute them, and the judiciary to interpret them. The doctrine is called the "separation of powers" that's the "core protection against tyranny" if enforced and utterly meaningless if not like today under George Bush.
Since 9/11, Democrats and Republicans abdicated their responsibility and have marched ever since in lockstep on virtually everything the administration wants. Rhetoric aside, almost nothing's changed to this day in spite of six and a half years of disastrous and reckless governance outside the law. Van Bergen sums it up saying, in the absence of checks and balances, "government power (has) run amok" under the Bush Plan.
2. Judicial Review
According to law professor Jethro Lieberman, judicial review is "the power of courts to declare laws and acts of government unconstitutional" although nothing in the Constitution allows this practice. Van Bergen adds, without this check on the other two branches, there's "no remedy for bad laws (and in fact) no democracy." It differs from the notion of "judicial supremacy" meaning the High Court is the final arbiter on all constitutional issues.
3. Court Stripping
Examples of this practice are found in extremist laws like the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Law (AEDPA), Patriot Acts I and II and other recent legislation as they restrict the ability of courts to review executive actions, and that's not how democratic states function.
4. Probable Cause
Under the Fourth Amendment, neither arrest or search warrants are allowed without evidence of "probable cause" of criminal activity. The Bush administration, however, views all legal constraints as quaint and fanciful. It simply sweeps them away to do as it pleases to target anyone for any reason, real or concocted, in its sham "war on terrorism." Weak as they always were, post-9/11, constitutional protections are now an illusion. They simply no longer exist despite all the pretense they do.
Types of Courts and Standards of Review
Van Bergen lists four types today, each functioning under very different legal standards:
-- regular federal civil and criminal courts called an "Article III court;" here, in theory, convictions depend on there being proof beyond a reasonable doubt; in practice, justice depends on how much of it defendants can buy in the form of competent legal counsel, and too few people can buy enough or any;
-- immigration (or Executive branch) courts that rule on asylum and deportation issues; they're also called the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR); these courts administer immigration law and handle cases under it involving asylum, deportation, immigration crimes and detentions pending review;
-- military courts and tribunals don't come under the federal civil justice system; they're for trying members of the armed services under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and are used under the oppressive Military Commissions Act for anyone the president calls an "unlawful enemy combatant," real or imagined; the greatest danger these courts pose is that under a real or concocted state of emergency, the president can declare martial law, suspend the Constitution, and consign any targeted individual to justice under these courts with no trial by jury, no habeas rights, no assigned competent defense counsel, and no right of appeal;
-- FISA courts (or FISC made up of 11 district court justices) rule on obtaining foreign intelligence warrants under which no Fourth Amendment protections apply; The Patriot Act amended FISA to allow surveillance of US citizens whenever the administration claims it relates to a foreign intelligence investigation with obvious implications what this means; the Democrat-led Congress went even further in early August as discussed below.
The above-listed courts operate under hugely differing standards, and Van Bergen notes a stark one in the case of military tribunals where civilians may now be tried on the whim of the president. In these courts, due process is a fantasy as they're run by, untrained in civil law, military officers, yet they're empowered to render final judgments, beyond appeal, up to and including death sentences. Serious abuses are common enough in civil and criminal courts. In immigration, FISA and military ones, the notion of due process and fair and equal justice under the law is a non-starter.
All the above examples today, in fact, add up to a shredding of notions of "guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," due process under the law, and "probable cause of criminal activity" to justify arrests and searches in the age of George Bush. Van Bergen notes under the Patriot Act alone, criminal constitutional procedural standards are severely undermined so that the rule of law no longer applies any time the government says so.
That's pretty scary if you're the target.
Book II - "The Bush Plan"
Here Van Bergen gets into the meat of her book under "The Bush Plan" that contains "the elements of fascism."
The Demise of Democracy - Part One
Intentional or not, the Bush administration charted a post-9/11 course straight toward a full-blown national security fascist police state. It already has all its oppressive trappings dressed up in modern-day garb, including high-sounding, fear-engendering, doublespeak language disguising it. Strip off the mask and here's a look:
-- Patriot Acts I and II,
-- the Military Commissions Act (aka the "torture authorization act" and much more),
-- a permanent state of preventive wars under the concocted doctrine of "anticipatory self-defense" using first strike nuclear weapons;
-- a climate of fear and extreme secrecy;
-- universal illegal surveillance for any purpose all the time;
-- disdain for domestic and international law with George Bush unconstitutionally usurping "unitary executive" powers Chalmers Johnson calls a "bald-faced assertion of presidential supremacy....dressed up in legalistic mumbo jumbo;"
-- criminalizing dissent (Jefferson called "the highest form of patriotism") through legislation and illegal "one-man" decree Executive Orders;
-- stealing elections;
-- shredding civil liberties and rendering human rights a non-starter;
-- controlling information through the dominant mass media functioning as collective national thought police gatekeepers "filtering" in all acceptable state propaganda and suppressing all vital and relevant information and analysis;
-- rampant corruption in a corporatocracy;
-- a culture of out-of-control militarism, and much more under the phony "war on terrorism" making democracy in America pure fantasy.
Van Bergen reviews all of the above in detail and other elements Laurence W. Britt listed in his article titled "Fascism Anyone?" Her conclusion: "Using Britt's list, it is no stretch to call the Bush government fascist....if Britt is believed, we're already there."
The Patriot Act - Part Two
Van Bergen states this act gives "tremendous powers to central authorities, undermine(s) civil liberties, and enable(s) suppression of opposition." It's the "mainstay of government oppressive power (as it) authorizes and codifies a near-absolute and permanent invasion of (our) private lives, sets vast precedents in immigration law....dissolving....human rights (and erecting) a massive law enforcement apparatus (targeting) immigrant(s) and citizen(s) (worldwide)."
Van Bergen discusses the issues below before getting into the meat of the Act that opens the way for a vast menu of other abuses.
Guantanamo, Enemy Combatants, and Abu Ghraib
The Bush Administration usurped the unconstitutional right to detain any foreign national or US citizen without evidence and deny them due process, habeas or competent counsel with the right of appeal. It also flouts domestic and international laws it denounces as "quaint and out of date." It won't allow them or any nation, body or individual to impede its plans for unchallengeable worldwide imperial dominance.
Anyone in the way may be consigned to torture-prison hellholes like Guanatanamo that was purposefully placed on foreign soil because those locations present a "minimal 'litigation risk.' " Being offshore was believed to make possible the denial of due process, habeas and judicial review rights as well as to be able to hold detainees beyond the law indefinitely.
Iraq: Preemptive war and International law
Van Bergen states "The invasion of Iraq established the doctrine of preemptive (or preventive) war" with the US usurping an illegal right to attack another nation it claims is a current or future threat with no justifiable evidence to prove it. The 1945 Nuremberg Charter said doing that is the "supreme international crime against peace" that constitutes the worst of all crimes of war and against humanity. Van Bergen asserts attacking Iraq (and Afghanistan) "signal(s) an end of the rule of law and avoid(ance) of accountability on a global scale." She cites other examples of contempt for the law as well.
The Coup in Haiti
The US has a long and disturbing history of intervening in Haiti's affairs, deposing its leaders, and replacing them with acceptable puppets. The Bush administration continued this practice on February 29, 2004 when US Marines abducted and forcibly removed democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and flew him against his will to the repressive Central African Republic. Today he remains in exile in South Africa vowing to return even though the Bush administration asserts the right to prevent him from doing it.
US administrations have deposed many foreign leaders, and the Bush administration violates international laws "left and right," so what's the significance of Haiti, asks Van Bergen? "There is no (other) 'third world' country (anywhere) closer (in proximity) to the US," it's also the "first (ever) black republic," the sole one in the Western Hemisphere, and it won its independence through armed rebellion against repressive French foreign rule. Haiti is much like what former Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz said about his own country: "Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the US." Proximity to America has been Haiti's curse for over 200 years, and it still is.
Withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC)
The ICC was created by the 1998 Rome Statute and established in 2002 to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war. As of mid-2007, 146 countries signed the Statute and 104 ratified it to become members except for a big absentee - America with Van Bergen saying withdrawing from the ICC (after the Clinton administration signed the Statute) "frees up the United States from international accountability for war crimes." The Bush administration made sure over 100 nations won't extradite Americans to the Hague by signing Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIAs) with them, and in August, 2002, Congress passed the American Servicemembers Protection Act (called the Hague Invasion Act) authorizing the President "any means necessary" to secure release of any American detained by or on behalf of the Court.
Prosecutions and Proceedings
Activists are prime Bush administration targets in its effort to crush all dissent and opposition. It's using the Patriot Act to do it along with bending other current and obscure older laws to bring criminal indictments. Then on July 17, George Bush issued another Executive Order criminalizing dissent by targeting anyone opposing the administration's Iraq war effort with threats to seize their property. Another EO followed August 2 against anyone seen undermining Lebanon's corrupted pro-Western government claiming "Such actions constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."
Van Bergen notes these type actions by individuals or groups signal the notion that "activists = terrorists" and linking them together is the administration's way to control, suppress and remove all opposition it finds threatening. Activists are being targeted by grand jury subpoenas. Before them they're required to testify about unspecified federal law violations and then later allow that testimony to be used against them to charge perjury for some slightly incorrect or inaccurate statements.
Data Mining under MATRIX
MATRIX is a data mining effort standing for the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Exchange Program that police and federal authorities are using in some states. It's a form of mass scrutiny over the lives and activities of innocent people to learn if targets exhibit signs of being a terrorist or other type criminal.
MATRIX creates a "terrorism quotient" or High Terrorist Factor (HTF) that measures the likelihood individuals in the database are terrorists. Van Bergen noted the ACLU believes the program is "an effort to recreate the discredited Total Information Awareness (TIA) data mining program at the state level." It shows the federal authorities are deep into efforts at all levels to spy on US citizens. MATRIX is an unprecedented effort to do it within or outside the law. It constitutes a massive invasion of privacy and violates our rights in a free society and is one of many repressive post-9/11 unconstitutional tools the nation's 16 spy agencies are using against us.
The Constitution doesn't specifically mention a right to privacy, but Supreme Court decisions affirmed it over the years as a fundamental human right. As such, it's protected under the Ninth Amendment as well as the Third prohibiting the quartering of troops in homes, the Fourth affording protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the Fifth protecting against self-incrimination. MATRIX and other intrusions enhance Patriot Act powers allowing them to persist outside of congressional oversight and judicial review. It's another part of the overall scheme to subvert the rule of law under George Bush police state justice.
The Bush administration built a culture of extreme secrecy from the start. Van Bergen call this trait the "watchword of the Bush adminstration" by quoting Judge Keith of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals saying "Democracy dies behind closed doors" where under this administration they're locked shut and bolted. Policy for the last six and a half years has been a "blatant power grab....an American coup, an American military dictatorship (and) an American fascist empire" that's highlighted by what's going on at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other torture-prisons free from oversight or public scrutiny.
Van Bergen sums up saying the Bush administration exhibits the "common threads found in all fascist states," and that should scare everyone. This government, she says, is run "by a ruling elite of (extremist Christian) religious fanatics" wielding "unrestrained oppressive power" violating constitutional law, including the most precious of our rights under the First Amendment. It's flouted the rule of law and smashed civil liberties after "sull(ying) the name and reputation of the United States Supreme Court" by using the Court's authority to seize power lawlessly and keep it.
Ever since, it's been on the march for total world dominance and now threatens all humanity by its out-of-control actions.
The Patriot Act - Mainstay of Oppressive Power
Van Bergen calls this act "the most vivid component of the Bush Plan." Its danger lies in placing too much unchecked power in executive branch hands that creates an "enabling structure for fascism and oligarchy" that endangers democracy. Specifically, the act creates three main threats to civil liberties: the erosion of due process, freedom of association, and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and as a consequence, the loss of privacy.
(1) The Threat to Due Process
The Patriot Act threatens due process in two ways:
-- by permitting indefinite detentions of undocumented immigrants, it represents a slippery slope as law professor David Cole explains: "(W)hat we do to foreign nationals today often paves the way for what will be done to American citizens tomorrow," and it's already happening under the concocted notion of "unlawful enemy combatants" anyone for any reason can be called and face prosecution.
-- by the act's "designation provision" that authorizes the Attorney General or Secretary of State to call a foreign organization a terrorist group even if it isn't. Further, the administrative designation is sealed to effectively render it beyond review or challenge.
(2) The Threat to Freedom of Association
"Designation" also threatens freedom of association as aliens and US citizens may be charged and prosecuted because of their claimed association with an "undesirable group." Van Bergen notes that post-9/11, many thousands of Muslims and Arabs were illegally rounded up, detained, imprisoned, abused, tortured and/or deported solely because of their faith. By Bush administration reasoning, Muslims = "terrorists" and "Islamofascists," especially those not white enough.
(3) The Fourth Amendment Threat: Surveillance and Privacy
Patriot Act privacy issues fall under FISA that just got worse as prior to its August recess Congress cravenly caved to the politics of fear and hastily passed the White House crafted Protect America Act 2007 that amends FISA with doublespeak language Orwell would love.
The new law supposedly closes so-called "communication gaps" but will allow virtual unrestricted mass data-mining, monitoring, and intercept of domestic and foreign internet, cell phones and other new technology as well as transit international phone call traffic and emails. The Act claims to restrict surveillance to foreign nationals "reasonably believed to be outside the United States" and will sunset in six months unless renewed as Congress is about to do for at least most of its provisions for six years. In fact, this law targets everyone, including US citizens inside the country, if the AG or DNI claim they pose a potential terrorist or national security threat, and no evidence is needed to prove it. Further, in an election year, renewal is virtually guaranteed with even harsher provisions added.
In point of fact, the new law allows near-unrestricted warrantless spying of anyone at the discretion of the AG or DNI. It thus renders any notion of illegal searches and privacy rights null and void. The Act effectively legalizes illegality by Fourth Amendment standards that Patriot Act provisions pretty much swept away earlier. This is how things work in a police state where laws render privacy issues (and all other freedoms) null and void, and everyone is under constant surveillance and stripped of their rights.
When FISA was enacted, it was done to collect "foreign intelligence information" between or among "foreign powers" with FISC warrants only targeting foreigners. The Patriot Act then amended the law to effectively target anyone the government so designates as long as it relates "to an ongoing investigation (for a) significant foreign intelligence purpose." Van Bergen highlights the threat (now even greater) with this example: "if you speak to a friend or relative in the Middle East and that person gave money....to an (humanitarian aid providing) organization....suspected of ties to terrorism....you are a legitimate target for wire, phone, or computer taps under FISA."
Even worse, you can be charged with terrorism, arrested, tried in a military tribunal as an "unlawful enemy combatant" and renditioned to a torture-prison hellhole forever - for having made an innocent phone call.
Van Bergen concludes saying the Patriot Act (even without the new Protect America Act) is so sweeping in scope, it's impossible relating everything about it in a short book, let alone this review. Instead, she highlighted areas in it relating to civil rights protections affecting due process and under the First and Fourth Amendments. This oppressive act severely weakened them and with prosecutorial finesse effectively renders them null and void that threatens everyone with police state justice in the age of George Bush.
Ashcroft's Way - A Closer Look at the Patriot Act
In the hands of a man like former Attorney General John Ashcroft (as well as Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey), laws like the Patriot Act become repressive police state tools that sweep aside the rule of law. Van Bergen shows how easily this Act can be twisted and misused by citing assertions about it Ashcroft made to justify its use and under what circumstances.
Preserving Life and Liberty
Ashcroft gave four reasons to justify using the Patriot Act to, in his judgment, preserve life and liberty.
(1) It provides tools for investigating terrorism and other crime while ignoring that laws were already available to do it pre-Patriot. DOJ claims the new law provides enhanced enforcement by strengthening its use of surveillance that was never prohibited in the past but wasn't as unrestricted as now under Patriot. Unlike before, this Act denies constitutional protections nominally in place for all type criminal investigations pre-Patriot, and therein lies its danger.
(2) The Act allows "roving (telephone) wiretaps" that apply to the person, not the place. Thus, if someone uses different phones, all of them may be tapped. DOJ claims this provision allows federal agents to "follow sophisticated terrorists trained to evade detection." Van Bergen explains these taps don't require probable cause of criminal behavior and thus evade constitutional protections. Under Patriot, federal agents are immune from Fourth Amendment restrictions against unreasonable searches and seizures that renders this protection null and void for everyone.
(3) The Act allows what's called "sneak and peak" searches through issuance of "delayed notice" warrants. Under it, targets aren't notified until a later time and at the government's discretion so investigators won't tip off suspects in advance. Again, this type warrant has been available for decades provided law enforcers could show a judge it was justified under special conditions. That's all changed now, and anything goes for any criminal investigation involving a physical or electronic search.
(4) Patriot gives federal agents court-ordered access to "third party records" of all kinds - financial, medical, educational, virtually anything requested. For any national security claimed purpose, it allows the government to pry into any aspect of our lives, justified or not.
Ashcroft claimed the "Patriot Act facilitated information sharing and cooperation among government agencies so they can better 'connect the dots.' " Van Bergen notes separate government agencies never were impeded from working together, but Patriot tore down built-in safeguards against abuses that are now a thing of the past. Today under the Act, our constitutionally-protected civil liberties are severely compromised and effectively off the table because of the latitude law enforcement is now allowed under this law.
In a word, the Patriot Act poses real dangers to democratic freedoms that are now on very shaky footing. In fact, they're practically non-existent at the whim of law enforcers who can operate ad libitum in the name of national security that's freely interpreted to mean virtually anything. Van Bergen asks: "(Is it) ever wise to leave our liberty and our country in the unaccountable hands of those who by their positions must always be 'cast in the role of adversary' against those whose liberties they seek to invade." Answer: never, especially if the "adversaries" are in the Bush administration.
The Cheney Plan for Global Dominance
Van Bergen lays out the threat straightaway saying if there's any doubt about the Bush administration's "fascist and imperial objectives," the "Cheney Plan for global dominance must quell it." Under GHW Bush, Defense Secretary Cheney and his undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz were tasked to shape America's post-Cold War strategy. Wolfowitz and convicted and commuted Cheney aide Lewis Libby drafted the scheme in their Defense Planning Guidance some call the Wolfowitz doctrine. It was so extreme, it was kept under wraps until it was leaked to the New York Times. Its exposure got it shelved until it was revived under GW Bush in 2001 as an updated scheme for world dominance. It's spelled out clearly in the 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS) that was revised in 2006 in even more extreme form.
NSS is an "imperial grand strategy" declaration of preemptive or preventive war against any country or force the administration claims threatens our national security, true or false. Along with the 2001 Nuclear Policy Review, it gives the government the unilateral right to declare and wage future wars using first strike nuclear weapons under the doctrine of "anticipatory self-defense" that has no basis in international law or anywhere else outside Washington. Van Bergen explains that "the Cheney Plan (aka the Bush Plan)....is an exceedingly dangerous doctrine" in play in the Middle East and Central Asia that may be cataclysmic if it's unleashed in its most extreme form.
Global Dominance in Action - Military Necessity or War Crimes? - Violating the Geneva and Hague Conventions
As a signatory to the Geneva and Hague Conventions, these laws are the supreme law of the land under the Constitution, but that hasn't deterred the Bush administration from defying their letter and spirit. No signatory nation is exempt from Geneva and Hague, and violating their provisions constitutes a serious and punishable breach of sacred law. Van Bergen calls any of numerous instances she noted a war crime and "Taken together, they are an outrage against humanity and the law of nations."
She also brings up the "Doctrine of Military Necessity" that involves lawful measures indispensable in the conduct of war. It's important to note this notion doesn't justify violating international humanitarian law or our own Constitution. "A real necessity," like launching D-Day, is "obvious," Van Bergen explains. But mass-slaughtering innocent civilians in Fallujah can't be justified for any reason nor is waging aggressive wars against non-threatening nations, and saying it's for national security meets no acceptable international law standard.
Epilogue - Detainees and Torture
The final part of Van Bergen's book provides still more proof of the Bush administration's "broad assault" against long-standing, rock-solid rule of law principles. Its scorn for the law opened the door for more extreme violations that are nonchalantly accepted as standard practice under "war on terrorism" rules that changed everything. They don't and won't ever under any conditions. Yet, the Pentagon and DOJ "developed the breathtaking legal argument that the President, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, was not bound by US or international laws prohibiting torture when acting to protect national security."
Van Bergen cites Bush's frequent use of the death penalty and indifference to human suffering when he was Texas governor. In fact, his flippant attitude showed up much earlier and now he flaunts it. The Patriot Act made current practices possible by "help(ing) set the stage for government endorsed torture." Under this repressive law, the nation regressed to "barbarian times" reminiscent of the worst of the Spanish Inquisition and Nazi era. Van Bergen stresses no society claiming to be a "liberty-protecting one" can justify "human rights abuses in response to a terrorist attack" or for any other reason. Any country violating these sacred precepts must be held to account and made to answer for their serious crimes against humanity, and that's what the ICC is in place to do.
On July 19, 2007, well after the publication of Van Bergen's book, George Bush displayed his contempt for the law in another sweeping executive order (EO). According to AP, he "breathed new life into the CIA's terror interrogation program (aka no holds barred torture) that would allow harsh questioning of suspects limited in public only by a vaguely worded ban (signifying none whatever) on cruel and inhuman treatment." The order pretends to prohibit some practices, "to quell international criticism," describes them only vaguely, and doesn't say what practices are still allowed. The Bush administration insists its interrogation operation is one of its most important tools in the "war on terrorism." Bottom line - ugly business as usual will continue unchanged and unchecked, except for doublespeak language that signifies only deception from a president exposed as a serial liar.
The Detainee Decisions - by the US Supreme Court
Van Bergen notes recent detainee decisions of great "importance to the future of this country." In Rasul v. Bush in June, 2004, the Court settled the jurisdictional question regarding Guantanamo detainees. It ruled the US exercises "complete jurisdiction and control (of the territory and) Aliens held (there), like American citizens, are entitled to invoke the federal courts' authority" under their habeas rights.
On the same day, the Court ruled on Hamdi (a US citizen) v. Rumsfeld and granted his habeas right to challenge his detention as an "unlawful enemy combatant." Then in June, 2006, the Court ruled on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and held that military commissions set up to try Guantanamo detainees lack "the power to proceed because (their) structures and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949."
Van Bergen calls habeas the "Great Writ of Liberty" that dates back to 12th century England and long considered sacrosanct and inviolable - but not to the Bush regime. By its Inquisition era rules, habeas, probable cause, due process and half or more of the Bill of Rights amendments are null and void in the name of national security that denies it to us.
National Security Courts and Torture Warrants
The notion that (undefined) "terrorists" are military enemies who justify war, and not criminals, is offensive and illegal. Van Bergen points out doing it "creates another parallel legal system (and it ignores) a primary condition of battle, visible combat."
The very idea of a "war on terrorism" is doublespeak fraud. It's nothing more than a devious scheme for a broader agenda that needs fictitious "outside enemy" threats as justification. That's what made Osama bin Laden "Enemy Number One" along with Al Queda even though the CIA created them both to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Making them fearsome enough and on the loose opens the door to all sorts of abuses that are passed off as justifiable self-defense under the Bush regime. In the name of national security, it's gotten away with aggressive wars, torture, indefinite detentions, repressive laws and an end to democracy in America that was on shaky ground pre-9/11 and now is kaput. This happened because our judicial and core constitutional systems were separated and left "outside the protections of the
Constitution and international laws." We keep heaping new kinds of oppression on top of old ones that deepen the problem instead of working to rectify it.
Van Bergen ends her book saying these actions recruit more enemies and make the world less safe. Another way is needed, and it ought to start with "learn(ing) about the lessons of our own sometimes violent history and recall and reclaim the fundamental, lost ideals that we have forgotten" and sadly only paid lip service to for more than two centuries.
It is not news that the United States is in great trouble. The pre-emptive war it launched against Iraq more than five years ago was and is a mistake of monumental proportions -- one that most
Americans still fail to acknowledge. Instead they are arguing about whether we should push on to "victory" when even our own generals tell us that a military victory is today inconceivable.
Our economy has been hollowed out by excessive military spending over many decades while our competitors have devoted themselves to investments in lucrative new industries that serve civilian needs. Our political system of checks and balances has been virtually destroyed by rampant cronyism and corruption in Washington, D.C., and by a two-term president who goes around crowing "I am the decider," a concept fundamentally hostile to our constitutional system. We have allowed our elections, the one nonnegotiable institution in a democracy, to be debased and hijacked -- as was the 2000 presidential election in Florida -- with scarcely any protest from the public or the self-proclaimed press guardians of the "Fourth Estate." We now engage in torture of defenseless prisoners although it defames and demoralizes our armed forces and intelligence agencies.
The problem is that there are too many things going wrong at the same time for anyone to have a broad understanding of the disaster that has overcome us and what, if anything, can be done to return our country to constitutional government and at least a degree of democracy. By now, there are hundreds of books on particular aspects of our situation -- the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the bloated and unsupervised "defense" budgets, the imperial presidency and its contempt for our civil liberties, the widespread privatization of traditional governmental functions, and a political system in which no leader dares even to utter the words imperialism and militarism in public.
There are, however, a few attempts at more complex analyses of how we arrived at this sorry state. They include Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, on how "private" economic power now is almost coequal with legitimate political power; John W. Dean,
Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches, on the perversion of our main defenses against dictatorship and tyranny; Arianna Huffington, Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe, on the manipulation of fear in our political life and the primary role played by the media; and Naomi Wolf, The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, on Ten Steps to Fascism and where we currently stand on this staircase. My own book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, on militarism as an inescapable accompaniment of imperialism, also belongs to this genre.
We now have a new, comprehensive diagnosis of our failings as a democratic polity by one of our most seasoned and respected political philosophers. For well over two generations, Sheldon Wolin taught the history of political philosophy from Plato to the present to Berkeley and Princeton graduate students (including me; I took his seminars at Berkeley in the late 1950s, thus influencing my approach to political science ever since). He is the author of the prize-winning classic Politics and Vision (1960; expanded edition, 2006) and Tocqueville Between Two Worlds (2001), among many other works.
His new book, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted
Totalitarianism, is a devastating critique of the contemporary government of the United States -- including what has happened to it in recent years and what must be done if it is not to disappear into history along with its classic totalitarian predecessors: Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Bolshevik Russia. The hour is very late and the possibility that the American people might pay attention to what is wrong and take the difficult steps to avoid a national Gtterdmmerung are remote, but Wolin's is the best analysis of why the presidential election of 2008 probably will not do anything to mitigate our fate. This book demonstrates why political science, properly practiced, is the master social science.
Wolin's work is fully accessible. Understanding his argument does not depend on possessing any specialized knowledge, but it would still be wise to read him in short bursts and think about what he is saying before moving on. His analysis of the contemporary American crisis relies on a historical perspective going back to the original constitutional agreement of 1789 and includes particular attention to the advanced levels of social democracy attained during the New Deal and the contemporary mythology that the U.S., beginning during World War II, wields unprecedented world power.
Given this historical backdrop, Wolin introduces three new concepts to help analyze what we have lost as a nation. His master idea is "inverted totalitarianism," which is reinforced by two subordinate notions that accompany and promote it -- "managed democracy" and "Superpower," the latter always capitalized and used without a direct article. Until the reader gets used to this particular literary tic, the term Superpower can be confusing. The author uses it as if it were an independent agent, comparable to Superman or Spiderman, and one that is inherently incompatible with constitutional government and democracy.
Wolin writes, "Our thesis is this: it is possible for a form of totalitarianism, different from the classical one, to evolve from a putatively 'strong democracy' instead of a 'failed' one." His understanding of democracy is classical but also populist, anti-elitist and only slightly represented in the Constitution of the United States. "Democracy," he writes, "is about the conditions that make it possible for ordinary people to better their lives by becoming political beings and by making power responsive to their hopes and needs." It depends on the existence of a demos -- "a politically engaged and empowered citizenry, one that voted, deliberated, and occupied all branches of public office." Wolin argues that to the extent the United States on occasion came close to genuine democracy, it was because its citizens struggled against and momentarily defeated the elitism that was written into the Constitution.
"No working man or ordinary farmer or shopkeeper," Wolin points out, "helped to write the Constitution." He argues, "The American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy. It was constructed by those who were either skeptical about democracy or hostile to it. Democratic advance proved to be slow, uphill, forever incomplete. The republic existed for three-quarters of a century before formal slavery was ended; another hundred years before black Americans were assured of their voting rights. Only in the twentieth century were women guaranteed the vote and trade unions the right to bargain collectively. In none of these instances has victory been complete: women still lack full equality, racism persists, and the destruction of the remnants of trade unions remains a goal of corporate strategies. Far from being innate, democracy in America has gone against the grain, against the very forms by which the political and economic power of the country has been and continues to be ordered." Wolin can easily control his enthusiasm for James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, and he sees the New Deal as perhaps the only period of American history in which rule by a true demos prevailed.
To reduce a complex argument to its bare bones, since the Depression, the twin forces of managed democracy and Superpower have opened the way for something new under the sun: "inverted totalitarianism," a form every bit as totalistic as the classical version but one based on internalized co-optation, the appearance of freedom, political disengagement rather than mass mobilization, and relying more on "private media" than on public agencies to disseminate propaganda that reinforces the official version of events. It is inverted because it does not require the use of coercion, police power and a messianic ideology as in the Nazi, Fascist and Stalinist versions (although note that the United States has the highest percentage of its citizens in prison -- 751 per 100,000 people -- of any nation on Earth). According to Wolin, inverted totalitarianism has "emerged imperceptibly, unpremeditatedly, and in seeming unbroken continuity with the nation's political traditions."
The genius of our inverted totalitarian system "lies in wielding total power without appearing to, without establishing concentration camps, or enforcing ideological uniformity, or forcibly suppressing dissident elements so long as they remain ineffectual. A demotion in the status and stature of the 'sovereign people' to patient subjects is symptomatic of systemic change, from democracy as a method of 'popularizing' power to democracy as a brand name for a product marketable at home and marketable abroad. The new system, inverted totalitarianism, is one that professes the opposite of what, in fact, it is. The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed."
Among the factors that have promoted inverted totalitarianism are the practice and psychology of advertising and the rule of "market forces" in many other contexts than markets, continuous technological advances that encourage elaborate fantasies (computer games, virtual avatars, space travel), the penetration of mass media communication and propaganda into every household in the country, and the total co-optation of the universities. Among the commonplace fables of our society are hero worship and tales of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, action measured in nanoseconds, and a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose adepts are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge. Masters of this world are masters of images and their manipulation. Wolin reminds us that the image of Adolf Hitler flying to Nuremberg in 1934 that opens Leni Riefenstahl's classic film "Triumph of the Will" was repeated on May 1, 2003, with President George Bush's apparent landing of a Navy warplane on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to proclaim "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.
On inverted totalitarianism's "self-pacifying" university campuses compared with the usual intellectual turmoil surrounding independent centers of learning, Wolin writes, "Through a combination of governmental contracts, corporate and foundation funds, joint projects involving university and corporate researchers, and wealthy individual donors, universities (especially so-called research universities), intellectuals, scholars, and researchers have been seamlessly integrated into the system. No books burned, no refugee Einsteins. For the first time in the history of American higher education top professors are made wealthy by the system, commanding salaries and perks that a budding CEO might envy."
The main social sectors promoting and reinforcing this modern Shangri-La are corporate power, which is in charge of managed democracy, and the military-industrial complex, which is in charge of Superpower. The main objectives of managed democracy are to increase the profits of large corporations, dismantle the institutions of social democracy (Social Security, unions, welfare, public health services, public housing and so forth), and roll back the social and political ideals of the New Deal. Its primary tool is privatization. Managed democracy aims at the "selective abdication of governmental responsibility for the well-being of the citizenry" under cover of improving "efficiency" and cost-cutting.
Wolin argues, "The privatization of public services and functions manifests the steady evolution of corporate power into a political form, into an integral, even dominant partner with the state. It marks the transformation of American politics and its political culture from a system in which democratic practices and values were, if not defining, at least major contributing elements, to one where the remaining democratic elements of the state and its populist programs are being systematically dismantled." This campaign has largely succeeded. "Democracy represented a challenge to the status quo, today it has become adjusted to the status quo."
One other subordinate task of managed democracy is to keep the citizenry preoccupied with peripheral and/or private conditions of human life so that they fail to focus on the widespread corruption and betrayal of the public trust. In Wolin's words, "The point about disputes on such topics as the value of sexual abstinence, the role of religious charities in state-funded activities, the question of gay marriage, and the like, is that they are not framed to be resolved. Their political function is to divide the citizenry while obscuring class differences and diverting the voters' attention from the social and economic concerns of the general populace." Prominent examples of the elite use of such incidents to divide and inflame the public are the Terri Schiavo case of 2005, in which a brain-dead woman was kept artificially alive, and the 2008 case of women and children living in a polygamous commune in Texas who were allegedly sexually mistreated.
Another elite tactic of managed democracy is to bore the electorate to such an extent that it gradually fails to pay any attention to politics. Wolin perceives, "One method of assuring control is to make electioneering continuous, year-round, saturated with party propaganda, punctuated with the wisdom of kept pundits, bringing a result boring rather than energizing, the kind of civic lassitude on which managed democracy thrives." The classic example is certainly the nominating contests of the two main American political parties during 2007 and 2008, but the dynastic "competition" between the Bush and Clinton families from 1988 to 2008 is equally relevant. It should be noted that between a half and two-thirds of qualified voters have recently failed to vote, thus making the management of the active electorate far easier. Wolin comments, "Every apathetic citizen is a silent enlistee in the cause of inverted totalitarianism." It remains to be seen whether an Obama candidacy can reawaken these apathetic voters, but I suspect that Wolin would predict a barrage of corporate media character assassination that would end this possibility.
Managed democracy is a powerful solvent for any vestiges of democracy left in the American political system, but its powers are weak in comparison with those of Superpower. Superpower is the sponsor, defender and manager of American imperialism and militarism, aspects of American government that have always been dominated by elites, enveloped in executive-branch secrecy, and allegedly beyond the ken of ordinary citizens to understand or oversee. Superpower is preoccupied with weapons of mass destruction, clandestine manipulation of foreign policy (sometimes domestic policy, too), military operations, and the fantastic sums of money demanded from the public by the military-industrial complex. (The U.S. military spends more than all other militaries on Earth combined. The official U.S. defense budget for fiscal year 2008 is $623 billion; the next closest national military budget is China's at $65 billion, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.)
Foreign military operations literally force democracy to change its nature: "In order to cope with the imperial contingencies of foreign war and occupation," according to Wolin, "democracy will alter its character, not only by assuming new behaviors abroad (e.g., ruthlessness, indifference to suffering, disregard of local norms, the inequalities in ruling a subject population) but also by operating on revised, power-expansive assumptions at home. It will, more often than not, try to manipulate the public rather than engage its members in deliberation. It will demand greater powers and broader discretion in their use ('state secrets'), a tighter control over society's resources, more summary methods of justice, and less patience for legalities, opposition, and clamor for socioeconomic reforms."
Imperialism and democracy are, in Wolin's terms, literally incompatible, and the ever greater resources devoted to imperialism mean that democracy will inevitably wither and die. He writes, "Imperial politics represents the conquest of domestic politics and the latter's conversion into a crucial element of inverted totalitarianism. It makes no sense to ask how the democratic citizen could 'participate' substantively in imperial politics; hence it is not surprising that the subject of empire is taboo in electoral debates. No major politician or party has so much as publicly remarked on the existence of an American empire."
From the time of the United States' founding, its citizens have had a long history of being complicit in the country's imperial ventures, including its transcontinental expansion at the expense of native Americans, Mexicans and Spanish imperialists. Theodore Roosevelt often commented that Americans were deeply opposed to imperialism because of their successful escape from the British empire but that "expansionism" was in their blood. Over the years, American political analysis has carefully tried to separate the military from imperialism, even though militarism is imperialism's inescapable accompaniment. The military creates the empire in the first place and is indispensable to its defense, policing and expansion. Wolin observes, "That the patriotic citizen unswervingly supports the military and its huge budgets means that conservatives have succeeded in persuading the public that the military is distinct from the government. Thus the most substantial element of state power is removed from public debate."
It has taken a long time, but under George W. Bush's administration the United States has finally achieved an official ideology of imperial expansion comparable to those of Nazi and Soviet totalitarianisms. In accordance with the National Security Strategy of the United States (allegedly drafted by Condoleezza Rice and proclaimed on Sept. 9, 2002), the United States is now committed to what it calls "preemptive war." Wolin explains: "Preemptive war entails the projection of power abroad, usually against a far weaker country, comparable say, to the Nazi invasion of Belgium and Holland in 1940. It declares that the United States is justified in striking at another country because of a perceived threat that U.S. power will be weakened, severely damaged, unless it reacts to eliminate the danger before it materializes. Preemptive war is Lebensraum [Hitler's claim that his imperialism was justified by Germany's need for "living room"] for the age of terrorism." This was, of course, the official excuse for the American aggression against Iraq that began in 2003.
Many analysts, myself included, would conclude that Wolin has made a close to airtight case that the American republic's days are numbered, but Wolin himself does not agree. Toward the end of his study he produces a wish list of things that should be done to ward off the disaster of inverted totalitarianism: "rolling back the empire, rolling back the practices of managed democracy; returning to the idea and practices of international cooperation rather than the dogmas of globalization and preemptive strikes; restoring and strengthening environmental protections; reinvigorating populist politics; undoing the damage to our system of individual rights; restoring the institutions of an independent judiciary, separation of powers, and checks and balances; reinstating the integrity of the independent regulatory agencies and of scientific advisory processes; reviving representative systems responsive to popular needs for health care, education, guaranteed pensions, and an honorable minimum wage; restoring governmental regulatory authority over the economy; and rolling back the distortions of a tax code that toadies to the wealthy and corporate power."
Unfortunately, this is more a guide to what has gone wrong than a statement of how to fix it, particularly since Wolin believes that our political system is "shot through with corruption and awash in contributions primarily from wealthy and corporate donors." It is extremely unlikely that our party apparatus will work to bring the military-industrial complex and the 16 secret intelligence agencies under democratic control. Nonetheless, once the United States has followed the classical totalitarianisms into the dustbin of history, Wolin's analysis will stand as one of the best discourses on where we went wrong.