by geezer in Paris
Tue May 16th, 2006 at 05:14:56 PM EST
Old stuff. New stuff comes along to add to it every day.
February 5, 2006
The quiet Coup
"A coup consists of the infiltration of a small but crucial segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the
Edward Nicolae Luttwak, "Coup d'etat: A Practical handbook"
Democracy is so damned chaotic. It seems to take forever just to decide where to build a bridge, let alone how to cope with terrorists. And if you KNOW what to do, if you know who the bad guys are and how to deal with them, democracy must be totally frustrating. After a half-century of study and action, I still never seem to know things for sure, and perhaps this is why I find myself quite fearful of those who seem without doubt. What's it like to know? To be truly certain? Maybe we could ask John Bolton. Not a whisper of doubt shows there. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld know too, along with their host of neocon allies. Judging by their long trail of actions and public statements, they certainly believe they know, and have known what needed to be done for five presidential administrations. Yet these have been administrations that were filled with failure and frustration for them, perhaps because they never had quite the right tools to work with. Well, they do now. Today, after 30 years of hard work and honing their skills, they finally have this:
-- A deeply conservative and corrupt Republican Congress, easily blackmailed or manipulated.
-- The Democratic Party divided and ineffective, so marginalized that even Harry Reid admits that passing real legislation is not possible today.
-- A federal judiciary stuffed with conservative Republican appointees.
-- An already very conservative supreme court that just got a lot more conservative and power friendly.
-- A sycophantic, subservient mainstream media about as aggressive in its' investigative function as a road kill.
-- A happy corporate constituency that has bought its right to wallow in the public trough through the K Street Bank, and is too busy gorging to look around.
-- A president who agrees with them, and is bright enough to memorize his lines, schmooze well, and call on a tame journalist when someone asks a question that is off-script.
--A distracted, sleepy electorate suffering the twin deficits of shabby education and "stuff" addiction, too busy to even try to ask good questions, let alone find real answers.
-- A religious right embodying (and spreading with missionary zeal) their powerfully authoritarian and deductive world view. A world in which "Doctrine" is unquestioned. A patriarchal world in which dictators and tyrants have always thrived.
-- And now, wonder of wonders, 9/11. The perpetual war to focus support and resurrect the old notion that dissent is treasonous. A miraculous gift of fate that they use to legitimize their worst excesses and disasters and create an endless holiday with the voters. With Diebold on their side, and the terrorist nightmare to sell, how can they lose?
It seems that the only way they could miss is if Larry Wilkerson's Cabal just no longer wants the power.
Think that's likely? Me neither.
Sidney Blumenthal wrote an important history of Dick Cheney in his piece for Salon, "The long march of Dick Cheney", but it's worth recapping Cheney's history briefly
For Rumsfeld and Cheney, Nixon was a failure. Rumsfeld served in the Nixon administration as Nixon's counselor and chief of staff, and with Dick Cheney as his aide, rode that presidential horse as far as he could and then, even though Nixon never saw an institution he couldn't pervert, his distance from reality grew until facts caught him up, and his presidency just dropped dead. Ford turned out to be a weakie for Dick and Don, but they learned a lot in his administration. Then along came Reagan, and things looked up.
The disciples of the obscure neo-fascist philosopher Leo Strauss were making a lot of waves in the conservative community. Bright and well connected, they were emerging from the wings as a political organizing force to be reckoned with. Neither Cheney nor Rumsfeld were probably Straussians early on, but they seem to have taken happily to the theology when the Machiavellian brilliance of some of Leo's pupils showed itself. The Dick and Don show invited a lot of the old neocon talent to do guest appearances, and they stayed on- and soon it was hard to tell who was directing the show.
But realities began to interfere again. Reagan saw an opening with the soviets. The CIA told Reagan that they saw the Soviet Union as for the most part a paper tiger, on the brink of economic collapse. He believed that if he and Gorbachev could just talk it out, he could convince him-could bring him to reason. To Rumsfeld/Cheney this heresy was total folly, particularly if true. A dedicated and evil adversary was what was needed, to generate some healthy public fear and to stiffen the presidential backbone. Enter Leo's boys-the Neocons, and their "Team B". Team B was a backstage team of ideologues assembled by Rumsfeld and Cheney during the Ford administration who were tasked with reevaluating wholesale the CIA's views on the Soviet threat in order to reestablish it as the bogeyman du jour and scuttle detente and the SALT II agreement. A parallel spin team whose job was to-- well, -shape the intelligence around the policy. Sound familiar? Reagan capitulated to Team B in many ways- Salt II was never ratified, for example- but Team B's greatest utility was that it served as the prototype of what are now frighteningly numerous parallel structures that the Duo have set up to bypass recalcitrant bureaucracies, agencies or individuals, or to make policy without the encumbrance of the "old guard". These tools are also handy to discredit those who disagreed. Colin Powell was one of their first victims.
But Reagan was a bit dense, the Soviet Union just refused to play its evil empire role, and thanks to some pretty bright guys in Congress, the Iran-Contra bubble burst, taking with it the only remaining war in town. Once again Il Duo hustled off stage just ahead of the posse. But not for long. The first George Bush quietly reinstalled them in places of power in the executive, and they were off to a fine start in the Middle East, Matt Dillon style:
Our hero stepped slowly into the street, eyes hooded and grim resolution on his face- and in a flash of metal and gunsmoke, put a .45 slug right between the evil Arab's eyes. -----
Ah, not really. At the penultimate moment, no one followed the Duo's script, again, and Saddam went back to the Long Branch Saloon for a beer, instead of to Boot Hill. George Bush the Elder had his own opinions, and enough backbone to stick with them.
The pattern is obvious. Each effort, each new administration taught them lessons. They assembled like-minded talent, honed skills, made contacts and plans, made their move, -- and failed. But now they have the conditions above and , at long last, the break that they have been waiting for so long.
The tragic day of September 11 was the toxic seed crystal that dropped into a saturated solution of creeping authoritarianism, educational decay and subservient media. Before us proles even knew it, before Congress could get off the dime, it was done.
"A coup consists of the infiltration of a small but crucial segment of the state apparatus"
The office of the president and vice president, executive branch. The office of the secretary of defense.
'What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.''
"--decisions often that are the opposite of what you thought were made in the formal (decision-making) process.''
Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to the secretary of state, Colin Powell.
"--which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder."
--The executive branch shall construe as advisory the provisions of the Act, including sections 408, 616, 621, 633, and 1343(b), that purport to direct or burden the conduct of negotiations by the executive branch with foreign governments, international organizations, or other entities abroad or which purport to direct executive branch officials to use the U.S. voice and vote in international organizations to achieve specified foreign policy objectives. Such provisions, if construed as mandatory rather than advisory, would impermissibly interfere with the President's constitutional authorities to conduct the Nation's foreign affairs, participate in international negotiations, and supervise the unitary executive branch.
(Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2003, President's signing statement. Note the use of "unitary executive").
The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks---
---Finally, given the decision of the Congress reflected in subsections 1005(e) and 1005(h) that the amendments made to section 2241 of title 28, United States Code, shall apply to past, present, and future actions, including applications for writs of habeas corpus, described in that section, and noting that section 1005 does not confer any constitutional right upon an alien detained abroad as an enemy combatant, the executive branch shall construe section 1005 to preclude the Federal courts from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over any existing or future action, including applications for writs of habeas corpus, described in section 1005.
(President's signing statement, H.R. 2863, the "Department of Defense, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations to Address Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and Pandemic Influenza Act, 2006" White House, December 30, 2005).
This is but a speck. The mass of evidence supporting a coup is very large, and can be accessed by anyone willing to honestly entertain the notion. The assumption of power by a small part of the whole and the disempowerment of normal and traditional policy creation machinery is obvious. The collapse of congressional oversight is equally obvious, and has been repeatedly commented on by both Republicans and Democrats and the growing supremacy of closely controlled parallel structures that bypass traditional or statutory structures has been remarked upon by numerous players, from all sides of the political spectrum. Most recently, we see the CIA being stripped of it's best and longest asset- it's analysis function- and this function being "privatized". The current estimate is that about 70% of all intelligence analysis will now be done by private contractors, who conveniently are beyond the oversight of congress, and are largely outside even the skeletal guidance suplied to the military analysts by regulations, traditions and chain-of-command guidance. No UCMJ in the corporate world. Private intel analysis will be done on a product-oriented model, with corporate management stuctures applied. That means, to me that the product is designed to appeal to ther consumer, and so "intelligence" assumes the purpose of validating policy, not directing it. Scary stuff. But there is an underlying reality, and it will bite. The result will be that even the coup will be incompetent.
For those who scoff or doubt, an hour spent reading up on the "Unitary Executive" theory will quickly show that the difference between a paternalistic protective fascism and what we have now is barely discernible.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the perfect "rescue" rationale, 9/11, falls apart as a justification for all these draconian changes when one realizes that most of the elements of the coup pre-date that disaster, some by decades. Even if you still disagree as to the appropriateness of calling this nest of snakes a "coup", our constitutional crisis is clear.
A couple years ago, Ron Susskind did a superb piece for the New York Times, in which he quotes a high administration official, whose remarks were made in a meeting in the White House.
The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''
The exact time and manner in which the crisis came to pass, or the label of choice may not matter. We might better ask, today, "How can this be undone?" I believe it can be undone, but the first step is to admit that it has happened.
If I take a soft focus on the whole pattern, as a sociologist I see a socio-cultural ecology in rapid change, unstable, deeply conflicted, a system that can attain temporary stability with a coup. But it is only temporary stability. People die, and the patriarch's niche is empty again. And the neocon theology can be reassuring for a population bombarded with terror images, but it is useless for governing. It has a cartoon-simple view of social space and human functioning, it is based on assumptions that just do not stand up to a hard look, and every time it has been used as a map for public policy it has failed disastrously. Fascism often falls apart after enough of that old objective reality creeps in and forces people to deal with it. That will happen here too.
There will be more than enough Chinese currency diversification to shake us hard. Enough twin deficits. Enough peak oil at 90 bucks a barrel. Enough lost retirement hopes, enough dead young men. Today the administration rewrites legislation with "signing statements", literally as law comes into existence, a function clearly assigned to the legislative branch by the Constitution. Confident, unapologetic for torture, legal travesties, massive surveillance and dubious electoral practices, they no longer even pretend. Bush says, in essence, "I did it, I'll do it again, and you can just tough it." No wonder they fail. There will come a time when men and women of courage will have had enough of that.
Dick Cheney is running out of time. His life's work is on the line, he has serious health issues and he will not get another chance. He and Donald Rumsfeld are ruthless, brilliant and vindictive men, by all reports. If they see it all slipping away---what will they do? Revealingly, they already tried, as Al Gore pointed out, to have inserted into the Congressional authorization of force language that would have allowed them to use the military in domestic actions, but Congress refused. Again, some gutsy old guys in Congress, who will probably never be lauded for it, did a very smart thing. But Don and Dick and their mouthpiece Gonzales just did an end run, and declared that Congress was unnecessary.
If it begins to fail again, how far will they go? It is already falling apart. A majority of Americans support impeachment if Bush lied, and if he tapped without a warrant. He has already admitted to the latter, and the former has been long since proven. Every major Bush policy initiative has crashed and burned. The landscape is strewn with the wreckage of neocon dreams, even if Americans in their dozy denial have not yet allowed these facts to disturb their sleep. Dear God, it is past reveille.
Remember the moratorium? Most people don't. My son had never heard of it, at the age of 18. Yet it was the culmination of years of work and risk, of tear gas and broken heads, of families divided by bitterness. It helped to change the world. It is that time again.
The neoconmen are historically illiterate, for all their brilliance, or they would not be so unaware that their piece of political theater has been acted out a hundred times throughout history, and therefore is pretty well understood- and pretty predictable. This battle has been fought before. Saul Alinsky knew these guys and their type pretty well. He taught that you should be of good cheer when the target heaps abuse and slings mud, when the spitballs and brickbats fly. Their hysterical abuse means we are getting their attention. The more the better. We need to re-read "Rules for Radicals", and start listing our assets. Its time to march to the offices and local outlets of CNN, FOX News and the rest of the dead media, to the offices of our congressmen and women, to the White House. Unfashionable? Perhaps. But it's past time that we learned from a couple million young French students just what can be done by mass action, and fashion -or "cool"- be damned.
In a world with inconceivable wealth concentrated in the hands of those who live in a gated, sterilized world of comfy, quiet illusions and xenophobic fear, noise and courage are our best weapon. I am proud of our long ago but well remembered raucous racket, our street theater, our march on Washington. Alinsky said, "Power goes to two poles: to those who've got money and those who've got people." And lest you think we are insufficient in number, remember: Once the sleepers awake, there will be far more of us than they think. It must be our job to be the alarm clock. It does, however, take guts.
How bad do YOU want your republic back?
We need to get past the intellectual analysis of the causes and the pointless pointing fingers at guilty parties of the sinking of the titanic, and get to discussing how to plug the leak.
Here in France singing is still socially acceptable. My girls come home from school with a new song about three times a week. I like that.
Anyone remember Woody Guthrie these days?
Woody said, (in the real, unsanitized version of this song)
Have you been working
Just as hard as you're able,
And getting crumbs from the rich man's table?
Have you been wondering if it's truth or fable?
This land was made for you and me.
His son Arlo said, on the flip side of Alice's Restaurant,
"You gotta sing loud if you want to end war."
I am proud that we ruined the Don and Dick show once, and I believe we can do it again. We need to be about that task.