Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The war on freedom

There are many problems with President Bush exercising the extraordinary powers he has insisted are his, not least of which is that he is in effect claiming that actual dictatorial powers are given to him by the Constitution (!) in a time of war.

War, in his view, automatically makes him commander-in-chief, with--again in his view--powers to defy laws made by Congress and ignore the Bill of Rights. And what war would we be talking about? Certainly the actual conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq hardly justify his assuming such extraordinary powers. So the war in question would have to be the "War on Terror." In fact, Bush has been very explicit about this.

Now, "terror," as many have pointed out, is an abstract noun, which, as is the nature of abstract nouns, can never surrender or capitulate, and thus a war against it can and presumably will--like its prototype, the war on drugs--go on forever, at the convenience of whatever president might feel the need of dictatorial powers.

The President's obsession with such powers is perhaps best revealed in his, um, sense of humor. His humor, like his facial tics, gives a lot away. His occasional wry jokes (3 below, for your wry amusement) about how much easier his job would be if he were dictator, are in the same humor ballpark as someone getting on a plane carrying a tennis shoe with wires sticking out of it. But even less funny.

Bush quotes follow:
"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier...just as long as I'm the dictator..."
--Washington, DC, Dec 18, 2000, during his first trip to Washington as President-Elect

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."
George Bush Describing what it's like to be governor of Texas.
--Governing Magazine 7/98)

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it."
--(Business Week, July 30, 2001)

I think Bush assumes a certain continuity of fear-based governance, such that the perpetual commander-in-chief will be perpetually a Republican. Such self assurance would seem to be founded on political wisdom best and most succinctly enunciated by a philosopher of a previous reich, Herman Goering.

Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking intelligence officer and psychologist was assigned to interview Goering in his Nuremberg cell, kept a journal of his conversations with Goering. This one below is from the evening of 18 April 1946.
We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

"Why, of course, the people don't want war ... That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

"It works the same in any country." I think Karl Rove must have learned a lot from this interview. And I think he then went on to improve on Goering. The perpetual threat of war will work even when the shooting war is far away and not a direct threat to the nation. In fact, even if the war in Iraq should devolve into a long-term occupation, with nothing but occasional outbreaks of violence, the war on terror, in Rove's scenario, will be going strong, waged here at home, by a Republican presidency, against democracy and freedom.

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