One of the lesser-known administration justifications for wholesale, illegal NSA spying is the argument that the domestic United States became a theater of war after 9/11. The fact that this is a dream come true for rightwing interests is merely a coincidence -- in the same way and to the same degree that the culture war is merely a metaphor.
Unfortunately, fundamentalists are noted for their literalism. As far as Jerry Falwell was concerned on September 14, 2001, the people who deserved the blame for the attacks on America were “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make them an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way” -- that is to say, all the religious right’s domestic political enemies. Ridiculous as that sounded at the time -- bringing condemnation from both GWB and Chuck Hagel -- the list of traitors is only growing.
Democracy Now! reported this week that a California woman was fired on the spot when her boss spotted an Air America bumper sticker on her car. “The country is on high alert,” the man said, “for all I know you’re al Qaeda.” She’s lucky he didn’t call the FBI or the Pentagon’s anonymous tip line: 1-800-CALL-SPY.
The good news is that, five years out from the PNACers’ Pearl-Harbor-type event, the man on high alert is the exception to the rule. On the contrary, many staunch far-right opinion-makers are becoming openly uneasy. William F. Buckley, for one, has written an editorial stating flatly that the war in Iraq cannot be won. True, he blames the morally deficient Iraqis for their inability to accept a shot at democratic freedom, but nevertheless.
Francis Fukuyama, one of the architects of the neocon project, has renounced it. It has evolved, he said, “into something I can no longer support.”
At the money end of the neocon coalition, Barron’s magazine recently concluded that Bush has quite possibly committed impeachable offenses. The editorial warned that “If we don’t discuss the [illegal spy] program and the lack of authority for it, we are meeting the enemy -- in the mirror.”
The CATO libertarians, including Andrew Sullivan, have had their own rude awakening. “[That] the Thatcher/Reagan legacy that many of us grew to love and support would end this way [with Bush] is an astonishing paradox and a great tragedy.” Sullivan also accused Bush of being a socialist, which I find enlightening: if that’s what he thinks socialism is, no wonder he’s against it. I would be too. Obviously, to a certain stripe of conservative, socialism is tantamount to totalitarianism.
Not that I have anything to crow about. I was just as painfully deceived by my own political illusions. I felt that Bill Clinton did pull off a working synthesis of views. His huge surpluses were evidence of the rightness of his thinking. I ignored the fact that the fundamentalists weren’t going away. More importantly, I ignored the fact that Clinton was enacting a program of neo-liberal globalization, which has culminated in the reign of terror of George W. Bush.
The attempted sale of our ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates, following the ordeals of Hurricane Katrina and September 11, points out in neon colors this administration’s deliberate cultivation of disaster. One can say, without fear of being labeled a conspiracy theorist, and without fear of contradiction by anyone willing to be governed by objective facts, that at the very least the Bush administration has made the terrorist’s job infinitely easier.
Economic globalization is the true worldwide terrorist, at the service of concentrated corporate and individual wealth, ruthlessly pursuing its own interests over human rights and human life.
And now, finally, it has come home. Sullivan’s fellow libertarian, Bruce Bartlett, author of Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, said that many conservatives shared his very low opinion of George Bush, but they don’t like to think about it because “they know this White House is very vindictive.”
Vindictive seems too mild a word. Those who disagree with George Bush about exactly who our enemy is, are about to become the enemy themselves. His consigliare, Alberto Gonzales, has trotted out the old red baiting notion of a fifth column, a movement of citizens who “sympathize” with the enemy. This is an extremely bold move, given that a large majority of the American people -- and even of the active military -- are against the war.
It’s only logical that whistleblowers would be at the top of the list, including FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who came forward with some extremely serious allegations immediately following 9/11. Edmonds alleges
Information [was] omitted and covered up regarding documented and confirmed case of a long-term FBI Informant and Asset who provided the FBI with specific information and warnings in April and June regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Ms. Edmonds is such a high security risk that an interview she did with 60 Minutes has been retroactively classified Top Secret, even though the program has already aired. Stephen Heller is another hot target. Heller passed documents from Diebold’s law offices outlining the various ways that corporation had broken California law. Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley claims that he had to charge Heller with three felonies because “attorney-client privilege is sacrosanct.”
Given the fact that Sibel Edmonds’ lawyers couldn’t even be present in the courtroom when the government argued its case against her, I’d say it’s corporate rights that are sacrosanct.
Our situation can only go one of two ways. On the one hand, Mr. High Alert could prevail. The neocon leadership recently cheered the idea that “the rule of law must be abandoned in order for George Bush to protect us from al Qaeda.” Bob Barr, who had the guts to stand up to that crowd and say that we owe our loyalty to the Constitution, was booed down. These people are prepared to see it through, right down to detention camps for fifth columnists, when and as necessary. Kellogg Brown Root already has the contract.
We can allow Cindy Sheehan to be escorted out of the State of the Union address -- to become the enemy -- while a Saudi with ties to terrorists remains seated, a loyal ally.
Or we can come together as citizens, across artificial but still extremely deep Culture War divides, to defeat our immediate common enemy, the incipient Bush dictatorship, and then begin to work out our long-term survival issues.
Unfortunately, as I see it, the biggest obstacle to our making common cause is the upcoming election. The sad truth is that the Bush junta includes the leadership of both corporate parties. Unless and until ordinary citizens from all political parties recognize that, we will continue to fight one another, and our real mutual enemy will defeat us under cover of our mutual recriminations.
In her opening shots of 2006, and no doubt looking ahead to 2008, Hillary Clinton has moved to the right of GWB on Iran. She has said that “all options” -- by which I assume she means even pre-emptive nuclear war -- must be on the table. Having thus ruled out any real debate on the issues of war and peace which are threatening our very survival, the stage is set for another prolonged round of the Culture War. Abortion. Gay marriage. Gay adoption.
And who’s going to stop her? Who’s even running against her? Even if somebody like Giuliani announces, will our interests be represented one whit differently? The GOP is engaged in the exact same pretend-play with its base. Moderate Republicans are supposed to be assuaged by the occasionally fiery outburst from Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe concerning illegal government spying, or John McCain’s faux anti-torture amendment. It’s an insult! To all of us!
I can’t believe I used to fall for this shit. I used to believe that Hillary Clinton was pro-gay and a feminist. I thought her “compromises” were necessary to win on more important issues, and as a gay person (black person, Latino, immigrant, worker, woman, fill in the blank), I was willing to make strategic sacrifices. No more. With Samuel Alito’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, it’s clear that the whole course of leftwing compromise over the past 20 to 30 years has led to the collapse of the New Deal economic and social agreements and our entire constitutional system of due process.
But I would go farther and argue that even those who have engineered this state of affairs and see in the overturn of abortion or the persecution of gays the culmination of decades of unremitting effort have been and are being duped.
Consider the Abramoff scandal. Abramoff and his associates, Ralph Reed and Michael Scanlon, ran scams on Indian tribes. Abramoff would represent tribes who wanted to start casinos. He’d collect money from them and give it to religious right leaders like Ralph Reed and James Dobson, who would then make a stink about gambling being a sin, which would lead the poor Indians to give Abramoff even more money.
Do we really want to live by the literal word of God, as preached by phonies like Dobson and Reed, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson?
I think even some of them are finding that prospect a little less attractive than they had anticipated. I’m thinking here of James Dobson’s recent surprise compromise on gay partnership in Colorado, where he endorsed a proposal that would actually guarantee certain basic rights for gay people. It’s true that this compromise only codifies contract law that is already on the books, but in our current situation, with swathes of law being rapidly rewritten these days, it is still a significant endorsement.
And what about abortion? Already South Dakota’s passage of a draconian anti-abortion law is changing things. The will of the vast majority of the American people that abortion remain legal is being ignored. Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, and the Democratic Leadership Council, have all moved to the right on abortion, as well as on the war(s).
The crucial, central truth that will set us free is: there is no difference between the two corporate parties.
The only possible consequence of falling into the trap of treating this election as “winnable” by one corporate party or the other is division among the people at a moment when unity is our only hope of long-term survival. A slim hope, I grant you, but the only one.
Winning with either corporate party is a resounding defeat for 97 percent of American citizens, whose views will not be represented. The Green Party, on the other hand, actually represents the core values and priorities of a large majority of the American people, and that can only be more true as we watch potentially cataclysmic unfolding of climate change. Nor does the Green Party accept any corporate contributions.
I suggest that dissatisfied liberals and conservatives alike join me in hosting a series of Green Party parties, perhaps one a month between now and the elections. The purpose would be to change our voter registration from whatever it is to Green as a public expression of solidarity and repudiation of the present ruling coalition. These parties would have the virtue of organizing people around the most pressing issue facing all of us: the cataclysmic changes unfolding in our climate and, as a result, in our whole way of life.
Obviously, Green Party parties are only one possible vehicle for breaking down the artificial and self-defeating political barriers that have gotten us into this desperate fix. If enough of us switch, the Green Party could become a powerful organizing portal for re-activation of participatory democracy, but any common meeting place, or combination of places, will do. We’re going to have to withdraw our consent to the various cultural/religious/political proxies who are in the business of restricting our choices and start working things out amongst ourselves, face to face. We’re going to have to take matters into our own hands, all of us, no matter how far-fetched that sounds, fundamentalist Christian and lesbian, black and white, corrupt capitalist and corrupt union boss, lifelong Republican and lifelong Democrat.
Patricia Goldsmith is a member of Long Island Media Watch, a grassroots free media and democracy watchdog group. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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