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    Middle East
     May 17, 2007
Page 1 of 4
DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA
The case for imperial liquidation
By Chalmers Johnson

In politics, as in medicine, a cure based on a false diagnosis is almost always worthless, often worsening the condition that is supposed to be healed. The United States today suffers from a plethora of public ills. Most of them can be traced to the militarism and imperialism that have led to the near-collapse of the country's constitutional system of checks and balances. Unfortunately, none of the remedies proposed so far by American



politicians or analysts addresses the root causes of the problem.

According to an NBC (National Broadcasting Co) News/Wall Street Journal poll released on April 26, some 78% of Americans believe their country to be headed in the wrong direction. Only 22% think the Bush administration's policies make sense, the lowest number on this question since October 1992, when George H W Bush was running for a second presidential term - and lost. What people don't agree on are the reasons for their doubts and, above all, what the remedy - or remedies - ought to be.

The range of opinions on this is immense. Even though large numbers of US voters vaguely suspect that the failings of the political system itself led their country into its current crisis, most evidently expect the system to perform a course correction more or less automatically. As Adam Nagourney of the New York Times reported, by the end of March, at least 280,000 US citizens had already contributed some US$113.6 million to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Mitt Romney, Rudolph Giuliani, and John McCain.

If these people actually believe a presidential election a year and a half from now will significantly alter how the country is run, they have almost surely wasted their money. As Andrew Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism, [1] puts it: "None of the Democrats vying to replace President Bush is doing so with the promise of reviving the system of check and balances ... The aim of the party out of power is not to cut the presidency down to size but to seize it, not to reduce the prerogatives of the executive branch but to regain them."

Republican President George W Bush has, of course, flagrantly violated his oath of office, which requires him "to protect and defend the constitution", and the opposition Democratic Party has been remarkably reluctant to hold him to account. Among the "high crimes and misdemeanors" that, under other political circumstances, would surely constitute the constitutional grounds for impeachment are these: the president and his top officials pressured the Central Intelligence Agency to put together a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq's nuclear weapons that both the administration and the CIA knew to be patently dishonest. They then used this false NIE to justify a US war of aggression. After launching an invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration unilaterally reinterpreted international and domestic law to permit the torture of prisoners held at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at other secret locations around the world.

Nothing in the US constitution, least of all the commander-in-chief clause, allows the president to commit felonies. Nonetheless, within days after the attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush had signed a secret executive order authorizing a new policy of "extraordinary rendition", in which the CIA is allowed to kidnap terrorist suspects anywhere on Earth and transfer them to prisons in such countries as Egypt, Syria and Uzbekistan, where torture is a normal practice, or to secret CIA prisons outside the United States where Agency operatives themselves do the torturing.

On the home front, despite the post-September 11 congressional authorization of new surveillance powers to the administration, its officials chose to ignore these and, on its own initiative, undertook extensive spying on US citizens without obtaining the necessary judicial warrants and without reporting to Congress on this program. These actions are prima facie violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (and subsequent revisions) and of Amendment IV of the US constitution.

These alone constitute more than adequate grounds for impeachment, while hardly scratching the surface. And yet, on the eve of the national elections last November, then House minority leader, now Speaker, Nancy Pelosi pledged on the CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) News program 60 Minutes that "impeachment is off the table". She called it "a waste of time". And six months after the Democratic Party took control of both houses of Congress, the prison at Guantanamo Bay was still open and conducting drumhead courts-martial of the prisoners held there; the CIA was still using "enhanced interrogation techniques" on prisoners in foreign jails; illegal intrusions into the privacy of US citizens continued unabated; and, more than 50 years after the CIA was founded, it continues to operate under, at best, the most perfunctory congressional oversight.

Promoting lies, demoting democracy
Without question, the Bush administration's catastrophic war in Iraq is the single overarching issue that has convinced a large majority of Americans that their country is "heading in the wrong direction". But the war itself is the outcome of an imperial presidency and the abject failure of Congress to perform its constitutional duty of oversight. Had the government been working as the authors of the US constitution intended, the war could not have occurred. Even now, the Democratic majority remains reluctant to use its power of the purse to cut off funding for the war, thereby ending the US occupation of Iraq and starting to curtail the ever-growing power of the military-industrial complex.

One major problem of the US social and political system is the failure of the press, especially television news, to inform the public about the true breadth of the unconstitutional activities of the executive branch. As Frederick A O Schwarz and Aziz Z Huq, the authors of Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror, observe, "For the public to play its proper checking role at the ballot box, citizens must know what is done by the government in their names."

Instead of uncovering Bush administration lies and manipulations, the US media actively promoted them. Yet the First Amendment to the US constitution protects the press precisely so it can penetrate the secrecy that is the bureaucrat's most powerful, self-protective weapon. As a result of this failure, democratic oversight of the government by an actively engaged citizenry did not - and could not - occur. The people of the United States became mere spectators as an array of ideological extremists, vested interests and foreign operatives - including domestic neo-conservatives, Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi exiles, the Israel lobby, the petroleum and automobile industries, warmongers and profiteers allied with the military-industrial complex, and the entrenched interests of the professional military establishment - in essence hijacked the government.

Some respected professional journalists do not see these failings as the mere result of personal turpitude but rather as deep

Continued 1 2 3 4 


Why Nemesis is at the US's door (Feb 1, '07)

 
 



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