Saturday, September 22, 2007

Anuthoritarian GOP

Understanding the Contemporary Republican Party: Authoritarians Have Taken Control
Part One in a Three-Part Series
Wednesday, Sep. 05, 2007

This is the first in a three- part series of columns in which FindLaw columnist John Dean discusses his most recent book, Conservatives Without Conscience. - Ed.

Last year, I published Conservatives Without Conscience, but it struck me as a bit too self-promoting to use this space to talk about the book. The core of the book examines a half-century of empirical studies that had never been explained for the general reader. Not being a social scientist, I was thrilled when the book became a bestseller and countless political and social psychologists wrote to thank me for translating their work for the general reader.

At this point, I feel that this material is simply too crucial to understanding current politics and government for me to continue to ignore it in my columns for FindLaw. In addition, I want to refer to these findings throughout my commentary on the 2008 presidential and congressional elections, so it is time to set forth a few basics from this work.

Conservatives Without Conscience ("CWC") sought to understand the modern conservative movement, and in particular it's hard turn to the right during the past two-and-a-half decades. Conservatives have taken control of the Republican Party, and, in turn, the GOP has taken control of the government (all three branches, until 2006).

Who are these people? Of course, we know their names: Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush - to mention a few of the obvious. More importantly, what drives them? And, why do their compliant followers seem to never question or criticism them? Here, I am thinking of people like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter - to mention a few more of the conspicuous.

In this column, and those that follow, I hope to explain the rather remarkably information I have uncovered. It explained what for me what I had previously thought inexplicable. And based on my mail, it seems to have done the same for a lot of CWC readers. So let me see if I can extract a few key points that may help to understand what happened, and why it happened.

In the first two columns of this three-part series, I will offer some basics to provide context, and some of the relevant data. In the last of the three, I will drive home the points I believe are most relevant.

How Conservatives Think (Or Fail To Do So)

Most conservatives today do not believe that conservatism can or should be defined. They claim that it not an ideology, but rather merely an attitude. (I don't buy that, but that point is not relevant here.)

Column continues below ↓

Conservatives once looked to the past for what it could teach about the present and the future. Early conservatives were traditionalists or libertarians, or a bit of both. Today, however, there are religious conservatives, economic conservatives, social conservatives, cultural conservatives, neoconservatives, traditional conservatives, and a number of other factions.

Within these factions, there is a good amount of inconsistency and variety, but the movement has long been held together through the power of negative thinking. The glue of the movement is in its perceived enemies. Conservatives once found a common concern with respect to their excessive concern about communism (not that liberals and progressive were not concerned as well, but they were neither paranoid nor willing to mount witch hunts). When communism was no longer a threat, the dysfunctional conservative movement rallied around its members' common opposition to anything they perceived as liberal. (This was, in effect, any point of view that differed from their own, whether it was liberal or not.)

To understanding conservatives thinking, it is important to examine not merely what conservatives believe, but also why they believe it. I found the answers to these two key questions in the remarkable body of empirical research work, almost a half-century in the making, undertaken by political and social psychologists who study authoritarian personalities.

Authoritarian Republicans: Understanding the Personality Type

While not all conservatives are authoritarians, all highly authoritarian personalities are political conservatives. To make the results of my rather lengthy inquiry very short, I found that it was the authoritarians who took control of the conservative movement in the 1980s, and then the Republican Party in the 1990s. Strikingly, these conservative Republicans - though hardly known for their timidity -- have not attempted to refute my report, because that is not possible. It is based on hard historical facts, which I set forth in considerable detail.

Authoritarian control continues to this day, so it is important to understand these people. There are two types of authoritarians: leaders (the few) and followers (the many). Study of these personalities began following World War II, when social psychologists asked how so many people could compliantly follow an authoritarian leader like Adolf Hitler and tolerate the Holocaust. Early research was based at the University of California, Berkeley, and it focused primarily on followers, culminating in the publication of a The Authoritarian Personality (1950) - a work that broadly described authoritarian personalities. The book was quite popular for decades, but as the Cold War ended, it had been on the shelf and ignored for a good while.

Given the strikingly conspicuous authoritarian nature of the contemporary conservative movement, and in turn, of the Republican Party, those familiar with the work of the Berkeley group thought it time to take another look at this work. For example, Alan Wolfe, a political science professor at Boston College, observed that the fact that "the radical right has transformed itself from a marginal movement to an influential sector of the contemporary Republican Party" called for a reexamination of this work. That is exactly what I did, although I did not discover Dr. Wolfe's call for it until well into my project.

The Authoritarian Personality relied heavily on Freudian psychology, which was not without critics, although neither Dr. Freud's work nor that of the Berkeley scientists has been proven incorrect. The weakness of this early work was the lack of empirical data backing up its conclusions. But in the half-century since its publication, that weakness has been removed, based on others' empirical work. A number of researchers have examined and reexamined the Berkeley Group's conclusions, and no one more thoroughly than Bob Altemeyer, a Yale and Carnegie-Mellon-trained social psychologist based at the University of Manitoba.

Professor Altemeyer's Findings

Altemeyer's study addressed flaws in the methodology and findings of The Authoritarian Personality, and he then proceeded to set this field of study on new footings by clarifying the study of authoritarian followers, people he calls "right-wing authoritarians." The provocative titles of his books -- Right-Wing Authoritarianism (1981), Enemies of Freedom (1988), and The Authoritarian Specter (1996) -- and of a few of his many articles found in scholarly journals -- such as "Highly Dominating, Highly Authoritarian Personalities" in the Journal of Social Psychology (2004) and "Why Do Religious Fundamentalists Tend to Be Prejudiced?" in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion (2003)--indicate the tenor of his research and the range of his interests.

Working my way through this material, with the help of a copy of the Idiot's Guide to Statistics, for Altemeyer writes for professional peers, I realized that, since I do not have a degree in psychology, I should get guidance to be certain I understood the material correctly, because it seemed to me that the information he had developed was exactly what I needed to comprehend the personalities now dominating the conservative movement and Republican Party. Altemeyer, who is the preeminent researcher in the field, graciously agreed to tutor me in his work. I introduced him to FindLaw readers in an earlier column, when I thought it would be interesting to get his take on the writings of the very authoritarian Tom DeLay, as he explained himself in No Retreat, No Surrender.

At the outset of Conservatives Without Conscience, I provided a quick and highly incomplete summary of Altemeyer's findings, explaining that his empirical testing revealed "that authoritarians are frequently enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, anti-equality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral." To be clear, these are not assessments that Altemeyer makes himself about these people; rather, this is how those he has tested reveal themselves to be, when being anonymously examined.

Altemeyer has tested literally tens of thousands of first-year college students and their parents, along with others, including some fifteen hundred American state legislators, over the course of some three decades. He has tested in the South and North of the United States. There is no database on authoritarians that even comes close in its scope to that which he has created, and, more importantly, these studies are empirical data, not partisan speculation.

About a year after I published my outline of his work, Altemeyer prepared a digest of his research for general readers, The Authoritarians, which he has posted online for one and all to examine at no cost. In his book he walks readers thorough his research in a manner that requires neither an advanced degree nor a copy of the Idiot's Guide to Statistics.

In the next two columns, I will examine the implications of Altemeyer's findings, for they explain a great deal about the operations of the Republican Party as presently constituted.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Authoritarians (Part 2)

Why Authoritarians Now Control the Republican Party: The Rise of Authoritarian Conservatism

Part Two in a Three-Part Series

Friday, Sep. 21, 2007

This is the second in a three- part series of columns in which FindLaw columnist John Dean discusses his most recent book, Conservatives Without Conscience. - Ed.

Today, the Grand Old Republican Party is controlled by authoritarian conservatives. (As I mentioned in my prior column, the first in this three-part series, to my knowledge no person in the GOP has ever denied that fact - and they are well-aware of my book.) More specifically, as I broadly outlined in my last column, the research of social scientists such as Bob Altemeyer has revealed the personality traits of both those authoritarians who are followers, and those who are their leaders.

The Followers: Right-Wing Authoritarians

Princeton political scientist Fred I. Greenstein has cautioned about the uses of personality in analyzing political activity; in fact, he directly addressed "the tangled history of studies of authoritarianism." He noted, however, that while the study of authoritarian personalities once seemed to be at a "dead end," that has proven not to be the case. Rather, "in the 1980s an ingenious and rigorous program of inquiry by Altemeyer (1981, 1988) furnished persuasive empirical evidence that the original authoritarian construct was an approximation of an important political-psychological regularity--the existence in some individuals of an inner makeup that disposes them to defer to authority figures."

These, of course, are followers. Altemeyer labeled these people "right-wing authoritarians" not because he was looking to target political conservatives, but rather because he was drawing broadly on the historical terms that identify those who openly submit to established authorities, and whether those authorities are political, economic or religious, those who submit to them are traditionally described as being on the right wing. As Altemeyer developed and refined his testing, however, it became apparent that those who tested as highly submissive to economic or religious authorities also proved to be hard-right political conservatives.

In addition to being especially submissive to established authority, Altemeyer's research revealed that those he calls right-wing authoritarians also show "general aggressiveness" towards others, when such behavior is "perceived to be sanctioned" by established authorities. Finally, these people are always highly compliant with the social conventions endorsed by society and established authorities. These basic traits, submissiveness to authority and conventionality, are the essence of those Altemeyer describes as right-wing authoritarians. If these traits are not present in some significant (albeit varying) degree, he does not consider the subject to be a right-wing authoritarian. However, these people can, and often do, consistently reveal they have many other interesting traits as well.

Based on Altemeyer's study, as well as those of other social psychologists, I prepared a list of the additional traits that these personalities, both men and women who test high as right-wing authoritarians, often evidence: highly religious, moderate to little education, trust untrustworthy authorities, prejudiced (particularly against homosexuals, women, and followers of religions other than their own), mean-spirited, narrow-minded, intolerant, bullying, zealous, dogmatic, uncritical toward their chosen authority, hypocritical, inconsistent and contradictory, prone to panic easily, highly self-righteous, moralistic, strict disciplinarian, severely punitive, demands loyalty and returns it, little self-awareness, usually politically and economically conservative/Republican.

The Leaders: Social Dominators

Much of the work on authoritarianism focused on followers, and only in recent decades have social psychologists developed tests to measure the traits of authoritarian leaders, or as Altemeyer states, "person who wanted to be submitted to." These people, because of their inclination and desire to dominate others and to dominate social situations in which they find themselves, are said to have a "social dominance orientation," given their take-charge natures.

The term "social dominance orientation" may sound like academic jargon, but actually it is highly descriptive of the personalities of many who run social and political situations and organizations--the leaders who insist on running the show. The word "social," of course, refers to the general organization of society; "dominance" relates to control or command over other people; and "orientation," as used here, means their inclination or disposition. These are people who seize every opportunity to lead, who enjoy having power over others, and who will seek it both fairly and not so fairly.

People who test high as social dominators are also economically conservative and have little tolerance for equality. They consistently agree when asked about statements such as the following: "Some people are just more worthy than others"; "This country would be better off if we cared less about how equal all people were"; and "To get ahead in life, it is sometimes necessary to step on others." In addition, they will respond in the negative to the proposition that "All humans should be treated equally." (In fact, they are given many more questions when tested; I am merely providing a very small sample.)

Again, I have prepared a listing of the traits revealed in the testing of these remarkably manipulative and cunning personalities, who are typically men: dominating, opposes equality, desirous of personal power, amoral, intimidating and bullying, faintly hedonistic, vengeful, pitiless, exploitive, manipulative, dishonest, cheats to win, highly prejudiced (racist, sexist, homophobic), mean-spirited, militant, nationalistic, tells others what they want to hear, takes advantage of "suckers," specializes in creating false images to sell self, may or may not be religious, usually politically and economically conservative/Republican.

These lists of traits for both right-wing authoritarian followers, and social dominating authoritarian leaders, should be understood as not necessarily describing every person who falls into the type. While many have all the traits, not all will have all, or even most, of them. Most people who test high as authoritarians, whether followers or leaders, have some of these traits, however.

(I will not deal, here, with another group which I address in Conservatives Without Conscience at some length: the groups of those who uniquely test high for all these traits - both those of a leader and those of a follower. This happens with a small number of social dominators when given both tests. Seeing themselves as running the world, they respond as high as followers do on certain traits, because they want people to follow them. These so-called "double highs" are people I labeled as "conservatives without conscience," but they are beyond this summary. Nonetheless, they too fall under the general description of those leaders and followers who subscribe to authoritarian conservatism.)

Authoritarian Conservatism

No one familiar with the findings of social scientists who study authoritarianism relating to the social-dominating leaders was surprised when they became the leaders in control of the Republican Party, nor when they demanded strict adherence to their conservative political, religious and economic worldview. Nor was there any surprise among social scientists when the right-wing authoritarian followers went along with their leaders, not to mention aggressively pushing the message and turning against those who were not believers.

Needless to say, Republicans have not come anywhere close to pursuing the type of political authoritarianism found in countries like China and Russia, or in any of the many semi-dictatorial or quasi-totalitarian governments. Our constitutional system makes that nearly impossible. Nor is authoritarian conservatism new in our country.

Alexander Hamilton, the monarchist-leaning founding father, can justifiably be considered America's first prominent authoritarian conservative. Political scientists Charles W. Dunn and J. David Woodard reported in their study The Conservative Tradition in America that Hamilton's "brand of conservatism may be properly labeled authoritarian conservatism." Dunn and Woodard trace the ideology of authoritarian conservatism to Joseph de Maistre, a French nobleman and political polemicist who became an outspoken opponent of Enlightenment thinking, and who favored a strong central government. De Maistre was more famously known by later generations for his admiration of hangmen, whom he felt were essential for social order.

Conservative scholar Peter Viereck examined authoritarian conservatism in his work Conservatism: From John Adams to Churchill, in which he reported the "rival brands" of early conservatism, dividing them into two founding schools: that of Edmund Burke, and that of Maistre. Viereck characterized Burkean conservatism as "the moderate brand," while characterizing Maistre's as "reactionary." Burkean conservatism was not authoritarian but constitutionalist, while Maistrean conservatism was "authoritarian in its stress on the authority" being granted to "some traditional elite." Although most conservative scholars choose to ignore Maistre, treating him as an unwelcome member of the family, his work is significant in that it suggests that authoritarianism was an integral component of conservatism at the time of its founding.

As one sifts through the conservative philosophy of the religious right and of the neo-conservatives, the Maistrean philosophy is conspicuously present. Unlike traditional conservatives who embrace varying degrees of libertarianism - drawn from the core beliefs of classic Nineteenth Century liberalism - the authoritarian conservative wants an all-powerful chief executive who runs a mighty military that implements his will.

Authoritarian conservatism was growing in force in Washington for a decade before Bush and Cheney arrived at the White House, but their administration has taken it to its highest and most dangerous level in American history. It is doubtful they could have accomplished this, had authoritarian conservatism not already taken hold in Congress and the federal judiciary. In the final segment of this three-part series of columns, I will highlight a few of the aspects of authoritarian conservatism that are troubling for American government.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

More On Blackwater....

State Dept. ‘Discounts’ Iraqi Report, Clings To Blackwater Line Of ‘Defensive Fire’

ap04022007003.jpg On Sunday, employees of an American private security company were involved in a shoot out in central Baghdad that left at least 11 civilians dead, including a mother and her child. A spokeswoman for the firm, Blackwater USA, told reporters that the “independent contractors acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack.”

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack supported Blackwater’s version of events, saying yesterday that “the basic fact is that there was an attack on the convoy.” This version of the events, however, was contradicted today by “a preliminary Iraqi report” obtained by the New York Times:

There was not shooting against the convoy,” said Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government’s spokesman. “There was no fire from anyone in the square.” […]

American Embassy officials had said Monday that the Blackwater guards had been responding to a car bomb, but Mr. Dabbagh said the bomb was so far away that it could not possibly have been a reason for the convoy to begin shooting.

Instead, he said, the convoy had initiated the shooting when a car did not heed a police officer and moved into an intersection.

“The traffic policeman was trying to open the road for them,” he said. “It was a crowded square. But one small car did not stop. It was moving very slowly. They shot against the couple and their child. They started shooting randomly.”

Witnesses of the incident who spoke to McClatchy on Monday support the Iraqi report. “Three people who claimed to have witnessed the shooting said that only the Blackwater guards were firing.” But in a press briefing today, State Department spokesman Tom Casey dismissed the preliminary report while sticking to the Blackwater line:

QUESTION: But you still maintain that this was a defense action in response to an attack. This is — that’s not, apparently, what the Iraqis are saying.

CASEY: You know, what I know and what Sean said yesterday is the convoy came under attack and there was defensive fire as a result of that.

There are various — there are eyewitness accounts that say a whole variety of different things as to what the sequence was and where fire came from and all that. That’s what the investigation has to figure out.

And I don’t — I don’t want to try and assert for you that things happened in a specific order of events, because I just don’t know that’s true.

QUESTION: OK. This is different from an eyewitness account. This is the Iraqi investigation. So you’re discounting their investigation

As Spencer Ackerman of TPMmuckraker reports, the State Department has a vested interest in whether Blackwater acted offensively or defensively during the shootout, since their rules of engagement “are set by State” and are more aggressive than “other security contractors who use the Military Rules of Engagement and Rules of Force.”

Additionally, the State Department “rarely” conducts thorough investigations of such incidents in Iraq. “We get almost weekly reports of such shootings,” a State Department official told The Blotter. “But it is close to impossible to go the crime scene and interview witnesses.”

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Checkbook Imperialism, With Our Checkbooks

Time to cut them off, take back their allowance, cut up the credit cards, close their bank accounts....whatever it takes.

Checkbook Imperialism: The Blackwater Fiasco

by Robert Scheer

Please, please, I tell myself, leave Orwell out of it. Find some other, fresher way to explain why “Operation Iraqi Freedom” is dependent upon killer mercenaries. Or why the “democratically elected government” of “liberated” Iraq does not explicitly have the legal power to expel Blackwater USA from its land or hold any of the 50,000 private contractor troops that the U.S. government has brought to Iraq accountable for their deadly actions.

Were there even the faintest trace of Iraqi independence rising from the ashes of this failed American imperialist venture, Blackwater would have to fold its tents and go, if only in the interest of keeping up appearances. After all, the Iraqi Interior Ministry claimed that the Blackwater thugs guarding a U.S. State Department convoy through the streets of Baghdad fired “randomly at citizens” in a crowded square on Sunday, killing 11 people and wounding 13 others. So the Iraqi government has ordered Blackwater to leave the country after what a government spokesman called a “flagrant assault … on Iraqi citizens.”

But who told those Iraqi officials that they have the power to control anything regarding the 182,000 privately contracted personnel working for the U.S. in Iraq? Don’t they know about Order 17, which former American proconsul Paul Bremer put in place to grant contractors, including his own Blackwater bodyguards, immunity from Iraqi prosecution? Nothing has changed since the supposed transfer of power from the Coalition Provisional Authority, which Bremer once headed, to the Iraqi government holed up in the Green Zone and guarded by Blackwater and other “private” soldiers.

They are “private” in the same fictional sense that our uniformed military is a “volunteer” force, since both are lured by the dollars offered by the same paymaster, the U.S. government. Contractors earn substantially more, despite $20,000 to $150,000 signing bonuses and an all-time-high average annual cost of $100,000 per person for the uniformed military. All of this was designed by the neocon hawks in the Pentagon to pursue their dreams of empire while avoiding a conscripted army, which would have millions howling in the street by now in protest.

Instead, we have checkbook imperialism. The U.S. government purchases whatever army it needs, which has led to the dependence upon private contract firms like Blackwater USA, with its $300-million-plus contract to protect U.S. State Department personnel in Iraq. That is why the latest Blackwater incident, which Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki branded a “crime,” is so difficult to deal with. Iraqis are clearly demanding to rid their country of Blackwater and other contractors, and on Tuesday the Iraqi government said it would be scrutinizing the status of all private security firms working in the country.

But the White House hopes the outrage will once again blow over. As the Associated Press reported on Monday: “The U.S. clearly hoped the Iraqis would be satisfied with an investigation, a finding of responsibility and compensation to the victim’s families-and not insist on expelling a company that the Americans cannot operate here without.” Or, as Ambassador Ryan Crocker testified to the U.S. Senate last week: “There is simply no way at all that the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security could ever have enough full-time personnel to staff the security function in Iraq. There is no alternative except through contracts.”

Consider the irony of that last statement-that the U.S. experiment in building democracy in Iraq is dependent upon the same garrisons of foreign mercenaries that drove the founders of our own country to launch the American Revolution. As George Washington warned in his farewell address, once the American government enters into these “foreign entanglements,” we lose the Republic, because public accountability is sacrificed to the necessities of war for empire.

Despite the fact that Blackwater USA gets almost all of its revenue from the U.S. government-much of it in no-bid contracts aided, no doubt, by the lavish contributions to the Republican Party made by company founder Erik Prince and his billionaire parents-its operations remain largely beyond public scrutiny. Blackwater and others in this international security racket operate as independent states of their own, subject neither to the rules of Iraq nor the ones that the U.S. government applies to its own uniformed forces. “We are not simply a ‘private security company,’ ” Blackwater boasts on its corporate website. “We are a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping, and stability operations firm. … We have become the most responsive, cost-effective means of affecting the strategic balance in support of security and peace, and freedom and democracy everywhere.”

Yeah, so who elected you guys to run the world?

Robert Scheer is editor of and a regular columnist for The
San Francisco Chronicle.

© 2007

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Kinda Makes You Sick, Doesn't It?

“Don’t Shop While The Bombs Drop!”

Re-thinking Movement Strategy

by Paul Rockwell
Oakland, California

Last November, the day after Thanksgiving, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert turned on his TV. Suddenly images of maimed and dead Iraqis came across his screen. The “unspeakable carnage in Sadr City” was followed by another set of images -- crazed, uncontrollable holiday shoppers, highways to shopping centers crammed with cars burning oil from the Mideast, impatient consumers standing in lines outside stores before sunup. Crowds cruised through shopping malls like schools of hungry fish, spending money they didn’t have on things they didn’t really need.

The American people spent $22 billion on that single day last year. Not one dollar really belonged to the spenders. Americans owe half a trillion dollars on their soaring war debt.

In the consumer chaos, shoppers seemed oblivious to the U.S.-caused holocaust in Iraq. The ability of war-makers to continue wars, even when they seem unpopular, depends on the insularity of empire. It is no accident that, in the midst of catastrophe and tragedy, the Commander-in-Chief tells Americans to go shopping.

For Herbert, there is a connection between conspicuous consumption and conspicuous indifference. Herbert was so upset by the images on TV, he sat down and wrote one of his most insightful, impassioned columns (November 27, 2006):

He wrote: “There is something terribly wrong with the juxtaposition of gleeful Americans with fistfuls of dollars storming the department store barricades and the slaughter by the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including old people, children, and babies. The war was started by the U.S., but most Americans feel absolutely no sense of personal responsibility for it. The indifference is widespread. It enables most Americans to go about their daily lives completely unconcerned about the atrocities resulting from a war being waged in their name.

“The war has now lasted as long as the American involvement in World War II. But there is no sense of collective sacrifice in the war, no shared burden of responsibility.

“Iraq burns. We shop.”

Imagine a different kind holiday season this year. Imagine a national, anti-war consumer boycott, a challenge to Americans to make peace the center of their lives. Imagine huge shopping centers surrounded by picketers with banners and signs that say: “DON’T SHOP WHILE THE BOMBS DROP!” Imagine vigils, prayer meetings, carol-singing, even trade-fairs near department stores.

Visualize a new scene. As consumers approach picket lines, they receive a flyer that invites them to join the austerity boycott:
There are times when consumerism insulates all of us from the consequences of our own decisions, when shopping for ourselves becomes an act of indifference to the suffering and tragedy of others, a tragedy for which American citizens bear some responsibility. Is it right for us, today, to make illegal war abroad and go shopping as if nothing horrific is taking place? “Today we urge you to take one small step beyond your comfort zone, to break from the money ritual, to put down your purse, or wallet, in order to mourn the deaths of our soldiers; to lament the slaughter of Iraqis, who never threatened the sovereignty of the U.S.”

At a picket line, each individual is forced to make a moral choice—to make a connection between personal life and what is taking place in Iraq; between war and peace.

One angry consumer crosses the line and tears up the flyer. All day he is upset by the audacity of the peace movement, which interrupts the joy of shopping. He tells his friends: “I didn’t start the war. Those radicals should take their case to Congress.” He goes home and complains about the picketers, and his wife, suprisingly, disagrees. She never really liked the war but did not dare to talk about it at home. Suddenly the whole family is embroiled in discussions that should have taken place in 2003.

Another consumer reads the flyer, talks with a picketer, then joins the boycott. She tells her children by her side that peace is the only gift that really matters this year. She says she will promote the boycott at church, and she says, “I don’t go to demonstrations because I am not very radical, and I don’t have the money to travel. I felt helpless for a long time. Now I can help do something to stop the war.”

Slowly public disillusionment dissolves. The boycott begins to generate a sense of empowerment, as thousands of people, most for the first time in their lives, become agents of change through their own direct action.

Agitation Devoid of Hate

While the austerity boycott is devoid of hate and hostility -- those who cross picket lines are treated with respect -- it is an agitational tactic that is in keeping with the teachings of Dr. King about the need for social confrontation. Along with a national boycott of Woolworth's, King launched dozens of local economic boycotts throughout the South.

“Non-violent direct action,” King writes, “seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue....I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth...tension of the mind. We must see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.”

Persuasion, Non-Cooperation, Civil Disobedience

In his monumental three-volume work The Politics of Non-Violent Action, the most exhaustive survey of non-violent strategies in print, Gene Sharp distinguishes between three phases of social justice movements: persuasion through protest-lobbying; mass non-cooperation (the austerity boycott falls in this category); and non-violent intervention, often called civil disobedience.

The first phase (persuasion) includes marches, pickets, rallies, petitions, phone-banks, e-mails, direct lobbying of politicians, symbolic acts, armbands, graffiti, guerrilla theatre, teach-ins, petitions, banners. Code Pink, one of the most creative message-senders in the movement, unfurls banners at conservative conventions and hearings, using theatrical tactics to gain media attention. Such tactics are not designed to actually shut down the system, but to send a message to power holders. One of their recent posters directed at Congressional Democrats reads: “Lead Us Out Of Iraq.” Persuasion tactics extend beyond verbal expression but stop short of mass non-cooperation.

Non-cooperation, the second phase, includes economic, social and political boycotts, refusal to pay taxes or fines, student walkouts and strikes, labor strikes, refusal to comply with established social behavior, slowdowns, divestment campaigns such as the withdrawal of bank deposits, and the refusal to recognize the authority of leaders elected in corrupt elections.

Non-cooperation is an essential feature of almost all social movements against entrenched power.

Intervention includes direct-action tactics, disruptions designed to actually impede “business-as-usual.” Tactics include sit-ins, mill-ins, reverse trials (where defendants put the accusers on trial), non-violent obstruction and interdiction (like lying down in front of a moving vehicle). Intervention tactics are radical. They often bring swift and severe repression. They require discipline and preparation of public consciousness.

In many movements there is a tendency for activists, frustrated with the slow pace of the persuasion stage, to leap into civil disobedience, to pass over the stage of non-cooperation. After all, throughout the course of history, power-holders have rarely yielded voluntarily to non-violent persuasion, notwithstanding the creativity and dedication of demonstrators. According to Sharp, it is the flow, the merging of persuasion and non-violent non-cooperation that makes the final difference between victory and defeat. Sharp writes: “A ruler’s power is ultimately dependent on support from the people he would rule. His moral authority, economic resources, transport system, government bureaucracy, army, and police -- to name but a few immediate sources of his power -- rest finally upon the cooperation and assistance of other people. If there is general conformity, the ruler is powerful.”

Our current peace movement, which began with historic, huge worldwide mass demonstrations before the invasion of Iraq, has still confined itself primarily to a demonstration-persuasion stage. The U.S. movement is focused on pressuring Democrats to turn to peace.

Bush invaded Iraq in defiance of public opinion, and he carries on the war in defiance of public sentiment. We have learned that, contrary to what many of us believed when the early demonstrations took place, public opinion is not (as The New York Times put it) a “second super power.” In itself, public opinion does not end wars. Only when public opinion is converted into an active, material force does peace sentiment reach “critical mass.”

Most victorious modern movements -- the labor movement in the 30s, the civil rights movement and farm workers’ movement in the 60s, the historic anti-apartheid movement -- made use of economic boycotts. With the important exception of the GI resistance (see, our peace movement has yet to enter the stage of non-cooperation.

What would it take for the peace movement to challenge the American people to withdraw their cooperation with war makers? What would it take to transform Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa into a time of national reflection, penitence, mourning, and a striving for real peace and good will to humankind?

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
sharing all the world....

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
and the world will live as one.

“Imagine,” John Lennon

Published in In Motion Magazine September 17, 2007

Paul Rockwell is a columnist for In Motion Magazine. He can be reached at:

Also see:

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Our Military and Economic Sacrifice For Control Of Oil

Oil and Betrayal in Iraq,

By George Lakoff

George Lakoff of the The Rockridge Institute examines what Alan Greenspan's admission that "the Iraq war is largely about oil" means for America's troops and for the people of Iraq:

Alan Greenspan should know. It was oil all along. The former head of the Federal Reserve writes in his memoir, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." Greenspan even advised Bush that "taking Saddam Hussein out was essential" to protect oil supplies.

Yes, we suspected it. In a deep sense, many of us knew it, just as those in Washington did. But now it's in our face. Greenspan put the mother of all facts in front of our noses, and we can no longer be in denial. The US invaded Iraq for the oil.

Think about what it means for our troops and for the people of Iraq. Our troops were told, and believed because they trusted their president, that they were in Iraq to protect America, to protect their families, their homes, their friends and neighbors, our democracy. But they were betrayed. Those troops fought and died and were maimed and had their marriages break up for oil company profits. An utter betrayal of our men and women in uniform and their families, a betrayal of their sacrifices, day after day, month after month, year and year — and for some, forever! Children growing up fatherless or motherless. Men and women without legs or arms or faces — for oil company profits.

And hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, more maimed, and millions made refugees. For oil profits.

And what profits they are! Take a look at the study of Iraqi oil contracts by Global Policy Forum, a consultant to the United Nations Security Council. Or read this editorial from The Daily Times in Pakistan.

The contracts that the Bush administration has been pushing the Iraqi government to accept are not just about the distribution of oil among the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. The contracts call for 30-year exclusive rights for British and American oil companies, rights that cannot be revoked by future Iraqi governments. They are called "production sharing agreements" (or "PSA's") — a legalistic code word. The Iraqi government would technically own the oil, but could not control it; only the companies could do that. ExxonMobil and others would invest in developing the infrastructure for the oil (drilling, oil rigs, refining) and would get 75% of the "cost oil" profits, until they got their investment back. After that, they would own the infrastructure (paid for by oil profits), and then get 20% of oil profits after that (twice the usual rate). The profits are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. And the Iraqi people would have no democratic control over their own major resource. No other Middle East country has such an arrangement.

Incidentally, polls show the Iraqi people overwhelmingly against "privatization", but "production sharing agreements" were devised so they are technically not "privatization," since the government would still own the oil but not control it. The ruse is there so that the government can claim it is not privatizing.

But none of this will work without military protection for the oil companies. That is what would keep us there indefinitely. The name for this is our "vital interests."

Greenspan's revelation and the contracts need to be discussed openly. The question must be asked, "Is our military there for the sake of oil?"

I have been struck by the use of the word "victory" by the right wing, especially by its propaganda arm, Freedom's Watch. Usually, "victory" is used in reference to a war between countries over territory, where there is a definable enemy. That is not the case in Iraq, where we have for four years had an occupation, not a "war," and there has been no clear enemy. We have mostly been fighting Iraqis we were supposed to be rescuing. "Victory" makes no sense for such an occupation. And even Petraeus has said that only a political, not a military, settlement is possible. In what sense can keeping troops there for 9 or 10 years or longer, as Petraeus has suggested, be a "victory"?

What is most frightening is that they may mean what they say, that they may have a concept of "victory" that makes sense to them but not to the rest of the country. If the goal of the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been to guarantee access to Iraqi oil for the next 30 years, then any result guaranteeing oil profits for American oil companies would count as "victory." Suppose the present killing and chaos were to continue, forcing us to keep our troops there indefinitely, but allowing the oil companies to prosper under our protection. That would be a "victory." Or if the Iraqi army and police force were to develop in a few years and keep order there protecting American investments and workers, that too would be "victory." If the country broke up into three distinct states or autonomous governments, that too would be "victory" as long as oil profits were guaranteed and Americans in the oil industry protected. And it doesn't matter if a Republican president keeps the troops there or a Democratic president does. It is still an oil company "victory" — and a victory for Bush.

Indeed, Kurdistan's PSA contract last week with Hunt Oil suggests the latter form of "victory." As Paul Krugman observed in the New York Times on September 14, "the chief executive and president of Hunt Oil, is a close political ally of Mr. Bush. More than that, Mr. Hunt is a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a key oversight body." Hunt Oil seems to have had the first taste of "victory."

If that is "victory," what is "defeat" and who is being "defeated?" The troops who would have to stay to protect the oil investments would, person by person, suffer defeat — a defeat of the spirit and, for too many, of the body. And most of America would suffer a defeat, especially our taxpayers who have paid a trillion dollars that could have gone for health care for all, for excellent schools and college educations, for rebuilding Louisiana and Mississippi, for shoring up our infrastructure and bridges, and for protecting our environment. Victory for the oil companies, defeat for most of America.

Is Greenspan right? Is this what "victory" could possibly mean? I do not want to even think that the answers might be "yes." The thought itself is too disgusting. But Greenspan has put the questions before us, and we have a duty to pursue the answers. Because, if the answer is even half "yes," then the troops and most Americans have been, and continue to be, betrayed beyond measure.

Perhaps the most honest and straightforward way to pursue such answers would be for Congress to frame the issue directly in terms of oil, as Greenspan did. Here's a way to do it: The Constitution gives Congress authority over military matters through its power to fund continued military action. Without such funding, the troops cannot continue. Suppose Congress were to pass a bill saying that no funding would be forthcoming for military action in Iraq unless the Iraqi government drops all provisions for PSA's — production sharing agreements — in its legislation. This would actually give the Iraqi government sovereignty over its oil indefinitely and take oil control away from Western oil companies. Even proposing such a bill seriously would have two effects: To raise the constitutional issue: the president has been overriding the constitution. And it would bring the oil issue front and center, so we can all see if "victory" is really about oil interests.

Suppose Greenspan is right, that oil was a primary factor in the Iraq invasion, that "victory" means victory for oil companies, and that "sacrifice" means sacrifice for the American oil industry. While I held the very possibility that this might be true, I clicked on the following website. Perhaps you will feel as I felt.

(In accordance with Title 17 .S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Bush: In semi-retirement, he is the epitome of Orwellian Decadence

Bush's stairway to paradise

Hoping that history will somehow vindicate him, the president has entered a phase of decadent perversity.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Sep. 20, 2007 | There has never been a moment when we were not winning in Iraq. Victory has followed victory, from "Mission Accomplished" to the purple fingers of the Iraqi election to, most recently, President Bush's meeting at Camp Cupcake in Anbar province with Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the Sunni leader of the group Anbar Awakening (who was assassinated a week later). Turning point has followed turning point, from Bush's proclamation two years ago of his "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" to his announcement last week of his "Return on Success." "We're kicking ass," he briefed the Australian deputy prime minister on Sept. 6 about his latest visit to Iraq. In his quasi-farewell address to the nation on Sept. 13, Bush assigned any possible shortcomings to Gen. David Petraeus and bequeathed his policy "beyond my presidency" to his successor.

After Bush pretended to deliberate over whether he would agree to his own policy as presented by his general in well-rehearsed performances before Congress -- "President Bush Accepts Recommendations" read a headline on the White House Web site -- he established an ideal division of responsibility. Bush could claim credit for the "Return on Success," whenever that might be, while Petraeus would be charged with whatever might go wrong.

One week after Petraeus flashed his metrics, a whole new set of facts on the ground suddenly emerged: an admission (previously denied) by Petraeus that the United States was arming the Sunnis, who might use those weapons in the next phase of Iraq's civil war; the release of a Pentagon report that there is "an increase in intra-Shi'a violence throughout the South" (a report conveniently withheld as Petraeus was testifying); the Iraqi government's expulsion of Blackwater, a private security firm with close ties to the administration, after a band of its guards gunned down Iraqi civilians; the restriction of all nonmilitary U.S. personnel in Iraq to the Green Zone; a report by the Iraqi Red Crescent that about 1 million people are internal refugees as a result of ethnic cleansing (apart from the more than 2 million refugees who have fled the country); and the announcement by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of an investigation into the State Department's inspector general for quashing scrutiny and embarrassing studies of fraud in the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, among other projects.

As these events played out, Petraeus was detailed as Bush's Willy Loman to preside over the cooling of the special relationship with America's most important ally in the coalition of the willing. The general traveled to London to meet with Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the policy from which he is rapidly disengaging, already having withdrawn British forces in Basra to its airport before final evacuation. Such is the face of victory 10 days after Petraeus' march through Capitol Hill.

In his semi-retirement, Bush engaged in appeals to history, which he now says on nearly every occasion will absolve him. Early on and riding high, he expressed contempt for history. "History, we'll all be dead," he sneered to Bob Woodward in an interview for "Bush at War," a panegyric to Bush the triumphant after the Afghanistan invasion and before Iraq. Now Bush cites history as justification for everything he does. "You can't possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency -- until I'm dead," he told Robert Draper, his authorized biographer, in an interview for "Dead Certain." The use of the words "history" and "dead" between the Woodward and Draper interviews makes for a world of difference -- the difference between a president who couldn't care less and one who cares desperately but can't admit it.

Bush incessantly invokes a host of presidents past -- Truman, Lincoln and Washington -- as appropriate comparisons, and also talks of Winston Churchill. Frederick Kagan, the neoconservative instigator of "the surge," refers to it as "Gettysburg," a leap of historical imagination that transforms Bush into the Great Emancipator. In his unstoppable commentary about himself, Bush has become as certain of his exalted place in history as he is of his policy's rightness. He projects his image into the future, willing his enshrinement as a great president. History has become a magical incantation for him, a kind of prayerful refuge where he is safe from having to think in the present. For Bush, history is supernatural, a deus ex machina, nothing less than a kind of divine intervention enabling him to enter presidential Valhalla. Through his fantasy about history as afterlife -- the stairway to paradise -- he rationalizes his current course.

Draper's biography has the feel of a lengthy feature magazine article wrapped in a dust jacket. It lacks any serious discussion of the influence of Dick Cheney, the rise of the neoconservatives, Karl Rove's attempt to create a one-party state, the government's torture policy, splits within the senior military, the scapegoating of the CIA, or the evisceration of federal departments and agencies. Nonetheless, Draper's unusual access enabled him to collect valuable anecdotes as well as to put a microphone in front of a president who, when interrupted by an aide, told him not to worry because the interview was "worthless." Letting down his guard, Bush does not understand what he reveals.

In his interviews with Draper, he is constantly worried about weakness and passivity. "If you're weak internally? This job will run you all over town." He fears being controlled and talks about it relentlessly, feeling he's being watched. "And part of being a leader is: people watch you." He casts his anxiety as a matter of self-discipline. "I don't think I'd be sitting here if not for the discipline ... And they look at me -- they want to know whether I've got the resolution necessary to see this through. And I do. I believe -- I know we'll succeed." He is sensitive about asserting his supremacy over others, but especially his father. "He knows as an ex-president, he doesn't have nearly the amount of knowledge I've got on current things," he told Draper.

Bush is a classic insecure authoritarian who imposes humiliating tests of obedience on others in order to prove his superiority and their inferiority. In 1999, according to Draper, at a meeting of economic experts at the Texas governor's mansion, Bush interrupted Rove when he joined in the discussion, saying, "Karl, hang up my jacket." In front of other aides, Bush joked repeatedly that he would fire Rove. (Laura Bush's attitude toward Rove was pointedly disdainful. She nicknamed him "Pigpen," for wallowing in dirty politics. He was staff, not family -- certainly not people like them.)

Bush's deployed his fetish for punctuality as a punitive weapon. When Colin Powell was several minutes late to a Cabinet meeting, Bush ordered that the door to the Cabinet Room be locked. Aides have been fearful of raising problems with him. In his 2004 debates with Sen. John Kerry, no one felt comfortable or confident enough to discuss with Bush the importance of his personal demeanor. Doing poorly in his first debate, he turned his anger on his communications director, Dan Bartlett, for showing him a tape afterward. When his trusted old public relations handler, Karen Hughes, tried gently to tell him, "You looked mad," he shot back, "I wasn't mad! Tell them that!"

At a political strategy meeting in May 2004, when Matthew Dowd and Rove explained to him that he was not likely to win in a Reagan-like landslide, as Bush had imagined, he lashed out at Rove: "KARL!" Rove, according to Draper, was Bush's "favorite punching bag," and the president often threw futile and meaningless questions at him, and shouted, "You don't know what the hell you're talking about."

Those around him have learned how to manipulate him through the art of flattery. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld played Bush like a Stradivarius, exploiting his grandiosity. "Rumsfeld would later tell his lieutenants that if you wanted the president's support for an initiative, it was always best to frame it as a 'Big New Thing.'" Other aides played on Bush's self-conception as "the Decider." "To sell him on an idea," writes Draper, "aides were now learning, the best approach was to tell the president, "This is going to be a really tough decision." But flattery always requires deference. Every morning, Josh Bolten, the chief of staff, greets Bush with the same words: "Thank you for the privilege of serving today."

Draper reports a telling exchange between Bush and James Baker, one of his father's closest associates, the elder Bush's former secretary of state and the one the family called on to take command of the campaign for the 2000 Florida contest when everything hung in the balance. Baker's ruthless field marshaling safely brought the younger Bush into the White House. Counseling him in the aftermath, Baker warned him about Rumsfeld. "All I'm going to say to you is, you know what he did to your daddy," he said.

Indeed, Rumsfeld and the elder Bush were bitter rivals. Rumsfeld had scorn for him, and tried to sideline and eliminate him during the Ford administration because he wanted to become president himself. If George W. Bush didn't know about it before, he knew about it then from Baker, and soon thereafter he appointed Rumsfeld secretary of defense. Draper does not reflect on this revelation, but it is highly suggestive.

Quoted in an Aug. 9 article in the New York Times on the lachrymose father, Andrew Card, aide to both men, lately as White House chief of staff, and a family loyalist, spoke out of school. "It was relatively easy for me to read the sitting president's body language after he had talked to his mother or father," Card said. "Sometimes he'd ask me a probing question. And I'd think, Hmm, I don't think that question came from him."

The elder Bush assumed that the Bush family trust and its trustees -- James Baker, Brent Scowcroft and Prince Bandar -- would take the erstwhile wastrel and guide him on the path of wisdom. In this conception, the country was not entrusted to the younger Bush's care so much as Bush was entrusted to the care of the trustees. He was the beneficiary of the trust. But to the surprise of those trustees, he slipped the bonds of the trust and cut off the family trustees. They knew he was ill-prepared and ignorant, but they never expected him to be assertive. They wrongly assumed that Cheney would act for them as a trustee.

Cheney had worked with and for them for decades and seemed to agree with them, if not on every detail then on the more important matter of attitude, particularly the question of who should govern. The elder Bush had helped arrange for Cheney to become the CEO of Halliburton, making him a very rich man at last. But Bush, Baker, Scowcroft et al. didn't realize that Cheney's apparent concurrence was to advance himself and his views, which were not theirs. When absolute power was conferred on him, the habits of deference lapsed, no longer necessary. ("Thank you for the privilege of serving today.") Cheney was always more Rumsfeld oriented than Bush oriented. The elder Bush knew that Rumsfeld despised him and that Cheney was close to Rumsfeld, just as he knew his son's grievous limitations. But the obvious didn't occur to him -- that Cheney would seize control of the lax son for his own purposes. The elder Bush committed a monumental error, empowering a regent to the prince who would betray the father. The myopia of the old WASP aristocracy allowed him to see Cheney as a member of his club. Cheney, for his part, was extremely convincing in playing possum. The elder Bush has many reasons for self-reproach, but perhaps none greater than being outsmarted by a courtier he thought was his trustee.

Through his interposition of Petraeus, Bush has bound his party to his fate. Of the Republicans, only Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, leader of the 1994 self-styled radical "revolution" that captured Congress, is willing to speak publicly about the danger Bush poses to the future of the party. "I believe for any Republican to win in 2008, they have to have a clean break and offer a dramatic, bold change," he told a group of reporters on Sept. 14. "If we nominate somebody who has not done that ... they're very, very unlikely to win it."

But repudiating Bush would also mean repudiating Gingrich's legacy, too. Draper reports that Bush loves claiming Ronald Reagan, not his father, as his role model. But Gingrich, more than Reagan, is Bush's forerunner. It was Gingrich who heightened the politics of polarization to a level of personal attack and unscrupulousness unlike any seen since the underside of Richard Nixon's operations was exposed in the Watergate scandal. Reagan was free of such dishonest and vicious politics. Bush, Cheney and Rove ("Pigpen") picked up where Gingrich left off. Republicans can no more return to the halcyon days of Reagan than magic carpets can be used in Iraq. For the Republicans to recover, they would have to extirpate their entire recent history, root and branch.

"History would acquit him, too. Bush was confident of that, and of something else as well," writes Draper. "Though it was not the sort of thing one could say publicly anymore, the president still believed that Saddam had possessed weapons of mass destruction. He repeated this conviction to Andy Card all the way up until Card's departure in April 2006, almost exactly three years after the Coalition had begun its fruitless search for WMDs."

Bush grasps at the straws of his own disinformation as he casts himself deeper into the abyss. The more profound and compounded his blunders, and the more he redoubles his certainty in ultimate victory, the greater his indifference to failure. He has entered a phase of decadent perversity, where he accelerates his errors to vindicate his folly. As the sands of time run down, he has decided that no matter what he does, history will finally judge him as heroic.

The greater the chaos, the more he reinforces and rigidifies his views. The more havoc he wreaks, the more he insists he is succeeding. His intensified struggle for self-control is matched by his increased denial of responsibility. Hence Petraeus.

Bush's unyielding personality would have been best suited to the endless trench warfare of World War I, as a true compatriot of the disastrous British Gen. Douglas Haig. His mind is geared toward a static battlefield. For low-intensity warfare, such as in Iraq, "an authoritarian cast of mind would be a crippling disability," wrote British expert Norman F. Dixon in his classic work, "On the Psychology of Military Incompetence." "For such 'warfare,' tact, flexibility, imagination and 'open minds,' the very antithesis of authoritarian traits, would seem to be necessary if not sufficient."

Bush's ever-inflating self-confidence hides his gaping fear of failure. His obsession with deference demands exercises of humiliation that never satisfy him. His unwavering resolve is maintained by his adamant refusal to wade into the waters of ambiguity. "You can't talk me out of thinking freedom's a good thing!" he protests to his biographer. For Bush, even when he is long out of office, presiding at his planned library's Freedom Institute -- "I would like to build a Hoover Institute" -- victory will always be just around the corner.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.

Election 2008: As always, we are stuck with rotten choices

Posted by CrisisPapers in Editorials & Other Articles
Tue Sep 18th 2007, 10:11 AM
| Bernard Weiner |

Let's construct a pair of binoculars out of two quotes. What we see may help us understand more clearly our current reality and where it could take us in November 2008.

Seen through the right ocular is this doozy by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; it's from another era (the early-1970s, to be exact), discussing the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile prior to the military coup that toppled his government:

"The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves...I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its people."

Seen through the the left ocular is a recent remark by liberal Democratic Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey from California, speaking to a gathering of anti-war activists:

"You folks should go after the Democrats. ... I'd hate to lose the majority, but I'm telling you, if we don't stand up to our responsibility, maybe that's the lesson to be learned."

So let's join the two together, adjust the binocular focus and see what's on the political horizon.


Kissinger's recommendation for the U.S. to decide, and help arrange for, the "correct" rulers for other countries should not be surprising. (In case you've forgotten, Chile's President Allende was overthrown by rightist forces, with covert U.S. help.) That's what authoritarian ideologues do. Why? Because they are convinced they hold the patents on Truth and Righteousness and thus are permitted, nea required, to play God with other peoples' lives.

Bush carries it even further, claiming that God told him to invade Iraq.

And now, the supposedly "sovereign" government of Iraq is under firm orders from Bush to meet the "benchmarks" for stability, reconciliation, oil-revenue sharing, etc., or else. The "or else" is clear. If al-Maliki can't or won't do it, he will be replaced by a more malleable, U.S.-friendly leader.

Yes, we made a thorough mess of the situation from the first moment we invaded and set up our occupation. Yes, your civilians are dying by the hundreds each week, sometimes each day, because we removed your dictator but without moving fast enough to establish law and order and police presence and governmental institutions. Yes, we disbanded your army and thus sent hundreds of thousands of young, armed men into the streets without jobs or compensation. Yes, several million of your best and brightest citizens have emigrated from the charnel house that is Iraq.

And because we are responsible for a good share of all this misery and slaughter, we're going to stay another ten years until YOU get it right.

Oh, by the way, we're considering arranging for the division of your country into three distinct parts -- Shia, Sunni, Kurds -- but you'll love it. No need to fret: It's for your own good.


What's happening in Iraq, using the Kissinger quote as an example, is not unique to the CheneyBush Administration, nor to the United States of America. Self-righteous zealots, infused with "The Truth," have been galloping over the historical landscape for millenia, causing death and destruction whenever and wherever they decide to conquer and rule other peoples "for their own good." (At least that's the public rationale; privately, it's most often greed for territory and natural resources, attempts to control unstable geopolitical situations, vendettas for perceived injustices, etc. etc.)

But because such invasions and occupations have been going on for millenia doesn't make them any more acceptable when we Americans do them, especially so in the Iraq case since that war clearly was one of choice, based on lies and deceptions. And it was carried out with the U.S. having no "Plan B" for nation-building amidst an anti-occupation insurgency and a concurrent civil war as the various sectarian and religious groups jockeyed for power and control.

Bush, in his televised address last week, made it clear that there will be no major change of course in Iraq; he'll withdraw the "surge" brigades that were scheduled to be rotated out anyway, and leave 130,000-plus troops still in occupation for a good, long while, at least five and maybe 10 or 20 more years, a la South Korea. (Incidentally, this Korea analogy is total B.S., since there was no countrywide occupation there, no guerrillas who wanted us out.) Bush seems to be suggesting that the administrations that follow him, despite any professed intentions to pull back from Iraq, will find that he has so FUBAR-ed the situation in Iraq that they will be hogtied to the original Bush policy, with little chance for escape.


The election of 2008 could lead to an historic re-alignment of the two major political parties, from the inside.

The activist Democratic base, thoroughly angered by how they are disrespected and taken for granted while the leadership directs the party down traditional paths of centrist and center-right policies, is starting to loudly grumble about that leadership and the party's presidential contenders.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, after refusing to put impeachment back "on the table" and being overly timid in her anti-war moves, will have to face off with activist Cindy Sheehan in her home San Francisco district next November. Other wishy-washy or Blue Dog Democrats will face primary challengers from the progressive wing of the party.

And here, as noted above, we have progressive Congresswoman Woolsey more or less urging the base to purify the party by knocking off less-than-satisfactory Democrats.

That's pretty strong stuff, suggesting that the Democrats won't move off their centrist dime until they are smacked upside the head by the base deciding to abandon the party, which could result in the Democrats losing their majority in the House.


Woolsey's heated rhetoric may be ill-advised and self-destructive, but Democratic Party leaders would be foolish to ignore its genesis. Based on conversations this writer has had with numerous progressive Democrats around the country, backed up by recent national polls and letters to the editors and on the call-in radio shows, Woolsey is by no means alone in her thinking.

The basis for this point of view lies in the results of the November 2006 election, when the voters overwhelming put the Democrats in charge in the House and Senate to make major changes, especially in the conduct and longevity of the occupation in Iraq. It's now nearly a year later, and the Democrats are doing virtually nothing in the way of stopping the coming attack on Iran, and have done little or nothing except pass non-binding resolutions on the Iraq occupation.

If the Democrats were to act like a true party of opposition, they could pass a bill explicitly forbidding an attack on Iran, absent an imminent threat to America. They could pass a House bill authorizing funds only to protect the troops as they leave Iraq. They could, by mustering 41 votes in the Senate, cut off funding for the war except to protect the troops as they exit Iraq. But, under Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid, they don't; their major aim seems to be to water down bills aimed at Bush's war in order to attract enough wavering Republicans to join them. It's conceivable such bills might pass, but they would be ineffective in doing anything other than telling Bush how tenuous his support is in the Congress, something he already knows.


There is a huge chunk of the GOP that is, and has been for some time, appalled by the hijacking of their party by far-right ideologues who are eager for military adventures abroad, repressive measures at home, and spending the treasury into humongous deficits. For lack of a better term, let's refer to these alienated Republicans as comprising the "realist" wing of the GOP.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California recently told his fellow Republicans that unless the GOP moves back toward the center, it risks becoming a permanent minority party in state and national elections. Alan Greenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve, a true conservative Republican, finally has expressed another part of that "realist" frustration:

"According to the Wall Street Journal, the former Federal Reserve chairman writes (in his upcoming memoir) that the GOP deserved to lose power in Congress last fall because it abandoned its small-government principles and let the budget get out of control.

"Congressional Republicans 'swapped principle for power,' he wrote. 'They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose." And though he urged Bush to veto bills to exercise fiscal discipline, the president did not follow through, and that was a 'major mistake'."

So you've got more and more Republicans, including many high-ranking Pentagon and intelligence officers, angry at the Cheneyist neo-cons for putting the military and U.S. national interests in jeopardy with their reckless foreign adventures; you've got small-government stalwarts angry at the disastrous, big-spending economic policies of the Bush Administration; you've got libertarians and moderates angry at the shredding of Constitutional protections and the police-state spying and other civil-liberties violations; etc.

In short, there is a huge center/center-right wedge of the GOP that, looking at the Bush-lite candidates being offerred, might well sit on their hands on Election Day 2008 or potentially could be lured to vote for a third-party candidate. (In one recent poll, "none of the above" was the winner among Republican voters.)

On the other side, as we've seen, there is a huge progressive bloc in the Democratic Party that similarly is likewise turned off the leading candidate currently in the race. If Hillary Clinton were to be nominated, they, too, might choose to sit out the November 2008 election, or could be ripe for a truly dynamic third-party candidate.

Is there such a populist, charmistic candidate who might make a race of it by uniting the disenchanted Dems and Reps? Or, more likely, the question should be (reminiscent of when Ross Perot mounted a strong third-party run in 1992, or Ralph Nader in 2000), which party would most benefit by a serious three-way race in 2008?

Right now, the public is so averse to Republicans -- due to the never-ending war in Iraq, to the financial, political and sexual scandals, to the deficient candidates running for the nomination -- that the Democratic candidate potentially could take the victory outright, even with a third party running a nominee. But it's not outside the realm of possibility that the Republican candidate could slide by in a three-way race, since the activist Dem base -- who ring the doorbells, drive voters to the polls, and supply millions in donations -- might well abandon the Democrats and split their energies elsewhere.


So let's take a final look through the binoculars above and see what our situation looks like in late-September 2007.

If the political situation stays much the same on the ground in Iraq, which certainly seems likely, and if the Democrats don't force a change in mission, which also seems likely, and if the U.S. attacks Iran, which appears to be a certainty within the next few months, the U.S. will be seen as continuing its imperial, self-righteous, bullying policies. Translation: More fuel for the recruiting of suicide-bombers, more terrorism directed at the U.S., an even lower reputation in international circles, more danger to America's national interests.

If each of the two major parties nominates someone who is anethema to the base of that party, those segments might split away and either form a loosely-knit third-party, or join with the Greens or whomever, thus throwing the 2008 election into confusion and/or hope, depending on the outcome you desire. It's possible the two major parties would undergo significant internal shakeups and realignments, and that a viable third party might emerge, even if it doesn't elect a candidate in 2008.

May we live in interesting times, indeed.

-- BW

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. I.U. has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is I.U endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

The Nazis, Fascists and Communists were political parties before they became enemies of liberty and mass murderers.