Today, Oral Hatch, defending the right of the Bush administration to decide for itself when it is or isn’t in compliance with the law, stated this: “We are faced with a war unlike any we have ever been in.”
These words are spoken every day by Republicans and Democrats alike. I think they believe it. It sounds so solemn and important. We are nearly gods, defending innocent Americans in Peoria and Terre Haute from the hordes of invading fanatics. We will spend billions. We will sacrifice thousands of soldiers. We will spy on our own citizens. Because of this war.
There is no war.
There was one spectacular attack, on the World Trade Center, and there is the on-going hatred of fanatics in the Arab world for all things western, but the idea that we are in some kind of “war”, by even the most broad-minded definition of the word, is absurd.
Congress has authorized President Bush to “use force” to punish the people responsible for 9/11. Instead, he invaded Iraq. The U.S. has never declared war on either Afghanistan or Iraq. It simply announced it was coming. There are good reasons why it never did– most of them having to do with accountability and international obligations. It “justified” the “war” to the UN with lies.
A war is a battle between two or more nations. Who is the other nation? Al Qaeda? “Al Qaeda” sounds pretty cool but it doesn’t really exist, and even the U.S. government, while assuming it’s existence in almost every significant foreign policy statement, has never been able to show that a real international “network” exists. There are terrorists that know each other and sometimes work together. There is money flowing from some Arabs and possibly some Arab governments to some terrorists, but there is no coordinated structure on the scale of the IRA, for example. The U.S. and British governments have knowingly presented an image of this organization to the public that it must know is not true.
If this is a war, the United States has never not been at war. If you go through the history of U.S. involvement overseas from 1945 to the present, you will find that there was never a period when the U.S. was not involved in a bitter conflict of some kind with fanatical followers of this or that ideology (usually Marxism). Hell, if you include the Cold War, there was never a time in which unfettered dictatorial power was more necessary to keep all our Walmarts safe. If the relatively impotent Arab states are such a dire threat that the government is justified in making extraordinary violations of civil rights, then what would the threat of nuclear annihilation by the Soviets have called for? Joseph McCarthy?
The truth is that the U.S. has never been less at war than it is now. America’s fanatical Arab enemies can certainly mount a terrorist attack here and there, and a bombing here and there, but none of this is new or more intense than it was in the 1960’s or 1970’s or 1980’s. No threat to the United States today is more dire and consequential than the threat of the Soviet Union at he height of the cold war. Yet even Ronald Reagan never proposed the abridgement of civil liberties and freedoms that this government enthusiastically and energetically pursues.
The idea that this is “war” is bullshit. It’s a power grab by people with a real and fervent belief in authoritarianism, which they also fervently and bizarrely believe will save “democracy”, which is the election of us.
Copyright © 2006 Bill Van Dyk All rights reserved. January 20, 2006
There was a truly awesome moment at the Senate hearings on the issue. Senator Russ Feingold, one year ago, asked Attorney-General nominee Alberto Gonzales if the president could authorize wire-taps without a warrant. Gonzales solemnly declared that the question was hypothetical even though he knew full well that Bush was, in fact, already doing it. He lied.
From an administration that supposedly prides itself on honesty and integrity, Gonzales provided a mealy-mouthed response that essentially amounted to this: I wasn’t lying because you asked if he could do it in violation of the law. Since whatever Mr. Bush wants to do is legal because he says it is, it wasn’t in violation of the law.
That, of course, is not what Senator Feingold asked. He asked if the President could do it without a warrant, not if he could do it “illegally”.
The Republican majority on the committee prevented Gonzales from being “sworn in”.
Why, if they didn’t think he was going to lie, would they do that?
What exactly is a war?
The Administration keeps insisting that it is only spying on people who mean American harm. Logically, that’s like arguing that it should have the right to conduct summary executions of criminal suspects because they might be murderers.
It’s all beside the point: justice is about proving, in open court, that you have the right guy. The Bush administration has this tone about it— who needs proof? We know who they are. And if they weren’t guilty of what it was we thought they did, they surely thought of doing other things equally deserving of punishment.
Do you think they will ever put Khalid Shaikh Mohammed on trial? Do you think he will ever testify at any trial of any of the many “suspects” he is handing over to the FBI? That would mean he would be subject to cross examination. That would mean defense lawyers could introduce evidence and testimony about Khalid’s background, including his involvement in the Pakistani Military. That might not be very congenial to the Bush administration. Nor would it be useful, to Bush, to have Khalid discuss his torture sessions at the hands of the CIA in court.
The important thing is that you, dear American average citizen in Palos Park, Illinois, are feeling safe tonight.