Thursday, August 30, 2007

Two Soldiers And The Other N Word

It’s not that the behavior of our government has never reminded me of a certain totalitarian German regime of the last century. It’s the fact that reckless accusations of some person or group being Nazis are thrown about with little sense of accuracy or restraint.

A good example of this hysteria can be found in the words of one Bill O’Reilly. Apparently he was very upset at some fleeting post by a reader of the anti-war liberal website called the Daily Kos. Old Bully O’Really went so far as to accuse them of being a “left wing Nazi hate site,” and “like the KKK. It’s like the Nazi Party.”

So are we to think that Nazis are those folks who oppose a militaristic regime? Are Nazis the people who protest against leaders that attack a sovereign nation based on fear-mongering and outright propaganda? Are Nazis opposed to unprovoked war? Are Nazis the radicals who want our Bill of Rights restored?

Or are Nazis just people who don’t like O’Reilly? Doesn’t this all seem more than just a little backwards here? Since when have Nazis become anti-fascist?

On the other hand, we can see more than one similarity between the methods of the Bush Administration and those of the Third Reich. Both regimes seized power undemocratically. Both regimes lied to their citizens. Both regimes initiated a war of aggression. Both regimes regarded anyone who dissented as enemies. Both accused political opponents of defeatism. Both regimes spied on their citizens. Both regimes turned their militaries into a police force to be used against their own populations. Both regimes claimed the authority to indefinitely incarcerate its citizens on secret evidence.

Another characteristic of a totalitarian regime is its elevation of every person in uniform to the status of hero. This is true of Germany in the Second World War and it is true of the US Government in the Glorious War for Bush’s Re-Election. Er, I mean Operation Iraqi Freedom.

We all need to respect and support our fellow countrymen in the armed services. They didn’t start this mess. However, calling them all heroes leaves the meaning of the word “hero” so much emptier. What is left to distinguish those who do perform above and beyond the call? As the vets often say, the heroes are the ones who don’t come home.

Let’s take a look at two soldiers who wore different uniforms but shared the honor of being heroes. These two soldiers were loyal, even when their countries invaded and occupied nations that did not attack their homelands. They grew to reject the belligerent and authoritarian leadership forcing their people into unjust war and national disgrace.

The two soldiers died and were honored with extravagant and patriotic memorial services. The memorials were used by the governments to bolster support for their wars and to distract the people from the ugly truths emerging from the conflicts.

The first soldier was Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox. He was a brilliant leader of the German Wehrmacht in Europe and Africa during WWII. He was the youngest man ever to be promoted to the rank of Field Marshall. His famous Afrika Korps was victorious until abandoned and unsupported by Hitler.

Realizing Hitler was destroying his country, Rommel joined those who were conspiring against the dictator. They understood there was no way to legally arrest Hitler, so they determined it was necessary to assassinate him. After von Stauffenberg’s bomb failed to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944, Rommel was soon implicated.

He was given the choice to commit suicide or face trial and execution. To protect his family from reprisals, Rommel chose the former. Desperate for a hero to present to the public, the Nazis told the German people Rommel had succumbed to war wounds and was given a lavish public memorial.

The other soldier was a brave and patriotic young man named Pat Tillman. Foregoing a lucrative professional football career, he volunteered to join the army to defend his country after the attacks of September 11th. When Bush decided to invade Iraq, Tillman thought it was wrong and illegal, and that it was not part of the war against those who attacked the US. He began to talk about his opposition to the invasion. He even suggested to others that they not vote to re-elect Bush.

Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004 while serving in Afghanistan. The American people were told that he died fighting the enemy and was to be posthumously promoted to corporal and awarded the Silver Star. While leaders in the Pentagon and White House knew the official story was not true, he was given a splendid hero’s memorial service that was televised to the nation.

This was just the event needed by the administration to boost patriotism and support for the war in Iraq. As we remember, it was in April of 2004 that things started to turn very bloody in Iraq. The Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr urged his Mehdi Army to rise up against the American occupiers. Our casualties increased and the chaos worsened.

Only later did Tillman’s family and the nation learn that Pat was killed by “friendly fire.” There was no battle with the enemy and he was killed by either one of his comrades or some other unknown figure. The army medical examiners suspected that it was possible Tillman was murdered. He was shot three times in the forehead from close range with an M16 rifle.

The reports were a whitewash, complete with army officers boasting that they shook off further criminal investigations.

I am sorry to admit that I can even consider it possible that this man was killed, or even executed, by some shady rogue element in the field. It is sad to conceive the very idea that some private Blackwater mercenary goon or government spook silenced a high-profile outspoken military man of conscience.

No matter how Tillman died, his sacrifice was profanely and obscenely exploited into a shameful betrayal of all that is noble in our nation’s character.

One would expect this kind of treachery from Nazis. It is deeply painful to see these fascist tendencies in our own leaders.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Heckuva Job, Gonzo

The president got off the helicopter today and went directly to the microphones. It was obviously difficult for George, being the compassionate-for-conservatives kind of guy that he is. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had just turned in his resignation. The memory impaired Texas Mafia sidekick’s offer to step down was “reluctantly” accepted by Bush.

In a brief announcement the president explained to his countrymen that this came about only, “after months of unfair treatment that has created a harmful distraction at the Justice Department.”

Yes, those pesky Senate and House committees kept persecuting poor Gonzo with questions about the politically motivated purging of US Attorneys. Even though poor Al couldn’t remember a darn thing about what had happened under his authority at the Justice Department, those nasty inquisitors on Capitol Hill had the gall to grill him on his midnight visit with John Ashcroft. On March 10, 2004 he and Andy Card went to pressure a hospitalized and heavily medicated John Ashcroft into approving the administration’s warrentless surveillance program.

How could Bush NOT be upset by such a blatant attempt at checks and balances in our government? Ever the diplomat and statesman and all-around uniter, our leader movingly told us, “It’s sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work, because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.”

If that’s not enough to make your blood boil, let’s reflect on what kind of important work good ol’ Honest Al performed for us. Let us all remember, because I’m sure Al cannot recall, what we will always hold as treasured memories of his honor and talents.

In January of 2006 Gonzo advised Bush to deny Justice Department investigators the security clearance needed to inquire about the illegal domestic spying program. Such an investigation, to be conducted by the department's internal ethics watchdog the Office of Professional Responsibility, would have also examined Gonzo’s role as White House Counsel.

In August of 2002, Gonzo helped draft the famous “Torture Memo.” The memo included the opinion that laws prohibiting torture do "not apply to the President's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants." In addition we learn that the pain caused by an interrogation must include "injury such as death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions—in order to constitute torture."

On January 25, 2002 we are enlightened by the vision that the Geneva Convention is for chumps. A memo written by White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales said "the war against terrorism is a new kind of war" and "this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." After all, during World War Two the Japanese never tortured, beheaded, or otherwise ignored the Geneva rules. Oh, wait. They did all that, didn’t they? That’s beside the point, I guess. The point is, of course, we make our own rules now.

When Bush was acting as executioner-in-chief as governor of Texas, Gonzo would rush through capital punishment reviews by ignoring little details like mental retardation, or defense lawyers napping during the executed person’s trial.

In 1996 Gonzo got George excused from jury duty on the grounds that, "a situation that could have required the governor to disclose his then-secret 1976 conviction for drunken driving in Maine." Gonzales argued, "…that if Bush served, he would not, as governor, be able to pardon the defendant in the future."

As a Texas Supreme Court Justice in 2000, Gonzo handed Enron its biggest legal victory in the state. This was after receiving about $100,000 in contributions from the company. Later Honest Al would work to keep secret the involvement of Enron in Cheney’s energy policy task force.

As Dubya said, “A man of integrity, decency and principle.” The nerve of those treacherous Democrats, unfairly dragging a national hero like Alberto Gonzales through the mud for “political reasons.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Repeat Performance

They did it again. Just when we were beginning to be lulled into a false sense of having checks and balances restored, the White House rammed their FISA law amendment through the congress. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was becoming an annoyance to the Decider. The law was allowing a secret court to intrude on his spying program that was snooping in on Americans’ international phone calls and communications.

You have to give the Bushies credit. They really know how to hit the legislators with their “urgent” agenda just before congress recesses for vacation. This tactic worked like a charm for the passage of the Military Commissions Act just before Christmas last year. Who needs habeas corpus anyway? And who needs court authorized wiretaps on US citizens? Not this Constitution shredding bunch.

The administration tells the congress to quickly pass the new legislation or be called “soft on terror.” You know those Democrats. They would always be enabling the terrorists if it weren’t for Dubya’s vision and resolute wisdom to guide them back into submission. Good thing he still has the fear card to play.

“This is what we need to do our job to protect the American people,'' the president said. ''It's the bare minimum.''

Works every time. In their misguided attempt to appear strong on terror, they only prove to be weak on freedom.

Thanks to the goose-step, er, lockstep voting by virtually all the Republicans, and the complicity of assorted Democrats who forgot their oath to support and defend the Constitution, the so-called Protect America Act was passed. Now the power to disregard your Fourth Amendment rights is in the hands of “Honest Al” Gonzales and fellow Bush appointee Mike McConnell. You know, the non-partisan folks we can trust to not have a hand in the White House’s political agenda.

The key phrase in the act tells us: “…the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General, may for periods of up to one year authorize the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States…”

Yes, that means when you call and complain about our government’s dismantling of our liberties to Uncle Franz in Germany, or Cousin Pierre in France, or even Sister Sarah in Canada, Big Brother George can have Al or Mike listen in on your chat without a court order. Up until now only a court could authorize the wiretap of a US citizen.

There appears to be a silver lining to this dark cloud of totalitarianism. A sunset provision of 180 days was written into the act. Congress will re-assess the law in six months. Before we release a collective sigh of relief, it should be noted that the Patriot Act was re-authorized after only minimal fear mongering and accusations of being soft on terror.

The Republican Party has moved so radically to the Right, that it embraces what could fairly be called proto-fascism. Many observers and pundits are once again accusing the Democrats of spinelessness and cowardice. What they have in common is fear, power, and the fear of losing power.

We’ll see what they do about it in six months. If they allow this to stand, I will then have to call them as I see them. Their treachery is tantamount to treason.

As democracy loses, terrorism wins.

Works every time.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Welcome to Oceania

Welcome to the new American Police State. Big Brother is watching us in more ways than Orwell imagined.

By now most of us have heard about the violations of the Fourth Amendment and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) perpetrated by the Bush crime cartel. Their criminal encroachments on our personal liberties have been accomplished through what they call the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP).

The White House has asserted itself the power to tap phones and monitor electronic communications they claim are between terror suspects overseas and Americans at home. We are told to just trust them on this limited use. No disclosure or explanation is necessary for us, or for the courts. This program has been veiled in deceit and fed to Americans as a foul swill richly seasoned with lies.

The program was declared illegal by a federal court in Detroit. No matter. The administration has insisted on its continuation. Tyranny will not be deterred merely by a court's admonition. We will probably never know the full extent of the warrant-less program. Many of us are justified in our suspicions that there are no constraints whatsoever over the unwarranted domestic spying by the radical right-wingers presently infecting our Executive Branch. Even before Bush falsely assured us that his searches and wiretaps would be conducted only with a court order, his TSP was already secretly initiated.

The TSP is so blatantly illegal, that even John Ashcroft and top deputies in the Justice Department threatened to resign rather than approve it. This dissention over the program was denied by Alberto Gonzales' during his testimony for the Senate Judiciary Committee. And this is only one of many lies for which Gonzo may soon face judgment.

The Bushies love to frighten people with hypothetical scare stories, and then tell us their program is our best protection against the evil doers.

This dirty business would, in itself, provide ample grounds for the impeachment of much of the administration. Unfortunately, the Democratic leadership in Congress is more devoted to it's own partisan agenda than to the Constitution. They are guilty of the same ideology of putting the interests of their party over the nation's need for justice.

Now an even more disturbing revelation has surfaced regarding our disappearing privacy.

A friend sent me this link to a clip about a novel method of law enforcement surveillance. I was stunned.

What the...?? You mean to say we are all subject to the eavesdropping of our personal conversations even when not using the phone? Just our talking in the proximity of a cell phone can be monitored by a secret remote activation of the phone's microphone. Yikes! I was a bit skeptical, given the source of the report. But alas! Verification has been provided.

Nothing left now but our trust in the Decider. He tells us, "all kinds of lawyers" approved his TSP. We take comfort in his proclamation, "Anytime you hear the United States government talk about wiretap... it requires...a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about gettin' a court order before we do so."

Thus speaks the man who swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.