The Party of "God" is desperate. Its occupation of Iraq is unravelling. Gasoline prices are rising above $3 per gallon. Its foreign debt is beyond reckoning. The Almighty Dollar has fallen a cent a week against the Euro for the last six weeks. Norway just announced plans to pull out of the London oil market and form one of its own, based on the Euro, following Iraq's plan (squelched by the invasion) and Iran's plan. The famous "trickle-down" economic theory of the Party of "God," the main tactic of which is to continue obscene taxbreaks to the richest 1 percent of the nation, has resulted in more corporate investment in offshore manufacturing, with an estimated loss of 800,000 more American jobs this year (with some growth in bartender and waitress work). Rumors are reported that Karl Rove will be indicted for perjury and possibly obstruction of justice this week. Other reports suggest the evidence trail is leading to the vice president. The president's polls have fallen below 30 percent, and Americans don't like to be spied on by their own government (in fact, it's illegal). Then there's Hookergate.
People are saying something rarely said about Nixon: Bush, they say, is incompetent and too stupid for the job. Since Bush has been known to claim he rules by the word of the biblical "God," theological mysteries surround his administration.
The coalition of oil men, debt finance institutions and the Dixie-based religious right that produced the presidency of George W. Bush, having ruled since 9/11 on fear and hatred of Muslims, now turns these passions on Mexicans. The cynicism behind this move, in people who understand the border and particularly the machinations of border banks to get NAFTA passed, would be staggering if we, the people, were not reassured that the Lord "God" told Bush to do it.
"Just like them damn Philistines!" may have been His exact words to the Great Decider.
"Stomp 'em, David – er, I mean George."
One characteristic of totalitarian propaganda is its abstraction and appeal to racist theories, in this case how Mexican immigrants are the cause of all our employment woes, because, in the words of a bygone US Senator from California, they are "built lower to the ground," and are therefore better fit for stoop labor with a short-handled hoe. From the standpoint of propaganda, the more absurd it is the better, because the aim is to get the individual (soon to join the mob) to deny his concrete experience in the world, choose the ideology the promises membership in the great new vision of the future of the Homeland rather than that "insignificant" experience and memory of it one inconveniently happens to have. This memory, sealed away in direct experience rather than ideology, suggests that Mexican immigrants cross that dangerous zone because they too have no work. Another heterodoxical opinion might be that NAFTA was as bad for Mexico as it was for the US. An even more heretical notion from experience and research is that it was very good for border banks from Los Angeles to Brownsville TX, home of Senator Lloyd Bentzen, who served in the Clinton administration as secretary of Treasury until at least a day after NAFTA was signed.
From the standpoint of effective policy (actually stopping illegal immigration), this rises to the level of a jay in a tree squawking at a cat on a sidewalk. It's a hate stunt, not policy at all. At some point the rabid "base" of the Party of "God" might even step back, scratch its head, and realize the extent to which the Party of "God" has betrayed it, every step of the way. Since "vision" is very popular today, one might imagine the betrayed Christians stepping up to organize Christian labor unions on the principle that "Jesus" wants working people to organize for decent jobs and benefits.
Cross cultural identifications
Texas oil men, it was said 30 years ago, perhaps had more in common with Arab oil sheiks than they did with Houston construction workers. Aside from certain matters of dress and native language, they seemed to share a lot of common values: hatred of democracy; love of autocracy; adoration of hereditary monarchies; price rigging; expensive horses; religious fundamentalism; etc. So, even before 9/11, like-minded potentates' thoughts naturally drifted toward regime change in an oil-rich country ruled by a secular dictator.
Now, on the US/Mexican border, another cultural motif of the American Southwest plays out: our Latin tin-pot dictator side. The state will come down on the most vulnerable, worst exploited group available with the full violence of military force (if they can muster up enough National Guard troops not already otherwise occupied). The people will rebel, hold demonstrations, the police will attack. Arrests, beatings, deaths and deportations will probably follow as the Party of "God" attempts to draw the whole nation into its sordid South-of-the-Border racial hate stunt. Racial profiling will run rampant, always denied in the mainstream press, which dutifully and accurately copies official lies, only.
Mexican President Vincente Fox and his conservative party, PAN, and the old-line PRI, so long so cozy with the US, will point out futilely that the US is giving the election to the leftwing PRD, led by Luis Obrador. Perhaps the Party of "God" will send them some money to stem this leftward movement in Mexico, resembling movements in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina. In any event, there will be US troops on the border, in numbers perhaps not seen since President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized his nation's oil production in 1940. Perhaps "God" whispers to the leader of His Party that it is time to conquer Mexico once and for all, as the Southern slave states desired in 1846.
Perhaps the Party of "God" will withdraw its troops from Iraq, assuming of course it won't just leave them there to be massacred, and invade Mexico, which also has oil. The Party of "God" is looking for a quick victory. Surely it can defeat Mexico.
Far be it from a mere American citizen, especially one from the humble San Joaquin Valley (Appalachia del Oeste), to suggest his president change his bedtime readings. But, in lieu of trying to interpret the events of this world through a literal interpretation of whatever translation of the Bible the president uses, I might suggest he read Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism as a means of reflecting on his actions. (Just substitute Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, Hitler or Stalin for "God" and you'll get the drift.) George Orwell, of course, wrote an earlier, novelized version, called 1984, if the president prefers bedtime stories. (In that one substitute Big Brother for "God" and you can interpret the story's meaning.)
One suggests these readings because it finally seems as if the Party of "God, "seeking to establish a theocracy on the foundations of a republican democracy one of whose firmest principles is strict separation of church and state, is just spinning in circles. Oh, the will to subvert the Constitution -- that liberal document -- is strong enough among leadership, at least. But this whirling motion, particularly in a state so lethally armed, is a global health and public welfare crisis. Other people -- not just "God" -- begin to talk when you invade nations on false pretenses, Mr. President.
The Party of "God" is wrong. I will leave it to theologians to explain how wrong it is about "God. " But, concerning policy, I am a member of the two-thirds of the American people who think George Bush may be doing some job, but not the job of president of the United States. Lashing out at Mexican immigrants is just one more example of the bully-boy, racist principle of stomping the weak to show strength. It failed in Iraq and the first bullet fired on the border will signal the beginning of another massive failure and source of shame for the American people, currently captured by a government bent on the destruction of its Constitution, economy and society for the sake of imperialism.
And perhaps the voices the president is hearing are not from "God" at all.
Bush to Deploy Guard at Border
By Peter Baker
The Washington Post
Monday 15 May 2006
President Bush tried to ease the worries of his Mexican counterpart yesterday as he prepared for a nationally televised address tonight unveiling a plan to send thousands of National Guard troops to help seal the nation's southern border against illegal immigrants.
Mexican President Vicente Fox called to express concern over the prospect of
militarization of the border and Bush reassured him that it would only be a temporary measure to bolster overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, the White House said.
"The president made clear that the United States considers Mexico a friend and that what is being considered is not militarization of the border but support of Border Patrol capabilities on a temporary basis by National Guard personnel," said White House spokeswoman Maria Tamburri.
Yet the idea has further stirred an already volatile debate about immigration on both sides of the border even before the president makes his primetime speech from the Oval Office at 8 p.m. A number of Democrats and even a few key Republicans voiced skepticism or outright opposition to the reported plan yesterday, calling it a politically motivated move that will only further strain units already stretched by duty in Iraq without solving the underlying problem of illegal immigration ...
Published on Sunday, May 14, 2006 by the Seattle Times (Washington)
God's Own Party
by Kevin Phillips
Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush's conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history.
We have had small-scale theocracies in North America before — in Puritan New England and later in Mormon Utah. Today, a leading power such as the United States approaches theocracy when it meets the conditions currently on display: an elected leader who believes himself to speak for the Almighty, a ruling political party that represents religious true believers, the certainty of many Republican voters that government should be guided by religion and, on top of it all, a White House that adopts agendas seemingly animated by biblical worldviews.
Indeed, there is a potent change taking place in this country's domestic and foreign policy, driven by religion's new political prowess and its role in projecting military power in the Mideast.
The United States has organized much of its military posture since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks around the protection of oil fields, pipelines and sea lanes. But U.S.
preoccupation with the Middle East has another dimension. In addition to its concerns with oil and terrorism, the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the Holy Lands are a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits — oil and biblical expectations — require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.
The political corollary — fascinating but appalling — is the recent transformation of the Republican presidential coalition. Since the election of 2000 and especially that of 2004, three pillars have become central: the oil/national-security complex, with its pervasive interests; the religious right, with its doctrinal imperatives and massive electorate; and the debt-driven financial sector, which extends far beyond the old symbolism of Wall Street.
President Bush has promoted these alignments, interest groups and their underpinning values. His family, over multiple generations, has been linked to a politics that conjoined finance, national security and oil. In recent decades, the Bushes have added close ties to evangelical and fundamentalist power brokers of many persuasions.
Over a quarter-century of Bush presidencies and vice presidencies, the Republican Party has slowly become the vehicle of all three interests — a fusion of petroleum-defined national security; a crusading, simplistic Christianity; and a reckless, credit-feeding financial complex. The three are increasingly allied in commitment to Republican politics.
On the most important front, I am beginning to think that the Southern-dominated, biblically driven Washington GOP represents a rogue coalition, like the Southern, proslavery politics that controlled Washington until Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860.
I have a personal concern over what has become of the Republican coalition. Forty years ago, I began a book, "The Emerging Republican Majority," which I finished in 1967 and took to the 1968 Republican presidential campaign, for which I became the chief political and voting-patterns analyst. Published in 1969, while I was still in the fledgling Nixon administration, the volume was identified by Newsweek as the "political bible of the Nixon Era."
In that book I coined the term "Sun Belt" to describe the oil, military, aerospace and retirement country stretching from Florida to California, but debate concentrated on the argument — since fulfilled and then some — that the South was on its way into the national Republican Party. Four decades later, this framework has produced the alliance of oil, fundamentalism and debt.
Some of that evolution was always implicit. If any region of the United States had the potential to produce a high-powered, crusading fundamentalism, it was Dixie. If any new alignment had the potential to nurture a fusion of oil interests and the military-industrial complex, it was the Sun Belt, which helped draw them into commercial and political proximity and collaboration.
Wall Street, of course, has long been part of the GOP coalition. But members of the Downtown Association and the Links Club were never enthusiastic about "Joe Sixpack" and middle America, to say nothing of preachers such as Oral Roberts or the Tupelo, Miss., Assemblies of God. The new cohabitation is an unnatural one.
While studying economic geography and history in Britain, I had been intrigued by the Eurasian "heartland" theory of Sir Halford Mackinder, a prominent geographer of the early 20th century. Control of that heartland, Mackinder argued, would determine control of the world. In North America, I thought, the coming together of a heartland — across fading Civil War lines — would determine control of Washington.
This was the prelude to today's "red states." The American heartland, from Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico to Ohio and the Appalachian coal states, has become (along with the onetime Confederacy) an electoral hydrocarbon coalition. It cherishes sport-utility vehicles and easy carbon-dioxide emissions policy, and applauds preemptive U.S. air strikes on uncooperative, terrorist-coddling Persian Gulf countries fortuitously blessed with huge reserves of oil.
Because the United States is beginning to run out of its own oil sources, a military
solution to an energy crisis is hardly lunacy. Neither Caesar nor Napoleon would have flinched. What Caesar and Napoleon did not face, but less able American presidents do, is that bungled overseas military embroilments could also boomerang economically.
The United States, some $4 trillion in hock internationally, has become the world's leading debtor, increasingly nagged by worry that some nations will sell dollars in their reserves and switch their holdings to rival currencies. Washington prints bonds and dollar-green IOUs, which European and Asian bankers accumulate until for some reason they lose patience. This is the debt Achilles' heel, which stands alongside the oil Achilles' heel.
Unfortunately, more danger lurks in the responsiveness of the new GOP coalition to Christian evangelicals, fundamentalists and Pentecostals, who muster some 40 percent of the party electorate. Many millions believe that the Armageddon described in the Bible is coming soon. Chaos in the explosive Middle East, far from being a threat, actually heralds the second coming of Jesus Christ. Oil-price spikes, murderous hurricanes, deadly tsunamis and melting polar ice caps lend further credence.
The potential interaction between the end-times electorate, inept pursuit of Persian Gulf oil, Washington's multiple deceptions and the financial crisis that could follow a substantial liquidation by foreign holders of U.S. bonds is the stuff of nightmares. To watch U.S. voters enable such policies — the GOP coalition is unlikely to turn back — is depressing to someone who spent many years researching, watching and cheering those grass roots.
Four decades ago, the new GOP coalition seemed certain to enjoy a major infusion of conservative Northern Catholics and Southern Protestants. This troubled me not at all. I agreed with the predominating Republican argument at the time that "secular" liberals, by badly misjudging the depth and importance of religion in the United States, had given conservatives a powerful and legitimate electoral opportunity.
Since then, my appreciation of the intensity of religion in the United States has deepened. When religion was trod upon in the 1960s and thereafter by secular advocates determined to push Christianity out of the public square, the move unleashed an evangelical, fundamentalist and Pentecostal counterreformation, with strong theocratic pressures becoming visible in the Republican national coalition and its leadership.
Besides providing critical support for invading Iraq — widely anathematized by preachers as a second Babylon — the Republican coalition has also seeded half a dozen controversies in the realm of science. These include Bible-based disbelief in Darwinian theories of evolution, dismissal of global warming, disagreement with geological explanations of fossil-fuel depletion, religious rejection of global population planning, derogation of women's rights and opposition to stem-cell research.
This suggests that U.S. society and politics may again be heading for a defining
controversy such as the Scopes trial of 1925. That embarrassment chastened fundamentalism for a generation, but the outcome of the eventual 21st century test is hardly assured.
These developments have warped the Republican Party and its electoral coalition, muted Democratic voices and become a gathering threat to America's future. No leading world power in modern memory has become a captive of the sort of biblical inerrancy that dismisses modern knowledge and science. The last parallel was in the early 17th century, when the papacy, with the agreement of inquisitional Spain, disciplined the astronomer Galileo for saying that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of our solar system.
Conservative true believers will scoff at such concerns. The United States is a unique and chosen nation, they say; what did or did not happen to Rome, imperial Spain, the Dutch Republic and Britain is irrelevant. The catch here, alas, is that these nations also thought they were unique and that God was on their side. The revelation that he apparently was not added a further debilitating note to the late stages of each national decline.
Over the past 25 years, I have warned frequently of these political, economic and
historical (but not religious) precedents. The concentration of wealth that developed in the United States in the bull market of 1982 to 2000 was also typical of the zeniths of previous world economic powers as their elites pursued surfeit in Mediterranean villas or in the country-house splendor of Edwardian England. In a nation's early years, debt is a vital and creative collaborator in economic expansion; in late stages, it becomes what Mr. Hyde was to Dr. Jekyll: an increasingly dominant mood and facial distortion. The United States of the early 21st century is well into this debt-driven climax, with some analysts
arguing — all too plausibly — that an unsustainable credit bubble has replaced the stock bubble that burst in 2000.
Unfortunately, three of the preeminent weaknesses displayed in these past declines have been religious excess, a declining energy and industrial base, and debt often linked to foreign and military overstretch. Politics in the United States — and especially the evolution of the governing Republican coalition — deserves much of the blame for the fatal convergence of these forces in America today.
Kevin Phillips is the author of "American Theocracy: The Perils and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century" (Viking).
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company
Will the Real Traitors Please Stand Up?
By Frank Rich
The New York Times
Sunday 14 May 2006
When America panics, it goes hunting for scapegoats. But from Salem onward, we've more often than not ended up pillorying the innocent. Abe Rosenthal, the legendary Times editor who died last week, and his publisher, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, were denounced as treasonous in 1971 when they defied the Nixon administration to publish the Pentagon Papers, the secret government history of the Vietnam War. Today we know who the real traitors were: the officials who squandered American blood and treasure on an ill-considered war and then tried to cover up their lies and mistakes. It was precisely those lies and mistakes, of course, that were laid bare by the thousands of pages of classified Pentagon documents leaked to both The Times and The Washington Post.
This history is predictably repeating itself now that the public has turned on the war in Iraq. The administration's die-hard defenders are desperate to deflect blame for the fiasco, and, guess what, the traitors once again are The Times and The Post. This time the newspapers committed the crime of exposing warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (The Times) and the C.I.A.'s secret "black site" Eastern European prisons (The Post). Aping the Nixon template, the current White House tried to stop both papers from publishing and when that failed impugned their patriotism.
President Bush, himself a sometime leaker of intelligence, called the leaking of the N.S.A. surveillance program a "shameful act" that is "helping the enemy." Porter Goss, who was then still C.I.A. director, piled on in February with a Times Op-Ed piece denouncing leakers for potentially risking American lives and compromising national security. When reporters at both papers were awarded Pulitzer Prizes last month, administration surrogates, led by bloviator in chief William Bennett, called for them to be charged under the 1917 Espionage Act.
We can see this charade for what it is: a Hail Mary pass by the leaders who bungled a war and want to change the subject to the journalists who caught them in the act. What really angers the White House and its defenders about both the Post and Times scoops are not the legal questions the stories raise about unregulated gulags and unconstitutional domestic snooping, but the unmasking of yet more administration failures in a war effort riddled with ineptitude. It's the recklessness at the top of our government, not the press's exposure of it, that has truly aided the enemy, put American lives at risk and potentially sabotaged national security. That's where the buck stops, and if there's to be a witch hunt for traitors, that's where it should begin.
Well before Dana Priest of The Post uncovered the secret prisons last November, the C.I.A. had failed to keep its detention "secrets" secret. Having obtained flight logs, The Sunday Times of London first reported in November 2004 that the United States was flying detainees "to countries that routinely use torture." Six months later, The New York Times added many details, noting that "plane-spotting hobbyists, activists and journalists in a dozen countries have tracked the mysterious planes' movements." These articles, capped by
Ms. Priest's, do not impede our ability to detain terrorists. But they do show how the administration, by condoning torture, has surrendered the moral high ground to anti-American jihadists and botched the war of ideas that we can't afford to lose.
The N.S.A. eavesdropping exposed in December by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of The Times is another American debacle. Hoping to suggest otherwise and cast the paper as treasonous, Dick Cheney immediately claimed that the program had saved "thousands of lives." The White House's journalistic mouthpiece, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, wrote that the Times exposŽ "may have ruined one of our most effective anti-Al Qaeda
Surely they jest. If this is one of our "most effective" programs, we're in worse
trouble than we thought. Our enemy is smart enough to figure out on its own that its phone calls are monitored 24/7, since even under existing law the government can eavesdrop for 72 hours before seeking a warrant (which is almost always granted). As The Times subsequently reported, the N.S.A. program was worse than ineffective; it was counterproductive. Its gusher of data wasted F.B.I. time and manpower on wild-goose chases and minor leads while uncovering no new active Qaeda plots in the United States. Like the N.S.A. database on 200 million American phone customers that was described last week by USA Today, this program may have more to do with monitoring "traitors" like reporters and leakers than with tracking terrorists.
Journalists and whistle-blowers who relay such government blunders are easily defended against the charge of treason. It's often those who make the accusations we should be most worried about. Mr. Goss, a particularly vivid example, should not escape into retirement unexamined. He was so inept that an overzealous witch hunter might mistake him for a Qaeda double agent.
Even before he went to the C.I.A., he was a drag on national security. In "Breakdown," a book about intelligence failures before the 9/11 attacks, the conservative journalist Bill Gertz delineates how Mr. Goss, then chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, played a major role in abdicating Congressional oversight of the C.I.A., trying to cover up its poor performance while terrorists plotted with impunity. After 9/11, his committee's "investigation" of what went wrong was notoriously toothless.
Once he ascended to the C.I.A. in 2004, Mr. Goss behaved like most other Bush
appointees: he put politics ahead of the national interest, and stashed cronies and partisan hacks in crucial positions. On Friday, the F.B.I. searched the home and office of one of them, Dusty Foggo, the No. 3 agency official in the Goss regime. Mr. Foggo is being investigated by four federal agencies pursuing the bribery scandal that has already landed former Congressman Randy (Duke) Cunningham in jail. Though Washington is titillated by gossip about prostitutes and Watergate "poker parties" swirling around this Warren Harding-like tale, at least the grafters of Teapot Dome didn't play games with the nation's defense during wartime.
Besides driving out career employees, underperforming on Iran intelligence and scaling back a daily cross-agency meeting on terrorism, Mr. Goss's only other apparent accomplishment at the C.I.A. was his war on those traitorous leakers. Intriguingly, this was a new cause for him. "There's a leak every day in the paper," he told The Sarasota Herald-Tribune when the identity of the officer Valerie Wilson was exposed in 2003. He argued then that there was no point in tracking leaks down because "that's all we'd do."
What prompted Mr. Goss's about-face was revealed in his early memo instructing C.I.A. employees to "support the administration and its policies in our work." His mission was not to protect our country but to prevent the airing of administration dirty laundry, including leaks detailing how the White House ignored accurate C.I.A. intelligence on Iraq before the war. On his watch, C.I.A. lawyers also tried to halt publication of "Jawbreaker," the former clandestine officer Gary Berntsen's account of how the American command let Osama bin Laden escape when Mr. Berntsen's team had him trapped in Tora Bora in December 2001. The one officer fired for alleged leaking during the Goss purge had no access to classified intelligence about secret prisons but was presumably a witness to her boss's management disasters.
Soon to come are the Senate's hearings on Mr. Goss's successor, Gen. Michael Hayden, the former head of the N.S.A. As Jon Stewart reminded us last week, Mr. Bush endorsed his new C.I.A. choice with the same encomium he had bestowed on Mr. Goss: He's "the right man" to lead the C.I.A. "at this critical moment in our nation's history." That's not exactly reassuring.
This being an election year, Karl Rove hopes the hearings can portray Bush opponents as soft on terrorism when they question any national security move. It was this bullying that led so many Democrats to rubber-stamp the Iraq war resolution in the 2002 election season and Mr. Goss's appointment in the autumn of 2004.
Will they fall into the same trap in 2006? Will they be so busy soliloquizing about civil liberties that they'll fail to investigate the nominee's record? It was under General Hayden, a self-styled electronic surveillance whiz, that the N.S.A. intercepted actual Qaeda messages on Sept. 10, 2001 - "Tomorrow is zero hour" for one - and failed to translate them until Sept. 12. That same fateful summer, General Hayden's N.S.A. also failed to recognize that "some of the terrorists had set up shop literally under its nose," as the national-security authority James Bamford wrote in The Washington Post in 2002. The Qaeda cell that hijacked American Flight 77 and plowed into the Pentagon was based in the same town, Laurel, Md., as the N.S.A., and "for months, the terrorists and the N.S.A. employees exercised in some of the same local health clubs and shopped in the
same grocery stores."
If Democrats - and, for that matter, Republicans - let a president with a Nixonesque approval rating install yet another second-rate sycophant at yet another security agency, even one as diminished as the C.I.A., someone should charge those senators with treason, too.