Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I'VE BEEN FEELING IMMOBILIZED LATELY. My country is becoming a place I don't recognize, and each day's events seem to up the ante on the path to a police state. In fact, I see more parallels to a Soviet-style tyranny lately than I do to Jeffersonian democracy. What frightens me especially is that it's not just the Bush administration constricting our freedoms; it's the seeming indifference on the part of Americans in general -- despite Bush's low approval ratings -- to the government's ever more glaring abuses of power. Put another way, the general public seems just as immobilized as I'm feeling.

Here are just a few recent examples of what I'm talking about:

  • The firing of C.I.A. employee Mary McCarthy:

The firing itself is almost unprecedented in C.I.A. history. Even more disturbing is the growing evidence that McCarthy did not reveal classified information and was not Dana Priest's source for the European secret prisons story. It's looking more and more like McCarthy is being scapegoated for her political associations, and not for any actions on her part that endangered national security. (Not that Dana Priest's article about secret C.I.A. prisons in Eastern Europe endangered national security to start with.)

Steve Clemons thinks the president should use the polygraph with his own staff, because it's quite likely one or more of them know who Priest's main source was:

Bush Should Polygraph Staff on Plame Outing: Dana Priest's Sources were Multiple and Were Most Likely in Europe

Senior CIA official Mary McCarthy has denied leaking information to Dana Priest about the CIA's secret Eastern European prisons. She has argued that she did not have access to intelligence about these prisons, though seems to be admitting to unauthorized discussions with journalists.

A couple of comments. First, just for the record, many CIA officials and analysts have contacts with journalists. Heck, many journalists during the Cold War were doing the bidding of the CIA. But more importantly, the CIA frequently learns as much from journalists covering a story if they develop good mutually useful communications as analysts do on their own.

Any decent analyst or official who did not have contact with journalists, academics, trade association reps, and others would be lousy at their job in my book.
One other thing. I was surprised when the news of Mary McCarthy's firing happened that so many immediately jumped to the conclusion that she was Dana Priest's source on the secret CIA prisons.
There was no single U.S. Senator and no single CIA official who gave Priest her Pulitzer-prize winning scoop, which I thought she deserved the day the story broke.

My hunches are that her source(s), are in Europe -- not the United States. Dana Priest made two long trips through Europe and Eastern Europe these last couple of years and developed much of her material on the secret prisons there.

But fascinating that President Bush wants to polygraph for those who leaked on the CIA prisons, and those who exposed the warrantless wiretap program, but not a single member of his staff for exposing Valerie Plame Wilson's secret CIA identity.

  • We have a president who thinks God directs his foreign policy, who repeats the same lies over and over, and who cannot put a coherent English sentence together to save his life:

The latest example of this is in this week's Editor & Publisher:

President Bush today said he had tried to avoid war with Iraq "diplomatically to the max."

Speaking to a business group in Irvine, Ca., he admitted mistakes were made in planning for the Iraq invasion, but he defended the troop level, saying "it was the troop level necessary to do the job," and he would commit the same number if given a second chance.
Bush also explained, in unusually stark terms, how his belief in God influences his foreign policy. "I base a lot of my foreign policy decisions on some things that I think are true," he said. "One, I believe there's an Almighty. And, secondly, I believe one of the great gifts of the Almighty is the desire in everybody's soul, regardless of what you look like or where you live, to be free.
Bush said he'd sat in a California church on Sunday near a mother and stepfather grieving for their son who had been killed in Iraq. "I also want to let you know that before you commit troops that you must do everything that you can to solve the problem diplomatically," he commented. "And I can look you in the eye and tell you I feel I tried to solve the problem diplomatically to the max and would have committed troops both in Afghanistan and Iraq, knowing what I know today."

One decision he questions: After the successful invasion, "preparing an Iraqi army for an external threat. Well, it turns out there may have been an external threat but it's nothing compared to the internal threat." He did not explain what external threat the Iraqis were being trained for.

In his remarks, the president repeatedly referred to the need to stay in Iraq to deny terrorists a "safe haven." He asserted, according to the White House transcript that, "Iraq has -- had weapons of mass destruction and has the knowledge as to how to produce weapons of mass destruction." He also said that our enemies "know, and it doesn't take much to realize, that when you put carnage on our TV screens, it causes us to weep."

He also said: "It's not easy work, by the way, to go from tyranny to democracy. We had kind of a round go ourself, if you look back at our history. My Secretary of State's relatives were enslaved in the United States even though we had a Constitution that said all were -- that believed in the dignity, or at least proclaimed to believe in the dignity of all. The Articles of Confederation wasn't exactly a real smooth start for our government to begin. And what you're watching on your TV screens is a new democracy emerging."

Even more depressing: Pres. Bush's approval rating is at an all-time low of 32% -- but he's going to be the president for another two and a half years because Democrats care more about keeping him in office so they can use him to win back the White House and Congress than they do about getting him out of office via impeachment proceedings or, at the very least, censuring him. Think of the damage he could do to this country in two and a half years -- like nuking Iran, for one. But the Democratic leadership still sees that as secondary to their election ambitions.
  • We are becoming the evil we deplore:

Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army Colonel and Colin Powell's chief of staff when Powell was Secretary of State, writes in the Baltimore Sun that the United States is turning away, not just from our own founding documents, but from the underpinnings of our founding documents in the Magna Carta and 800 years of British common law:

We Americans came not from a revolution but from an evolution.

That is in large part why our so-called revolution produced success while most throughout history did not. We came as much from the Magna Carta as from our own doings, as much from British common law and parliamentary development as from the Declaration of Independence and Continental Congress.

Unlike the true revolution on the other side of the Atlantic that led to Napoleon's dictatorship and strife and conflict all across Europe, our evolution founded the greatest country the world has ever seen. That was true in every element of power and in the uniqueness that makes us great, our constant striving for "a more perfect union" and, as we do so, our open arms for the other peoples of the world "yearning to be free."

As Alexis de Tocqueville once said: "America is great because she is good. If America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

In January 2001, with the inauguration of George W. Bush as president, America set on a path to cease being good; America became a revolutionary nation, a radical republic. If our country continues on this path, it will cease to be great - as happened to all great powers before it, without exception.

From the Kyoto accords to the International Criminal Court, from torture and cruel and unusual treatment of prisoners to rendition of innocent civilians, from illegal domestic surveillance to lies about leaking, from energy ineptitude to denial of global warming, from cherry-picking intelligence to appointing a martinet and a tyrant to run the Defense Department, the Bush administration, in the name of fighting terrorism, has put America on the radical path to ruin.

Unprecedented interpretations of the Constitution that holds the president as commander in chief to be all-powerful and without checks and balances marks the hubris and unparalleled radicalism of this administration.

Kevin Phillips, author of American Theocracy, which I am currently reading, says that extreme right-wing Christian fundamentalists are transforming the Republican Party into the first religious political party in U.S. history. We all know their wish list: A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, prayer in public schools, the criminalization of all abortions, and government support for private religious schools and homeschoolers, for starters. But what most Americans do not know is that there are even more extreme segments of the religious right who, in addition to believing in biblical inerrancy (the Bible is literally true in every detail), want to "reconstruct" society to look like ancient Israel in Old Testament days.

No one knows exactly how many Americans self-define as Christian Reconstructionists -- largely because their beliefs are so radical that most people will not openly acknowledge being part of the movement.

Here is the dogma:

A rejection of Antinomianism: the belief that salvation is obtained totally through faith and not through performing good works and living a moral life

Presuppositionalism: the acceptance on faith that the Bible is true. They do not attempt to prove that God exists or that the Bible is true.

Inerrancy: the belief that the Bible, as originally written, is totally free of error.

Postmillennialism: the belief that Christ will not return to earth until much of the world has converted to Christianity. This will not take place for some considerable time; it will not be a painless transition. Most Fundamentalists and other Evangelists hold to a different view. They are Premillenialists and believe that all (or almost all) of the preconditions of Christ's return have been met. They expect Jesus' second coming to occur very soon.
Civil laws must be changed to match the Bible's moral rules. That is, anything that is immoral (by their standards) is also to be criminalized.

The only valid legislation, social theory, spiritual beliefs, economic theory are those derived from the Bible

In every aspect of life, there are only two options: God-centered or man-centered; Theonomy or autonomy. Their political goal is to ban the latter, everywhere. Each individual, family, church, government and society must be reconstructed to eliminate sin. Each Christian has the responsibility to contribute to this conversion.

They oppose inter-faith, inter-racial, and same-sex marriages. ...
Reconstructionists regard the Gods and Goddesses of all other religions to be "the devil," and their teachings to be false. They would attempt to replace all religions with their version of Christianity.

In other words, it's not enough for Christian Reconstructionists to have their own lives in accordance with their personal beliefs -- because their central personal belief is that the entire world has to be run according to their beliefs:

If they gained control of the US or Canadian federal government, there would be many changes:

The use of the death penalty would be greatly expanded, when the Hebrew Scriptures' laws are reapplied. People will be executed for adultery, blasphemy, heresy, homosexual behavior, idolatry, prostitution, evil sorcery (some translations say Witchcraft), etc. The Bible requires those found guilty of these "crimes" to be either stoned to death or burned alive. Reconstructionists are divided on the execution method to be used.

A church or congregation which does not accept the Mosaic Law has another god before them, and is thus guilty of idolatry. That would be punishable by death. That would include all non-Christian religious organizations. At the present time, non-Christians total two-thirds of the human race.

The status of women would be reduced to almost that of a slave as described in the Hebrew Scriptures. A woman would initially be considered the property of her father; after marriage, she would be considered the property of her husband.

It would be logical to assume that the institution of slavery would be reintroduced, and regulated according to Biblical laws. Fathers could sell their daughters into slavery. Female slaves would retain that status for life. Slave owners would be allowed to physically abuse them, as long as the slaves lived for at least a day before dying of the beating.

Polygyny and the keeping of concubines were permitted in the Old Testament. However, Reconstructionists generally believe in marriage between one man and one woman only. Any other sexual expression would be a capital crime. Those found guilty of engaging in same-sex, pre-marital or extra-marital sex would be executed.

The Old Testament "Jubilee Year" system would be celebrated once more. Every 50 years, the control of all land reverted to its original owners. In theory, this would require every part of North American land to be returned to the original Aboriginal owners (or perhaps to those persons of Aboriginal descent who are now Christians). Hawaii would be given back to the native Hawaiians.

Governments would all have balanced budgets.

Income taxes would be eliminated.

The prison system would be eliminated. A system of just restitution would be established for some crimes. The death penalty would be practiced for many other crimes. There would be little need for warehousing of convicted criminals.

Legal abortions would be banished; those found to be responsible for abortions would be charged with murder and executed.

The reinstitution of slavery appears to be a hot button item among Reconstructionists. We have received a few negative E-mails which complained that the movement does not recommend the resumption of human slavery. But we have received many more Emails from Reconstructionists claiming that legalizing slavery would be good for North America.

Obviously such a society is wholly incompatible with America. Which would seem, at first glance, to preclude the possibility that these people could ever get their wish. But if you think so, read this again.

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