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Wed

10

Jan

2007

Making a Killing on Perpetual War: Bush and the F-Word Forever
Wednesday, 10 January 2007 12:37
by Heather Wokusch

(ED: This is part three of a series and parts one and two can be found here)

"I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace." - George W. Bush, June 2002

"Given unlimited time and unlimited support, we're winning the war." - US Army Gen. John Abizaid, when asked how the United States was doing in Iraq, September 2006

Hitler committed suicide. Mussolini was executed and hung on a meat hook in a town square. Suharto avoided prosecution and has kept the billions he's accused of embezzling from Indonesia.

What will be the fate of Bush & Co.?

In 2003, Laurence Britt crystallized 14 points of fascism from regimes including those of Hitler, Mussolini and Suharto, then suggested similarities under Bush.

This three-part series, entitled "Bush and the F-Word," has applied Britt's fascism framework to the Bush administration's record in 2006. Today's Part III finishes up Britt's final two points, makes predictions for 2007 and discusses how to fight back.


13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.

January 2006 began with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleading guilty to multiple criminal felony counts. Repercussions ensued for Republican politicians accused of having accepted pricey trips and other illegal bribes in exchange for political favors.

While former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) had earlier described Abramoff as "one of my closest and dearest friends," after the scandal broke he insisted, "the notion that he was a close friend and wielded influence over me is absolutely untrue." DeLay is battling a separate money laundering charge, and two of his former aides have already been convicted in the Abramoff scandal.

Former Rep. Bob "Freedom Fries" Ney (R-OH) will be sentenced later this month on felony charges related to the Abramoff scandal, but still gets to keep his congressional pension benefits.

Ongoing questions continue to swirl around Abramoff's links to other Republican politicians, including Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) and former Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT). Meanwhile, the White House has refused to divulge exactly who Abramoff met with and when.

In other scandals, former Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-CA) was sentenced to over 8 years in prison for crimes including tax evasion and bribery, and former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) is under investigation for exchanging political favors for family-member perks.

Former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) made improper sexual advances to young male pages over a ten-year period and fellow Republican lawmakers were accused of having covered it up. Nonetheless, in December, the Republican-run House Ethics Committee decided, as outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) put it, "there was no violation of any House rules by any member or staff."

Ken Lay, the former CEO of Enron and a major Republican donor, was found guilty on 10 counts of securities fraud and other charges in May 2006, but passed away before being sentenced. Months later, a Houston federal judge cleared Lay's name on a technicality and the Republican-led Congress failed to posthumously seize Lay's assets in order to compensate beleaguered Enron investors and employees.

Before Congress adjourned for the November elections, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, demonstrated a novel approach to avoiding his own corruption charges by firing 60 investigators working on exposing "fraud, waste and abuse."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, in March, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee refused to create a watchdog office charged with looking into congressional ethics abuses.

2006 was a rough year for government watchdog offices across the board as inspectors general of federal agencies found themselves increasingly targeted. The Pentagon, for example, forced its inspector general to use lawyers approved by Rumsfeld, and congressional Republicans tried to stop investigations into Iraqi reconstruction abuses, such as cases of overbilling by administration-linked defense contractors.

In a related move, the White House stalled investigations into allegations of bribery from the time Dick Cheney was CEO of defense-contractor Halliburton.

Halliburton-subsidiary KBR and other defense contractors were also found complicit in the failed rebuilding of areas devastated by Katrina. As CorpWatch noted in August, "Many of the same  'disaster profiteers' and government agencies that mishandled the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq are responsible for the failure of 'reconstruction' of the Gulf Coast region. The Army Corps, Bechtel and Halliburton are using the very same 'contract vehicles' in the Gulf Coast as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq...  the person in charge of the Army Corps of Engineers today, Lieutenant General Carl A. Strock, is the very man who was in charge of the Halliburton contracts in Iraq." Halliburton reportedly received a 600% gain on contracts (to roughly $6 billion per year) for its $4 million in political donations since 2000.

Meanwhile, the Independent recently reported that the US government had helped write a law which "would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972." But, of course, the invasion of Iraq wasn't about oil.

14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating and disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.

An October Gallup poll showed that only 28% of Americans were "very confident" that the vote casting and counting in the 2006 midterm elections would be conducted accurately. In other words, almost 3 out of 4 Americans doubt the integrity of their own electoral system.

It's no small wonder, when electronic voting machines (many owned by partisan officials) are both widely used and easily hacked. In Florida's midterms, for example, electronic voting machines "flipped" votes for Democrats to the Republican candidates in early balloting, then ended up "losing" almost 18,000 votes in the official tally for the 13th Congressional district, thus handing a 386 vote lead to the Republican candidate. Senate Democratic challenger Jim Webb had his name "hacked" off by electronic voting machines in Virginia, and in California, thousands of pre-programmed touch-screen voting machines were sent home with temporary poll workers weeks before the election. The machines can be hacked in less than a minute.

The 2006 elections were also characterized by partisan dirty tricks. In New Mexico, for example, the GOP was accused of providing Democratic voters with incorrect information on polling locations, and in California, letters were sent to thousands of Latino-Americans (potentially more likely to vote Democratic) warning that if "you're an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that can result in incarceration."

Targeting Latino voters with electoral scams is unfortunately not unprecedented in the US; in fact, the systematic disenfranchisement is an increasingly serious problem, with an estimated one million minority votes left uncounted in the 2006 midterms.

Other midterm dirty tricks included a "robocall" campaign to alienate voters against Democratic candidates and phony voter guides linking popular Democrats with right-wing initiatives. A conservative talk radio station in Sacramento even commandeered the Federal Emergency Alert System to force a paid political advertisement onto other stations' airwaves.

The list of scandals goes on and on.

If a democracy is only as strong as its voting system, then the US showed signs of serious trouble in the 2006 midterms.

***

While the similarities between Laurence Britt's 14 points of fascism and the Bush administration's record in 2006 are profound, it doesn't mean the US is a fascist country - I wouldn't be able to write this if it were. The pattern of rollbacks is disturbing though and begs the question: How much more damage can Bush do?

Ongoing chaos and destruction would work in the administration's favor over the next two years. Another domestic terrorist attack, for example, could be used to unify the masses, criminalize dissent and build the case for further war. How intriguing that the FBI and FEMA recently announced plans to move their operations to Virginia, outside of the "fallout zone" of a nuclear blast in DC.

Within this context, Bush's request for up to 20,000 more combat troops for Iraq shouldn't come as a surprise. Neither should the fact that he's reshuffling his military and diplomatic teams to make room for an attack on Iran.

So what can be done to help take back America?

1. Urge Congress to act: House Speaker Pelosi's ambitious 100-hour plan  for the Democratic-controlled House is a great beginning, but now is the time to urge Congress to take on additional tough issues in its first 100 days. How about the Military Commissions Act, the Patriot Act and net neutrality for starters? How about outlawing Bush from making any more signing statements and how about ensuring that the administration doesn't follow through on its plan to invest $100 billion in new nuclear weapons? The possibilities are endless.

Consider encouraging Democratic leaders to institute probes and investigations across the board to "drain the swamp" and provide leverage for changing Bush's policies. (The administration is already running scared, beefing up its legal team to handle the expected onslaught of subpoenas from Democrats.)

2. Get involved: Rev. Martin Luther King once said, "A time comes when silence is betrayal" and that time is now. 

Contact your congressmembers and let your voice be heard. Write letters to the editor and call talk radio shows. Join activists in your community or online (if you're focused specifically on combating the slide towards fascism, a handy list of links for each of Britt's 14 points is provided below). Commit at least ten minutes a day to positive action, knowing that the fate not only of Bush and Co., but indeed of the entire country, is in your hands.

Links  

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.

2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.

3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.

4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism.

5. Rampant sexism.

6. A controlled mass media.

7. Obsession with national security.

8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.

9. Power of corporations protected.

10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.  

11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. 

12. Obsession with crime and punishment.

13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.

14. Fraudulent elections.

Note: Originally published: January 8, 2007
 
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