These are exciting times, these are dangerous times
These are exciting times. Less than two weeks before the November election, most polls and pundits point to an Obama victory. Think of it – we’re on the verge of electing the first African-American president in American history. This is a vote that took 400 years – from the advent of a racially-based slavery for Africans in America in the early 1600s all the way to today -to Barack Obama – the Democratic candidate, whose father was from Africa. If this is true, this is truly an historic occasion and time.
These are exciting times, even if politically, Obama is not as progressive, or as liberal as we would like. Yet we must appreciate the hope and involvement he has generated that has cut across racial, class, gender, age and ideological lines. These are exciting times, as we’re on the verge quite probably of a grand new era of liberalism, as the Reagan era is finally buried, and as the White House is taken back. There very well could be a strengthening of the social contract, of unions, public work projects, of positive popular culture, of a sense of justice, tolerance and diplomacy. And yes, these are exciting times, even if we will still need to apply popular pressure on the Obama administration around a number of global and domestic issues.
Yet, no matter who wins, George W. Bush, the subject of a new Oliver Stone movie, will still be President for another ten weeks. And that is why these are also dangerous times.
George Bush will still be President on November 5th
Come the day after the election, November 5th, George Bush will still be President, and he’ll be President until the third week into January of the new year. And the people that surround and guide him will also still be around. These people – call them neo-cons, Bush & Company, the Bush-crime-family, whatever – the Bush administration – the executive branch of our government, they are still in power. And because they are still in power, we have to ask the question – a question that has been circulating the blogosphere for over a year:
Will Bush initiate martial law before or around the November 2008 election?
This question, in all of its various forms, has made the internet all abuzz, especially since it was announced last month – quietly – that a US army combat brigade would be deployed for domestic use – for the first time in modern history. That unit, the 1st Brigade of the Third US Infantry Division, has been standing at the ready since October 1; was it a mere coincidence that it was deployed a month before the election?
So, let’s ask again: – if it looked as if Barack Obama was going to win, would the Bush Administration do anything to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power? Would the neo-conservatives, because of their recent history of fraud and due to their world view, simply categorically prevent Obama from taking power? It’s not a theoretical question – it is a practical one – will the neo-cons and their allies try to prevent Obama from taking the Office of President or of moving into the White House? Or if he is to take office, will something occur in the interim at the hands of conservative zealots in government that disrupts the process?
Will there be a peaceful transfer of power if Barack Obama wins?
Is this such an outrageous question? Doesn’t it seem outrageous sitting here on a sunny day in a Southern California paradise? How can we even ask this question?
Just on the surface, this question seems ridiculous. Why, martial law would have to be imposed if somehow someone prevents Obama from taking office. Or if the election is stolen, and enough ripped-off people are awake and take action. But isn’t martial law bad for business? Seriously, the imposition of martial law or rule – military rule over civilian life – is not healthy for the everyday free market capitalist system. Literal and figurative blockades are set up, bringing commerce and credit to a halt. People couldn’t consume or work. That’s all bad for business, isn’t it?
Why would the ruling elites want marital law?
It could be used as a temporary measure, in order to bring a clamp-down on protests, dissent and liberties to install “stabilization” if civil unrest, riots, massive civil disobedience take place in response to a stolen election – or even, we need to add – to further meltdown of the economic and financial world. After-all, mass demonstrations, boycotts, continuing protests are also bad for business. What if demonstrators shut down Washington, DC, or New York City for that matter – again in response to the election or the economy – and government and commerce on the East Coast was significantly effected. The federal government would act. Especially with the neo-cons at the helm.
This point, however, begs the question: why would the government and the elites create a scenario where they know massive demonstrations would be the people’s response? Why would they intentionally upset the nation’s course, knowing they would then have to use massive displays of police and military to put down the subsequent protests? Of course, it gives the rulers the excuse to impose martial law – if that is their goal. Or maybe they’re playing a game of chicken with the rest of us. They keep upping the ante to see what we’ll do. And they’re banking that we do nothing. But if we do something, they’re ready for us – is this the scenario?
This takes us to the central question here about the peaceful transfer of power this time around – is it such an outrageous question?
It would be an outrageous question if there had never been any questions raised about the last transfers of power that involved the Bush administration. But questions remain about both the 2000 and the 2004 elections. In the 2000 one, a lot of evidence exists that demonstrates that the election was snatched out of the hands of Democrat Al Gore by a Republican-leaning Supreme Court. Al Gore won the popular vote by half a million votes, but in an unprecedented move in the modern era, the US Supreme Court took it upon themselves to deny him a recount, thus solidifying at least four years of Republican rule. A Court that was dominated by Republican appointees.
Over the last few years, there has been mounting evidence that points to the 2004 election being manipulated into a victory for Bush as well.
Questions raised about the 2004 election
Research here counters the claim that Bush’s ‘victory’ came from the big cities – because the numbers don’t add up. One researcher, Professor Mark Crispin Miller, claims John Kerry told him in 2005 that he – Kerry – believed that the 2004 election was stolen. See this. Prof. Miller was on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now show recently, and brought out the names of two conservative Republicans involved in computer and election fraud: Stephen Spoonamore and Mike Connell. Here’s a partial transcript:
AMY GOODMAN: Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media, culture and communication at New York University is our guest. … Who is Stephen Spoonamore?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Stephen Spoonamore is a conservative Republican, a former McCain supporter and, most importantly, a renowned and highly successful expert at the detection of computer fraud. That’s his profession. He works for major banks, … foreign governments, … the Secret Service. Those are his clients.
He knows personally the principal players in Bush-Cheney’s conspiracy to subvert our elections through electronic means since 2000, and he has named these principal players. Specifically, he has named a man named Mike Connell. Mike Connell, according to Spoonamore, is Karl Rove’s computer guru. This is the guy who has helped Bush-Cheney fix election results through computers since Florida 2000, in Ohio in 2004,….
AMY GOODMAN: How?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, basically, they use a kind of architecture that’s called Man in the Middle, and it involves shunting election returns data through a separate computer somewhere else. This is something that computer criminals do all the time with banks. Spoonamore explains that the Man in the Middle setup is extremely effective and basically undetectable as a way to change election results.
Miller explained that Mike Connell was instrumental in the fraudulent efforts of Bush-Cheney to steal the elections for the last eight years because he wanted to “save the babies,” that is he is a religious fanatic, who sees the majority as unbelievers because they’re pro-choice, and thus they’re corrupt, evil, and must be stopped. Miller is convinced the 2004 election was taken illegally.
AMY GOODMAN: You keep saying the election was clearly stolen in 2004. This is not a widely held belief. Why do you think more information is not known about this?
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Because the press and the Democratic Party have steadfastly refused simply to mention, much less discuss, the evidence.
AMY GOODMAN: You talked to John Kerry.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: I talked to John Kerry. …. On October 28th, 2005, we met. I gave him a copy of my book Fooled Again, and we discussed the last election, and he told me, with some vehemence, that he believed it was stolen.
AMY GOODMAN: In Ohio in 2004—and Ohio, key battleground state right now—
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: And we remember at Kenyon, for example, those long, long lines in 2004, people waiting for hours.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: When you talk about the computer setup for 2004, explain further.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: Well, what happened was, with the election results that were coming into Ken Blackwell’s website, right, in real time—
AMY GOODMAN: The former Secretary of State of Ohio.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: The former Secretary of State.
AMY GOODMAN: The former chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign there.
MARK CRISPIN MILLER: And co-chair of Bush-Cheney and a big-time election thief and an ardent theocrat, by the way. The election returns went basically from his website to another computer that was in a basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee, under the control of Spoonamore and a guy with another private company, another evangelical. The data was shunted through that computer and then back to the Secretary of State’s website.
Miller said that Spoonamore described this Man in the Middle setup as having only one purpose: fraud.
MILLER: “There’s no other reason to do it. And (Spoonamore) believes that such a system is still in place in Ohio, it’s in place in a number of other states. And the crucial fact to bear in mind here, since we’re talking about John McCain attacking ACORN and so on, is that Mike Connell is now working for John McCain.
Whether Miller has convinced us or not, genuine questions have been raised about the validity of the 2004 Presidential election. Most who cut to the left in the grand ideological divide believe the 2000 election was a nefarious affair, a disaster for democracy. Now these echos from 2004 remind us of the doubts of that election as well, but we’re not sure. So, let’s set the question of the 2004 election aside for the moment and ask another more general question.
What more important and significant powers and responsibilities does a government – a democratic government at that – have than to ensure the peaceful transfer of power and to wage war? An administration’s credibility involving both of these great responsibilities, then is subject to a judgment of its record. How else do you judge a government? You look at what it does, compare that to what it says, take an historical perspective, and come up with a reasonable judgment. Does the government have credibility?
Let’s look at this administration’s record of the great responsibility of the waging of war. To punish the perpetrators of the attacks of September 11, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to go after al-Qaeda – despite offers by the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden. In the process, the Taliban was removed from power – only temporarily as they currently close in around Kabul, the capital; Bin Laden got away; we install an oil executive – now called “the mayor of Kabul” – and then the U.S. invades Iraq. This is late 2008. By now it’s an historic fact – and widely believed – that this administration lied to the American people, to Congress, to the United Nations for its reasons that forced us to invade and occupy Iraq.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq, the shock and awe, and the subsequent blood bath, also gave us the horrors of Abu Ghriab, no-bid contracts to Halliburton and Blackwater, torture, Guantanamo prison, rendition, torture. And the source of all of this, the Bush administration, has also taken a toll on our domestic conditions: the spying and surveillance of ordinary citizens, the denial of habeas corpus, the firings of the US Attorneys, the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame in retaliation against her husband’s criticism, the politicization of the Justice Department and other apparatus of government – the list goes on and on – books have been written.
It’s a gross understatement to say that the record of the Bush Administration on the large questions of war and the transfer of power is not a positive one. It has an unbelievably outrageous record. Historians already count Bush as one of the worst American presidents in history. Talk is already mounting on how to undo much of what the Bush administration ushered into being with regards to our civil liberties and domestic life. George Bush’s ratings are at all time lows. To most of the nation, Bush and his advisers have lost their credibility. But they still have the reins of the executive in their hands. Cheney is still there. Karl Rove is just an email away.
Complicating the Scenario: the economy, voter manipulation and boots on the ground in America
So where does this put us? It puts us in a very uneasy place. Trying to not be overly paranoid and obsessed with Bush on one hand, with comforting thoughts that tell us the American experience and experiment wouldn’t end this way, that the American people will never allow any thing of the unspeakable to actually occur, that it can’t happen here. And then, on the other hand, looking at the Bush administration record – how has it handled itself on these great questions, the 2000 election, the war in Iraq – coupled with an accounting of the Bush attacks on our liberties at home, makes for the unease at this moment in history – the eve of the great 2008 election.
Ordinarily, we would dismiss these thoughts, these questions whether power will be transferred without a problem at election time. But these are not ordinary times. Bush is not your ordinary president. His administration has not done the ordinary things.
Current vote suppression efforts
Three other developments enhance the central question we’re examining: one, the rise of efforts to block or manipulate the 2008 election with machines, voter suppression, caging, and a host of other tactics that are currently ongoing. Thousands are facing mix-ups in their registration, early voting trends right now are showing voter intimidation and machine malfunctions, and the dangers of the GOP campaign to deter voters and discard Democratic ballots are real. The consequences may be devastating.
Troops stationed for domestic deployment
Two, the stationing of troops within America is another development. The blogosphere has been alive about the recent deployment of troops just back from Iraq. Their deployment for emergencies and disasters – natural and man-made – has raised all kinds of concern about the military being involved in domestic law enforcement, a violation of the Posse Comitatus and Insurrection Acts. And yet, curiously, the mainstream media haven’t even touched the issue. (See our earlier posts, go here.)
Generally, the Posse Comitatus Act, passed in 1878, prohibits the use of American federal troops to be used domestically for law enforcement purposes. The Act, even though it had a dubious origin, did reflect a longstanding American fear of standing armies – at least as long as they’re not standing in our country, from Revolutionary War days to the present. Plus it stood for another long-standing principle: civilian control of the military.
Yet, over the decades, it has been weakened by Presidents who have wanted to expand their Executive powers. Just recently, in the wake of Katrina, President Bush at first was successful in dismantling key provisions of the Act which would have allowed him to exert more authority in ordering out the troops for hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and unruly protesters. Just this year the language Bush had put in giving him more authority in overcoming the Posse Comitatus Act was repealed. But through one of his famous signing statements, he asserted that he may choose not to abide by the new language- which means, if he so wishes, he can ignore prohibitions on his power to install the military over civilian authorities.
But why do we even care? So what if the troops are around to help out local police who may be overwhelmed by emergencies, natural or “man-made”? The military has the capabilities, technology, know-how, and supplies for emergency operations, why not use them? If we can pay the low wages of the grunts instead of all the overtime and benefits and pensions that civilian cops and professional first responders get and still have the laws enforced and emergencies resolved, isn’t that cheaper and better?
First, we are not talking about troops being used for emergencies and natural disasters, floods, earthquakes, fires. That role for the military is not prohibited by the Posse Comitatus Act. What we are concerned with is the use of federal troops for law enforcement purposes and operations.
Soldiers are soldiers and cops are cops. Soldiers, troops, are trained to kill the enemy. Cops enforce the laws. Soldiering is a lot different than law enforcement, as cops make arrests, do searches and seizures, stop and frisks, resolve problems, knock on doors and go to homes, deal with traffic accidents. Soldiers seek out and kill the enemy. It is two different sets of “skills”. The brigade that is now stationed to be deployed in America is fresh off the battle ground, the killing fields and alleys of Iraq.
More fundamentally, however, is the concept of civilian control of the military. The separation of civilian and military authorities has been a bedrock of our American democratic leanings. And the use of the military for law enforcement is a hallmark of a military dictatorship. Thus, the Posse Comitatus Act embodies the tradition of the civilian authority over the military.
Mainstream media blackout on troop deployment
One of the more frustrating parts of this development is the mainstream media blackout of this news. The corporate media for some reason does not want the American people to know about the stationing of this combat brigade for domestic purposes. Also, we have to ask, why is the Army now backtracking on what the purpose of the deployed unit is, denying its training in non-lethal weapons has anything to do with its domestic mission. (Actually there is one brief mainstream report – by Larry Shaughnessy, a CNN Pentagon producer, who did a report on October 3rd – go here for the article.)
Economic meltdown ratchets up social tension
The third development to affect our electoral scenario, of course, is the financial and economic meltdown that October has brought us. Is this the dreaded ‘October Surprise’? The fall of Wall Street, and the credit and housing crises with the growing lists of corporations laying off thousands of people, with foreclosures and lost pensions turning the American dream into a nightmare – all adds to the historic moment this country is going through, and helps to ratchet up the social tension and anxiety. How does this affect the peaceful transfer of power? If the meltdown throws people out into the streets without homes or jobs, something will crack. The social fabric will rip and social discontent will be expressed.
Despite these developments, America has strong institutions, doesn’t it, that will withstand any termination – temporary or not – of civil government. First, it has the other branches of government – Congress and the Supreme Court – that would stand in the way of any militarily imposed closing of American society. Plus, very importantly, we have a free press that would guard our liberties and way of life.
There is no way that George Bush and the neo-cons can impose their will on us and set up a police state. It just won’t happen. If it did, our allies and the international community of nations would strongly condemn it. Some may even boycott American goods and credit. We would become the Pariah of the globe.
Millions will be voting for Obama – the safety value
Not only that – look at the massive numbers of people who come out to Obama rallies; 100,000 in St. Louis, 75,000 in Kansas City – all very recently ago. And think of all the millions that will be voting for him. Think of the generals, the admirals, Colin Powell, the soldiers, the police officers, the judges, the prosecutors, – think of all the people who man the barricades of civil society and who run the military who will be voting for Barack Obama. So, besides the institutions, we have the people who make up these institutions who support Obama, and they will be the ones who won’t allow a clamp down on the rest of us civilians. These are comforting thoughts. The millions who vote for Obama will be the safety value to any marshalling of the military on our streets.
They better be, for there is a counter trend that produces discomforting thoughts.
Bush’s America in a ‘fascist shift’
The counter trend is that the Bush Administration has been busy taking all those steps that author Naomi Wolf has outlined in her timely book, “The End of America”, steps that regimes shifting into fascism take as they close their societies down: restrictions on the press, secret prisons, criminalization of dissent, surveillance, external threats, subversion of law, etc. (See our review of her book “The End of America” here. Go here for her website MyAmericaProject.com and video.)
This is the Administration that deceived the American people as it drove the war machine forward to Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction became the Tonkin Gulf of this generation. Both were lies to get the American people to support wars. These were the people that planned to fire all of the US Attorney Generals around the country and stock their offices with loyal foot soldiers of the neocon agenda. Just exactly what did they plan to do with these attorney generals? This is just some of the basic stuff this administration has done. This is not the place to go through each of the steps, but if you understand and essentially agree with Wolf’s points that Bush’s America is well on its way to completing them – although not having completed them yet, then you agree with her that America is right now in what she calls a ‘fascist shift.’ (If you haven’t read her, and can’t agree with her premise, I suggest you check her book/ video out.)
These are exciting and dangerous times. As we stand on the verge of a new era of liberalism with Obama as captain of the ship of state, we also could very well be tittering on the edge of a Bush-inspired fascist shift. Obama could usher in a new age of humanitarianism where progressives and liberties flourish. (Progressives and radicals do much better under liberal regimes than they do under repressive ones.)
Yet, as we look over our shoulder, we see an ugly scenario – a reality we have to admit exists. George Bush and his neo-cons still run the country. Their record on the great responsibilities of waging war and the peaceful transfer of power is one of the worst in history. They have lost all credibility and it looks like they will be swept from office very soon.
Will they go peacefully and quietly? The bad news is that in looking at all that they have accomplished and undone, these people, these neo-cons have been planning from the get-go a much more permanent presence on the American political landscape than what they have squeezed out of us over these past eight years. It’s like the Baghdad American embassy – built to last a long time.
Are they about to give up their power?
There are many disquieting factors surrounding us. We must be vigilant and prepared to act if necessary if the last vestiges of our democracy go down the drain before our eyes. It may very well be the time to make contingency plans.
Despite all of this, there are many more of us than them, and this factor alone may be the deciding and saving element in the exciting and dangerous electoral scenario that confronts us right now. We must keep our eyes and ears open. History is upon us. It is up to us, in the end, to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, unless the election is stolen, and then all bets are off.