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War is one of the most powerful sociological forces humanity faces.  It is a large consumption of resources; it is a high demand for the machines of war; it is a time of expected sacrifice and restriction.  It is a crucible that throughout history has reshaped entire cultures:  funerary traditions in Britain after World War I, metropolitan diversity in the wake of WWII, violent social unrest to coincide with Vietnam.  All of these represent fundamental shifts in society attributable only to their proximity to "great" wars.

more after the flip

Now let me take a moment to say that whenever that is a war there are two distinct narratives.  There is the narrative of the soldier, who places him- or herself in the theater of battle as proxy for the civilians who watch from afar.  The civilians, in turn, are expected to sacrifice for the effort to make sure the soldiers (proxies) have all that they need.  This is a moment of great social symbiosis and oftentimes opens doors for executive abuse.

We saw it of the one termed our "greatest President" when Lincoln suspended habeas corpus.  Adams rammed through the Sedition Act.  Even the great progressive hero FDR subjected the Japanese to interment.  It seems that no matter where you turn in our history you will find great men and leaders who have used the narrative of war to exert powers later found to be contradictory to the American experiment.

What then, I ask, can you expect from the less than great men in the current executive?  Especially when the root of their ideology is to replicate the Cold War only a few degrees warmer; when they're convinced we're the sort of country that needs a war?

The entire current method of executive expansion rests on the assertion of a state of war in America.  The President has referred to himself as Commander-in-Chief regularly and seems more attracted to that role than that of President.  He has repeatedly told us that this war on terrorism will last our entire lives. There are bumper stickers and constant comments about "them".  The truth, of course, is that this war--unlike any other in so many ways--is more and more seeming like the opening salvo of a full scale American revolution.

Almost from September 12th, 2001 the entire war on terrorism has not focused on enemies external to our borders, but instead on the way that the context with America has changed.  The moment of tremendous unity that marked those days represented the crucible of war to neo-con dreamers.  The vulnerability and sorrow we all felt was exploited and for five years now we've lived with that rhetoric.  But it was tremendously successful in a lot of ways and by no means should be understand as without precedent.

World War I wrought a sudden and dramatic change in Britain.  The Victorian mourning rituals were so elaborate that they could not accommodate the number killed in World War I.  The traditions were already being judged as too costly and superfluous.  So the temperament was perfect for a great societal shift when the number of dead increased because of World War I.  Parents who buried their own parents before the war would have had different rituals for the son or daughter they lost because of the war.  This societal retexturing exists only because of the fruits of war.

The war changed the nation and there are those, I believe, in Washington who learned well that history lesson.  They also would have seen what World War II did to the American landscape.  Industrialization exploded and a nation united for a purpose.  American sentiment was stoked to unimaginable levels and the world that came out of those fires bore little resemblance to the world of December 6th, 1942.  The same is more easily remembered about Vietnam and its effect on politics, culture and history.

These wars changed the world in ways that are directly attributable to the war.  But they also changed the world in ways no one could have foreseen.  The displacement of men and women from the interior to the edges of the country facilitated the escape from rural life for many a homosexual man and woman.  This would never be claimed as an architected or foreseen development of World War II, but it laid the foundation for the GLBT movement that survives even to this day.

And now we turn attention to our modern dilemma.  Our executive has used its never-overturned powers of executive orders to neuter the legislative branch of our government.  This has been in no short order facilitated by a Congress that is supine at best when it comes to the obligation of meaningful oversight.  Only six members of the Congress were informed of the President's secret spying program; not a one of these exceptionally seasoned and high ranking members of Congress was privileged by the Executive to reveal the substance of this program to anyone.  There was no means of analysis; there was no sufficient or independent explanation; there was no real dialogue.

The Executive acted unilaterally in direct opposition to the barest spirit and expectations of the Constitution.

When confronted with this easily grasped fact the executive has turned to the canard of war time powers.  The immediate defense was that the President was operating within the authority granted him by the AUMF in the days after 9/11.  Every Senator on record has refuted that notion, but the executive has made no sign that it will end the program.  They continue to say the program is important to our defense and that there are many who do not understand that this is a time of war.

War is the mantra.  The beat of the jackboot, if you are so inclined.  John Yoo and Albert Gonzales write contorted legal theory in an attempt to stretch the Constitution around what their masters have done.  Dick Cheney wants basic human rights and previously agreed to Conventions to be shredded in the name of war time intelligence gathering.  Political architect Rove wants to thrust fear into the lives of Americans by making national security a central theme of the upcoming election.  The emperor-in-Chief sits on top of it all doing whatever it is that he does.  The entire apparatus is concerned with the war and how that war can be used to reshape American values.

The Project for a New American Century and the neo-cons that subscribe to it now control the levers of the greatest democracy in the world.  But that is not enough, because the struggle has gone beyond political ideology now.  There is a hopeful revolution occurring incrementally and revolutions are not about politics.  They are about war.  They are about the crucible and the reshaping of society on fundamental levels.  We have seen it in education, separation of church and state, international obligations, and we will see more until there is a counter-shift.

I believe that counter-shift started years ago in places like this.  There is an upward motion to our cause while a majority of Americans now regret the war.  The moment is ours for the grasping but we have to do it now.  

I hate to sound alarmist, but I will leave you with this:   the elements that have overtaken the once respectable Republican Party are not interested in half measures or partial societal alignment.  This gamble was not for a compromise.  You see it in the declarations of DeLay and Abramhof when they talk about wanting to destroy the Democratic party.  They will have a war and they will have a crucible so long as they have a majority.  We thus must, in the end, be ready to be warriors.

Originally posted to electricgrendel on Sun Jan 22, 2006 at 01:45 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips or Spit? (none)
    Comments, suggestions, thoughts? :)

    How do you eat an elephant? A piece at a time.

    by electricgrendel on Sun Jan 22, 2006 at 02:34:50 PM PST

  •  War Pres (none)
    As long as "war" gives more power to the Pres then we must be sure that we have a President we can trust.   This power is the only reason I can think of that we were misled into Iraq.  He did go after the wrong bad guy proved every time the "terror alert" changed color.  Since war is terror, how can you have a war on it?  I don't trust Bush and I don't like the way he has spent the wealth of this country on death and destruction in Iraq supposedly for their own good. I am ashamed of this.  He does not even acknowledge the true number of innocent killed and wounded.  We have plenty of needy poor in this country.  I love my country, I believe in God, I support our troops. Not Bush or his war.
  •  When the NSA story broke... (none)
    Bush said the NY Times was giving comfort and aid to the "enemy."  His bankrupt logic was that the terrorists did not know about wiretapping.  It was a tactic that the enemy could never have known about.

    Unfortunately for Bush, the FISA predated his rise to emperor.  The entire world has known the president can spy on citizens.  Such a bold lie and perversion of "national secrets" reveals a much more sinister agenda.

    What I think will inevitably happen is the constitutional crisis will split the branches of the government apart, leaving them in deadlock.  The president will then devise some sort of "crisis management" mode.

    Those surrounding Bush (Cheney) know full well the fragility of government when faced with an internal crisis combined with an infinite war.  To start such a campaign should be tantamount to an attack on the government itself.

    I do not think we will ever recover our liberty from this nasty state we are in.  The Iraq war alone is going to put a strain on us that is inescapable.  To be sure, nothing of significance will happen in terms of leaving Iraq this summer as promised.  The decay of their national unity will continue, as well as any prospect of a democratic Iraq.  To think that we will just leave without keeping a military base, keeping control over the oil, or with an Iran-aligned regime in place is foolish.  The conflict with Iran only complicates things and, if escalates, is likely to be the very end game.

    What's interesting is Cheney's recent denial that Iran has anything to do with al-Qaida.  An odd reversal coming from him, I think.  Just maybe they are trying to turn the ship around.  But I doubt it.  It seems they are actively trying to disconnect the run up to Iraq war to this run up to a war with Iran.  Perhaps to catch Iran by surprise, while at the same time providing a trail of diplomacy breakdowns at the UN for later spin and revisionist purposes...

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