more after the flip
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.