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Harvard Square Observer: Democracy & Arrogance

Ernest Cassara

"In light of President Bush's decision not to seek federal warrants before engaging in domestic wiretapping, a reader passed along the following quote from a 1934 speech by Adolf Hitler: 'If anyone reproaches me and asks why I did not resort to the regular courts of justice, then all I can say is this: In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I became supreme judge of the German people.'" - The Christian Century, February 2, 2006. P. 7, citing as the source of the quotation William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

Thanks to our former editorial colleague, Larry Hamby, for sending this along. It is timely, since I was planning to follow up last week's column, "Democracy & Hypocrisy," with the heading above.

President Bush has an odd understanding of the role of the U.S. in the world, as we saw and heard in his State of the Union Address.  He claimed it is our job to overcome tyranny around the world.  Where, one might ask, is that mentioned in the U.S. Constitution?  Of course, it is found nowhere in our prized charter.  Indeed, from the time of George Washington's Farewell Address, we have been advised to mind our own business.  John Quincy Adams, when Secretary of State, warned us not to go off looking for dragons to slay.

The U.S. administration, not having learned its lesson from the disaster in Iraq, is now threatening Iran over its nuclear policy.  The rest of the world recognizes the hypocrisy in this matter, since we are very sanguine about Israel having atomic weapons.  But, of course, it is claimed that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and is our buddy - a buddy who gets between 3 and 4 billion dollars from the U.S. Treasury every year - so we are to assume it is okay for them to have what we forbid to others.

I find it difficult to get upset over Iran, since I am not suffering, as our administration is, from historical amnesia.  I am old enough to remember what American reporters are not aware of - since they do not study history - that the U.S. and the British overthrew the duly elected Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, and imposed the tyrant Mohammed Reza Pahlavi on the long-suffering Iranians.  It was during the presidency of Jimmy Carter that, being fed up, the Iranians overthrew the Shah, leading to the hostage crisis, the hostages being American embassy personnel.  Ayatollah Khomeini, then, became the arch foe of the Americans.

Our government never learns to mind its own business.  From its boycott of Cuba over all of these years, the U.S. preferring Fulgencio Batista, a right wing dictator  to the left wing dictator Fidel Castro, who overthrew him.  Now, the administration would dearly love to overthrow the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia, since they are inclined to tell President Bush to go to hell and stop interfering in their affairs.

According to Mr. Bush, we are engaged in a "war on terror."  I am happy to see that folks are beginning to challenge that terminology, but, have not yet come up with a phrase that covers the situation. The advantage to Bush and his henchmen, of course, is that the "war on terror" is so indefinable that no one will ever know when it is concluded, and his crowd can attempt to stay in power over the years to come.

Speaking of henchmen, it was instructive to see Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.  Chairman Arlen Specter, despite the desire of the Democratic ranking member, Senator Patrick Leahy, refused to swear him in.  In this he was supported by a party-line vote.

Probably just as well for Gonzales.  As I have remarked before, he is a kept man, from the days that he served Governor Bush in Texas to the days as legal counsel in the White House, to his job as Attorney General.  There are some who will never forgive him for making light of the Geneva Conventions against torture - you recall he called them "quaint," he justifying torture.  There is no outrage by his old patron that he will not defend.  Now, he is defending spying on American citizens, with wiretaps, etc.

Tote up the offenses of this administration, and then we will understand why our position in the world has plummeted into the mud…

  • Abu Ghraib
  • Guantánamo
  • Rendition
  • Secret prisons
  • Lies re Saddam Hussein and WMD
  • American citizens held as "enemy combatants," and denied counsel

Have I forgotten anything?




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