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Posts tagged Dick Cheney

April Fools

Quick review.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld, and several other senior government officials in the U.S. and U.K. told us that Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq had large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. They told us that they were actively trying to find nuclear weapons. They told us that they had connections with the al-Qaeda terrorist network, and that therefore Iraq posed an imminent threat to the security of the United States. Therefore pre-emptive war was necessary, and nothing short of regime change would do.

photo: Dick Cheney

They lied. When Ambassador Joe Wilson told them that their evidence for claiming that Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire nuclear weapons was a forgery, they kept citing that completely spurious, forged evidence in public statements. When the U.S. intelligence apparatus was not giving the answers that they needed to justify their policy, they didn’t change the policy; they set up a new intelligence office to give them the answers they wanted. Questions were left unasked and intelligence was cherry-picked and sexed-up and those who offered cautious, qualified, or dissenting views were were marginalized by the
gang at the top and their political appointees at the top of the intelligence agencies
. Needless to say, the caveats and doubts were completely erased in the governments’ public declarations and policy statements. Mysteriously enough, somehow or another, the attitudes of the mad-dog bosses at the top created an environment where groupthink flourished and even though the intelligence community was inundated with evidence that undermined virtually all charges it had made against Iraq (Washington Post 2005-03-31), not one word of this evidence made it past the policy gate-keepers in the President’s cabinet. In other words, they had a goal, they looked for evidence to support that goal, and when they did not find good evidence they repeated evidence that they were informed repeatedly ahead of time was questionable or completely spurious evidence, and they shamelessly bowdlerized the data to in order to hide these opportunities for doubt and hype their war.

And it turns out that what they claimed on nearly every point was false.

photo: Donald Rumsfeld

Iraq had no stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

Iraq had no connections with al-Qaeda.

Iraq was not any threat to the United States whatsoever.

Or to put it another way: they lied through their fucking teeth and, as a result, some 10,000-100,000 Iraqi civilians were murdered, thousands more were brutalized and tortured, and over 1,500 British and American troops have died in a rudderless, pointless bloodbath.

Dead wrong indeed. You fucking assholes.

Now that the latest report on intelligence failures–even while piously avoiding unauthorized inquiries into questions concerning the political use of intelligence in driving war policy, of course–has reiterated these sorry facts yet again, it seems that our august media and government officials are finally turning to serious questions of responsibility and policy, to make sure that something like this never happens again.

For example, The New York Times’ Op-Ed page indignantly blasts the Administration for encouraging the credulous use of shaky testimony from unscrupulous interested parties.

Meanwhile, Kit Bond tells us it’s all Bill Clinton’s fault..

And the commission’s report and Bond and the rest of the blowhard brigade have got an answer. Here it is:

The commission’s report said the principal cause of the intelligence failures was the intelligence community’s inability to collect good information about Iraq’s WMD programs, serious errors in analyzing what information it could gather and a failure to make clear just how much of its analysis was based on assumptions rather than good evidence.

The single most prominent recurring theme of its recommendations is stronger and more centralized management of the intelligence community, and, in general, the creation of a genuinely integrated community, instead of a loose confederation of independent agencies.

The panel urged Bush to give broad authority to John Negroponte when he is confirmed as the director of national intelligence.

— CNN 2005-04-01: Report: Iraq intelligence ‘dead wrong’

The problem, you see, is how decentralized intelligence-gathering in the United States is. We’ve got to make sure in the future that we can avoid the politically-driven manipulation of data, that we can prevent dissenting or cautious assessments from being filtered out by hard-charging bosses, that decision-makers get all the information and analysis that they need to make a balanced assessment. And the best way in the world to do this is to consolidate and centralize as much of the intelligence apparatus in the United States government as possible.

photo: George W. Bush

Because nothing ensures a wide range of opinion and the integrity of data like making sure that it’s all filtered through a single directorate before it reaches decision-makers.

A single directorate under the control of one all-powerful political appointee, who answers directly to the President.

And that one political appointee should be John Negroponte.

All of this would be really depressing. I’m just glad that it’s nothing more than one sick fucking April Fools’ joke.

Right?

In Their Own Words, The Anniversary edition

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

Jus ad bello

Like Judas of old,
you lie and deceive
A world war can be won
you want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

Senator Bob Smith (R-NH), Republican Party fund-raiser, 12 April 2002:

Why don’t we just take his oil? Smith bellowed to the crowd during a fiery 13-minute speech, referring to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Why buy it? Take it!

President George W. Bush, speech before the United Nations General Assembly, 12 September 2002:

He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations, and for all his pledges. By breaking every pledge — by his deceptions, and by his cruelties — Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.

In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge.

From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons. After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs, and aircraft spray tanks. U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons. Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

United Nations’ inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence.

Perry G. Smith, guest column for the Opelika-Auburn News, 27 February 2003:

The editorial board asked these questions:

  1. How can we start a war with Iraq while waging a war against terrorists all over the place?

  2. Would the battlefront be too much to manage?

  3. Might al-Qaida appreciate us going into Iraq?

  4. If we attack Iraq, will we be more vulnerable to terrorists?

It’s too bad those people whom we elected to make decisions about those questions for us (President Bush, Vice President Chaney [sic] and our Republican-controlled Congress) and our nation’s National Security advisers and military leaders don’t include the [Opelika-Auburn News] on every little aspect of their planning. Our smart leaders use intelligence that is gathered by very sophisticated sources in their decision-making process. Disclosure of our secret intelligence and plans (necessarily the answers to your questions) to the liberally biased news media usually gets the people who gave the information on which we based our decisions killed or stops any further disclosure of information to our sources. I believe that our leaders have made a full assessment of those and other questions and the best courses of action have been decided upon for the best interest of our nation. All of us should fall in behind our president and whole-heartedly support him and our committed military personnel now.

Saddam needs to disarm now. If he does not, this superpower intends to make him. I personally believe that this conflict will be over more quickly than Desert Storm and with even fewer U.S. casualties.

Jus in bello

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

George W. Bush, 20 January 2002:

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, … do hereby proclaim Sunday, January 20, 2002, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon all Americans to reflect upon the sanctity of human life. Let us recognize the day with appropriate ceremonies in our homes and places of worship, rededicate ourselves to compassionate service on behalf of the weak and defenseless, and reaffirm our commitment to respect the life and dignity of every human being.

Alberto Gonzales, memo to George W. Bush, 23 January 2002:

Positives

The consequences of a decision to adhere to what I understood to be your earlier determination that the GPW does not apply to the Taliban include the following:

  • Substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the the War Crimes Act (18 U.S.C. 2441). ** That statute, enacted in 1996 prohibits the commission of a war crime by or against a U.S. person, including U.S. officials. War crime for these purposes is defined to include any grave breach of GPW or any violation of common Article 3 thereof (such as outrages against personal dignity). Some of these provisions apply (if the GPW applies) regardless of whether the individual being detained qualifies as a POW. Punishments for violations of Section 2441 include the death penalty. A determination that the GPW is not applicable to the Taliban would mean that Section 2441 would not apply to actions taken with respect to the Taliban.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, meeting with troops in Qatar, 28 April 2003:

And there have not been large numbers of civilian casualties because the coalition took such great care to protect the lives of innocent civilians as well as holy sites. … When the dust is settled in Iraq, military historians will study this war. They’ll examine the unprecedented combination of power, precision, speed, flexibility and, I would add also, compassion that was employed.

General Tommy Franks, Bagram Air Force Base, 19 March 2002:

I don’t believe you have heard me or anyone else in our leadership talk about the presence of 1,000 bodies out there, or in fact how many have been recovered. You know we don’t do body counts.

Donald Rumsfeld, interview on FOX News Sunday, 9 November 2003:

Well, we don’t do body counts …

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, interview with BBC Today, 18 May 2004:

Q: How many people, Iraqi people, have been killed during the occupation? Do you have a figure or don’t you?

A: … And I gave answers to a Parliamentary Question on this. I went into it in a great deal of detail. We’ve made use of NGO estimates, and others, but the last estimate which I gave in answer to a Parliamentary Question, and I speak from recollection but I’m happy to have this checked, was about ten thousand.

Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press, 7 September 2004:

A spike in fighting with Sunni and Shiite insurgents killed eight Americans in the Baghdad area on Tuesday and Wednesday, pushing the count to 1,003. That number includes 1,000 U.S. troops and three civilians, two working for the U.S. Army and one for the Air Force. The tally was compiled by The Associated Press based on Pentagon records and AP reporting from Iraq.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cited progress on multiple fronts in the Bush administration’s global war on terrorism and said U.S. enemies should not underestimate the willingness of the American people and its coalition allies to suffer casualties in Iraq and elsewhere.

Dr. Les Roberts, 29 October 2004:

Making conservative assumptions we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more, have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most of the violent deaths.

James Massey, interview on Democracy Now!, 24 May 2004:

Iraq violated every rule of engagement that I have ever been taught – violated every rule of the Geneva Convention that I have been taught.

Adam Gorlick, Associated Press, 16 October 2004:

Depression set in, and Jeff dealt with it by going on heavy drinking binges. On Christmas Eve, he sat down with Debbie and gave his first account of being told to shoot two unarmed Iraqi soldiers.

The way he told the story, Jeff was about five feet away from two Iraqis — each about his own age — when he was ordered to shoot them. He said he looked them in their eyes before closing his own, then pulled the trigger.

He took off two dog tags around his neck, threw them at me and said, Don’t you understand? Your brother is a murderer, Debbie said.

Doug Struck, Washington Post, 7 December 2004:

A former U.S. Marine staff sergeant testified at a hearing Tuesday that his unit killed at least 30 unarmed civilians in Iraq during the war in 2003 and that Marines routinely shot and killed wounded Iraqis.

Jimmy J. Massey, a 12-year veteran, said he left Iraq in May 2003 after a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress. He said he and his men shot and killed four Iraqis staging a demonstration and a man with his hands up trying to surrender, as well as women and children at roadblocks. Massey said he had complained to his superiors about the killing of innocent civilians, but that nothing was done.

U.S.-appointed Iraqi Defence Minister Sheikh Hazem Shalaam, 9 November 2004:

We’ve called it Operation Dawn. God willing, it’s going to be a new, happy dawn for the people of Falluja.

U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, 9 November 2004:

There is no confusion, if you’re on the street, you’re a bad guy. Ninety per cent of the civilian population has left

Rory McCarthy and Peter Beaumont, The Guardian:

The moves came amid renewed warnings from aid groups that Iraq’s civilian population was facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Although many of Falluja’s 200,000 to 300,000 residents fled the city before the assault, between 30,000 and 50,000 are believed to have remained during the fighting.

The horrific conditions for those who remained in the city have begun to emerge in the last 24 hours as it became clear that US military claims of precision targeting of insurgent positions were false.

According to one Iraqi journalist who left Falluja on Friday, some of the civilian injuries were caused by the massive firepower directed on to city neighbourhoods during the battle.

If the fighters fire a mortar, US forces respond with huge force, said the journalist, who asked not to be named.

The city had been without power or water for days. Frozen food had spoiled and people could not charge their cellphones. Some people hadn’t prepared well. They didn’t stock up on tinned food. They didn’t think it would be this bad, he said.

At the main hospital, cut off from the rest of the city, doctors have reportedly been treating the injured with nothing but bandages, while the Red Crescent says people have been bleeding to death for lack of medical attention.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, meeting with troops in Qatar, 28 April 2003:

Q: Hi, Mr. Secretary. I’m Sergeant Cramer (ph) from the 502nd (Transit ?), and I was just curious to know whether or not you’ve been bombarded with apologetic phonecalls from your critics who had perceived a doom and gloom scenario.

(Applause; cheers.)

Rumsfeld: My answer’s off the record. (Laughter.) There were a lot of hand-wringers around, weren’t there? (Laughter; applause.) You know, during World War II, I think Winston Churchill was talking about the Battle of Britain, and he said, Never have so many owed so much to so few. A humorist in Washington the other day sent me a note paraphrasing that, and he said, Never have so many been so wrong about so much. (Laughter; applause.)

Jus post bellum

How much do I know
to talk out of turn?
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Thought I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never forgive what you do

George W. Bush, remarks to reporters, 3 May 2003:

We’ll find them [Weapons of Mass Destruction]. It’ll be a matter of time to do so

George W. Bush, interview with TVP Poland, 30 May 2003:

But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 10 February 2004

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he did not recall British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s pre-war claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction ready to be deployed in 45 minutes.

I don’t remember the statement being made, to be perfectly honest, Rumsfeld told a Pentagon news conference.

General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he didn’t remember the statement either.

The claim made headlines around the world after Blair leveled it in a 55-page white paper presented to the House of Commons in September 2002.

Paul Bremer, Coalition Provisional Authority, 2 September 2003:

The Iraqi people are now free. And they do not have to worry about the secret police coming after them in the middle of the night, and they don’t have to worry about their husbands and brothers being taken off and shot, or their wives being taken to rape rooms. Those days are over.

George W. Bush, press availability in Monterrey, Mexico, 12 January 2004:

One thing is for certain: There won’t be any more mass graves and torture rooms and rape rooms.

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, report to Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, 11 March 2004:

On 19 January 2004, Lieutenant General (LTG) Ricardo S. Sanchez, Commander, Combined Joint Task Force Seven (CJTF-7) requested that the Commander, US Central Command, appoint an Investigating Officer (IO) in the grade of Major General (MG) or above to investigate the conduct of operations within the 800th Military Police (MP) Brigade. LTG Sanchez requested an investigation of detention and internment operations by the Brigade from 1 November 2003 to present. LTG Sanchez cited recent reports of detainee abuse.

I find that the intentional abuse of detainees by military police personnel included the following acts: (a) Punching, slapping, and kicking detainees; jumping on their naked feet; (b) Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees; (c) Forcibly arranging detainees in various sexually explicit positions for photographing; (d) Forcing detainees to remove their clothing and keeping them naked for several days at a time; (e) Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear; (f) Forcing groups of male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped; (g) Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them; (h) Positioning a naked detainee on a MRE Box, with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes, and penis to simulate electric torture; (i) Writing I am a Rapest (sic) on the leg of a detainee alleged to have forcibly raped a 15-year old fellow detainee, and then photographing him naked; (j) Placing a dog chain or strap around a naked detainee’s neck and having a female Soldier pose for a picture; (k) A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee; (l) Using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees, and in at least one case biting and severely injuring a detainee; (m) Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees. … These findings are amply supported by written confessions provided by several of the suspects, written statements provided by detainees, and witness statements.

Several US Army Soldiers have committed egregious acts and grave breaches of international law at Abu Ghraib/BCCF and Camp Bucca, Iraq. Furthermore, key senior leaders in both the 800th MP Brigade and the 205th MI Brigade failed to comply with established regulations, policies, and command directives in preventing detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) and at Camp Bucca during the period August 2003 to February 2004.

Then-National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, CBS Early Show, 19 March 2004:

There are no more rape rooms and torture chambers in Iraq.

George W. Bush, remarks on the first anniversary of the Iraq War, 19 March 2004:

All of us can now agree that the fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression and instability in the Middle East. … Who would prefer that Saddam’s torture chambers still be open? Who would wish that more mass graves were still being filled? Who would begrudge the Iraqi people their long-awaited liberation?

George W. Bush, interview with Al-Arabiya Television, 5 May 2004:

It’s very important for people, your listeners, to understand in our country that when an issue is brought to our attention on this magnitude, we act–and we act in a way where leaders are willing to discuss it with the media. And we act in a way where, you know, our Congress asks pointed questions to the leadership. … Iraq was a unique situation because Saddam Hussein had constantly defied the world and had threatened his neighbors, had used weapons of mass destruction, had terrorist ties, had torture chambers …

George W. Bush, Presidential radio address on the second anniversary of the Iraq War, 19 March 2005:

Good morning. On this day two years ago, we launched Operation Iraqi Freedom to disarm a brutal regime, free its people, and defend the world from a grave danger.

Et cognoscetis veritatem

Let me ask you one question.
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness?
Do you think that it could?
I think you will find
when your death takes its toll
all the money you made
will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I’ll follow your casket
in the pale afternoon
I’ll watch while you’re lowered
down to your death-bed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead

White ribbon, for an end to violence

IN MEMORIAM.

The Spitting Image, His Secret Identity Revealed edition

I’ve mentioned before how much I love the Internet’s resources for cheap political mockery, and I thought that I had Dick Hordak Cheney all figured out. But the following amazing snapshot, nabbed from Rox’s Write Your Own Caption #79, makes me think I had it all wrong. Yes, it’s hard to avoid the resemblence between ol’ Dick and the ruthless leader of the Evil Horde, but in light of the recent photographic evidence, there is one undeniable question that must be asked:

photo: Dick Cheney smiles photo: Jack Nicholson as The Joker in Warner Brothers' Batman (1989)

Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?

Strict Construction

During the late unpleasantness, in spite of a sharply divided electorate and sharply worded debate, there was one point of agreement that you could always count on. To illustrate, here’s George Bush, trying to lay the smack down on Kerry:

When our country is in danger, it is not the job of the president to take an international poll; it’s to defend our country.

And here’s John Kerry doing his best to sidestep the smack down by insisting that he agrees with Bush on the principle:

What I said in the sentence preceding that was, I will never cede America’s security to any institution or any other country. No one gets a veto over our security. No one.

Of course, Bush and Kerry disagree over something here: they disagree over what Kerry’s position is. But of course that disagreement reveals a fundamental agreement between the two: both of them accept the underlying premise that it would be absolutely damning for a Presidential candidate to tie decision-making about when and where the American military is deployed to another country or an international body. In fact, this is a point of political dogma repeated endlessly by almost everyone who has anything at all to say about the matter. Here’s William Saletan in Slate:

It’s clear from Kerry’s first sentence that the “global test” doesn’t prevent unilateral action to protect ourselves. But notice what else Kerry says. The test includes convincing “your countrymen” that your reasons are clear and sound.

And here’s Dick Cheney, direct as ever:

We heard Senator Kerry say the other night that there ought to be some kind of global test before U.S. troops are deployed preemptively to protect the United States. That’s part of a track record that goes back to the 1970s when he ran for Congress the first time and said troops should not be deployed without U.N. approval.

Now, I think that the Right is obviously wrong on the exegetical question of what Kerry actually said and believes, but I won’t belabor the point here (if you want it belabored, I suggest Roderick’s discussion at Austro-Athenian Empire). Let’s take it for granted that neither Bush nor Kerry would give another country a veto over American security policy, and move on to the critical question: do they have legitimate grounds for refusing to do so?

You’d take it from the way the debate has gone that it’s self-evident that they do: everyone in the droning classes seems to take it for granted that no sane governor could reasonably think that you ought to give other countries a veto over American security policy. Yet both Bush and Kerry were running for President–an office whose legal authority is supposed to derive from the Constitution of the United States. And the Constitution (which you swear to uphold when you become President) says, inter alia, that

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding. (Article VI, emphasis added)

One of those treaties made under the authority of the United States is the Charter of the United Nations, which was ratified by the United States government in 1945. If you accept the Constitution as legally binding, then you have to accept the provisions of the United Nations charter as legally binding; and among those provisions are:

Article 2

§ 2. All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them in accordance with the present Charter.

§ 3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

§ 4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Article 33

§ 1. The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.

§ 2. The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their dispute by such means.

Article 39

The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Article 40

In order to prevent an aggravation of the situation, the Security Council may, before making the recommendations or deciding upon the measures provided for in Article 39, call upon the parties concerned to comply with such provisional measures as it deems necessary or desirable. … The Security Council shall duly take account of failure to comply with such provisional measures.

Both Bush and Kerry claim to recognize the legal authority of the Constitution and the treaties made under it, including the U.N. Charter. But the plain text of the U.N. Charter gives other countries a veto over U.S. military policy, through the apparatus of the United Nations. Except in cases of actual invasion (which are exempted Article 51), the United States government cannot go to war without U.N. approval without violating the U.N Charter, and thus also the Constitution.

Now, as an anarchist, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I couldn’t care less about the United Nations: I’d argue that trusting a body constituted by the world’s heads of state and their representatives to protect international peace and human rights is about as wise as trusting a League of Foxes to guard the hen-house (and for precisely the same reasons). For that matter, I don’t recognize the legal authority of the Constitution and I don’t think that the pretenders to government office have any legitimate authority to ensnare the rest of us in legally binding treaties. But I do care about bad arguments. If there’s anyone who doesn’t agree with my peculiar views on the nature of legal authority, it’s John F. Kerry and George W. Bush; they claim to recognize the Constitution as legitimate and either one would swear to uphold it after being elected. If they really believe what they claim to believe about the law, then a decent sense of intellectual shame would demand that they either:

  1. … accept other countries’ veto power over the United States’ decisions to go to war,

  2. … move to formally withdraw the United States from the United Nations, or

  3. … stop claiming that the Constitution is the basis for their legal authority

Something’s got to give; you can’t hold all the positions that John Kerry and George Bush loudly insisted that they hold without getting yourself stuck in a rank inconsistency. It may be too much to expect intellectual decency from politicians and political discourse. But if political discourse has lost its sense of shame, then the sooner it learns it again, the better. And someone has got to start the teaching, by example.

As the French might say, écrassez l’infâme.

The Day After Tomorrow

First of all, John Kerry is a douchebag, but I’m voting for him anyway.

Yes, I know he’s a statist, and a lame-o weak-kneed liberal to boot. Yes, I know that he voted for the authorization of force against Iraq, and that he hasn’t announced any plans to do what any rational and sane person should realize it’s time to do–withdraw immediately and completely. Yes, I know that the process I’m going to be participating in tomorrow has no legitimate authority whatsoever no matter who I vote for–and that strategically, replacing one creepy-looking imperial Executive with another slightly less mad one is no means to long-term change. That sucks, but it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter, because voting is a legitimate form of self-defense and I live in a swing state where a handful of votes may determine whether 17 electoral votes go towards throwing George W. Bush out of the White House or propping up four more years of the same.

Yes, most of the reasons I have for voting for Kerry are purely negative ones. He’s bad on the war, sure–but not nearly as bad as its big fat liar of an architect. Yeah, he’s an unreconstructed statist with a bad record on civil liberties–but not nearly as bad as George W. Bush, who has presided over the largest increase in State bureaucracy and spending since the Great Society, and who believes himself accountable to none save God alone. Sure, his campaign has treated feminists like crap, but, Jesus, it’s not like a second Bush administration is going to bode well for the success of feminist activism. And all of this is important. Given that Kerry is not even worse than Bush (and he’s not), one of the single most important reasons to take the time to get out and vote for Kerry tomorrow (if you’re in a swing state, as I am) is that after everything he’s done, George W. Bush must be thrown out of office. If he’s not punished after all of this, then that means one more blow to the fragile bulwarks remaining for justice and freedom in this country. We have precious few opportunities to pull back the reins on galloping Caesarism, and tomorrow is one of them; there’s no excuse, if you have the chance, not to pull as hard as you can.

And there are a couple of positive reasons to vote for Kerry. First, nearly all of his faults are faults that Bush shares or exceeds. But he is good on abortion; he won’t continue the present gang’s war for control over women’s bodies. Don’t think abortion’s very important? Well, you should; if you don’t think that the right of women–also known as “the majority of the population”–to control their own internal organs, or the use of systematic State violence against women to tread on that right, is a really big deal, well, you had better check your premises. And secondly, Kerry is bad on almost everything else–but a possibility for making things better exists under a Kerry administration that will continue to be vanishingly small in an entrenched, contemptuously secretive, smugly self-satisfied second Bush adminisration.

All that said, we need to remember, as it comes down to the wire, that tomorrow is not the Battle of Armageddon. The world will go on whoever wins, and we will need to figure out what we are going to do–because we are going to face some pretty hefty challenges whether Kerry or Bush is partying at the end of the night (or whether both of them are biting their nails waiting on further legal developments).

So I know what I’m going to be doing tomorrow–voting and then volunteering to go door to door for a few hours before I turn in. And I figure you know what you are going to be doing, too. But here’s the question: what are we going to be doing the day after tomorrow? Come November 3, what can we do that will move things forward whether it’s Bush or Kerry we’re going to have to be dealing with?

For my part, I don’t know entirely, and I’m interested in hearing what y’all think. (Comment away!) But I do know one thing for sure.

I sure am tired of following these assholes.

I’m tired of the two-party duopoly, and I’m tired of incumbents. pinning my hopes on blockheads like Kerry and I’m tired of listening to know-it-all professional blowhards speculate about the color of Kerry’s socks and its impact on undecided Soccer Moms. I know that we are going to need to keep organizing and take the fight to them no matter who wins, but I can’t take federal representative politics much longer and I can’t say that the prospects for meaningful, long-term change through picking between these guys look tremendously bright.

Yeah, Deaniac grassroots politics would help. Sure, we could use instant runoff voting and term limits and lowered ballot access requirements. Fine, I’ll put in my two cents’ worth in favor of building independent parties. I don’t dispute that that would help things a bit. But the more that I think about it the more I think that we (address this to my Libertarian comrades or my Leftist comrades or my Anarchist comrades, whichever you prefer) ought to re-think how we are trying to get things done when we’re working undercover in The System. Because I, for one, am about at the end of my rope.

I’m sure that Kennedy and the rest of the No Treason! crew will take this as as good an opportunity as any to argue that building movements is a dead-end game. I don’t buy that, yet, for a lot of reasons–I suspect that a rigid distinction between volunteer politics and businesses involves some confusions about the nature of the market in a free society, and I have a lot more faith in ordinary people and the historical record of people’s movements. For the time being, at least, I’m more than willing to sign on for political organizing, activism, and evangelism–even working in the belly of the beast, if need be, to help give people some space to breathe and a chance to defend themselves. But not the way we’ve been doing it.

When I go to the polls tomorrow, I won’t just have the chance to pick some idiot or another for federal races. I’ll also have the chance to vote directly on whether or not a number of proposals will be made law. I can do this because Michigan has voter initiatives; and when I vote on an initiative I don’t have to worry about spoilers, parties, trade-offs between candidates, or anything of the sort. It’s a simple up or down and I can make my choices on each issue on the ballot independently–rather than trying to figure out which dude will line up with more of my choices on the whole than the other (and whether that dude can get elected or whether I should vote for someone who’s a bit worse but in a position to win, and…).

Nearly half of the states in this country empower you and I to gather signatures and put laws straight on the ballot without having to lobby legislators or roll logs or hope the least-worst major candidate might consider making a speech about it sometime. Most of us who have been paying attention to voter initiatives have been spending our time fighting them–with good reason, when the initiatives being put out are idiotic stuff such as Amendment 2 in Michigan or Measure 36 in Oregon. But why are we letting these assholes make all the first strikes? We’ve been building a vast network of interlinked volunteers with a do-it-yourself political ethic, from the upsurge of the antiwar movement to United for Peace and Justice to MoveOn and the Dean campaign. So come November 3, how about we start putting those resources to work in the 20-odd states with voter initiatives? (And while we’re at it, bringing them to bear on the state legislature in states that don’t yet have voter initiatives.)

My suggestion would be to focus on campaigns that clearly put the case to the people that the government needs to get its hands out of the till and take its boots from off our necks. Medical marijuana ballot initiatives are a good start–they’ve been extremely popular where introduced and when they win (which they often do) that means one more state in which the federal drug goons have to either get mired down in extremely unpopular campaigns or else just give up. That should be expanded to an effort to roll back the racist War on Drugs more broadly. And here are some other ideas to ponder:

  • Initiatives to curtail corporate welfare–say, for example, abolishing corporate hand-out programs or restricting the power of state and local governments to use eminent domain for corporate development.

  • Death penalty moratorium bills

  • Ending taxes that disproportionately burden people living in poverty–for example, rolling back sales tax on food and other necessities.

  • Resisting the federal warfare State–by passing bills requiring the state government to refuse to comply with the PATRIOT Act, any future draft, or whatever other national security assault on our rights you’d like to single out.

  • Some resources for making it easier when we do have to deal with the party hacks–term limits, recall statutes, lowered ballot access restrictions, instant runoff voting, ….

All of these are simple, practical, incremental changes that would do some good, allow for coalition-building between Leftists, libertarians, and (sometimes, I suppose) small-government conservatives too. We have the resources to mount big door-to-door campaigns, with volunteers and with money raised from supporters; we have the resources to do some real good over the next four years whoever is in office. Better yet, we could start actually talking with each other like rational human beings about issues and whether or not some particular law should be made, instead of dickering over who looks more Presidential and whether Hordak or Smiley Face came off as more of a mindless hack in the latest tete-a-tete.

So, in that spirit, I’m resolving to pitch myself into grassroots politics come November 3. Real grassroots politics–not browbeating the grassroots into supporting some least-worst candidate’s politics, but rather writing letters to the editor, working more with local political organizations. And I’m going to start looking for, and talking about, and acting on, getting some voter initiatives that will make a real move forward on the ballot. I’m tired of following the idiots in the suits; it’s time to take the resources that we’ve got and take our case to the people.

Further reading

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