“It is also a fact that America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America’s power, especially its capacity for military intimidation. Never before has a populist democracy attained international supremacy. But the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being. The economic self-denial (that is, defense spending) and the human sacrifice (casualties, even among professional soldiers) required in the effort are uncongenial to democratic instincts. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization.”
Zbigniew Bzrezinski, “The Grand Chessboard”
The ambition to curtail the civil liberties of Americans is not new, but it looks as though the Bush Administration has moved that goal within reach. Former National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski accurately reflects the sentiments of many elites who believe that freedom is basically a “nuisance” that disrupts the smooth functioning of empire. Politicians and corporate “bigwigs” know exactly where they want to steer the country and don’t like the obstructions that naturally appear in a democracy. They also prefer to have institutions in place to monitor the behavior of groups who may pose a potential threat to their continuing prosperity and power. This being so, corporate powerbrokers and their apologists in the “punditocracy” normally tilt towards autocratic governance.
So, we shouldn’t be surprised when Brzezinski blithely reminds us that are just “too democratic at home.” His remarks are noteworthy not simply because of their “undisguised contempt for personal liberty”, but also because they articulate a view that was widely held among elites even prior to 9-11.
The great strides the administration has made in eviscerating the Constitution, have all been made in the name of “national security”; the “sacred cow” of demagogues. It is understandable that they would reiterate this same mantra to dismantle the legal protections we all (used to) take for granted.
The Patriot Act, the illegal detentions, the branding of “unlawful combatants” (which strips citizens of all Constitutional protections) and the concerted effort to shred the 4th, 5th and 6th Amendments, have all been justified as the “necessary precautions” we need to take to protect ourselves from another 9-11.
Brzezinski’s comments prove that these excuses are rubbish. The desire to disembowel personal freedom long preceded any terrorist threat. The type of “top down” style of government that Brzezinski and his ilk favor merely requires a dubious pretext (like terrorism) to rid the public of “those bothersome liberties” and get on with the heavy lifting of ruling the empire.
Look how hard the Republican Congress fought just to maintain one small provision in the Patriot Act; the law that allowed the government to secretly find out what books individual citizens are reading.
The law has nothing to do with terrorism; the claim is ludicrous. It does, however, have a great deal to do with insuring the “unlimited powers of surveillance” of the government. (and, thereby, the corporate chieftains who support them)
After much debate, the provision was left in; another major blow to basic privacy rights.
Even so, the response of the President was extraordinary. Bush threatened to use his veto power to overturn the expressed will of Congress if they failed to comply with his wishes.
No one believes for a minute that Bush made this decision on his own. Why would it matter to a simple man like Bush what Americans are reading?
No, it’s obvious that he is simply executing the orders of his most powerful constituents. These supporters are making it quite plain that personal liberty in America is seriously at risk.
It is in this light that we should consider the ongoing proceedings (and recommendations) of the 9-11 Commission.
The most strident voice from the Commission has been that of vice chairman, Lee Hamilton. Hamilton is a reliable Bush ally who proved his loyalty years earlier by helping to provide the “whitewash” for both the Iran-contra scandal and also Reagan’s “October Surprise” (the allegations that the future Reagan Administration worked out a deal with Iran to stall the release of Americans hostages until Reagan was elected)
Hamilton has established himself as one of many dependable political hacks on the “hand-picked” panel whose primary function was to make sure that fingers were not left pointing at the President or his team (for the failures of 9-11)
He succeeded admirably. With well scripted bromides like, “When everyone is to blame, no one is to blame” and “We decided from the very beginning we were not going to play the blame game,” Hamilton adroitly shifted the blame from the Oval Office to the Intelligence services.
But that was only part of Hamilton’s mandate from Bush and co.
His mission now is to convince the Congress “that placing an intelligence director and a National Counterterrorism Center inside the Executive Office” is the only way to reform and coordinate the Intelligence services. (The Washington Post) Without these draconian changes, Hamilton insists that Americans “will not be safe.”
“We have concluded that the intelligence community is not going to get its job done unless somebody is in charge.”
Not surprisingly, that “somebody” should be a political (Bush) “appointee”, according to Hamilton; a clear invitation to more intelligence disasters.
Aside from the fact that the administration has been more prone to politicize information than any administration in our 200 year history, (the conspicuous massaging of intelligence before the Iraq war is the most striking example) creating a “Terrorist Czar” who is appointed by the President encourages even greater abuse.
For the Bush clique it means that all of the investigative and operational levers of the national security apparatus would be entirely at their disposal. Information could be maligned according to political objectives (creating yet another filter between the people and the information they require to be informed) and, more importantly, the President could carry out covert operations against dissident political groups (or perceived enemies) with complete impunity.
When the “top dog” is a presidential appointee, there’s no question whose interests he will serve. In such an atmosphere, the objective gathering of information and analysis will undoubtedly suffer. The corruption or “spinning” of intelligence will be an unavoidable consequence.
Senator Carl Levin seems to be the only member on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to grasp this obvious fact.
Levin sagely noted that “greater independence and objectivity of intelligence analysis” should be a priority of any reform. He opined, “Aren’t you putting that person closer to the policy-makers?”
Indeed, the recommended changes guarantee that intelligence will be manipulated and modified to suit the policy aims of the administration. (just as it was before Iraq)
What Hamilton and, presumably, Bush are asking for is that supreme authority for the many disparate intelligence gathering organizations (civilian and military) be put under the direct control of the President. And, if the President doesn’t like the results he’s getting from his new Czar, he can simply replace him. (as he has so often with those who have provided science that that doesn’t mesh with administration policy)
There’s no doubt that a National Counterterrorism chief will fulfill Brzezinski’s dream of shrinking freedom for the American people. With the support of legislation, (The Patriot Act) a compliant Supreme Court (unwilling to rule on even the most fundamental constitutional principles, as per Padilla vs. Rumsfeld) and, now, an internal security apparatus for the surveillance and harassment of citizens; Bush will have achieved the “Trifecta” he boasted of four years ago. The 9-11 Commission will have provided the final ingredient for absolute power; a blueprint for an American Secret Police.
For Americans, the nightmare of diminishing liberty still seems distant and elusive, but the institutions are being assembled one stone at a time.
MIKE WHITNEY can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org