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Demonstration Democracy

During the Cold War, the CIA, in the words of long-time agent Ralph McGehee, practiced the art of “deadly deceits.” Throughout the Third World, the secret spy agency engaged in covert operations, blatant acts of economic destabilization and wanton acts of mass violence.

In the 1970s, Idaho Senator Frank Church’s investigatory committee established that the CIA also engaged in so-called “benign” operations including rigging elections. The agency used the term “demonstration elections”–elections that are superficially democratic but the results manipulated by the CIA.

The Company did everything from stuffing ballot boxes, creating political parties, merging smaller political parties into large coalitions as in Uno in Nicaragua, paying death squads to intimidate voters and the occasional use of computer fraud. In the mid-80s, the Reagan and Bush administration used a computer to help their “man in Panama” and CIA asset Manuel Noriega gain electoral support; they backed dictator Ferdinand Marcos when he brought in the pre-programmed election tapes in the middle of an election to turn his sure defeat into a fixed victory. The people of the Philippines didn’t accept the computer results as credible, but Reagan and Bush argued it was necessary to preserve our “traditional” relationship with the brutal dictator. Remember, his political opponent, Senator Aquino was shot to death after disembarking from an airplane to run against Marcos.

Now that we have the son of the former CIA director as President, we should recognize that the more reprehensible tactics of the CIA have been brought home with the Bush dynasty. What George Bush’s energy friends from Texas, including Enron, did to the California economy through the massive “mega-watt” laundering of energy should be viewed as just another economic destabilization of an enemy regime.

In the Houston area, two Republican U.S. representatives were declared winners in the last election until it was discovered that the results were caused by a “faulty” and Republican-friendly microchip. When the proper chip was installed in the computerized voting machine the correct results were revealed: two Democratic victories.

The 2000 Florida election included all of the signs of a Third World CIA demonstration election. Bizarrely constructed butterfly ballots, obscure third parties receiving unexplained and unfathomable votes and heavily Jewish areas voting unexpectedly for right-wing nationalistic anti-Semitic candidates like Pat Buchanan. Remember that the exit polls predicted that Gore would win. Only when the psych-ops operation at Fox News changed that call did some people begin to believe in the myth of the Bush victory.

What began as covert operations in the Third World are now overt practices by the Bush administration in the United States.

Take for example the August 14 letter from Walden O’Dell, Chief Executive of Diebold, Inc., pledging that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its votes to the President next year.” Diebold is one of three finalists currently seeking $100 million contract with the state of Ohio to provide computerized voting machines for the 2004 elections. Diebold has worked on its computers with Battelle, a well-established collaborator with the U.S. military and CIA. Computer scientists from John Hopkins indicated that it would be relatively easy to hack into and manipulate the computer voting results in these machines.

The Seattle Times ran a feature story on Diebold in their August 21 edition. Bev Harris, a Seattle-area public relations company owner, recently uncovered “some 4000 files that included user manuals, source code and an executable files for voting machines made by Diebold, a corporation based in North Canton, Ohio.”

Jason Leopold recently wrote a revealing article on this issue that you can read here. A detailed anaylsis of the flaws in Diebold’s electronic voting machines can be found at www.scoop.co.nz.

So, what do we have here other than the obvious denial by mainstream America? We’ve got a CIA family, their corporate supporters working with CIA contractors at Battelle in order to bring flawed electronic voting to the U.S. with no paper trails and questionable exit polls. Recall that Battelle was also the contractor for Voter News Service (VNS) and failed to produce exit polls for the 2002 Congressional election.

Factor in the reality that, out of 435 Congressional districts in the U.S., only 39, or 9%, are actually competitive (when major party candidates won with less than 55% of the vote). Under our political system, also, the vast majority of Congressional seats are gerrymandered as “safe” or noncompetitive districts by the party that controls the state government. Eleven Texas Democrats are hiding out in New Mexico in hopes of thwarting another round of Republican district-rigging in their state. So little democracy is actually left.

Over the years, well-known and respected political theorists and leaders have warned of the rise of authoritarianism. In the 50s, U.S. President Eisenhower warned of the “military-industrial complex.” C. Wright Mills detailed the “power elite”–the convergence of the top levels of the military, corporations and governmental leaders during the Cold War. In the 60s, Herbert Marcuse, who worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in WWII, pointed out that Americans’ inability to think critically was making us a “one-dimensional” society with an authoritarian culture. In the 70s, political scientists like William Domhoff and Thomas Dye began to document empirically the undemocratic and elitist nature of the U.S. political system. In the 80s, Bertrand Gross warned of the rise of “friendly fascism.” In the 90s, William Grieder documented that the U.S. had the best democracy money can buy and asked the question, “Who will tell the people?”

But the most damning and lasting testimony that foretold the rise of America’s new authoritarian demonstration democracy are still the massive volumes produced by the Church Committee. Back in the late 70s, the Agency’s shadowy hands were all over the Idaho ABC Committee (Anybody but Church). Bush’s election coup of 2000, our first obvious CIA-style demonstration election, gave the Bush clan and their friends in the CIA the opportunity to field test whether or not you can blatantly steal an election in the U.S. just like Panama or the Philippines. The 9-11 attacks provided Bush, Jr. with the authority to push U.S. society massively to the right and pursue militarism and imperialism. It also allowed Bush to test market neo-Nazi-style mass propaganda to the American public.

The voting machines are simply the final nail in the people’s coffin. The comatose electorate rests silently as the hammer of authoritarianism falls.

BOB FITRAKIS is a professor at Columbus State Community College and an editor of the Free Press.

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