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Killing the Constitution

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
for trying to change the system from within
I’m coming now — I’m coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan then we take Berlin

— Leonard Cohen

Many think they now see through the Democrats’ complicity with the Bush administration’s illegal wars and unconstitutional actions. If they think this is new, they don’t know that half of it.

Exactly twenty years ago today, on July 13, 1987, I witnessed the Democratic Party establishment covering up — and therefore helping — the subversion of the U.S. Constitution. It was actually on national TV, but few seemed to care.

The Iran-Contra hearings were going on. I watched them almost in their entirety, had just graduated from college and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I spent time with my dad, who’d just been diagnosed with a severe heart condition and we watched much of the hearings together.

For a while, I was admiring of the co-chairs of the Iran-Contra committee, the Democrats Sen. Daniel Inouye and Rep. Lee Hamilton — who would go on to co-head the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Commission.

But, following events closely, it became clear Inouye and Hamilton were covering things up things. This became glaring on July 13, 1987 when the following exchange took place as Rep. Jack Brooks, a Democrat from Texas questioned Oliver North:

REP. BROOKS: Colonel North, in your work at the NSC, were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the “<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuity_of_government> continuity of government ” in the event of a major disaster?

BRENDAN SULLIVAN (North’s lawyer): Mr. Chairman?

SEN. INOUYE: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch on that, sir?

REP. BROOKS: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was the area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.

SEN. INOUYE; May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I’m certain arrangements can be made for an executive session. [Text is here and video is here].

And go into executive session they would. I expected a firestorm about this. It never happened. The media were largely silent, the Chicago Tribune the next day was rare in having a page one story (which I of course didn’t see till years later) leading with:

Members of the Iran-contra congressional panels Monday questioned Lt. Col. Oliver North about his alleged involvement in a highly secret government plan that reportedly included suspension of the Constitution in times of national crisis.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D., Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Iran, immediately cut off discussion of the plan, saying it touched on a “highly sensitive and classified area.”

The reference by Rep. Jack Brooks (D., Tex.,) to the plan followed comments Friday by chief Senate committee counsel Arthur Liman that the late CIA Director William Casey was attempting to promote “a CIA outside of the CIA” to carry out covert policy.

And the committee did go into executive session at various points. In his questioning, Brooks was referring to a few articles like the Miami Harald piece of July 5, 1987 by Alfonso Chardy, which I didn’t find until much later:

Some of President Reagan’s top advisers have operated a virtual parallel government outside the traditional Cabinet departments and agencies almost from the day Reagan took office, congressional investigators and administration officials have concluded.

Investigators believe that the advisers’ activities extended well beyond the secret arms sales to Iran and aid to the contras now under investigation.

Lt. Col. Oliver North, for example, helped draw up a controversial plan to suspend the Constitution in the event of a national crisis, such as nuclear war, violent and widespread internal dissent or national opposition to a U.S. military invasion abroad. [Text is here].

You might have watched the hearings but not remember any of this — that’s probably because most of the media wrote pieces like the liberal Mary McGrory in the Washington Post quoting Inouye shortly thereafter: “We have a job to remind people of the Constitution and what it stands for.”

In fact, just a few days after the Brooks-Inouye exchange, much of Congress went on to Philadelphia for the 200th Anniversary of the Constitution that they were in the process of undermining. ABC reported on July 16:

Two hundred years ago today in Philadelphia the Constitutional convention designed what we now call the Congress of the United States. And for the occasion a delegation from Congress rode a special train to Philadelphia for a ceremony in the same room where the Constitution was written.

The ABC piece quoted Lee Hamilton: “The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. I do not see how your attitude can be reconciled with the Constitution of the United States.”

If the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights are dead, their death did not just happen during one administration or by one political party. It was indicated on national TV by a few brave representatives like Jack Brooks and Henry Gonzalez, written about by some independently minded journalists. And the establishment of both the Democratic and Republican parties with the big media outlets covered it up — while celebrating the Constitution they were killing.

Many of SAM HUSSEINI’s writings are at husseini.org.

 

 

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Sam Husseini is founder of the website VotePact.org

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