Cracks in the Halls of Power
Dangerous Moves by Bush, and the Need for the People to Act In Their Own Interests
Revolution #28, December 26, 2005, posted at revcom.us
Some heavy shit is going down in the halls of power. As we go to press, the emerging secret police spying scandal reveals three things:
1. Bush's moves to radically restructure the basic forms under which this country has operated for decades and even centuries are extreme, draconian, and moving full speed ahead.
2. Those drastic moves have the potential to rip open cracks in the power structure in a volatile and unpredictable way.
3. Nothing good will come out of this if the people's interests are not brought forward from below; and something very good can come out of it if people do step forward, and come into the streets in their own interests to politically drown out Bush's upcoming State of the Union address with the message: BUSH STEP DOWN AND TAKE YOUR WHOLE PROGRAM WITH YOU!
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There are sharp differences within the ruling class in this country, including over the military quagmire in Iraq that, according to Congressman John Murtha--who has close ties to the military establishment--has "broken" the U.S. military. But these differences are intensely interpenetrating with fundamental questions of the very form through which the ruling class governs .
Let's go back a few weeks, to how Bush responded to Murtha's demand for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (and to instead terrorize that country through air power, local proxies, and rapid strike forces based in nearby countries):
"And as long as I am commander in chief, our strategy in Iraq will be driven by the sober judgment of our military commanders on the ground."
Bush framed his speeches defending the war with"...As long as I am commander in chief." This was his way of telling an angry public and his ruling class critics that you can gripe and pass all the resolutions you want. I run the army.
The question of the very form under which this country will be ruled was posed again, more sharply, when--after suppressing the story for a whole year--the New York Times revealed that the Bush regime has pissed on even the wildly loose rules in effect for spying on people in this country, by setting up a vast, unsupervised, secret operation to spy on thousands of people in this country. And broke the law in doing so.
Pre-Patriot Act laws already set up a secret court (FISA) that rubber-stamps secret spying on people. And the PATRIOT Act authorizes unrestrained surveillance, secret break-ins to people's homes, and endless wiretaps. None of which was enough for Bush, who authorized even broader secret spying on who knows who, under a program not authorized by any law. In other words, Bush claimed for himself the authority to act outside the law and spy on anyone he chooses--including critics within the ruling class, should he so choose--and to keep this secret.
When a U.S. senator (Russ Feingold) tells you, "This shocking revelation ought to send a chill down the spine of every American," that tells you... just that.
Things get heavier...
When Jim Lehrer asked Bush on his PBS show if he authorized secret spying on thousands of Americans, Bush replied--like Michael Corleone telling his wife in the movie The Godfather to never ask him about his business--"Jim, we do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations."
A day later, Bush recorded an extraordinary televised message where he glared into the camera and broke his "never ask me about my business" rule to openly declare, "I have reauthorized this [spying] program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups." After threatening the Times for "damag[ing] our national security" and saying they broke the law by revealing his secret spy network, Bush went on to redefine what "defending the Constitution" means in terms that exclude congress or courts. Bush's speech was not just lashing out in overt defense of an utterly illegal spy operation on people in the United States, he justified it using norms and processes that constitute major steps in reframing the very way government operates--where the President can authorize anything he wants to, regardless of laws.
Checks and balances? Bush defined his authority as based on his own determination that he wants to do something, along with a rubber stamp from his own appointed advisers--"our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President."
Conservative Democrat Dianne Feinstein called all this "astounding" and said it had shattered her confidence in the Bush administration's domestic war against terrorists. Referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which sets rules for domestic anti-terrorist operations, she added: "How can any member of this body go out and say that under the Patriot Act we protect rights when the president goes out and says he won't be bound by the ... law?''
"They are saying, 'Trust us, we are following the law.' Give me a break," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). "Across the country and across the political spectrum, no one is buying it anymore. There is no accountability. There is no oversight…. This is Big Brother run amok."
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, "We have to resolve the issue to show Americans we are nation of law not outcomes."
Feingold said, "The president believes that he has the power to override the laws that Congress has passed. This is not how our democratic system of government works." And, Feingold said, "He is a president, not a king." Feingold later said, "The issue here is whether the president of the United States is putting himself above the law, and I believe he has done so."
That this question--a government of law, versus a Bush autocracy--is on the table in this kind of way, is a very sharp expression of what's going on.
A historical parallel worth examining--critically and creatively: When former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tried to radically restructure the forms through which the capitalist rulers of the Soviet Union governed (with his Glasnost project), the whole credibility and legitimacy of the rulers unraveled. Two lessons here: 1) the tearing up of legitimizing norms, and an attempt to institute new ones, led to the unraveling of society on a level that got completely out of control, and 2) nothing good--at all--came out of all that. This is, of course, an analogy, but there is relevance to how that kind of societal crisis can develop, and how nothing good can come out of it if the independent interests of the people are not expressed, and fought for.
Bush's ruling class critics are not in any fundamental way challenging the direction things are going. Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said: "Our goal is to mend the Patriot Act, not to end it." Senator Barack Obama said the goal is to make sure there is nothing stopping the government from "investigat[ing] suspicious activity (our emphasis)." Even Russ Feingold, the only senator who voted against the Patriot Act in 2001, told CNN that he only wanted to make minor changes in the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act.
So even if the Democrats were to win this round, on their terms, it wouldn’t even result in ending the hated Patriot Act! The government would maintain its greatly increased powers to spy on and repress the people. And much more likely, if things stay on these terms, is that Bush will move the ball further down the field toward a fully fascist restructuring.
On the other hand, and this is critical to grasp--these are times when, irrespective of their agendas, clashes among the rulers could throw big things up for grabs. This clash has already put into the open even more clearly how Bush has been trampling on the laws that do exist, and has been claiming the power to spy on whoever he wants to with no check at all. Exposures like that arouse people and can even drag those who have been passively observing things into political thinking and activity. Whether people come into political life around the deadly terms of the current struggle among the rulers, or whether they step out forcefully in their own interests can make a huge difference in the direction of this society, and the world, for a long time to come.
Bush ended his speech defending his secret spy program by saying, "...And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the President of the United States." That should be taken as a threat... and a challenge!
The revelation of Bush’s illegal, widespread, and secret spying emphasizes all the more WHY his regime must be driven out and why the whole direction of this country must change. And the whole course of events up to now shows why we cannot rely on the Democrats, who intend only to keep this spying and repression--as concentrated, for instance, in the Patriot Act--slightly touched up, within limits that don’t too strongly violate the traditional ways that the ruling class settles disputes among themselves. The time is now to step up our efforts, reach out even more broadly to demand that BUSH STEP DOWN, and to go all-out to support the call from World Can’t Wait to "bring the noise" and politically drown out Bush’s State of the Union address.
Every day counts! Let’s change history--the World Can’t Wait!