I Don’t Got To Show You No Stinkin Reasons

Gore Vidal, the great novelist and political critic, asked me how I liked living under the dictatorship. I laughed, but I felt a chill. We’ve now experienced six months of life under unusual circumstances and it’s time that citizens did some serious critical re-evaluation of our predicament.

To say that democracy is at stake is an understatement. We have moved very quickly from a tenuous Republic jostling with a national security state into an overtly imperial mode. I think that President George W. Bush must have just seen a re-run of The Treasure ofthe Sierra Madre and has paraphrased to Congress what the Mexican bandit told Humphrey Bogart. In the movie, the bandit chief pretends he is a policeman and when Bogey asks him to show his badge as proof, the bandit responds: “I don’t got to show you no stinkin’ badge.” Now, Congress pleads with Bush to show them reasons for his decision to expand the “war on terrorism” beyond Afghanistan to Yemen, the Caucuses, Colombia, the Philippines and wherever else his Pentagon advisers tell him. His answer: “I don’t got to show you no stinkin’ reason.” Unlike the cinema bandit, Bush, the presidential thief, has a good argument. When Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) tells the media that Congress’ job is to ask questions” and not to “rubber stamp any president as we get into these very difficult situations,” he has apparently forgotten that the Congress ceded extraordinary powers to this moron in the White House.

 Yes, the man who still often appears on television looking like the proverbial deer caught in the car headlights, has received emergency imperial powers from the very legislative body whose Constitutional task is deliberation. In a series of panicky moves, Congress, led by the bi-partisan Daschle, passed the Patriot Act and authorized the President to spend billions of dollars without routine oversight. Now, what Congress granted and what the President interprets from that grant, arise as a source of differences. Did Congress authorize the bombing of civilians in Afghanistan, for example, or did the Pentagon simply claim that bombing of military (Al-Qaeda-Taliban) targets logically includes “collateral damage.” Even to such innocuous questions, the Republicans respond with charges of unpatriotic behavior. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-MI) hinted that Daschle’s questioning could be seen as a “signthat we are losing unity” and he warned that it could be “used against us overseas.” Perhaps the fearful Democrats have read some poll results that indicate that Americans have become frightened by the Bush rhetoric. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), one of the most conservative Democrats, started the questioning of Bush’s war aims and his spending proclivities.

In his now famous or infamous Axis of Evil speech, the newly aggressive Bush hinted at plans to make war on Iraq, Iran and North Korea. And overseas complaints rang out from our allies and friends. “Has he gone crazy?” Europeans were asking. The Japanese Prime Minister who had the courage to have dinner with a male member of the Bush family (King George I, you recall, had barfed in the lap of a Japanese Prime Minister he had the flu and six martinis) also hinted that such statements served no useful purpose. In Congress few critical voices arose. Ron Paul (R-TX) made an unusually principled address attacking the President’s new bellicosity. “Only tyrants can take a nation to war without the consent of the people,” Paul said. He also called illegal a war “against Iraq without a Declaration of War.” From his extreme right-wing libertarian position, Paul warned about “unforeseen consequences that are likely to result.” He also called a war against Iraq “immoral and unjust, because it has nothing to do with US security and because Iraq has not initiated aggression against us.” Ohio Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich did not recall granting Bush power to permanently detain suspicious characters at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Nor, Kucinich writes did we “authorize the withdrawal from the Geneva Convention.military tribunals suspending due process and habeas corpus.” Nor did Congress pass a bill legalizing the formation of assassination squads. Indeed, Bush has already initiated plans to assassinate Saddam Hussein.

I conclude that we have a case of illegitimacy manifesting itself in extreme imperial arrogance. The Bush Administration did not receive a majority of the popular vote and won the presidency through dubious processes. But the lack of legitimacy extends beyond the current emergency powers. As Yale historian Paul Kennedy pointed out in an interview in the March 2 British Guardian, “We comprise slightly less than 5 per cent of the world’s population; but we imbibe 27 per cent of the world’s annual oil production, create and consume nearly 30 per cent of its Gross World Product and – get this – spend a full 40 per cent of all the world’s defense expenditures.” Thanks to the fiends who gave us the 9/11 horrors, the national security elite has grabbed powers that would have been unthinkable.

With the Cold War over by more than a decade, what other incident could have offered the Pentagon an opportunity to increase its budget which, according to experts, accounts for an amount roughly the size of the combined defense budgets of the10 biggest defense-spending nations. The six months mourning and shock period that Americans have undergone is over. It’s time to wake up and start questioning without having to worry that Ashcroft’s Brownshirts will arrest you. As Congressman Kucinich said it’s time to “challenge the rationale of the Patriot Act. We must ask why should America put aside guarantees of constitutional justice?” Congress has not authorized the White House to suspend traditional guarantees, nor licensed widespread wiretaps and internet surveillance.

 The very word “terrorist” now pops out of the mouths of administration figures to justify almost any activity, from passing a fast track bill on free trade to drilling for oil in the virgin wilderness. The Attorney General has demanded that we forego our Constitutional rights so that the FBI and CIA can magically become more efficient. This doubtful formula has largely gone unchallenged. It’s time to wake up to the fact that a gang of right wing imperial nuts have taken over the government.

Exaggeration? Look at Attorney General Ashcroft ordering that a burkha be placed on the statue of Lady Justice, because her breasts show. Look at the fear that darker skinned citizens feel because they might be mistaken for terrorist Arabs. As the President demanded allegiance from all nations to our war against terrorism, he simultaneously withdrew from the ABM treaty. He abandoned the modest environmental protection offered by Kyoto and has announced that we’re going it alone and everyone else better join us or else.

The US of A has become an armed camp. Go to an airport, train station or to the US Capitol and you’ll see camouflaged armed national guardsmen. Listen to the timid Daschle complain that “We’re going to be committing $4.7 trillion for defense over the course of the next ten years; $600 billion more than was originally scheduled last year. If we’re going to commit those resources, and if we’re going to commit those men and women, those lives, then I think we’ve got to ask the questions that are required of us.” The imperial Republicans respond through the mouth of Trent Lott: “How dare Senator Daschle criticize President Bush while we are fighting a war against terrorism?” I say, it’s about time Daschle opened his mouth, but his words remain way too hesitant. We face the reality of life in a permanent war economy with reduced checks over military spending power. Bush proposes Cold War weapons systems and says they’re to fight terrorism.

Let’s wake up. We’re not fighting terrorism, we’re creating terror and a permanent machinery to wage aggression abroad and at home. Forty-two years ago, President Eisenhower warned us in his farewell address about the military industrial complex. Well, it’s time to listen. Our resources, our democracy, our environment our values are at stake. And Bush says he don’t got to show no stinkin’ reason?

 Saul Landau is the Director of Digital Media and International Outreach Programs for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences California State Polytechnic University, Pomona 3801 W. Temple Avenue Pomona, CA 91768 tel: 909-869-3115 fax: 909-869-4858


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