(Charles Smith) Powers once granted are almost impossible to take back. After 13.5 years, there is more than enough evidence for reasonable people to conclude that the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama are easily the most destructive in U.S. history.
When historians speak of failed presidencies or weak presidencies, they are typically referring to presidencies characterized by uneven leadership, petty corruption by self-serving cronies or in extreme cases such as the Nixon presidency, abuses of executive power.
But weak or failed presidencies are not destructive to the rule of law and the foundations of the nation. The failed president leaves office and the basic structure of the nation continues: the rule of law, the balance of powers and a free-market economy.
A destructive president weakens or corrupts these core structures in favor of executive-branch powers, and passes these unconstitutional powers to the next executive for further expansion.
The Bush and Obama presidencies have effectively dismantled the rule of law and the Constitution by invoking essentially unlimited executive powers in the name of “national security:” we the citizens of the U.S. can now be accused of violating secret laws, be indicted in secret, tried in secret and sentenced to life in prison based on evidence fabricated in secret, i.e. declaring unclassified documents classified after the fact to incriminate and imprison whistleblowers.
How is this any different from totalitarian fascist regimes?
This is absolutely contrary to basic civil liberties defined by the Constitution. Who benefits from this destruction of fundamental civil liberties? (Always start by asking cui bono–to whose benefit?)
The Big Lie is that this destruction of the foundations of the rule of law and civil liberties is for our own good: if the President and the National Security State don’t grab all these powers and deprive you of your constitutional rights, bad guys will destroy the nation.
This is of course the same old tired justification used by dictators and despots everywhere, and it is always a lie. The truth that must be hidden is that this wholesale expansion of executive powers at the expense of civil liberties, democracy, the rule of law and the balance of powers benefits the executive branch.
Every abuse of the law is now declared legal by executive order. Anyone questioning the legality of extra-legal abuses of power is told “this is legal because it was authorized by the President.” In other words, executive power is now unquestioned and cannot be challenged.
For a variety of unsavory reasons, the Supreme Court has enabled this expansion of essentially unlimited executive power. Congress has also rubber-stamped it as part of The Global War on Terror (GWOT), the unlimited war that justifies unlimited executive powers, unlimited secrecy and unlimited expansion of the National Security State, the Deep State that is impervious to changes in electoral government.
Presidents Bush and Obama have directed this expansion of the National Security State because it greatly enhances the power of the Presidency. This is how we get a president who is delighted to discover that he’s good at killing people remotely with drone strikes.
The expansion of secret programs and secret wars has engorged the Pentagon, the C.I.A. and the N.S.A., not just with funding but more importantly, with new powers granted by the executive branch and rubber-stamped by an impotent Congress and supine Supreme Court.
The president’s power is greatly enhanced by this expansion of the National Security State, and the self-serving “patriots” empowered by the essentially unlimited secrecy are free to do whatever they please under the umbrella of executive privilege.
True patriots attempting to defend basic constitutional rights are labeled terrorists by the phony patriots busy destroying the foundations of the nation. The Orwellian doublespeak is as unlimited as executive power: a citizen who releases unclassified material about the secret abuse of power can be accused of treason on the Kafkaesque basis that unclassified material can be considered classified if it exposes the abuse of executive power.
All of this is well-documented and has been in the public realm for years. There is nothing mysterious about the destruction of basic rights or the abrogation of the balance or power or the rule of law. It’s visible and painfully obvious to anyone who cares to read or watch a few interviews of whistleblowers who have been hounded and harassed by the Obama Administration.
For two examples of hundreds of articles and interviews, please read:
Senior NSA Executive: NSA Started Spying On Journalists in 2002… In Order to Make Sure They Didn’t Report On Mass Surveillance (washingtonsblog.com; I recommend the entire series of interviews)
“To me, there’s a psychology that’s not often written about: What happens when you have this much reach and power, and constraints of law and even policy simply fade into the woodwork.”
PBS Frontline Interview – Thomas Drake.
Of the dozens of books published on the abuses of executive power and the uncontrolled expansion of the National Security State, here are two worthy starting points:
The Family Jewels: The CIA, Secrecy, and Presidential Power
The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth
This destruction of the fundamental building blocks of the nation has been rubber-stamped by gutless Republicans and Democrats alike. Cowed by the threat of appearing “soft on terrorism,” left and right alike have scrambled to appear “tough on terrorism” by approving the wholesale transfer of power to the National Security State and the executive branch.
It is laughable to see so-called liberals and conservatives alike in Congress kow-tow to the National Security State while claiming they have effective oversight, even as the revelations of whistleblowers reveals them as clueless toadies with no real grasp of what is being done in the name of the American people they claim to represent.
Those abusing executive power in the Nixon administration knew they were breaking the law. Those abusing power in the Bush and Obama administrations simply declare their actions legal. In effect, any action taken by the president or the National Security State is legal in name if not in principle.
Powers once granted are almost impossible to take back. What president will give away essentially unlimited executive powers established as “law” by previous presidents? We don’t elect saints as presidents, we elect infinitely ambitious people desiring power. We should not be surprised that such people not only consolidate the power they inherit but actively seek more.
We should also not be surprised that all these power grabs by the executive branch and the National Security State are cloaked in secrecy, and that anyone who dares to reveal the power grabs and abuses of power to the public is declared a traitor and crucified.
A traitor to what? It’s a question every citizen should ask and answer for themselves.
The war drums are beating in Washington. The U.S. inched closer to military conflict in Iraq two weeks ago when President Obama announced his strategy of airstrikes in Syria and a troop surge in Iraq of 475 military personnel.
Obama’s ISIS strategy was immediately bashed by Congressional Republicans for not being insane enough. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) criticized Obama’s style of militarism as too weak and stated “we have to have a sustained air campaign in Syria and Iraq. We need to go on offense.” I guess Sen. Graham doesn’t count invading Iraq in 2003, which resulted in the deaths of 750,000 innocent civilians, as “going on offense.”
The most disturbing response to Obama’s strategy came from the top Republican in the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who introduced a formal congressional authorization for America to wage war against ISIS in any nation including Syria. Essentially, Inhofe wants to re-invade Iraq while invading Syria. That kind of war hysteria could probably even make John McCain blush.
Keeping all this frenzied war-mongering in mind, it is my aim to combat the notion that America must respond militarily towards ISIS. Furthermore, I believe that the U.S. should remove itself from regional conflicts in the Middle East and allow individuals to govern themselves. Supporting radical sentiments such as these is unacceptable in our country, because supporting peace is taboo in America.
Our militarized society gives rise to the grand myth that war is honorable and winnable. The truth is war can never be won. There can be no winners in organized mass slaughter; there can be no glory in killing innocent people.
War is truly embodied by one entity alone, and that is death. Millions of innocent people have died as a result of U.S. foreign policy since WWII, and over 150,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed as well. Barbarity on such a grand scale must cause us to ponder a simple question: What are we fighting for?
The truth about nearly every American war since WWII is that it has been fought with an imperial purpose in mind. Our government has a strong desire to maintain control over the Middle East in order to exploit the region’s natural resources and to provide profits to politically-connected corporations.
For example, Dick Cheney’s former company Halliburton received $39.5 billion in government contracts during the Iraq War. As a result their stock price rose from $20 at the invasion’s onset to $57 by 2011. CEO David Lesar saw his personal wealth increase by $150 million during the course of the war. Unfortunately, war profiteering has been widespread during the War on Terror.
This reality is often met with bitter hostility when it is brought up in America. It is much more comfortable to believe the lie that our nation is a spreader of democracy. It stings to know the truth, because the truth confirms our gravest fear.
And that fear is this: that our sons and daughters who died in the war effort did not die for a noble cause. They also did not die for nothing. Rather their government sent them off to die in a land thousands of miles away from home in order to enrich the likes of Halliburton.
This sad realization leaves us in denial as a nation. We refuse to admit that there is a problem with our foreign policy, and we disregard the plight of the innocents we butcher choosing instead to live in ignorance to their suffering. Voices of dissent are silenced in the mainstream, and anyone willing to challenge the status quo is derided as a fool.
At this point, we, as a nation, are severely lost. We are unfeeling and devoid of empathy. We refuse to admit that the growth of Muslim extremism in the Middle East is a direct result of the ruthless policies that we have employed in the region. But we as a nation have a choice. We can choose to live in unceasing fear of terrorism, we can cling to the fantasy that terrorists target the U.S. out of contempt for our “freedom,” or we can choose to recognize that our policies of perpetual war, occupation, and meddling in Middle Eastern affairs are what have fueled terrorism in the region.
It is my belief that we must choose to avoid war with Iraq. The human death toll in The War on Terror is already too high. The blood of our soldiers and of the innocent Iraqis killed in the conflict is on our politician’s hands. We must oppose President Obama and the Congressional march toward war. Because this war will be no different than the others: hundreds of thousands will die, war profiteers will benefit, and the people will suffer. We must say no to war in Iraq. We cannot afford to be duped again.