Two Roads Diverging In 2008: Which Way Will We Go?
Two Roads Diverging in 2008: Which Way Will We Go?
Here's what I think could happen in 2008, some good, some bad, and a whole lot of ugly.
For purposes of stimulating some out-of-the-box thinking, I've come up with some scenarios that may seem over-the-top, but I hope the extreme visions might provide lessons for action.
Let's start with the more positive 2008 scenario:
1. The House Judiciary Committee votes to begin impeachment hearings against the Vice President; Cheney resigns, "for reasons of health," before he has to testify.
2. Bush nominates Condi as Vice President; Congress, anxious not to leave the post vacant, agrees, led by weak-kneed Democrats and by Republicans who realize that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, third in line, potentially could become President if something were to happen to Bush before a new V.P. had been installed.
3. Bush pardons Cheney for all crimes he "may have committed" while Vice President.
4. The pardoning of Cheney provides the tipping point for an angry public. Bush is impeached, convicted, removed. Rice becomes President and nominates Bob Gates as Vice President, who is quickly confirmed by Congress.
5. Rice pardons Bush for all crimes he "may have committed" ("the country needs to move on...blah, blah"). (She appears to be unaware that the International Court of Justice does not honor such pardons, nor can her action stop the numerous civil suits against Bush.)
6. As a result of all the pardoning, a deteriorating situation in Iraq, and an economy heading deeper into recession, public approval of Republicans sinks to new low.
7. Democrats in November sweep into the White House and to huge majorities in both houses of Congress. Obstructionist filibusters by the GOP in the Senate are no more.
8. Following the departure of Bush from office, tens of millions march throughout the world in joyous celebration, many holding signs saying "Welcome Back, America, to the World of Decency and Reality."
9. At the same time strong anti-terrorist steps are taken, Congress starts undoing the most egregious, unconstitutional policies and laws from the CheneyBush era. Habeas corpus is restored, the most extremist sections of the Patriot Act are removed, citizens' privacy rights are respected (warrantless domestic spying, sneak-and-peek and black-bag jobs, etc., are outlawed).
10. Congress and the Executive Branch work with the United Nations, NATO, League of Arab States, European Union, African Union, etc. to create a peacekeeping force of mostly Arab countries to help police the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, and to aid in helping resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Al-Qaida finds it more difficult to recruit young jihadists and suicide bombers.
Well, OK, a lot of that might not take place. But a good share of what's suggested above could happen with enough activism on our parts, momentum and good fortune.
Now let's look at a possible alternative 2008 scenario:
1. CheneyBush, using the justification that Iran is obtaining "knowledge" of how to build an atomic bomb, launch with Israel a massive air assault on Iran's nuclear research facilities and missile silos. The corporate mainstream media, as it did prior to the invasion of Iraq, will have prepared the public for such a move by uncritically passing on Administration lies as fact. Iran's military and political power in the Greater Middle East is in shambles for at least a decade. CheneyBush move to install pro-American, pro-free market politicians in these Greater Middle East nations; insurgencies organize in those countries against corrupt, pro-Western rulers.
2. As a result of America's unprovoked attack on Iran, the Greater Middle East explodes into full-scale anti-U.S./anti-Western retaliation. Americans are attacked and killed or taken hostage in one Muslim country after another, starting with downed U.S. pilots captured in Iran. Eventually, U.S. ground forces are dispatched to rescue trapped American citizens; though intended as get-in-fast-get-out-fast operations, the troops are soon battling local insurgencies and U.S. bombers are called in to provide air cover. Many innocent civilians are killed as targets are missed and missiles go astray; in addition to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, the insurgencies grow and America is enmeshed in military quagmires in a number of other Muslim countries, most notably Pakistan.
3. The stretched-thin U.S. military is forced to call up virtually all its Reserves and National Guard units, as well as "postpone" leaves and retirements ("stop-loss") for American troops. Many angry families rebel, joining appalled generals at the Pentagon and Guard commanders in the States, in denouncing the action. There are few, if any, National Guard units available to deal with increasingly-severe natural disasters in various states (floods, earthquakes, massive fires, riots, etc.). Congress introduces bills to stop CheneyBush's actions.
4. CheneyBush fire the recalcitrant Chiefs of Staff and generals and appoint their own neo-con military leaders from the lower ranks. The military situation grows even more disastrous on the ground. There is an emergency call for "volunteers" to join the armed forces, with $75,000 signing bonuses. When even that doesn't work, the military draft is re-instated. Money to pay for all of these military initiatives is borrowed from China. The economy tanks even further.
5. Prior to the scheduled November 2008 voting, CheneyBush announce a "postponement" of the election, "temporarily suspend" the Constitution, and govern by martial-law decree. They claim the reason has to do with "increased terrorist incidents and threats." The "commander-in-chief" during "wartime" (the "war" being Bush's self-proclaimed "war on terror") announces that Congress is closed. Armed troops keep the peoples' representatives from approaching the Capitol; some legislators secretly convene to discuss impeachment in Philadelphia, in the same chambers where the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were hammered out. These legislators and tens of thousands of protesters, including noted political and other military figures, are rounded up and sent to detention camps -- originally built by Halliburton to contain illegal aliens -- which are guarded by Blackwater mercenaries. Mass protests in all areas of the country are broken up and thousands arrested and sent to the camps; in a few cities, troops refuse orders to fire on the protesters -- and they are arrested and immediately court-martialed
6. Abroad, tens of millions of appalled, angry citizens pour into the streets to denounce the CheneyBush coup in Washington, and urge their governments and the United Nations to take action to restore America's democratic republic. Among the economic sanctions imposed: a) An international agreement to switch from the dollar to the euro as the recognized international currency. b) A "call" on all U.S. debts, primarily by China and Japan. c) An embargo of all exports to the U.S., which means primarily oil; U.S. oil consumption is ordered cut in half. The result of all these moves is not simply an economic depression and unemployment but areas of mass starvation throughout the U.S. The sharp decline of the U.S. economy causes world-wide economic distress and dislocation, to be sure, but amounts to much less damage abroad than would result in the event of a full-scale war against, and invasion of, the U.S. by the world community. (For more on this, see Ernest Partridge's "The Oil Trap" and "The Vulnerable Giant.")
Vladmir Putin, the effective maximum leader inside Russia, offers a good share of his country's nuclear submarine fleet in the event the United Nations might want to send a military force toward the United States. The U.N. says no thanks, for now.
7. Cheney and Bush vow not to resign, but to "defend America's freedoms, economic system and sacred soil to the last man, woman and child," suggesting they are willing to unleash a "scorched-earth" policy, and, if necessary, take the country down with them. Top generals in the Pentagon launch a counter-coup in an attempt to return the U.S. to Constitutional rule -- promising speedy democratic elections -- but, due to a mole inside their ranks, are foiled and either executed as "traitors" or placed incommunicado in military prisons.
8. A large delegation of respected Republican elders, all staunch supporters of the Administration -- including former Reagan and Bush Cabinet members, Nobel Prize winners, Wall Street bankers -- sets out for the White House to urge Cheney and Bush to resign and leave the country, with several billion dollars at their disposal. The GOP delegation is arrested, and is sent to a detention facility near the one housing oppositional Democrats and Independents. The nascent rebellion building in the country loses steam.
9. The U.S. is kicked out of the United Nations. The economic-sanctions plan proceeds apace, with every major country on board except France. The stock market collapses.
10. Seeing the handwriting of their demise on the wall, in the dead of night Bush and Cheney and their families secretly depart for Paraguay, to the huge compound the Bush clan had purchased years before. Paraguay has no extradition agreement with the U.S. (However, Paraguay does have extradition agreements with the United Nations and the International Criminal Court in The Hague.)
Well, you may think the above is pure nightmare fantasy, highly unlikely to happen. But how many Americans thought that the United States would invade and occupy a country that offered no imminent threat to us, and would persist in occupying that country even though nearly 80% of the native population has indicated that it wants the U.S. to leave and nearly two-thirds of Americans polled think the war was a mistake and it's time to go?
Who Needs An Open Coup?
I'm not saying that this scenario will play out exactly the way it's sketched above. For one thing, is an open martial-law "coup" by CheneyBush actually necessary? Virtually all the authoritarian structures already are in place, anti-terrorism bills passed by Congress give Bush the power to declare martial law in emergency situations, the ostensible "opposition party" offers precious little opposition, the corporate mainstream media is in ideological lockstep with the Administration, the counting of votes remains secret and in the hands of Republican-supporting corporations, the bulk of the citizenry says they're opposed to extreme CheneyBush actions but are not really doing much to vociferously object.
Remember that CheneyBush control the Justice Department including the U.S. Attorneys, FEMA (the department that runs the camps), most of the courts, the National Guard, Homeland Security, the Pentagon, the domestic-spying apparatus (NSA, CIA, FBI, et al.), the corporate mainstream media. The public has been warned time and time again to "watch what you say"; those objecting to the CheneyBush moves, the Administration's argument goes, would be "weakening the U.S." and thus would be "supporting the terrorists," thus making these "traitors" liable for arrest.
Bush&Co. thus repeat their M.O. of using the horrific events of 9/11 to frighten a nervous population into giving them the massive police powers they have assumed, into writing nearly a trillion dollars worth of blank checks for their various foreign misadventures, into supporting or acquiescing to their illegal behavior in twisting and shredding the Constitution's legal protections all citizens should enjoy.
True, most citizens would prefer that Cheney and Bush quickly depart the White House, so that the work of constitutional restoration and a return to a relatively sane foreign policy can begin. But like their elected representatives, they don't seem to have the stomach for a determined, never-yielding opposition, one that could start by putting these guys into the impeachment dock for their gross high crimes and misdemeanors.
Actually, there does seem to be a growing willingness in the body politic to impeach Cheney, but the timid Democratic leadership, for incomprehensible reasons, has chosen not to pursue the matter, and thus impeachment goes nowhere.
Lessons Taken From Iowa
What the Iowa returns suggest, given the Obama-Edwards one-two finish -- and what is likely to happen in New Hampshire along similar lines, with Obama and Edwards amassing a majority of the vote totals -- is that more than half of the Democratic electoral base wants significant change in the way the party deals with the worst aspects of Republican policy. It wants an opposition party worthy of the name, not the go-along-to-get-along crew currently in charge.
True, the liberal-centrist orator Obama talks more about change than he probably would be willing to deliver (the more populist Edwards would appear to be the more effective change agent), but the point is that the electorate as a whole is eager for a significant alteration of the way things are done in Washington. Even Huckabee's defeat in Iowa of the establishment GOP candidate Romney may be saying much the same thing, though the theocrat Huckabee certainly is no liberal.
In short, 2008, assuming that the American public makes clear that it will never support CheneyBush attempting to cancel the election and ruling at the barrel of a gun, promises to be a most fascinating, watershed political year.
We progressives need to rev up our activism, realizing that the best that may come out of the November election is a slight shift of the center a bit to the left. But that move, given the extreme-conservative juggernaut that's been in power for the past seven years, would be momentous and could open the way for more progressive policies and candidates down the line. #
Copyright 2007, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently co-edits the progressive website The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: crisispapers_AT_comcast.net