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Michael Hammerschlag: Could America Go Bad?

Could America Go Bad?

by Michael Hammerschlag

After the total defeat of the Democratic ticket by a ruthless demagogic President, and the ascension of extremist elements in the Congress, Executive, and Supreme Court; one must question how long America will retain its tattered moral authority in the world… or even if it will become a threat to other civilized democracies.

This isn’t a remote possibility or wild speculation- it is only as far away as the next major terrorist attack on America- especially if a city is nuked, perhaps more than 50% probable in the next 5 years. The CIA's Michael Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris, considers this "almost inevitable", since Bin Laden received permission for such an attack in a fatwa from a Saudi sheik. The break point for America losing its mind and reacting wildly is 50,000 dead Americans, and a little Hiroshima bomb in NYC would probably kill a minimum of 200,000. The plutonium in a Nagasaki bomb is a 20 lb. baseball sized piece; while the Russians have 660 tons of extra weapons grade PL and U, half of it without any increased security.

Our country is now a massive military and economic machine, being run by a small coterie of pinhead neo-con, trickle-down, and theocratic true believers. Science, logic, and precedent matter little to these people- they know what is right. The entire top layer of real government, economic, and military experts are exiled to the wilderness, like every reconstruction and occupation expert in Iraq. The multi-billion dollar (non) reconstruction was carried out by unknown twenty-somethings who had posted their resumes on the conservative Heritage Foundation website.

Bush’s success in his simplistic propaganda campaign against Kerry- a deserter smearing a decorated War hero as a cowardly, indecisive, weakling; was indicative of how empty and vapid the US electorate has become. Americans’ great strength throughout history have been to clearly see a problem, identify it, and fix it. Even if poorly educated, they had an ability to recognize and reject lies and liars. The faith-based community is devoid of that native wisdom, as are many of the easily persuaded fretful voters. As long as Bush keeps sprinkling God or Christ in every second speech and harps on hot button issues, they are convinced of his decency and morality, no matter the immorality of his brutish policies on war, taxes, health care, poverty, or security. The defeat of the kindly and gentlemanly Senate Dem Leader Tom Daschle by a smooth vacant “Christian” athlete John Thune, who mounted scathing attacks, typified the danger to the Republic.

George Bush ran a campaign based on fear: fear of terrorism, fear of change, fear of the other. “Trust me,” he said over and over, and Kerry was too obtuse or soft to point out that one can’t trust the most prolific liar in modern American history. Governing after losing by a half-million votes, Bush has run the most extreme, divisive, and unresponsive administration in memory. With a 3 ½ million vote mandate (if these weren’t largely the result of Republican-built paperless electronic voting machines), a 55-45 majority in the Senate, a coming 6-3 majority in the Supreme Court, Bush can be expected to shatter the economy with more lunatic tax cuts, expand neo-theocratic repression of media and personal rights, and march into any country he deems a threat. He claimed Iraq was a threat, although it hadn’t killed a single American in 10 years. Worse, another 4 years will allow the extremists to consolidate control of America- gerrymandering districts, changing Congressional rules, marginalizing Democrats- for perhaps the next 20-30 years.

A terrorist nuclear attack on the US would be the coup de grace of American liberal democracy. Bush and his Repub cohorts would (with the public’s blessing) round up 7 million Muslims in camps or deport them, institute martial law, pass Patriot 2 + 3, change the Constitution, and shred the Bill of Rights. In a flash, we would become a military dictatorship, with GB2 as our very own Mussolini. This is a man whose arrogance and lust for power knows no bounds, a man who doesn’t read and brags about it. Even a President Kerry probably couldn't resist pressure for rash action. Currently, Iraq is sucking all of our military resources, but moves against old enemies in Iran, or oil and mineral rich countries in Asia, Africa, and South America in the next decade are not implausible. It is even conceivable in 10-20 years, of conflicts with a militarily resurgent Europe over precious resources.

Many things have been chilling to an embedded observer watching this progression: the huge US Senate vote for what they knew was an unjustified Iraq war (73-26), the lack of protests by our dragooned Army and Nat. Guard, the blatant intimidation of anyone objecting to the war, the devil’s bargain by Kerry to “support” the Iraq War, DeLay’s thuggish successful campaign to do an unprecedented mid-decade gerrymandering of Texas and kill 4 Democratic seats, the bullying theft of the 2000 election with massive disenfranchisement, the same irregularities in the 2004 vote, the disappearance of any privacy, the assumption of the CIA and Justice Dept. by slavish Bush loyalists who are purging independent voices. Simply, we are one terrorist attack from losing the America we know, the one every US soldier has died for for 228 years. The world must be prepared for this possibility: that the United States would be become a militaristic fundamentalist police state. We already have the biggest prison population and percentage in the world, the old primary accusation against the Soviets.

A rogue America would sit astride the world like a wanton immature colossus, one tantrum away from smiting any imagined offender. It wouldn’t make the mistake of occupying a bitterly hateful country, but would confine itself to holding resource fields or punitive attacks. Its lack of restraint and wisdom would propagate through the second and third world and make a nuclear war or exchange much more likely (in Indiakistan or the Middle East). It would quickly withdraw from and ignore the United Nations and NATO, rendering them impotent vestiges, and end the US ability to influence or lead the world with anything but threats. An ascendant China would massively increase their military and nuclear forces, perhaps ‘absorbing’ Taiwan, with America’s tacit consent, since we are totally dependent on their goods. Every country with something Washington wanted would feel compelled to get nukes, following the lead of North Korea, till the world was a nuclear tinderbox. Impoverished recentralized dictatorship Russia would feel empowered to also use its vast arsenal to “protect” (absorb) former FSU oil states- Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan; setting the stage for confrontation with America. After US attacks on other Muslim countries, a permanent state of terrorist war would exist against America by one fourth of the globe, justifying more repression by the all seeing police state here. Immigration to a xenophobic America would virtually cease, and it's moral influence evaporate.

The extinguishing of America’s beacon of hope and freedom would likewise dim liberalization in brutal and repressive regimes throughout the world, as the UN lost any power of persuasion… and greed and savagery ruled. Canada, Europe and Australia would not be immune from this new Dark Age: the EU may be shattered by provincial disputes and national jealousies, but hopefully their more advanced social evolution would prevent their descent and preserve the hopes of mankind.

The reelection of our Great Prevaricator may auger a rapid descent to an ugly, more violent, era.


Michael Hammerschlag's commentary and articles ( have appeared in Seattle Times, Providence. Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Hawaii Advertiser, Capital Times, MediaChannel; and Moscow News, Tribune, Times, and Guardian. He's been a TV reporter, foreign correspondent, and produced documentaries. He reported on the terrible RI nightclub fire, had the first big scoop on all the media mistakes on Election Night 2000, and has written long articles on the nuclear threat 3 times over 30 years.

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