Monday, April 17, 2006

Censure and the Long War

What follows is another 'blast from the past' but not quite as old news as the first one. With this one I'm going all the way back to the heady days of the Feingold Censure Motion. The point of posting this is that the basic big picture represents my views pretty well, is not something that other people are saying, and is a sufficiently large issue that it doesn't really change with the day to day happenings. In many ways that is the point of why I'm doing this. Too much of what we see in both the media and online is too tightly coupled to each days events to really allow for meaningful discussion on the causes and forces that are shaping what is going on around us, and in my view that isn't an accident. The institutions reflect the way people's psychology works and that is to obsess about the details mostly out of needing to feel involved in something. In other words all the reactive posturing to day to day events isn't going to get us out of this one, not in the big picture.

This essay concludes with my personal favorite blow across the bow of the whole geopolitical mess we are in which is to tie energy research into the 'war on terror'. One way to tell that we aren't serious about the war on terror is to watch where the money goes, or rather where it doesn't go. It doesn't go into the kinds of things that would really make us safe, like getting free of our dependance on foreign oil, or securing our own ports, instead it goes toward funding the aggressive wet dreams of people who have spent their whole lives being in love with violence.

Without further ado...

Censure and the Long War

Senator Feingold’s bill to censure the president for his illegal spying on Americans is a brave effort, a good strategy and a fine idea, but unfortunately, through no fault of the Senator’s, it misses a much deeper, and more problematic truth, a truth that we cannot ignore any longer if we hope to make a significant change in what is unfolding in this country. The truth is that as long as we all, collectively, continue to believe that the President can order a ‘War on Terror’, a ‘Long War’, that will last generations, then we have, in fact, collectively assigned the president precisely kinds of powers that the Administration want us to believe it has.

The Constitution of the United States of America makes very clear that while war making is a presidential power, the declaration of war is very clearly a power consigned to the Congress. It is very clear that the ‘War on Terror’ was first of all a slogan proffered by the administration and only secondarily, through repeated use, and non-existent opposition to it, become a policy of the United States government. If the President has the power to convert a political slogan into an actual deployment of US military might, over multiple generations, then we have already allowed the Constitution to be violated, and already consigned ourselves to the slow steady accretion of Presidential power inherent (and it is inherent) in such a decision.

How many Senators and Congressman knew when they passed an ‘Authorization for the use of Force’ in a Afghanistan, and more to the point, how many citizens of this country knew, that they were in fact providing legal cover, though not clear legality to, an indeterminately long, but already avowedly multi-generational, conflict against a non-specific enemy, with an unspecified, and in fact arbitrary set of circumstances defining ‘victory’? How many? Did the people of this county know then and do they know now, that they have decided to commit 100’s to 1000’s of billions of dollars annually to a fight against an enemy that at the time of their famous strike against a building and it’s occupants, consisted of probably a couple of hundred, and not more than 10,000 real members? Has it occurred to anyone that we almost certainly could have bought Iraq for 250 billion dollars, and gotten a better result than we have now? Has it occurred to anyone that by the same logic we probably could have paid a thousand Muslim men from Pakistan a million dollars each to go blow up Al-Qaeda central and been done with this whole thing years ago? How many people in the US right now realize that the Global War on Terror, the Long War that has now begun, has, if you believe the administration, been explicitly and publicly declared to be a war that will involve the conversion of the United States of America into a police state? That is what the decision to spy on Americans without a warrant amounts to.

As is well known the issue of how best to deal with the NSA spying problem is a political problem, but it is a political problem in the substantive sense of that word, not the modern day derogatory sense. The problem is that the bulk of those Americans that have an influence on the American political process have apparently, at least so far, decided that they *do* want a multi-generational conflict run from and for a military industrial state and therefore the Democrats and indeed anyone who attempts to oppose this decision will lose. Just as the Republicans have discovered that it wasn’t the Democrats who were driving big budgets, but the voters who, bless their little hearts, *like* money from heaven, so to do the Democrats now know that any attempt to resist the ‘War on Terror’ will only cost them at the ballot box – where it counts. The tendency on the part of the left to blame the Democrats for their lack of leadership misses this essential point. This is first and foremost a democracy, or a near approximation of one for the time being – it is the public that makes the decisions.

And thus we come to the fundamental question. Did the people of this country so enjoy their last multi-generational struggle, with it’s concomitant spending on weapons, police, and spies, that they really do believe that the right thing to do is to have another even bigger one. The ‘Cold Warriors’ (what an absurd phrase!) who run the Republican party can only offer up to us the same world they grew up in, a world of absolute enemies, and easy answers, a world of Fear, and Death, and the never ending struggle to achieve dominance for corporate America.

Most crucially of all, the American people have to decide which they want more: Fear, or Truth. Would we rather spend money and buy guns, and armies, and spies and propaganda or would we rather actually be safe? Do we want a war, and a war for our children and grandchildren as well, or do we want safety? Do the American people want to know what it would actually take to be safe? Are they interested in the experts who have clear solid recommendations for safety that don’t always make sense in the sound bite world, but do in fact make one safer, or do they prefer sound bites and slogan and more guns, and violence for the next 3 generations? Do the American people want to know about how energy issues are driving this whole problem, and that their beloved government spends less on energy research than it does on the embassy, (the embassy!) in Baghdad? Why can’t we have a Manhattan Project for energy to make us free forever from the Middle East? Because it would cost too much? That is quite a stretch, if you know anything about these issues or maybe because it would not be in the interests of Exxon Oil.

We who would oppose what is happening, who would make a difference on these issues have to stop blaming the Democrats, and find out what it is going to take to get the American people to start caring about what is true, and not just what sounds good, to care about the actual welfare of their grandchildren and not keep shelling out cash for a war that will never end. This country is not great because of it’s CEOs, and it is not great because of it’s salesman. It is great because of it’s engineers and scientist. Any culture that stops paying attention to what is true, and starts preferring only what sounds good, is a culture that will not last for long.

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