Published on Wednesday, October 9, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
In the 2002 Election, The Issue is Unchecked Power
by Harvey Wasserman
Is this the most important election in US history?
With his TV talk of war, George W. Bush has blown smoke over what's really at stake today: the future of democracy. Not in Iraq; here in the United States.
Never in US history have we ever been closer to an unchecked one-man one-party rule than right now. And as the world's sole military super-power, we have made the crisis truly global.
The reality is simple: the right wing of the Republican Party controls three of the four branches of government, and is just a single vote away from taking the fourth. The Executive, the Judiciary, the media and the House of Representatives are all in Republican hands. The Senate teeters on the edge. And the USA Patriot Act, passed in the wake of September 11, has obliterated most of the Constitutional guarantees that made this country a democracy in the first place.
Should Congress go Republican in November, there will be no institutional check or balance left to guarantee that the democracy born here two centuries ago will survive.
First, the Republicans control the Executive Branch, which it took with the first losing candidate in 120 years. Defeated in a popular election by more than 500,000 votes, with many more not properly counted, the administration is firing away with an aggressive far-right agenda that's kept the opposition off balance.
Second, the Republicans control the Judicial Branch, which formally installed Bush into the Presidency, and which is currently dominated by right wing appointees---many for life---dating back to the Nixon Era.
Third, the Republicans control the "fourth branch of government." Virtually all major US media is now owned by six corporations. With precious few exceptions, there is no serious debate on the core issues that define American life, and no mainstream coverage of the movements for peace, social justice, environmental, labor, or minority rights to balance the constant blare of right wing pundits.
All that remains in play---barely----is the Congress. The U.S. House is firmly in control of the Republican Right. The minority Democratic opposition is feeble, without strong leadership or direction.
Thanks to the defection of Jim Jeffords of Vermont, the Democrats hold a one vote majority in the U.S. Senate. And that's all that now keeps the Republican far right from total and unchecked control of every branch of the United States government.
To this lethal mix has been added the USA PATRIOT Act, approved after September 11, virtually obliterating the once-sacred guarantees of the Bill of Rights. Put simply: the Executive Branch now has the power to arbitrarily brand anyone a "terrorist" with no tangible evidence, and to have that person imprisoned without formal indictment, access to a lawyer or even public notification. Hundreds of unnamed alleged terrorists are thus being held indefinitely in Cuba and perhaps elsewhere with no recourse. If unchecked, such openly contemptuous disregard for the human rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution will inevitably spread like a cancer to the core of American liberty and dissent.
The structure of our basic rights is as tenuous under George W. Bush as under many of the third world dictators installed by his father when he was head of the CIA.
Any shreds of counter-balance left in the system will disappear if the Republicans keep control of the US House and retake the Senate.
Globally, that extends to a Bush Doctrine touting the "right" to intervene in any country, and remove any ruler it does not like, regardless of national sovereignty or international law.
The timing of Bush's latest rhetorical escalation has nothing to do with Iraq. Saddam Hussein is only the latest American-installed enemy of convenience.
This anti-Iraq hysteria is about an aggressive, unelected US regime aiming to to complete the coup d'etat it began two years ago.
America's domestic economy is shattered, its stock market in free fall. Unresolved multi-billion-dollar scandals still taint Bush from Harken Energy and Vice President Dick Cheney from Halliburton. Under this regime, joblessness has skyrocketed and the quality of life has plunged.
The Bush remedy has been tax breaks for the rich and relentless assaults on organized labor, gays rights, women's rights, minority rights and the natural environment. His foreign policy has been to trash international treaties on atomic testing, missile defense, global warming, international justice and more.
Bush's latest war talk admits to no human or financial cost. He and most of his cabinet are chickenhawks who avoided service in Vietnam. They are selling a video game war in which Saddam Hussein magically disappears with no American bloodshed, no crying widows, parents or orphans. The American veterans suffering from Gulf War I don't exist. Nor does the chaos in Afghanistan left after removing the Taliban and failing to find Osama Bin Laden.
A real war against this particular Saddam Hussein could cost $100 to $200 billion the current US economy can't afford. It could destabilize global oil supplies and infuriate much of the muslim world, 1.2 billion strong. The real costs could include skyrocketing oil prices, economic collapse, and terrorism escalated beyond our wildest nightmares, with the final demise of liberty and peace.
The Republicans are running out the clock on the November election. They are winning their bet against Democrats too timid to oppose a war that has no clothes, and a declaration of global empire with no legs. After that comes an endless procession of Orwellian enemies, conjured at will, a permanent pretext for martial law.
The Harken-Halliburton attack on Iraq is Stage Two of the coup d'etat that began with the installation of an unelected president. It could be completed November 5 with the final capture of the House and Senate.
If that happens, Saddam Hussein will be the least of our worries.
Harvey Wasserman is author of AMERICA BORN & REBORN: THE SPIRAL OF US HISTORY, and HARVEY WASSERMAN'S HISTORY OF THE U.S. E-mail: NonukesHW@aol.com