Published on Tuesday, April 11, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Democracy Be Damned - Republicans Need Another War
by Thom Hartmann
George W. Bush is at it again. This time, reports Sy Hersh in The New Yorker, it'll be Iran. (Those of us who guessed it would have been Syria first apparently underestimated his hubris.) And this time he wants to be able to use nukes.
In the novel 1984 by George Orwell, the way a seemingly democratic president kept his nation in a continual state of repression was by keeping the nation in a constant state of war. Cynics suggest the lesson wasn’t lost on Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon, who both, they say, extended the Vietnam war so it coincidentally ran over election cycles, knowing that a wartime President’s party is more likely to be reelected and has more power than a President in peacetime.
This wasn’t a new lesson, however, and Orwell was not the first to note that a democracy at war was weakened and at risk.
On April 20, 1795, James Madison, who had just helped shepherd through the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and would become President of the United States in the following decade, wrote, “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.”
Reflecting on war’s impact on the Executive Branch of government Madison continued his letter about the dangerous and intoxicating power of war for a president.
“In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive [President] is extended,” he wrote. “Its [his] influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war...and in the degeneracy of manners and morals, engendered by both.
“No nation,” he concluded, “could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”
But it’s not just Madison who warned us. More recent presidents have also noted the danger of a craven political usurpation of democracy, particularly when fed by the bloody meat of war.
As he was leaving office, the old warrior President Dwight D. Eisenhower had looked back over his years as President and as a General and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, and noted exactly what Madison had warned against.
“Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea,” Eisenhower said in sobering tones in a nationally televised speech. “Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.”
But Americans have been terrified by the prospect of terrorism, endlessly hyped by the Republican majority, and the warnings of Madison and Eisenhower are forgotten by many - and unknown to most of the current generation that now studies "to the test" instead of delving into the deeper lines of American history.
Citizens of other nations, however, immediately recognize what the Republicans are up to.
In October of 2002 - nearly four years ago - I wrote on these pages the following summary of a trip I'd just taken to Buenos Aires:
I just returned from Argentina. People there understand Machiavelli, I discovered; when he wrote his instructions to The Prince, that, “Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose…” it would make perfect sense to anybody who’d lived through Argentina’s past half-century.
Four years later, there can be no doubt that Bush/Cheney/Rove and the Republican cabal lied us into invading Iraq. Ginning it up just before the 2002 midterm elections was largely done so Republicans could take back the Senate in 2002 after losing it because of Jim Jeffords' defection. The 2003 attack was timed, we now can see, so Bush would improve his chances to win the White House in the election of 2004.
So, too, it appears that Bush is now ginning up a new war just in time for the 2006 midterm elections, and Karl Rove probably has a 2007 continuing war in mind to help swing the 2008 elections (or postpone them).
Much of the evidence now available suggests both the 2003 Republican Iraq War and the possible upcoming Republican Iran War are just that simple, just that banal, and ultimately just that traitorous to the traditional ideals of America.
As Governor George W. Bush told Mickey Herskowitz - the man the Bush family hired to ghost-write Bush's autobiography A Charge To Keep - in 1999:
"One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as commander in chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."
Bush's determination to invade Iraq to gain "political capital" even before he was appointed to the Presidency in 2001 was first laid out in an article by Russ Baker, who extensively interviewed Herskowitz. Baker noted:
"Herskowitz said that Bush expressed frustration at a lifetime as an underachiever in the shadow of an accomplished father. In aggressive military action, he saw the opportunity to emerge from his father's shadow. The moment, Herskowitz said, came in the wake of the September 11 attacks. 'Suddenly, he's at 91 percent in the polls, and he'd barely crawled out of the bunker.'"
Oil, to the Republicans, would be a nice bonus. And let's not forget those profits for Halliburton and other big Republican contributors.
But the main reason Bush invaded Iraq, it turns out, was so Republicans could take back the US Senate in the election of 2002, and in the hopes that Bush could finally win an election in 2004.
Apparently Bush is now prepared to do the same with Iran - or at least rattle the sabers loudly enough to convince the world he intends to - for the same purpose. Political capital. Hold on to the Republican majority. Prevent investigations of the many crimes of his administration by denying Democrats the power of the subpoena that comes with a majority in the House or Senate.
And - unless Democrats in Congress and the American people stand up and speak out - in the process Bush and his Republican enablers may just bring about the end of the great American experiment in democracy.
Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a daily progressive talk show nationally syndicated by Air America Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection," "We The People," "What Would Jefferson Do?", and Screwed: The Undeclared War Against the Middle Class.