The United States democracy is in a struggle for its life. A growing number of writers, generals and other opinion leaders are speaking up to inform and encourage an inattentive public to understand and to make a stand to protect our nation from enemies within and without.
In his new book "Nemesis," Chalmers Johnson talks about the momentous decision Great Britain faced after World War II. As its colonies struggled for freedom, Britain understood that it would have to choose between empire and democracy. If it resorted to tactics despotic enough to maintain empire, it would lose its own democracy. Britain chose democracy and humanity, and the British and the world are the better for that choice.
That is our choice today. As our leaders make their thirst for empire clear through one policy after another, our struggle to keep our humanity and democracy becomes the fight of our lives.
The Cheney/Bush administration lied us into an ill-conceived war that has killed far too many of our soldiers and uncounted numbers of Iraqis. The war has multiplied the number of terrorists, armed and seeking revenge.
This administration shamed us before the world and endangered our own soldiers by practicing and condoning torture. They have alienated our friends and infuriated our enemies. They have endangered our economy and damaged the environment.
The tragedies of this war and the numerous violations of our democratic rights are so egregious that we are tempted to believe that the Cheney/Bush administration is the whole problem, fixable by a different team in the White House.
Believing that would be a major mistake. The Cheney/Bush cabal has been so arrogant, extreme and incompetent that many have been prodded awake and found themselves speaking out. But the U.S. has been building empire for a long, long time.
While most Americans have not been aware of it, the U.S. has overtly and covertly been building empire for decades. Rather than establishing colonies like the empires of old, we have killed or overthrown many leaders who did not comply sufficiently with our demands. According to John Perkins, a former self-styled "economic hit man," we have enticed countries into insupportable debt in order to manipulate their economies. We have more than 700 military bases around the world.
Our trade policies favor multinational corporations over the people of countries whose economies are too small to resist U.S. pressure.
As exploited people in these countries discover our manipulations, it should not surprise us that some seek revenge. "Blowback" is the CIA term for chickens coming home to roost. No country is strong enough to repeal the laws of cause and effect.
Quest for empire does not fit our self-image, and many of us long shrank from such stories of exploitation. But we can only change reality by first facing it. It would be tragic to have been so diminished and not learn from the experience.
Democracy is not merely the system of government we happened to be born into, a system that only asks us to vote for leaders from time to time. If democracy means we are a self-governing people, then it means we not only have the right but the responsibility to control the policies and actions of our government.
Many of us have resisted the idea of impeaching Cheney and Bush. But we now realize that by allowing this administration to continue in power, we become a party to:
- Killing Americans and other people in wars of aggression.
- Imprisoning and torturing people.
- Endangering our economy and the environment.
- Neglecting health, education and other needs at home and abroad.
- Eroding our own liberties.
Our Founding Fathers understood the misuse of power and gave us impeachment as a corrective measure. Facing such a disastrous series of wrongheaded policies, if we fail to use it, we signal to future presidents and other leaders that they too can ignore the will and the welfare of the people of our country and the world.
It will be a long time before the rest of the world will trust us again. But impeachment would signal to the world that the people of the U.S. are changing course and wrestling back control of our government. It would be a first step back from the precipice of empire and toward the family of nations that will help us find our way.
Whether or not we can persuade Congress to impeach Cheney and Bush, as self-governing people we must find a way to change our country's policies.
Having observed instances of election fraud by officials in 2000 and 2004, we know that only our vigilance will protect our elections. Having witnessed the mainline media shirk their watchdog role, we are compelled to search for truth from a variety of sources.
Our struggle to renew our humanity and democracy will require time, money, energy and courage. We have much to learn from the Boston Tea Party, the union movement, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam peace movement and democratic groundswells in South and Central America.
Eternal vigilance is still the price of freedom.
A mother whose son was killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, later wrote: "Let us not, as a nation, add to the inhumanity of our times."
Midge Miller is a Madison activist and a former member of the state Assembly.
© 2007 The Capital Times