When Democrats compete to adopt the phony "global war on terror" as their own, and promise they can do it "better" or "smarter" than Republicans, they erase what little difference remains between the parties. "Terror Democrats" have abandoned the politics of hope for the politics of fear, and turn the political process into one that threatens to elect the candidates who frighten us the most.
When a cowardly congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 last fall, many were quick say that in the House of Representatives at least, Democrats never had any realistic hope of stopping it. This anti-constitutional atrocity rolled the cause of human rights back some 800 years, legalizing secret imprisonment, torture, and evidence obtained by torture. It made possible life imprisonment with neither accusation nor trial, and absolved from prosecution all the recently active kidnappers and torturers on US government payrolls and contracts along with those who gave them orders.
But last fall's good news, supposedly, was that the Republican congress was certain to be replaced in a matter of weeks by clear Democratic majorities in the House and Senate who'd stand up to the president, end the war, indict even impeach some of the malefactors, and begin to undo some of the damage inflicted by the most lawless presidential administration in the nation's history. It hasn't happened that way.
Instead, Democratic leaders of the House and Senate have ruled impeachment of Bush, Cheney or Gonzalez off the table. Congressional Democrats have increased the Pentagon's budget by $100 billion over Bush's request. They continued construction of an 80 acre embassy and the largest military bases in the world in Iraq. The end of 2007, a full year of Democratic control of the nation's purse will see more US forces and mercenaries in Iraq than at the beginning of the year. Only last week Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama declared himself ready to take up the "White Man's Burden" and invade Pakistan. Democrats are scrambling to re-brand the fictitious "global war on terror" as their own, and to outdo Republicans at threatening the peace abroad and scaring citizens at home.
Last week both houses of Congress, including dozens of Democrats approved legislation granting the feds the absolute power to intercept phone, fax and email traffic of anyone, anywhere in the world without the bother of explanations to any judge or competent authority whatsoever. House Democratic leaders denounced it, but didn't stop it. Senate Democratic leaders, including presidential candidates Clinton, Obama, Dodd and Biden if they mentioned it at all, decried the bill. But true to form, none stepped forward to lead a filibuster that might have stopped it.
With Congressional poll numbers nearly as low and the president's the gap between Democratic office holders and Democratic voters has never been wider. At the same time, corporate donations to Democratic candidates are higher than ever. These are two sides of the same coin. The Democratic establishment's uncritical embrace of the so-called "global war on terror" is exposing for all to see the widening fissure between the two Democratic parties --- the Democratic party of voters who are called out once every year or two, and the permanent Democratic party of consultants, pundits, lobbyists and wealthy campaign contributors. It is this gap between the expectations of voting Democrats and the will of donors and leading Democrats that prompted Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate President Harry Reid to avoid last weekend's Yearly Kos, where they would have faced pointed questions on impeachment, war and peace, or domestic policy from an ordinarily tame crowd of Democratic bloggers, consultants, campaign staffers and wannabees. Pelosi and Reid know who their real base is.
Bush and Cheney have already declared that their "global war on terror" will be the foundation of America's domestic and foreign policy for the next twenty or thirty years. By following their lead, Democrats have doomed themselves to a cycle in which they will no longer compete with Republicans to offer a better vision of life for Americans and the rest of the planet, and have made the Republican politics of fear their own. Subsequent campaigns, including the 2008 presidential well underway will be contests to see who can scare us the most. And worse news still --- they're pretty good at it. Four out of seven Democratic presidential candidates declared their immediate readiness to undertake immediate US military action in Sudan, completely bypassing the African Union force option to which all the regional parties have agreed.
As former Alaska senator Mike Gravel remarked in more than one of this year's presidential forums, "...all these guys up here scare me...." He should know. Gravel is a man well acquainted with scary times, scary politicians and exposing the lies they tell the public. As a US Senator back in 1968 Gravel risked his own safety and his political career by revealing to the the massive decade-long campaigns of lies to the American public that made possible the secret bombings of Laos and Cambodia and the war in Vietnam, which killed two to three million Vietnamese alone.
"You won't get change from any of these guys up here" said Gravel in Chicago last week. "For that you need a movement. You'll have to get together and make some of your own policy, your own laws. Change doesn't come from elections and political parties and politicians. It comes from movements"
We at BAR think this is uncommonly good advice coming from a presidential candidate. Our African American politicians are fond of describing themselves as sons, daughters and heirs of the Freedom Movement. It's time we began to untangle that mess, to consciously separate those claims from reality, and see whose followers, whose heirs they really are.
Bruce Dixon, Managing Editor of The Black Agenda Report, can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com
© 2007 The Black Agenda Report