DC’s Most Dangerous Man

Written by Alexander Cockburn on . Posted in Breaking News, Posts.


A t 2:40
p.m., Sept. 11, 2001, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was commanding his aides
to get "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H."–meaning
Saddam Hussein–"at same time. Not only UBL"–the initials
used to identify Osama bin Laden.
So noted a CBS report. "Go massive,"
notes taken by these aides quote him as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things
related and not."

We can thank
David Martin of CBS for getting hold of these notes and disclosing them last
Wednesday. This was our Donald, thinking fast as he paced about the National
Military Command Center. For Rumsfeld, as for his boss, as for so many, it was
a turning point in his career as a cabinet member in the Bush II presidency.

The year
had not been a happy one for this veteran of the Nixon and Ford eras, the man
who gave Dick Cheney his start in the upper tiers. Rumsfeld speedily became
the target of Pentagon leaks about his abject failure to take control of the
vast Pentagon pork barrel, last best trough in the U.S. economy. In the wake
of the attacks Rumsfeld swiftly learned to revel in his role as America’s
top exponent of bully-boy bluster.

And he’s
kept it up, running rings around Colin Powell, whose pals are now leaking stories
that he may throw in the towel at the end of Bush’s present term. Small
wonder. Rumsfeld has humiliated Powell, reaching a peak in effrontery when,
a few weeks ago, he contradicted decades’ worth of formal U.S. foreign
policy and declared that Israel had every right and every reason to occupy the
West Bank and have settlements there.

The specter
of military government here in the U.S. lurks eternally in the imagination of
fearful constitutionalists, right or left. There’s a lot more reason for
these fears today, particularly after the Patriot Act shot through Congress.
Today the FBI can spy on political and religious meetings even when there’s
no suspicion that a crime has been committed. Dissidents can get labeled "domestic
terrorists" and be the target of every form of snooping. The Patriot Act
allows "black bag" searches for every sort of record that might shed
light on suspects, including the books they get out of a library. Computers
and personal papers can be confiscated and not returned even if an indictment
is never lodged against the suspect. Such secret searches can take place even
in cases unrelated to terrorism.

"The
Justice Dept. argued in two federal cases that the president has the power to
indefinitely detain without any charges any person, including any U.S. citizen,
designated as an ‘enemy combatant,’" as we are informed by the
Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Furthermore, the administration argues
that the president’s conduct of the war on terrorism can’t be challenged,
and that civilian courts have no authority over the detentions. The Justice
Dept. argues that people designated "enemy combatants" can be put
behind bars, held incommunicado and denied counsel. If the detainee does get
a lawyer, their conversations can be bugged. In such manner we are saying goodbye
to the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

Back to
Rumsfeld. The Defense Secretary is currently trying to get the Pentagon greater
authority to carry out covert ops. He also wants Congress to agree to have a
new undersecretary of defense, responsible for all intelligence matters. Now
blend these proposals in with the erosions of the Posse Comitatus Act, which
forbids the U.S. military to have any role in domestic law enforcement. Shake
the blender vigorously and you have the Rumsfeld cocktail, with an Ashcroft
cherry.

A defense
undersecretary may soon be able to target YOU (or the antiwar couple in the
apartment next door), bug your phone and computer, burglarize the place, grab
you, stick you in prison and let you rot. All legally. That’s what we call
military government, the way we teach the Latin American officers mustered for
training at Fort Benning to do things in their countries, plus hanging electrodes
on the testicles and nipples of those slow to confide who their teammates were
in the antiwar group mentioned above. Remember, there’s a strong lobby
here for torture too. Try holding a placard up, when George Bush is driving
by.

Kevin O’Neill
had a good column last Thursday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describing
what happened when demonstrators against President Bush were herded inside a
fence at Neville Island for his Labor Day visit. "Police called this enclosure
the designated free-speech area, though anyone who had signs praising the president
was evidently OK to line the island’s main street for the motorcade.

"The
mini-Guantanamo on the Ohio was set up strictly for security reasons, of course.
Those who pose a genuine threat to the president are expected to carry signs
identifying themselves as such, as a courtesy. Hence the erection of the Not-OK
Corral.

"Bill
Neel of Butler just doesn’t get it, though. He’s 65 and can remember
a time when our entire country was a free-speech zone. So when he refused to
get inside the fence with his sign, he was arrested, cuffed and detained in
the best place for inflammatory rhetoric, the fire hall.

"Neel’s
confiscated sign said, ‘The Bushes must truly love the poor–they’ve
made so many of us.’ For holding this contrary opinion in the censored
speech zone, Neel was given a summons for disorderly conduct."

On Sept.
10, 2002, 23 people who committed the crime of demonstrating against the terror
methods imparted in Fort Benning are to report to federal prison convicted of
trespass, with sentences ranging from six months’ probation to six months
in federal prison and $5000 in fines. Judge G. Mallon Faircloth is notorious
for giving the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor to nonviolent opponents of
the School of the Americas.

Seventy-one
people, School of the Americas Watch tells us, have served a total of more than
40 years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in the long campaign
to close the school. Last year Dorothy Hennessey, an 88-year-old Franciscan
nun, was sentenced to six months in federal prison. "It’s ironic,"
Sister Hennessey says, "that at a time when the country is reflecting on
how terrorism has impacted our lives, dedicated people who took direct action
to stop terrorism throughout the Americas are on their way into prison."

Back to
Rumsfeld once more. He’s dangerous because he’s brimful of arrogance,
surrounded by fanatics like Paul Wolfowitz and has successfully occupied the
vacant territory known as George Bush’s brain. For an equivalently malign
figure you have to go all the way back to Defense Secretary James Forrestal,
whose own brain finally exploded under the weight of his own paranoia, and who
threw himself to his death out of a Naval Medical Center window back in 1949.
I see no chance of Rumsfeld taking such a step.

Unimaginable

"About
one-fourth of the indi- viduals who have contributed  to McKinney’s
campaigns over the past five years have names that appear to be Arab-American
or Muslim, according to an informal study of Federal Election Commission records
by the Journal-Constitution." Can you imagine a similar story appearing
about the Jewish financial contributors to the campaign of Denise Majette, who
recently defeated Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary in Georgia’s
Fourth District? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution loathed McKinney.

Many liberal
Democrats resolutely averted their gaze from McKinney’s campaign and disdained
her appeals for help, even though Majette’s preference for president in
2000 was, if we believe her endorsement, the black, anti-choice Republican,
Alan Keyes.

Dullness Hailed

"Barr,
McKinney and Traficant were colorful at the expense of the institution of which
they were a part," said Thomas E. Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings
Institution. "They knew the shock value of their utterances and its capacity
to attract a lot of press attention." These dreary sentiments came in a
New York Times piece by Carl Hulse about the departure of colorful reps
and senators from Congress.

Mann is
one of those rent-a-quote guys the press loves. Call him up and he’ll spit
out a couple of sentences like a popcorn machine. In fact those three reps were
all in their separate ways testimonies to the fine judgment of their constituents
in putting them in office. The Republican Barr, also defeated in a Georgia primary,
was as valiant a defender of constitutional freedoms as McKinney, and particularly
distinguished himself in the frail congressional resistance to the Patriot Act.
Traficant was a glorious symbol of citizen contempt for prosecutorial rampages.

Hulse evidently
searched out quotes to buttress his thesis-of-the-day, that boisterous and turbulent
behavior, not to mention principled views, are out of popular favor. "Analysts
believe," he wrote, "there could be a larger message in the muting
of some Congressional voices, particularly in the case of the two Georgians,
Mr. Barr and Ms. McKinney. In tense times, the analysts said, the public wants
the combative rhetoric softened.

"‘They
liked to take strong, uncompromising stands on very controversial issues, and
that is what makes them newsworthy,’ said Merle Black, a political science
professor at Emory University in Atlanta. ‘But they just state opinions
and positions rather than engaging in any kind of dialogue, and in the wake
of 9/11, when we are at war, they are not viewed as solving problems.’"

Moral: submerge
yourself in the gray mass of conformity, and you’ll do just fine. It’s
all balls, of course. The public relishes stand-up people. Look at the career
of Ron Paul, the great libertarian from Texas, one of just three (another Republican
plus Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat) who recently voted against life sentences
for hackers. Traficant was never abandoned by his constituents. He went down
because the jury, possibly confused, voted him guilty and Congress threw him
out. I’m not sure about Barr but McKinney was the victim of a well-hatched
plot. She actually got more votes than in 2000, when she was elected. But outside
money for Majette, much of it from Jewish donors, plus a big Republican crossover
in the open primary, did her in.

The Best Political
Mind In Washington?

Cal Thomas
recently called Paul Weyrich "one of the best political minds in Washington"
and asked him what the GOP should focus on in upcoming elections. The finely
honed political mind of Weyrich disgorged the following as looming issues: immigration,
homosexuals in the Boy Scouts and the Pledge.

The Salt
Lake City Tribune
, which carries Thomas’ dreary syndicated column,
duly carried a letter to the editor, running as follows: "The only consistency
I can find in these issues is 1. They are asinine; 2. They are divisive; 3.
They are easy to present to a fourth grader." The writer went on to list
real issues, like the proposed war with Iraq, corporate corruption, campaign
finance reform, etc., hoping that issues that make a difference will actually
be debated by candidates. He ended with, "Oh no…I just had a thought.
What if Cal Thomas is right and Paul Weyrich is one of the best political minds
in Washington?"

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