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January 8, 2006 - Letting Democracy Die By Asphyxiation

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World's Laziest Journalist

January 9, 2005

By Bob Patterson


Back before the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq was begun the Homeland Security folks issued a news release advising people to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape so that, if there were a chemical weapons incident, they could seal off a room in a way that would keep the dangerous airborne substance out.


What's wrong with that?  Don't most kids get a warning from their mom about not putting their heads in plastic bags because of the high danger of dying from asphyxiation?


It seemed logical that some cynical wag would write a letter to the editor pointing out the preposterous aspect of the Homeland Security suggestion, but nothing happened.  An article that appeared in the February 13, 2003, New York Times was headlined: "Duct Tape and Plastic Sheeting Can Offer Solace, if Not Real Security."  Are reporters supposed to know about things like asphyxiation?  A letter to the editor pointing out the danger of an airtight enclosure was quickly e-mailed to them.  The next day, it was one of the letters printed.  Later that day, at a news conference (as I recall) a government official mentioned that the danger of asphyxiation was real and the duct tape and plastic sheeting were meant metaphorically. 


On Sunday, January 1, 2006, Harry Sheerer mentioned on his radio show (carried on NPR) that a story had appeared in a Berlin newspaper stating that representatives from the Bush administration were warning government officials in various NATO nations that military operations against Iran were a possibility in the near future.  Google news turned up one cooberating URL suggestion.  Later in the week, there were a few more mentions of the various visits in different places by Bush's representatives.  On Friday, January 6, 2006, an article written by Robert C. Koehler also mentioned this stealth topic.


A preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities would certainly divert the media's attention away from any potential for impeachment. Wouldn't it also be the death knell for democracy in the United States?  If the US was waging two wars started by Dubya, and he was compelled to stand down in 2008, wouldn't that be ludicrous?  A Democratic replacement would be certain to investigate the beginning of the regime change in Iraq, and a Republican would be hard-pressed to ignore his predecessor's wars with both Iran and Iraq as a means of finding and punishing Osama while he was hiding in the mountains of Pakistan. 


The conservative radio talk show hosts will probably maintain that Bush will perform a precision strike against the atomic facilities and that's all he will do.  That presumes that there will be utterly no retaliation.  If, on Monday December 8, 1941, President Roosevelt was informed that the threat of the American fleet had been removed and that Japan would not initiate any additional acts of aggression, would FDR have told Congress that there was no need to vote on a declaration of war?


An online columnist can say what he heard on the Harry Sheerer show and describe some Google searches, but not do much else.  The conservative talk show hosts can, with all the imperial impudence they can muster, dismiss the topic and related items on the Internet as "unsubstantiated" and not worth discussing.  The big newspapers that still have foreign correspondents and/or the AP could check with various European correspondents to see if they can substantiate any of the details, but in the age of downsizing, the foreign staff members are probably being given other assignments that are less time-consuming.


If a strike against the Iranian atomic facilities is launched, then the conservative talk show hosts will immediately switch into "support the president or admit you are a traitor to your country" mode.  A few years later, someone might make a casual remark such as "the time to discuss it was before it was launched - and the Democrats didn't say anything."


Before American politics obliviously slides into some irrevocable changes, there is one maneuver that the Democrats can make to possibly stop their nightmare from becoming a reality.  I call on Senator Joseph Biden (or any other Democrat) to make a motion that offers a binary choice - either start impeachment proceedings immediately or invent some kind of über-President office and schedule a coronation ceremony as quickly as possibility.  If Biden does that, then the conservatives could never say they didn't see a dictatorship coming.  If the Republicans vote for it they know what they are doing will drastically change American history.  If Bush is going to be impeached for his conduct in the run-up to the war in Iraq, then it has to be done before a new war with Iran starts.  Indications on the Internet are that there isn't much time before the window of opportunity for doing something before Iran gets atomic weapons - only about three months.  If any Republican does not want a "temporary chancellor for life" type anointment, then now is the time to go on record so that history will know.


A vote of confidence now would be tantamount to giving him unprecedented powers.  Part of the impeachment debate hangs on the question - did he already usurp too much authority for the Office of President?  How can you give him more authority at the same time that you are implying he has already gone too far?  


Some Democrats might object to this cut-to-the-chase suggestion.  Perhaps they should read Epictetus' Stoic Doctrine of Acquiescence and pay particular attention to the sentence, "Will you not stretch out your neck as Lateranus did in Rome when Nero ordered his beheadal?"  Vote on it now, while there's still some time for debate.


Without such a vote, if there were to be a ceremony where George W. Bush was officially elevated to the level of "temporary chancellor for life," the conservative talk show hosts would (up to the start of such a hypothetical ritual) deny that it could ever happen or that the Democrats didn't understand the interim measure.  The minute the change was in effect they would then revert to the "support him or admit that you are a traitor" method of sidestepping the issue.


If Bush is eventually going to be granted such "temporary chancellor for life" status, the Democrats might just as well take the "we fooled 'em" aspect away from the process.  Making it official now, would rob future pundits of the "by slow increments" topic, but it would also take away from the Republicans their favorite refrain about "you have to support everything the President does or you're a traitor."  Heck if the Democrats go "all in" with such a move then it just speeds up a process that now seems slow but inevitable.  Not doing anything now will amount to letting the one remaining chance at doing anything melt away when the heated discussions follow a precision strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.


Does anyone think that if Bush deems the strikes necessary he will postpone them until the question of a possible impeachment proceeding has been resolved?


As the window of opportunity for a chance to prevent Iran from getting atomic weapons (of mass destruction) shrinks, the likelihood of a preemptive strike increases.  Do Democrats seriously think that George W. Bush will just let the clock run out and not do anything to prevent it from happening?  The longer impeachment is postponed, the higher the odds become that a strike against the Iranian facilities will be made.


If some obscure online columnist raises the specter of Iranian soldiers streaming over the geography of eastern Iraq (cue the metaphor comparing this to the swarms of Chi-com troops crossing the frozen Chosin Reservoir in 1950), it can easily be dismissed as the paranoiac fears of an insignificant pundit, but (as they say in the financial ads) "past performance is the best indication of future performance" and Bush's track record indicates that some citizens can be upset by the consequences of a military strategy which Bush has authorized.


This column is meant to be a harsh assessment because the underlying binary choice is extremely dangerous.  If the underlying premise for this column is judged by history to be an accurate assessment, then all the folks who fought and died for the United States in World War II will have made the ultimate sacrifice for democracy for nothing if he isn't impeached.  They will be getting shortchanged by the switch to an imperial presidency and all those political speeches that have included the phrase "never forget their sacrifices" will seem in retrospect to have been absurd. 


If the mainstream media smothers the story of the heads-up visits, then democracy will die of asphyxiation, because the bridge between too soon to discuss a hypothetical and too late to call back the strike will have shrunk down to "crack in the floor" proportions.  Eventually historians and pundits, when they do the future autopsies on the death of democracy in America, will have to examine the curious matter of the media that didn't bark when the topic of the courtesy calls was appearing online in early 2006.


We usually run a quote at the end of our columns, so we chose this one, ascribed to Adolph Hitler, from Power Quotes by Daniel B. Baker (page 183) - "The efficiency of the truly national leader consists primarily in preventing the division of the attention of a people, and always concentrating it on a single enemy."  So do you concentrate on getting Osama by going after Saddam?  Assuming that Osama is still alive if he survived the earthquake, do you think he is playing cribbage or is he sitting undisturbed in Pakistan while plotting the next "outside the box" terrorist strike?


The disk jockey says we can't have a new war without hearing what some folks regard as the greatest war song of all time.  He'll play Marlene Dietrich singing Lili Marlene.  Have a great week and enjoy the fruits of democracy while you can.





Copyright (including logo) © 2005 - Robert Patterson

Email the author at worldslaziestjournalist@yahoo.com



Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
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