by Alexander Cockburn
2.40 PM, 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. "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, seeing the attacks as pretext for all sorts of unrelated missions of retribution, 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, the 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 Powell 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 United States 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 be 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 Department has argued in two federal cases that the president has the power to indefinitely detain without charges any person, including any U.S. citizen, designated as an "enemy combatant." 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 Department 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 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 anti-war 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 anti-war group mentioned above. Remember, there's a strong lobby here for torture, too.
On Sept. 10, 2002, 23 people who committed the crime of demonstrating against the terror methods imparted in Fort Benning reported to federal prison convicted of trespass, with sentences ranging from six months probation to six months in federal prison and $5,000 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 over 40 years in prison for engaging in nonviolent resistance in the long campaign to close Fort Benning. Last year, Dorothy Hennessey, an 88-year-old Franciscan nun who 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 DoD Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz and has successfully occupied the vacant territory known as George Bush's brain. For an equivalently troubling 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. Early in 1949, he resigned his post as DoD secretary and not long thereafter threw himself to his death out of a window in the Bethesda Naval Hospital. There's no chance of Rumsfeld taking such a step. He's way too pleased with himself.
September 11 2002 (http://albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
All Rights Reserved.
Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.