October 1, 2002
How to fight fascists and restore justice
The world crossed a threshold when the Bush regime presented its National Security position paper ("The National Security Strategy of the United States of America") to the U.S. Senate.(See The Washington Post and The New York Times. For a copy of the document, click newamericancentury.org} Now we are seeing the open presentation of a plan for world domination that most alert political observers were already able to discern from the actions of the group of Nixon and Reagan-Bush holdovers that now runs the executive branch.
A prototype of the plan was produced in September 2000 by a think tank for Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush and Cheney's chief of staff Lewis Libby. The plan's title "Rebuilding America’s Defenses," goes far beyond euphemism to the point of being a bald, absurd lie. America's military machine is not designed for defense (as witnessed September 11, 2001), but for aggression. And now it is explicitly for world domination. The word "rebuilding" implies some depletion, which does not apply to the most massive and powerful military machine the world has ever known. As the world learned in 1939, great military machines never sit idle for long. They demand to be used.
The plan specifically stated that the U.S. will not allow any other country to build up a military that will threaten its superiority. And it now reserves the right to strike pre-emptively whatever it deems a threat. This report comes at a time when the regime is planning an attack on a country it says is planning to gain “weapons of mass destruction.” This pretext is not even that the country has such weapons, which there is little evidence for. (The biological weapons Iraq made from germs provided by the U.S. under the Reagan administraion in 1985 are not "weapons of mass destruction.") The administration’s reasoning is arbitrary and won’t withstand a moment’s examination. But when you have superior force, you don’t have to make sense. Unfortunately for tyrants, the habit of not making sense does come back to bite them. The Greeks were right about tragic flaws. What is initially the very source of the tyrant's power is in the end his undoing.
It is transparently obvious that Iraq is a domino in the regime's plan to control the Middle East. This position paper is saying explicitly that the president can choose to attack anyone he wants anywhere. It also explicitly points out that the U.S. wants more power in the Middle East. The international community sees through the regime's illogical pretexts, but no one has the strength to resist its force. The destructive capability of the U.S. military is so overwhelming that even the threat of its use can be an effective tool for control. The Bushistas understand that, and this is the way they view the world, as a property to be defended by overwhelming force. Use power to build and consolidate power. All for power. We can rule the world.
Similar autocratic powers have now been claimed for the president domestically through the Patriot Act. So far the powers have only been used selectively, mostly against immigrants. But the power is being tested, broadened, and there is no doubt that the pattern of continuing expansion of its powers and dominion is the design of the administration.
The nations of the world have been put on notice that any of them can at any time be pre-emptively attacked by the country that has now deemed itself the master of the world. Now the other countries of the world find themselves in a situation analogous to what Americans experienced on December 12, 2000, the day that the corrupted Supreme Court subverted the democratic process and installed a fake figurehead leader.
Days of Infamy
As time draws the lines of history more clearly, December 12, 2000, will emerge as a date of greater infamy than September 11, 2001. Even with the suppression of investigations by the White House, the evidence is already available to show that the second incident flowed out of the first, "as surely as the night follows the day."
December 12, 2000, is more significant in American history because it is the day that a coup installed the present undemocratic, militaristic corporate regime into power. I remember the day well, and Americans were stunned. Even the talking heads on CNN could not hide their shock. Americans were accustomed to law prevailing in the resolution of such disputes, for all parties to at least put on a show of respect for law and the democratic tradition. Those were the rules of the game. Underlying all the hard-fought battles in the political theater, there was a shared respect for fundamental civil and legal principles, respect for the rules that governed the conduct of the affairs of government. This was what was cast aside by the Republicans, and it was precisely what constituted their advantage in the post-election debacle in Florida. They were not more right. They did not have a better case, their case was a joke. They had only force, and the willingness to cast aside ethical restraints. That is the recipe for the Republican victory that fraudulently gave them the White House when they obviously did not win that election fair and square.
This is the very definition of tyranny. Americans have not been accustomed to dealing with tyrants, and they have been stymied. It has appeared as if they have just allowed the theft of their country and the overthrow of their greatest principles. But Americans have been slow to react because they have not learned how to deal with tyrants. This disrespect of law and tradition is not an American trait; it is not customarily the way the government is supposed to operate. In the aftermath of the coup, as America mourned the democracy that was crucified in broad daylight, troubling questions arose and circulated through uncorporate media at home and abroad: Will Americans stand by dumbly and watch as their democratic republic is overthrown and replaced by a fascistic regime? Have they become so fat and lazy, so brainwashed by their incessant media propaganda that they will let the American Dream of "government of the people, for the people, and by the people" fall to dust without even a whimper?
Commentators in Europe and elsewhere made sardonic comments about the apparent lack of will of Americans to save the democracy that was once the envy of the world. Americans asked the same questions about themselves. Are we going to stand by and let this happen? Are we going to let our country become the heir to the philosophies of the Third Reich? And when we found we didn't know what to do, we hung our heads in shame.
Americans lost face in the world. It appeared that the people stood by and compliantly allowed a lawless group to wreak havoc over anything that stood in its way. With barely any noticeable resistance, the regime has proceeded to dismantle one by one every restriction that limits the power of major corporations to rape the country and steal the public's resources.
Two years after the regime seized illegitimate power in the U.S., it is confronting the international community in the same way. Now in a sense the nations of the world stand with the American people, who were robbed of justice in their own country two years ago and have not yet seen it restored. All people in the world who care for democracy and justice are confronted with the same dilemma. How do law-abiding people defend themselves against those who respect no law but force?
The dilemma Americans have been wrangling with for the last two years is now the whole world's problem. The regime that declared war on democracy in America has made it clear that it will not stop until it dominates the entire world.
Tools for fighting tyrants
How indeed does the world defend itself against such an onslaught?
To fascists, gangsters and tyrants, anything but superior force is seen as weakness. Both Bushes have told Saddam, "We will not negotiate!" Diplomacy is for sissies. Being reasonable is seen as capitulation. The Bush crowd showed in 2000 that for them to win was supreme. They will do anything required to gain victory. And no one can hope to have a chance against them who is restrained by respect for principle.
For Americans who respect law, who honor justice and democracy it was a conundrum. How can you fight against lawlessness without becoming lawless yourself? If you use their own tactics against them, you have become them. You have thrown out the very principle you were fighting for, without which there is only "mine versus yours." So what can you do, besides stand idly and watch the usurpers destroy everything you -- and a majority of Americans -- cherish?
Though I anguished privately over these problems, I know that I was not alone in my torment and shame as I helplessly watched the great American traditions wiped away one by one. In my personal struggle with it I found solace in books and searched for historical precedents to draw strength and courage from, and ideas. I found myself drawn to France during World War II, when it was invaded and occupied by the Nazis, when its freedom was taken away, its cities occupied by soldiers, its people killed and imprisoned, its resources systematically siphoned off, its culture desecrated, its traditions taunted and ridiculed.
Parallels between today’s American right wing and the Nazis are pointed out more and more frequently. The comparisons are inescapable. I think we are past the point of having to establish the similarities. It is no longer necessary to refrain from using the F word. What we call it doesn’t matter anyway. We are under the dominion of a militaristic regime whose stated purpose is world domination.
The National Security document stated that the U.S. would use its power in a benign fashion, supporting democracy, but we know that is not true. The U.S. supports dictators all over the world, as long as they serve the interests of the U.S. business elite. What the Republicans call “freedom” and “democracy” mean the freedom of that elite to take whatever it wants from anyone.
So here we are, in some ways back to 1939, when the fascists in Germany threw all domestic and international law and civility aside and mounted a drive to seize absolute power.
To console myself I looked back to the French during World War II, overrun by the Nazi Blitzkrieg. The “lightning war” was long prepared for on the German side, but the French were unprepared and were caught off guard. For their failure to take the Nazi threat seriously enough, they suffered a humiliating defeat and an occupation that killed the nation bit by bit. Eventually a resistance did take shape. Albert Camus wrote about the transformation of his people during the occupation in some letters that appeared in the resistance journal Combat.
Camus wrote four letters to a former friend, a German who had joined the Nazis. They can now be found in the book Resistance, Rebellion, and Death.
The letters address the humiliation of being defeated by an enemy who was much more ruthless and was willing to abandon all standards of civilized and humane conduct to achieve power. This addressed the fundamental problems of our present situation.
This is what gave the Republicans the advantage over the Democrats in the election debacle of 2000. That was the difference that enabled the Republicans to seize power in 2000, by doing what had been unthinkable in America: renouncing democracy, the very principle that distinguished this country in history and made it great.
Some who don’t like my use of the word “fascism” to describe what is going on in America remind me that there are differences between the U.S. today and Germany in the '40s. One person told me, “I’ve seen the camps. People in my family were killed in them. We don’t do that here...” True enough, there are differences. That regime had a certain kind of barbarism enhanced through sophisticated killing technology that was in a class by itself. But that is no reason to let tyranny proceed to gain force until it becomes equal to the Reich.
Yes, Camus’ situation was different. We may pray that we never live to see what the people of France endured under the Nazis. Even so, we have undergone our own humiliation and our own occupation of a fascist power. There are those who will quibble over my choice of words, but there are still those who say Hitler was misunderstood and that the holocaust never happened. Those kinds of Byzantine conversations will always go on, but they don’t matter.
People have told me, “You will never persuade anyone if you use that word. You will alienate most of the people you want to reach. You will only be preaching to the converted.” So let it be. Those who are not yet convinced that America has allowed a totalitarian military state to take over can stay in their medieval world and I hope they will be happy there.
Camus’ letters are the timeless cry of rage of a freedom loving man to tyrants. It gave me hope to read them.
In an argument with his German friend a few years before the war, Camus had said, “No, I don’t believe everything can be subordinated to a single end. There are means that cannot be excused. And I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.”
The German said he put his country "above truth, and beyond despair." Camus' failure to do the same, he said, meant, “You don’t love your country.”
Later, after three years of occupation, of being dominated and suppressed by violence and murder, an embittered Camus had the answer to the question of how freedom-loving people are able to defeat tyrants.
“I want to tell you at once what kind of greatness keeps us going," he said. "But this amounts to telling you what kind of courage we applaud, which is not your kind. For it is not much to be able to do violence when you have been simply preparing for it for years and when violence is more natural to you than thinking.”
The Nazis saw intelligence as weakness. Pausing to think, to ponder ethical questions, to yield to humanitarian impulses, that was weakness. And in one moment of weakness you could be overpowered by a determined enemy.
At first, Camus said, there was a desire to emulate their oppressors. “For there is always something in us that yields to instinct, to contempt for intelligence, to the cult of efficiency. We become ashamed of our intelligence, and sometimes we imagine some barbarous state where truth would be effortless. But the cure for this is easy; you are there to show us what such imagining would lead to, and we mend our ways.”
Conscience was a weakness that was well exploited by the Nazis in their blitzkrieg. Camus said, “This is why we were defeated in the beginning: because we were so concerned, while you were falling upon us, to determine in our hearts whether right was on our side.”
The French had also to overcome their “image of a peaceful destiny,” Camus said, their reluctance to mutilate mankind.
While the French were trying to determine their own truth, they were defeated. Camus said they had to make a “detour” to get to where they were ready to fight. “It is a detour that safeguarded justice and put truth on the side of those who questioned themselves. And, without a doubt, we paid very dearly for it. We paid for it with humiliations and silences, with bitter experiences, with prison sentences, with executions at dawn, with desertions and separations, with daily pangs of hunger, with emaciated children, and, above all, with humiliation of our human dignity. But that was natural. It took us all that time to find out if we had the right to kill men, if we were allowed to add to the frightful misery of the world. And because of that time lost and recaptured, our defeat accepted and surmounted, those scruples paid for with blood, we French had the right to think today that we entered this war with hands clean --- clean as victims and the condemned are -- and that we are going to come out of it with hands clean -- but clean this time with a great victory won against injustice and against ourselves.
“For we shall be victorious, you may be sure. But we shall be victorious thanks to that very defeat, to that long, slow progress during which we found our justification, to that suffering which, in all its injustice, taught us a lesson. It taught us the secret of any victory, and if we don’t lose the secret, we shall know final victory. It taught us that, contrary to what we used to think, the spirit is of no avail against the sword, but that the spirit together with the sword will always win out over the sword alone. That is why we have now accepted the sword, after making sure that the spirit was on our side.
“... this is why we were the stronger -- because of the detour that took us out of our way to seek our justification, because of the delay occasioned by worry about our rights, because of the crazy insistence of ours of reconciling everything that we loved. ... we paid dearly for that detour. Rather than running the risk of injustice we preferred disorder. But at the same time that very detour constitutes our strength today, and as a result we are within sight of victory...
“For three years you have brought night to our towns and to our hearts. For three years we have been developing in the dark the thought which now emerges fully to face you. Now I can speak to you of the intelligence.”
Like the Nazis, the Bushistas put themselves above truth. They sought victory at the price of justice. They have succeeded in achieving their dreams. They have taken over. They are at the pinnacle of world power, it is undeniable. But their dreams go no farther. They do not have the vision to take it any farther. They can see no future; they know of nothing but conquest. Without vision, they will fall apart. They have already sacrificed their integrity for power. Through living so long in self-created contradictions, they have lost the integrity of their own minds. The rest of their dissolution will inevitably follow.
Americans have fallen prey to fascism in their own country because they were seduced by a value system in which all worth is measured by money. In a society that adopts that value system, the degradation of everything of quality is sure to follow. It is time for Americans to relearn the transcendent.
“What is spirit?” asked Camus. “ We know its opposite, which is murder. What is man? There I stop you, for we know. Man is that force which ultimately cancels all tyrants and gods. He is the force of evidence...
“If nothing had any meaning, you would be right. But there is something that still has meaning...
“Even the gods are mobilized in your country. They are on your side, as they say, but only as a result of coercion. You no longer distinguish anything; you are nothing but a single impulse. And now you are fighting with the resources of blind anger, with your mind on weapons and feats of arms rather than on ideas, stubbornly confusing every issue and following your obsession. We, on the other hand, started from the intelligence and its hesitations. We were powerless against wrath. But now our detour is finished. It took only a dead child for us to add wrath to intelligence, an now we are two against one. “
“...among the reasons we have for fighting you... there is none more fundamental than our awareness of having been, not only mutilated in our country, wounded in our very flesh, but also divested of our most beautiful images, for you gave the world a hateful and ridiculous version of them. The most painful thing is seeing a mockery made of what one loves...
“You speak of Europe, but the difference is that for you, Europe is a property, whereas we feel that we belong to it...
“For all those landscapes, those flowers and those plowed fields, the oldest of lands, show you every spring that there are things you cannot choke in blood. That is the image on which I can close. It would not be enough for me to think that all the great shades of the West and that thirty nations were on our side; I could not do it without the soil. And so I know that everything in Europe, both landscape and spirit, calmly negates you without feeling any rash hatred, but with the calm strength of victory... The battle we are waging is sure of victory because it is as obstinate as spring...
“henceforth we have a superiority that will destroy you..."
It may not show in the official polls, but Americans are waking up to the outrage that has been perpetrated on them. They were slow to react. Their own best qualities, their tolerance, and their trust were used against them. The Bushistas have taken our most sacred truths and dashed them in the mud.
This then is a bitter call for revenge against those who took our democratic republic away, who took our honor away, who stole our country from us, using our good will against us. You won’t get away with it. Your reign of terror is drawing to a close. We have found our strength.
Now as the second year of our occupation by a fascistic state draws to a close, we begin to gain clarity. We begin to see and feel our power. And we know the will of the people will rise against the outrages and be victorious.
-- By David Cogswell