Where Have All The Patriots Gone?
Where Have All The Patriots Gone?
On Monday, December 19, 2005, the President of the United States said something new and surprising: the Constitution authorizes him to tap your telephone and read your email without a search warrant. Many Americans found themselves immediately wondering if the President had been reading the same Constitution that our teachers so proudly taught us includes a “Bill of Rights,” that protects us from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” and precludes searches except pursuant to warrants issued by an impartial magistrate. Search warrants, all good lawyers know, are issued only after a judge receives sworn testimony from law officers that “probable cause exists to believe that evidence of a crime will be found” in a particular place, and specifying the evidence they expect to find.
The President was not happy to be so explaining himself and his actions. It was a most inconvenient time to step on a land mine, but there he was, knocked ass over tit by a leaked story in that damned New York Times. Somebody had been talking out of school, and it wasn't Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, or Scooter Libby, because this wasn't just some trivial leak about whose wife happens to be a CIA agent, but something important, something that if terrorists knew it, they would use it against us. And they did! Just when he was about to get his new, improved Patriot Act through both House and Senate without a whimper of resistance, kaboom! Terrorists were celebrating everywhere!
He was angry, you could tell, but that didn't make him think any more clearly. So what if he circumvented the Constitution thirty-six times by giving the National Security Agency the go-ahead to tap phones without even calling a judge for permission? Under Reagan, Oliver North's NSA repeatedly circumvented the Boland Amendment with a nod from the Old Man. The Boland Amendment had been adopted by a unanimous Senate vote, specifically forbidding the provision of weapons to Nicaraguan rebels. The NSA also broke the narcotics, arms-trading, and foreign bribery laws, that don't allow anyone, even the President, to swap cocaine for guns and corrupt influence. Reagan sailed through that. So what was all the flap about?
They say Scooter Libby broke the law, they say Tom DeLay broke the law, they say Bill Frist broke the law, they say Mike Abramoff broke the law, they say Karl Rove may still be indicted. What the hell, it’s a witch hunt! And it’s irrelevant! Who the hell did those Senators think they were, holding up the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, the bulwark of security and therefore, of freedom? The Patriot Act is the law that made the president king for the protection of the homeland – how could they think of allowing the sun to set on his beneficent omnipotence before the end of his term? What would other world leaders think? He just got their nations to enact laws granting them huge intelligence powers. They’ll have them and we won’t – it’s a nightmare. And people wonder if the president is out of touch. They’d be amazed.
We may need to realize at this point where our President has been sitting for the last five years — in the middle of a circle of sycophants (ass-kissers), neocons (secret Nazis), lobbyists (lawyers with checkbooks), generals (deranged individuals), corporate chieftains (scam artists), bankers (loan sharks), televangelists (amoral sociopaths), and other such people as have haunted the halls of power since long before the French Revolution. As the truism goes, nobody who wants to keep consuming either law or sausage should see either one being made. It is notable that since the current president took office, the hamburgers have gotten a lot dirtier, too. We have gotten about as close to a free-market economy for influence-buying in Washington as has ever been seen. When such an atmosphere reigns, there is no point in being honest — you'll never get anywhere that way.
Look at the powerful these days — a rogue's gallery of robber barons has never feasted so sumptuously in the public eye, or with greater impunity than during the current era. The nation employs costly mercenaries to fight a war of empire, mercenaries pulled from the dregs of the planet, who have killed around the world — in South Africa, in Lebanon, in Palestine, in Turkey, in Bosnia, in Sierra Leone, in Haiti. These people change sides, discard old identities, buddy up with old pals in new outfits, another day another cutout corporation, another million dollars. With eight billion gone missing in Iraq already, you can just imagine who will be shooting their way out of the Green Zone today, loaded with cash, headed for a boat in the Bahamas, or maybe a little job in Colombia. And for those young men who enlist today, fleeing uneducated poverty, we offer them the assassin's way. Assassins. That is our position in the world today. For those who respond to the killer-android creed, then a time like this might seem the Golden Age of Killing for Fun and Profit. For those who know that Rothschild was right when he said, “The time to make money is when blood is running in the streets,” Iraq was a chance they couldn't let slip away.
Even if they had to pay Achmed Chalabi and his London-based Iraqi contingent to manufacture a pack of lies, the war had to happen. For Donald Rumsfeld, it was a chance to show he could have won Vietnam if they'd given him a chance. For Condi, it was a personality coup. For the President, it was a patriotic bubble bath, a Christian love-fest, a “triumph of the will” that the little German would have envied him. Another generation had fallen under the spell of nationalism, had learned to hate the enemy, had rebelled against their parents' pleading arguments, and left home for the battlefront, drawn by the siren song of war. The president assures the nation that our heroes and their families will be well rewarded, if not in this world, in the next and in our memories, for their sacrifice.
How did we get here? The stirring pageantry, the theatre of international conflict, swept us up. The wind was at our back as we sent our legions forth from the burned ruins of our greatest city, and a mighty cheer went up to see our spears raised high. Oh what televised majesty! Oh what stirring emotions! Credit card debt, marital stress, poor grades, old age and high gas prices, the weights of mundane existence, fell away when we soared aloft on a flood of endorphins released through repeat stimulation of images of death, revenge, and unity — patriotic sentiment.
The president had been unmanned by the razing of the towers. Innocent people had been incinerated by the thousands. He had all the justification in the world to haul off and smash the shit out of somebody. And he did. And he started to like doing it. He started to enjoy seeing the Generals and the troops and the military contractors. They were all fine people, who had the best interests of the nation at heart. They were more fun than people like Colin Powell, who wanted to read stuff and discuss the issues in that horribly earnest way of his. The maps were interesting, and the intelligence briefings were so exciting, just like he had hoped they would be. This was so much better than reviewing death penalty petitions in Texas, even more fun than owning the football team, and all his friends were so helpful. Karl was incredible, and Dick, well Dick was just Dick, ya' know? One thing for sure, Dick knew what was what and that was that. And Dick was really behind the Iraq venture. And after all, Saddam did try to kill Dad. Why wouldn't he have weapons of mass destruction?
Legal stuff is always so tedious, and the president had never actually read the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Like most Americans, he didn't know how many Amendments there were, actually. One had to do with freeing the slaves, another with giving women the right to vote — Karl had drummed that into his head — but otherwise, he pretty much drew a blank on Constitutional law. Domestic spying? Well, hell, Karl was always spying on somebody. Nixon had tapes — that wasn't illegal, but it got him in trouble. Which is why they never made tapes. Not that anyone except Karl would know about that. Alberto explained that wasn't the type of domestic spying he was talking about — not just strategic dirty tricks to blackmail judges, congressmen, staffers, that sort of thing — we're talking large-scale wiretapping of American citizens and email interception focussed on uncovering terrorist plots.
At first he didn't understand what the problem was. Why hadn't they implemented the program already? Alberto explained that he would have to sign some papers, because only then would it be lawful for the NSA to tap American phones and computers. While it is true, Alberto explained, that the Constitution makes a wartime president a virtually all-powerful emperor who can hold all civil rights in abeyance in order to protect the nation from terrorism, still he had to sign some papers to invoke that power. Liberty must give way to security, but not without due process of law, Alberto explained, smiling so graciously while extending the pen. As he signed the authorization, the president knew that his position in this office was no accident. The Lord directs the paths of men, and men are but the instruments of their Maker. Of course, only a good man can be entrusted with the virtually omnipotent power of being a “War President.” It swelled his breast with pride and humility at once. It was so important to trust in God. Only God could possibly give a man the wisdom to walk through the snakepit of Washington D.C. and come out with his soul intact. Like the leaders of ancient Israel, he would pray about the invasion of Iraq, and see what the Lord said. Perhaps Arnold Schwarzenneger might have some advice for him. Tomorrow he would call him.
The people who put the president in his position had been worried, before the big operation came down, that the son wasn't a match for the father. When the Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, and other corporate scandals were exploding, the market was tanking, and unemployment was rising, it wasn't looking good. Some wondered whether he was up to the job.
Then the towers came down. After spending seven minutes staring into space, the president put down that My Pet Goat book, and went to a bunker. Somewhere along the line, he got an injection of vitamins. He went to the scene of the disaster, picked up a bullhorn in the smoking ruins, and began restoring our national pride. He promised to hunt down the perpetrators. He campaigned for endless war like a warrior astride a stallion, seized by a noble vision, and many thought him magnificent. He put on a flight suit, landed on an aircraft carrier. He toppled the man who would have killed his father, declared victory over Iraq, and told reporters that, yep, he'd flown the jet. He worked the same miracle that the little infantry veteran worked for the downcast German people in the 1930's — he restored the nation's pride. With the nectar of power flowing in his veins, like Reagan before him, the president warmed to his role, became relaxed, jovial, avuncular, and insensible to criticism. He made speeches only to supporters, preferably to military assemblies, gatherings of peace officers, and his party's fundraisers. He refused to be budged from taking long vacations where he could rule from a distance with a majestic manner. Sometimes he is struck by his ability to heal the sorrows of the bereaved. It is a great obligation to be a king, and the accomplishment of kingly duties are made easier by having an excellent security force, so you don’t have to meet people unreceptive to a king’s healing maner, like that Sheehan woman.
He likes dealing with people on his own turf, and security is easier for his people to maintain with a large free-fire zone and total aerial control of the area. At the ranch is a good time to meet with Condi and get her advice on important policy issues. She had a way of boiling it all down into a manageable package. The war on terror had so many facets. The whole intelligence mechanism, as his father the intelligence director had told him, was like a vast ear for collecting information from everywhere. He was literally astounded by the magnitude of the task of monitoring potential terrorist threats. So many people hate America. So many websites out there had money-laundering potential. So many foreign nationals were crawling through the country with terrorism on their minds. Of course, with this evidence before him, he reauthorized warrantless telephone-tapping and email seizure thirty-six times. He will continue reauthorizing until hell freezes over or the terrorist threat subsides, so help him Chief Justice Roberts.
They are lonely days in the White House, so the president is trying something different — reading a book relevant to his occupation — “On War” by Klausewitz. He reads that there are times in the battle when the entire weight of the conflict bears upon the General, and his ability to bear that weight will determine the outcome of the battle. But he does not feel this burden. Others are bearing it for him. Or perhaps it is over. Many are telling him to take a page out of Nixon’s book. He called withdrawal from Vietnam “peace with honor,” but retreat is defeat. Terrorists will hunt us down, and without a king to protect the nation with his all-seeing intelligence eye, we will be defenseless. We cannot go back to the old days when civil rights obstructed the search for the terrorists in our midst. Where are all the patriots of yesterday? Where are all the zealous people eager to advance the anti-terrorist agenda? How could the Senate turn against him? How could they hold out such an unreasonable compromise under the threat of allowing the sun to set on the glorious Patriot Act? A mere ninety day extension would be very dangerous. During those ninety days, the clamor for investigation would grow, civil rights groups would storm in through the breach, and the whole thing, the whole marvelous dream, could dissolve. There can be no compromise. They have to push it through. But how? Karl is working on that. Lo-Fi Nikita