* Chris Floyd: Post-Mortem America…the patient is dead *


Richard Moore

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Post-Mortem America: Bush's Year of Triumph and the Hard Way Ahead

Written by Chris Floyd
Sunday, 02 September 2007

        Put your hand on my head, baby;
        Do I have a temperature?
        I see people who ought to know better
        Standing around like furniture.
        There's a wall between you
        And what you want -- you got to leap it.
        Tonight you got the power to take it;
        Tomorrow you won't have the power to keep it.
        -- Bob Dylan


Tomorrow is here. The game is over. The crisis has passed -- and the patient is 
dead. Whatever dream you had about what America is, it isn't that anymore. It's 
gone. And not just in some abstract sense, some metaphorical or mythological 
sense, but down in the nitty-gritty, in the concrete realities of institutional 
structures and legal frameworks, of policy and process, even down to the 
physical nature of the landscape and the way that people live.

The Republic you wanted -- and at one time might have had the power to take back
-- is finished. You no longer have the power to keep it; it's not there. It was 
kidnapped in December 2000, raped by the primed and ready exploiters of 9/11, 
whored by the war pimps of the 2003 aggression, gut-knifed by the corrupters of 
the 2004 vote, and raped again by its "rescuers" after the 2006 election. 
Beaten, abused, diseased and abandoned, it finally died. We are living in its 

The annus horribilis of 2007 has turned out to be a year of triumph for the Bush
Faction -- the hit men who delivered the coup de grâce to the long-moribund 
Republic. Bush was written off as a lame duck after the Democrat's November 2006
election "triumph" (in fact, the narrowest of victories eked out despite an orgy
of cheating and fixing by the losers), and the subsequent salvo of Establishment
consensus from the Iraq Study Group, advocating a de-escalation of the war in 
Iraq. Then came a series of scandals, investigations, high-profile resignations,
even the criminal conviction of a top White House official. But despite all this
-- and abysmal poll ratings as well -- over the past eight months Bush and his 
coupsters have seen every single element of their violent tyranny confirmed, 
countenanced and extended.

The war which we were told the Democrats and ISG consensus would end or wind 
down has of course been escalated to its greatest level yet -- more troops, more
airstrikes, more mercenaries, more Iraqi captives swelling the mammoth prison 
camps of the occupying power, more instability destroying the very fabric of 
Iraqi society. The patently illegal surveillance programs of the authoritarian 
regime have now been codified into law by the Democratic Congress, which has 
also let stand the evisceration of habeas corpus in the Military Commissions 
Act, and a raft of other liberty-stripping laws, rules, regulations and 
executive orders. Bush's self-proclaimed arbitrary power to seize American 
citizens (and others) without charge and hold them indefinitely -- even kill 
them -- has likewise been unchallenged by the legislators. Bush has brazenly 
defied Congressional subpoenas -- and even arbitrarily stripped the Justice 
Department of the power to enforce them -- to no other reaction than a stern 
promise from Democratic leaders to "look further into this matter." His 
spokesmen -- and his "signing statements" -- now openly proclaim his utter 
disdain for representative government, and assert at every turn his sovereign 
right to "interpret" -- or ignore -- legislation as he wishes. He retains the 
right to "interpret" just which interrogation techniques are classified as 
torture and which are not, while his concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay and 
his secret CIA prisons -- where those "strenuous" techniques are practiced -- 
remain open. His increasingly brazen drive to war with Iran has already been 
endorsed unanimously by the Senate and overwhelmingly by the House, both of 
which have embraced the specious casus belli concocted by the Bush Regime. And 
to come full circle, Democratic leaders like Hillary Clinton and Carl Levin are 
now praising the "military success" of the Iraq escalation -- despite the 
evident failure of its stated goals by every single measure, including troop 
deaths, civilian deaths, security, infrastructure, political cohesion and 
regional stability. This emerging "bipartisan consensus" on the military 
situation in Iraq (or rather, this utter fantasy concealing a rapidly 
deteriorating reality) makes it certain that the September "progress report" 
will be greeted as a justification for continuing the "surge" in one form or 

It is, by any measure, a remarkable achievement, one of the greatest political 
feats ever. Despite Bush's standing as one of the most despised presidents in 
American history, despite a Congress in control of the opposition party, despite
a solid majority opposed to his policies and his war, despite an Administration 
riddled with scandal and crime, despite the glaring rot in the nation's 
infrastructure and the callous abandonment of one of the nation's major cities 
to natural disaster and crony greed -- despite all of this, and much more that 
would have brought down or mortally wounded any government in a democratic 
country, the Bush Administration is now in a far stronger position than it was a
year ago.

How can this be? The answer is simple: the United States is no longer a 
democratic country, or even a degraded semblance of one.

It is well-nigh impossible to imagine a force in American public life today 
rising up to thwart the Administration's will on any element of its militarist 
and corporatist agenda, including the arbitrary launch of an attack on Iran. 
What's more, even if some institution had the will -- and made the effort -- to 
balk Bush, it wouldn't matter. As the New York Times noted a couple of weeks 

ŠBush administration officials have already signaled that, in their view, the 
president retains his constitutional authority to do whatever it takes to 
protect the country, regardless of any action Congress takes. At a tense meeting
last week with lawyers from a range of private groups active in the wiretapping 
issue, senior Justice Department officials refused to commit the administration 
to adhering to the limits laid out in the new legislation and left open the 
possibility that the president could once again use what they have said in other
instances is his constitutional authority to act outside the regulations set by 

At the meeting, Bruce Fein, a Justice Department lawyer in the Reagan 
administration, along with other critics of the legislation, pressed Justice 
Department officials repeatedly for an assurance that the administration 
considered itself bound by the restrictions imposed by Congress. The Justice 
Department, led by Ken Wainstein, the assistant attorney general for national 
security, refused to do so, according to three participants in the meeting. That
stance angered Mr. Fein and others. It sent the message, Mr. Fein said in an 
interview, that the new legislation, though it is already broadly worded, ³is 
just advisory. The president can still do whatever he wants to do. They have not
changed their position that the president¹s Article II powers trump any ability 
by Congress to regulate the collection of foreign intelligence.²

Thus the Administration's own spokesmen are now saying openly, in plain English,
what they once only insinuated beneath layers of legal jargon: that the 
president of the United States does not have to obey the law of the land. He 
does not have to obey acts passed by Congress. He is free to act arbitrarily, to
do anything whatsoever that he claims is necessary to "defend national 
security," in his capacity as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. There is 
literally nothing anyone can do ­ not Congress, not the courts ­ to stop him.

That is Bush's claim -- and it has been accepted. The American Establishment has
surrendered to an authoritarian takeover of the American state. If this was not 
the case, then Bush and Cheney would have been impeached long ago (or least 
months ago) for their treason against the Constitution, their coup d'etat 
against the Republic. At the very least, they would have been mocked, scorned, 
censured and shunned for their ludicrous and dangerous pretensions to royal 
power. All manner of institutional, legal and political fetters would have been 
put upon them, as happened in the last days of Richard Nixon's presidency.

Instead, Bush's power has only grown with each new outrageous claim of 
unchallengeable presidential authority. It is too little understood how vital --
and how fatal -- Congress' acquiescence in all of this has been. By continuing 
to treat the Bush Administration as a legitimate government, to carry on with 
business as usual instead of initiating impeachments or refusing to cooperate 
with a gang of usurpers, Congress instead confirms the New Order day after day. 
Some Democrats may grumble, whine or bluster -- but they DO nothing, and their 
very participation in the sinister farce ensures its continuance.

Again, look at the facts, the reality: Bush wants Congressional approval of his 
illegal surveillance; he gets it. Bush wants to launch spy satellites against 
the American people; he does it. Bush wants concentration camps and secret 
prisons with torture; he's got them. Bush wants to escalate a ruinous, 
murderous, unpopular war; he does it. He wants to declare people "enemy 
combatants" and imprison them indefinitely; he does it. Bush's spokesmen openly 
claim that the laws passed by the people's representatives are "just advisory" 
and "the president can still do whatever he wants to do," and there is no 
outcry, no action, no defense of the Republic against this overthrow of the 

Who could look at this reality and declare that the United States is still a 
republic, in any genuine form? Who could see this and deny that the nation is 
now an authoritarian state under an "elected" dictator?

Those who insist on seeing the current situation as "politics as usual" (even if
an extreme version of it) will point to peripheral elements that still retain 
some of the flavor of the old order: such as the Justice Department scandal, 
with its forced resignations and Congressional probes, or the occasional 
criminal trial of Bush Regime minions like Scooter Libby. Some will say such 
things are proof that we don't really live under tyranny, that deep down, the 
"system works."

But all of this is indeed "politics as usual" -- the kind of politics that 
occurs under every system of rule. Even the Caesars were subject to such 
pressures, forced to remove (and sometimes execute) officials who had become too
controversial due to scandal, crime, corruption or factional opposition, or even
unpopularity with "the rabble." Sometimes the Caesars themselves were removed 
for such causes -- but the tyrannical system went on. Likewise, the kings and 
queens of England in their autocratic heyday were forced to give up ministers --
even court favorites -- due to similar pressures. And so too the Russian czars, 
the Chinese emperors, the Persian monarchs, the Muslim Caliphs, the Egyptian 
pharaohs, etc. Even Hitler was sometimes thwarted or hampered in his polices by 
factional strife or public displeasure. "Politics" does not disappear in 
undemocratic regimes. It is a function of human relations, and carries on 
regardless of the political system imposed on a society.

Yet the belief persists that if there are not tanks in the streets or 
leather-jacketed commissars breaking down doors, then Americans are still living
in a free country. I wrote about this situation almost six years ago -- six 
years ago:

It won't come with jackboots and book burnings, with mass rallies and fevered 
harangues. It won't come with "black helicopters" or tanks on the street. It 
won't come like a storm ­ but like a break in the weather, that sudden change of
season you might feel when the wind shifts on an October evening: everything is 
the same, but everything has changed. Something has gone, departed from the 
world, and a new reality has taken its place.

As in Rome, all the old forms will still be there: legislatures, elections, 
campaigns ­ plenty of bread and circuses for the folks. But the "consent of the 
governed" will no longer apply; actual control of the state will have passed to 
a small group of nobles who rule largely for the benefit of their wealthy peers 
and corporate patrons.

To be sure, there will be factional conflicts among this elite, and a degree of 
free debate will be permitted, within limits; but no one outside the privileged 
circle will be allowed to govern or influence state policy. Dissidents will be 
marginalized ­ usually by "the people" themselves. Deprived of historical 
knowledge by an impoverished educational system designed to produce complacent 
consumers, not thoughtful citizens, and left ignorant of current events by a 
media devoted solely to profit, many will internalize the force-fed values of 
the ruling elite, and act accordingly. There will be little need for overt 
methods of control.

The rulers will often act in secret; for reasons of "national security," the 
people will not be permitted to know what goes on in their name. Actions once 
unthinkable will be accepted as routine: government by executive fiat, the 
murder of "enemies" selected by the leader, undeclared war, torture, mass 
detentions without charge, the looting of the national treasury, the creation of
huge new "security structures" targeted at the populace. In time, all this will 
come to seem "normal," as the chill of autumn feels normal when summer is gone."

This was written less than two months after 9/11. I was no prophet, no shaman; I
had no inside knowledge or special expertise. I was just an ordinary American 
citizen reading news reports, articles, essays and books easily available to the
general public. But even then it was crystal clear what was happening, and where
it would lead if left unchecked. As we now know, it was not only left unchecked,
it was exacerbated and accelerated and countenanced at every turn, by virtually 
every element and institution in American public life.


"How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I 
answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it." ­ Thoreau

Now from all this, what follows?

The time has passed for ordinary political opposition, "within the system." The 
system itself has been perverted and converted into something else; it is now 
impossible to "work within the system" in the old understanding of that term, 
because that old system is gone. To work within the current system is to 
collaborate with evil, to give it legitimacy.

Thoreau's answer should be taken up by every person in public life, beginning 
with the Senators and Representatives in Congress, and radiating outward to all 
other elected officials in the 50 states, and to civil servants and other 
government employees, law enforcement agencies, judges, universities, 
contractors, banks, and on and on, throughout the vast, intricate web that binds
the lives of so many people directly to the federal government. There should be 
non-compliance, non-recognition of this illegitimate authority, disassociation 
from taking part in its workings.

But we must also recognize that the kind of civil disobedience that Thoreau 
preached ­ and practiced ­ is immensely more difficult today, because the power 
of the state is so much greater, far more pervasive, more invasiveŠand much more
implacable, more inhuman. No one would have dared put Thoreau in "indefinite 
detention" without charges, or torture him, or delegate some underling in 
intelligence apparatus (which didn't exist then) to kill him as a "suspected 
terrorist." Of course there were many egregious suspensions of Constitutional 
liberties and draconian measures during the Civil War; but these occasioned 
fierce fights in Congress, investigations, lawsuits, and outraged protests on 
the streets ­ the worst, by far, in American history, dwarfing the urban riots 
and war protests of the Sixties. But only the most ignorant fool ­ or devious 
liar ­ could compare these short-lived, ad hoc, inconsistently applied, 
frequently reversed and much-disputed depredations, carried out in the midst of 
a massive insurrection by fully-fledged armies on American soil, with today's 
thorough-going, systematic creation of an authoritarian state, on the basis of a
zealous ideology of an unrestricted "unitary executive," operating in a 
nebulous, self-declared "state of war" that we are told will last for 

Neither Thoreau ­ nor any Northern opponent of the Civil War ­ confronted 
anything like this. (In fact, neither did the insurrectionists of the South, who
were treated as lawful prisoners-of-war when captured ­ or often simply allowed 
to return to their homes on parole, in exchange for a simple statement that they
would fight no more. No Southerner was ever subjected to indefinite detention, 
none were tortured, none were liquidated by secret agents.) The technology 
available to the government today amplifies the scope of repression 
immeasurably, both in the pinpoint, surreptitious targeting of individuals and 
in larger-scale operations.

In a land crawling with armed ­ and armored ­ SWAT teams, with operatives from 
innumerable federal agencies packing heat and happy to use it, a land where more
than 2 million people languish in prison (many of them captives of an endless 
"war on drugs" that has done nothing to curb substance abuse but has greatly 
augmented the power of the state and the criminal gangs whose laundered money 
enriches Establishment elites), a land where almost every transaction is wired 
up to some national grid, where national ID cards are now being imposed ­ a land
where you literally cannot exist without placing your liberty, your privacy, 
your very life at the mercy of a government apparatus besotted with violence, 
coercion and intrusion, there is no place left for the kind of action that 
Thoreau advocated. His way ­ and that of Gandhi and King, who took so much from 
him ­ envisions a state opponent which one could hope to shame into honorable 
action by the superior moral force of principled civil disobedience. But the 
very hallmark of the present regime is its shamelessness, its utter lack of any 
sense of honor or principle, its bestial addiction to raw power.

It is pointless ­ and counterproductive ­ to simply throw yourself under the 
wheels of such a monstrous machine in futile spasms of rage and despair. The 
machine doesn't care. It will gladly chew up your life and move on. For the 
action of the ordinary individual to have an effect, it must be amplified by a 
larger social movement. And it is difficult to imagine such a movement arising 
in America today, in a society atomized by the engines of profiteering, its 
communities gutted or abandoned by elites seeking greener pastures ­ and cheaper
labor ­ elsewhere, its citizens isolated from one another, locked in their own 
bubbles of electronic diversion, and their own struggles to keep their jobs 
(unprotected by unions, subject to the arbitrary whim of local bosses, or 
faceless corporate masters, or predatory hedge funds, etc.), hang on to their 
health insurance (if they've got it), and stay out of the hell created by the 
bipartisan Bankruptcy Bill for the benefit of the credit card companies.

And despite the deep unpopularity of the regime, there is still a widespread 
reluctance to recognize its true nature, and what it will require to restore our
constitutional republic. And truth to tell, there are a great many people 
uninterested in doing so. As long as the diversions keep pouring through the 
latest gadgetry, the monthly paycheck manages to cover the bills, and their own 
bodies are not subjected to the tyrant's evil, many people are happy to accept 
the authoritarian system. (This is not unique to Americans, of course; it is a 
constant in human history.)  But even where there is an interest in discerning 
the reality of our times, and a yearning for change, again there is no broader 
movement to leverage an individual's dissent into a form large enough to thwart 
the tyrannical machine. And there is no American Sakharov on the horizon, 
someone to arise from the very center of the machine to denounce its workings 
and call for genuine liberty, genuine democracy, genuine economic and social 

So whatever we can do, we must do it ourselves. If we have no power or 
influence, if we cannot take large actions, then we must take small ones. Every 
word or action raised against the overthrow of the Republic will find an echo 
somewhere, from one person to another to another to the next -- each isolated, 
individual voice slowly finding its way into a swelling chorus of dissent.

It might be too late. It might not work. But failure ­ and much more horror -- 
is guaranteed if we don't even try.

As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote ­ in a context that is growing less 
dissimilar all the time: -- it is impossible that evil should not come into the 
world; but take care that it does not enter through you.

"What is the price-current of an honest man and patriot today? They hesitate, 
and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and
with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that 
they may no longer have it to regret." ­Thoreau.

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