Thursday, July 31, 2008

What kind of government do you want

By Carol Gee

. . . in Iraq differs, depending on with whom you are having the discussion. The original goal of the neocons was quite clear. They were intent on establishing a democracy as a foothold somewhere in the Middle East. Iraq seemed militarily and strategically easier than Afghanistan. It is now five years later, 4000 American military deaths later, and $541 billion later. And the United States UN mandate to be in Iraq runs out at the end of this year. The deadline set by our current president (OCP) for getting a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the government of Iraq is today, July 31, 2008. With the Iraqi parliament's failure to reach an agreement on holding provincial elections in the fall, Democracy In Iraq looks a bit in peril. But the SOFA persists. The New York Times story is headlined, "Deal on a Security Agreement Is Close, Iraqis Say." Alissa Rubin and Steven Myers' story elaborates on many of the key elements of the SOFA. To quote:

Iraq and the United States are close to a deal on a sensitive security agreement that Iraqi officials said on Wednesday satisfies the nation’s desire to be treated as sovereign and independent.

. . . The emerging agreement, officials said, gives Iraqis much of what they want — most notably the guarantee that there would no longer be foreign troops visible on their land — and leaves room for them to discreetly ask for an extended American presence should security deteriorate.

. . . The Bush administration’s unofficial deadline for the deal has long been July 31. Although the United Nations mandate allowing American troops to operate in Iraq will not expire until the end of the year, politicians in both countries have been concerned that with elections approaching in the United States and Iraq, it might not be possible to reach an agreement once the fall campaign is in full swing and it would be better to finish negotiations during the summer.

. . The authorization for the presence of American troops would be renewable annually so that if conditions worsened or improved, Iraqis could respond to that, according to Ayaed al-Sammaraie, a Sunni leader, and several other Iraqis knowledgeable about the agreement.

"American hubris, " is how my friend, betmo, characterizes this from the link (at Take it Personally) to Tom Friedman's column in the New York Times. Friedman's stance fits in quite nicely with (the above) neocon ambitions for the Middle East, unfortunately. One of my gurus, Dr. Marc Sageman, reminded us that Afghanis historically will be more nationalistic than anything else. Friedman obviously is not familiar with "leaderless jihad." I quote the offending paragraph at the end of these three:

. . . For many Democrats, Afghanistan was always the “good war,” as opposed to Iraq. I think Barack Obama needs to ask himself honestly: “Am I for sending more troops to Afghanistan because I really think we can win there, because I really think that that will bring an end to terrorism, or am I just doing it because to get elected in America, post-9/11, I have to be for winning some war?”

The truth is that Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Pakistan are just different fronts in the same war. The core problem is that the Arab-Muslim world in too many places has been failing at modernity, and were it not for $120-a-barrel oil, that failure would be even more obvious. For far too long, this region has been dominated by authoritarian politics, massive youth unemployment, outdated education systems, a religious establishment resisting reform and now a death cult that glorifies young people committing suicide, often against other Muslims.

. . . The main reason we are losing in Afghanistan is not because there are too few American soldiers, but because there are not enough Afghans ready to fight and die for the kind of government we want.

The kind of government we civil libertarian activists want is one that balances the need for intelligence with the need for Fourth Amendment Constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Just claiming that those protections are included in this so-called overhaul in no way makes it so. In fact the recent work by Congress on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is a foolproof recipe for the loss of those protections. "Bush Orders Intelligence Overhaul," is today's NYT (7/31/08) headline. I paid close attention to this story for hints about how it will affect the kind of government civil libertarians want. To quote what seems to pertain from the article:

. . . an executive order that revises the rules for intelligence agencies and strengthens the authority of the national intelligence director . . . according to a power point briefing given to Congress that was reviewed by The Associated Press.

. . . The new order gives the national intelligence director, a position created in 2005, new authority over any intelligence information collected that pertains to more than one agency -- an attempt to force greater information exchange among agencies traditionally reluctant to share their most prized intelligence. The order directs the attorney general to develop guidelines to allow agencies access to information held by other agencies. That could potentially include the sharing of sensitive information about Americans.

. . . The order has been under revision for more than a year, an attempt to update a nearly 30-year-old presidential order to reflect organizational changes made in the intelligence agencies after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was carried on in secret in the midst of pitched national debate about the appropriate balance between civil liberties and security, spurred by the president's warrantless wiretapping program. The briefing charts assert that the new order maintains or improves civil liberties protections for Americans.

The order also gives the national intelligence director's office the power of the purse: . . . It did not explain the FBI's domestic intelligence mission, which has gotten increasing attention since 9/11.

''The executive order maintains and strengthens existing protections for Americans' civil liberties and privacy rights,'' Perino said Thursday.

Is this, too, hubris? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a recently headlined statement, was not addressing the questions raised by her mass abandonment of civil liberties in the eventual FISA bill revision. Pelosi's statement about the energy crisis leaves a bitter and ironic taste in the mouths of many of us including this articulate minister. "Save the planet? How about saving the Republic?," by Chuck Baldwin at News With, July 30, 2008. To quote more extensively than normal from his essay (hoping the author will not mind too much):

Yesterday, the Politico quoted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as saying, "I'm trying to save the planet; I'm trying to save the planet." She was responding, of course, to pressure that she and her fellow Democrats are experiencing to suspend a congressional ban on offshore oil drilling in the face of skyrocketing energy prices. It would be really wonderful, however, if the liberal congresswoman could get as energized about saving our once great republic.

Herein lies another problem: the vast majority of our politicos (from both major parties) do not even seem to know what kind of country the United States was designed to be. Virtually every reference made to the United States by our civil magistrates is that we are a "democracy." That's odd; someone should have told our Founding Fathers, because they emphatically rejected the concept of creating a "democracy" in favor of creating a constitutional republic.

. . . The fear of what happens to freedom and liberty under democratic rule is what prompted Madison and the rest of America's founders to labor so hard to create what they did: a constitutional republic.

Under God, it is allegiance to the Constitution that has preserved our liberties, our peace and happiness, our security, and our very way of life. Furthermore, it is the repudiation and rejection of constitutional government that is responsible for the manner in which these very same blessings are currently being lost.

. . . What every elected officeholder is expected and required to do is very simple: they are required to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Period. End of story.

. . . Of course, the problem is, the people who are charged with the preservation of our republic are the ones who are the most responsible for its destruction. The American people have far more to fear from Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and John McCain than they do from any foreign adversary, because our leaders have proven that they have absolutely no fidelity to the principles of constitutional government. They have no compunction about eviscerating the protection of our freedoms, or about abolishing the vanguard of our liberties. They are Machiavellian, making King George of old look like a mere amateur.

No, I take that back. It is not our civil magistrates who are most responsible for the destruction of our republican form of government: it is "We the people."

At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the people to govern themselves. We must be willing to hold our civil magistrates accountable to the contract they made with us, which is to uphold constitutional government. It is our duty to "throw off" any system of government that does not secure our liberties and protect our constitution. And this we have not done.

. . . Patriotism is more than waving a flag on July 4th, or singing The National Anthem at a ball game, or wearing a flag lapel pin on Flag Day. For an American, real patriotism means that we are willing to preserve and protect our constitutional republic. Remember, Franklin's answer: "A republic--if you can keep it."

Nancy Pelosi can talk about saving the planet all she wants to: her duty, however, is to preserve, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution. And that is also the job of every single American citizen. Unfortunately, most of us are no better at doing our job than Pelosi is at doing hers.

"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3) Today's post takes a look at recent news with an eye to the hypocrisy of U.S. leaders who ignore the loss of democracy in the last 8 years, while persisting in imposing "democratic" occupation in Iraq, while neglecting the more crucial terrorist threat posed by al Qaeda's bases on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The kind of government we want is one that cares more about its own people than the neocon adventurist agenda, one that does not spy on its own people, and one that rewards politicians for statesmanship rather than the acquision and maintenance of political power. Dare I dream?

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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