Column No. 79 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH - October 6, 2005
Last winter and into the spring I ran an occasional 11-part series in this space entitled “The Coming 2nd Civil War” (TPJ column nos. 39-59). I discontinued the series under that name because, unfortunately, many of the topics that I deal with regularly in this column could be subsumed under that rubric. Indeed, the crypto-theocratic-fascist Georgite onslaught against Constitutional Democracy and the Rule of Law continues unabated, whether in the response to the Great New Orleans Bush Flood of 2005 or the (clever) Supreme Court nomination of John Roberts. Unless this blitzkrieg is stopped in time politically, it is an onslaught against US Constitutional democracy that will, sooner or later, lead to a future civil war. At one time or another I have been discussing this matter for quite some time now, for the reasons set forth below.
There are two irreconcilable sides to the questions of what are the meanings of “freedom and democracy,” the Rule of Law, and the “Original Intent of the Constitution”. There are two irreconcilable sides on the question of what is the role of government under the US Constitution.
There are two irreconcilable sides on the questions of the separation of church and state, of whether the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment means what it says, or doesn’t. Without going through the constitutionally mandated amendment procedure, there is no possible compromise on what the words of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments mean in terms of the rights of American citizens in matters of criminal procedure. On these matters, and many others currently on the politico-historical agenda of our Constitutional democracy, there are only two sides, not three or four. Just like a woman cannot be a little bit pregnant, there are no compromises possible here, as much as certain “center-right” politicians would like there to be.
As I wrote at various times in the earlier series, the projected cataclysm will come to our nation, if it does, because of the ideology, policies, and ever-growing political power of the Republican Religious Right (RRR), also known in my phraseology as the “Georgites.” In different arenas, different sources have stated the primary goals of the RRR. These range from the 2004 Republican Party Platform through George Bush to Jerry Falwell and Grover Norquist (recently revealed to be “ethically challenged” through his associations with his college room-mate Jack Abramoff [see “The Progress Report” of Sept. 23, americanprogressaction.org]). Their goals are: to impose their particular religious beliefs on all Americans through the use of the criminal law; to reduce the functions of the Federal government to the barest minimum outside of : the military-and-prison-industrial complexes, the predominance of the opposition-repression/suppression and private-thought/behavior-control sector, and the use of Federal fiscal and monetary policy to loot the public treasury on behalf of RRR financial/corporate supporters and cronies, while deforming economic and environmental regulation on their behalf; and to replace Constitutional government as we have known it with overwhelming Executive Branch dominance operating on its own authority (otherwise known as “fascism”).
To be clear about what I mean by “fascism,” let me post a brief definition here (for a long one, see my TPJ column of May 24, 2004): “Fascism is executive branch domination of the government without constitutional constraints on its power – that is, the substitution of the Rule of Man for the Rule of Law; no independent judiciary; no guaranteed individual rights; a single governmental national ideology that demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; corporate domination and determination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy.” In the US variant, were it to come to full fruition, the “national ideology” would be based on the theology of the Christian Right.
A good lesson on what George Bush is both really about and what he says he is about was contained in his 2005 Inaugural Address. The entire speech was a Weapon of Mass Distraction aimed at his domestic audience, primarily his core RRR supporters, and those who otherwise voted for him. He focused almost entirely on the foreign mission that he laid out for the United States, to spread “freedom and democracy” around the world. Nowhere did he tell us exactly what he meant by those words, although he did use terms like “oppression” and “tyranny” as bad and “rights” and “dignity” as good. They were all undefined. However, the best lesson on what Bush really means is found in his approach and policies on “freedom and democracy” right here at home. As I have noted many times in this space, they are legion.
The 341-page Patriot Act, snuck through an hysterical Congress in the dead of night, which for persons labeled on Presidential authority as “terrorists” or “abettors of terrorism” among other things eliminates: protection against unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause provided by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, the guarantee of the due process of law provided by the 5th Amendment, and the right to a speedy and public trial in criminal cases guaranteed by the 6th Amendment. (These presidential powers, in relation to an American citizen, were recently upheld by a Federal Court of Appeals in the Padilla case. The new Chief Justice of the United States, in a decision rendered while he was being considered for nomination to the Supreme Court and knew it, upheld similar powers in relation to foreign nationals in the Hamdi/“Guantanomo Bay” case. The Constitution itself makes no distinction on the attribution of those rights between foreign and US nationals on American territory).
There is the “Gay Marriage” Amendment, a top agenda item of Bush’s core Christian Right constituency during the 2004 elections. It would deny full access to and protection of the law to a sector of the population defined solely by who they are as people, not anything they have done. It would do this just because one religious minority defines their private behavior as a “sin according to the Bible.” Such an Amendment would return to certain concepts of non-full-personhood contained in the original Constitution: Negro slaves counted as 3/5’s of a person just because they were Negroes and slaves, and Native Americans did not count as persons at all. Furthermore, such a designation for homosexual persons would vitiate the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment in relation to civil marriage, which happens to be defined in the law by all 50 states.
The abortion-ban amendment that is part of the Republican National platform would criminalize anyone’s belief that life begins at any time other than the moment of conception, to say nothing of depriving pregnant women of freedom of choice in the outcome of their own pregnancies before the time of fetal viability outside of the womb.
In the torture controversy, the present Attorney General has stated that, in his role as Commander-in-Chief the President can declare war in violation of the Constitutional provision that grants that power to Congress alone, and then, using that declaration as his reason, the President can unilaterally amend treaties without consulting our treaty partners, thereby violating another provision of the Constitution.
As I noted in a recent column (on Original Intent, 9-8-05), there is nothing in the “plain language” of the Constitution, so beloved by Right-wingers when they are looking to suppress individual rights (by ignoring the 9th Amendment --- which the “original constructionist” Robert Bork loves to term just an “inkblot on the Constitution” --- yes, the 9th is inconvenient for them), that gives the President anything like these powers.
To the Georgites, “freedom and democracy” means committing Grand Theft Elections. It means buying the news. It means being as secretive about government operations as possible. It means having the Secretary of Defense able at will to violate the law on intelligence functions and services. It means lying to the Congress, the people, and the United Nations about the true reasons for invading a foreign country. It means attacking any political opponent as “partisan,” as if partisanship were not a central element of the political process in a free and democratic nation. Finally, it means describing an election in Iraq as “fair and free,” despite the fact that it was held by necessity under the tightest security that the US Army and Marine Corps could possibly provide. Perhaps the solution to the problem of no longer having free and fair elections right here at home would be to mobilize our armed forces on Election Day to make sure that they are not.
Yes, well beyond tax cuts (for the rich), “staying the course in Iraq” (to secure the Kurdish oil for American companies), “getting the government off your back” --- which it is for virtually no law-abiding citizens, but would be for everyone in their bedrooms and worse, their minds if the RRR gets it way, the above is what the Georgites are really about. However, the RRR does its best to conceal most of its true goals from the American public. It camouflages them alternatively with foreign wars, the “terror” threat, open lies, and appeals to the basest instincts of hate, fear, and prejudice. If and when the American people become fully aware of the true aims of the RRR, I am confident that a majority of us will reject those aims. The critical question now is a matter of timing, and that relates directly to the matter of whether or not there will indeed be a 2nd Civil War.
There are three possible time-lines. The first foresees that the battle with the Georgites will be openly engaged now, by a major Party in the political arena, and that the Georgites will be prevented from ever being able to even try to implement full-blown fascism through the political process. (Recall that Hitler – who was much more open than the Georgites are about his true aims; he set them forth in a whole book about the subject, called Mein Kampf – was able to do just that. The only major round of gunfire cementing the Nazi takeover of 1933 was heard on the Night of the Long Knives, June 30, 1934, when Hitler had murdered his political opponents or men whom he saw as potential opponents, within the Nazi Party.) The second possible time-line postulates that the Georgites will move politically to the full implementation of their plans without facing any effective political opposition beforehand and that the 2nd Civil War will then break out as they try to do that. The third alternative is that, whether or not there is major conflict at the outset, the Georgites are able to establish a full-blown fascist state which then, down the road, will become the subject of a full-scale revolt with the 2nd Civil War occurring at that time.
Some will characterize my position as alarmist and premature. I fully intend it to be. One of my principal mentors when I growing up, Dr. Edward K. Barsky, was a so-called “premature anti-Fascist.” As commander of the medical unit for the International Brigade, during the Spanish Civil War he fought to preserve the Spanish Republic against the Fascists under Franco. If I am premature in my fears, I can only hope the development of Georgite fascism to maturity in our beloved country can be prevented. To use Jefferson’s characterization of the Missouri Compromise of 1820 as indicating an eventual bloody conflict over slavery, “the Fire Bell is ringing in the night.” The policies and programs of the Georgite tell us that once again that is the case. The Fire Bell is ringing loud and clear. All who are presently capable of hearing it, are doing so. Many more must become so capable. Obviously, what we want is option I. Obviously, that is where the Democratic Party comes in. Please, as they used to say on the radio serials of my childhood, do stay tuned.