Is it King or Chairman George?

Benjamin Franklin once stated, “Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.”

by Paul Hamilton

I must say that I am absolutely confounded by many of the unprincipled, unethical and extremely undemocratic policies and programs instituted by the Bush administration over the last six years.

From the very beginning the Bush administration has been under an ominous and ever-darkening cloud of suspicion with accusations of “stealing” the 2000 presidential election from former Vice President Al Gore, to the present day difficulties in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our country’s chief promotion of the “global war on terror.”

I feel I must be forthcoming and simply say that I am not a George W. Bush fan, although like so many other Americans I did feel the rally-around-the-flag effect after the tragic events of Sept. 11.

Like so many others, not only in this country but around the world, I wanted to see those responsible punished severely (either captured or killed) for the harm they had done to the United States.

And yes, I will even admit to wanting Bush to exact that stinging type of revenge for us as quickly and as terribly as he saw fit to do. I remember thinking after his State of the Union Address in January 2002, that there is certainly now nowhere those terrorists can run and nowhere that they can hide; because Bush had just found his mission and has just defined his presidency with the marvelous speech he gave that night.

However, all that promise, opportunity and worldwide empathy for what happened to the United States on Sept. 11 has certainly now been completely squandered.

Perhaps in our haste for revenge we missed it and forgot the promise of fighting the terrorists where they actually were in Afghanistan and in that netherworld region between the Pakistan and Afghan border.

Perhaps we have botched a tremendous prospect through our current unilateral dominance and the concept of our being able to shape world events merely through the rubric of the so-called “American Empire” instead of wisely assessing this moment in history as a unique opportunity to reshape the world through proper coalition building and rigorously energetic diplomacy.

All that appropriate empathy and goodwill that other nations around the world felt and pledged to us started to falter when the Bush Administration adopted secret detention and coercive interrogation tactics that United States had previously condemned when used by other countries.

In addition, we adopted these measures without any public debate or a Congressional vote and now that goodwill is all but forgotten; as we are currently vilified and reviled in many parts of the globe, just a few short years ago they were ready to work with us and in fact give us whatever help and support we needed.

What happened is what I like to refer to as Bush’s “Doctrine of Preeminent Empire”. This is a notion very similar to one utilized during “The Great Leap Forward” prevalent during Mao ZeDung’s rule over China in 1957, and it goes a little something like this: No matter what the truth is, or what the facts on the ground tell you, the ideology and its implementation is what ultimately matters most.

And if those facts or the truth have to be bent, cajoled, suppressed or even ignored in order to have the desired effect, then so be it. “Let’s get’er done.”

In addition, these activities will be shrouded in secrecy and quazi-legalese to give off the impression that everything is above board (whether it actually is or not) even if not entirely out in the open.

One of my professors of political science, Jeffrey Lomonaco, made an excellent point in class when he said, “regardless of how you view Bush or his administration, the responsibility to protect the citizens of the United States falls squarely on his shoulders, and it would be most regrettable if he as President or members of his administration did not act in whatever capacity necessary to obtain information through whatever means possible in order to prevent another terrorist attack.”

In making reference to recent reports in The New York Times concerning the Bush administration potentially secretly sanctioning the tactics of torture while publicly denying that the United States engages in such tactics, professor Lomonaco was pointing to one of the real problems of seeking and finding justice while living in our current world environment.

But, even with the changes we have all had to endure in our lives and in our culture as post-Sept. 11 Americans, there is still a deep distrust of too much concentrated power in the executive branch of our government, a stalwart wariness of policies and programs that usurp or avoid altogether the constraints on power purposely enacted by the framers of our Constitution, and ultimately an expectation of fundamental fairness in dealing with our government.

Illegal secret wiretapping, use of little known and obscure laws in the Patriot Act to enact domestic spying and the FBI’s use of the “Echelon” program to potentially read every email going through servers managed by both AT&T and AOL, in addition to outing and ostensively ending the career of CIA operatives (Valerie Plame) simply because her diplomat husband found evidence contrary to what the administration wanted to hear does not even sound American.

However, these types of tactics were quite prevalent in Mao’s China during the purges of potential rivals throughout his rule and during the “Cultural Revolution,” as well as his getting rid of “so-called” enemies of the state.

Another one of my Professors, Daniel Kelliher, commented he thought he “would never see the day when a number of any U.S. administration’s policies, ideology, or dogma, would be on par with those of Mao’s Communist China.”

Perhaps we won’t be getting any backyard steel-making machines anytime soon, but in terms of the way the Bush administration seeks to control what we know, and when or even if we know something, certainly has a Maoist ring to it.

It is said that history can be our greatest teacher in that we can learn from the mistakes of the past so we are not necessarily doomed to repeat them. I would add that history also reminds of the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

I would hate to dabble in a little bit of “ancestor worship” or “cult of personality”, but at the conclusion of the Continental Congress in 1787 as he left Independence Hall a woman was said to have asked Benjamin Franklin “Well doctor what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” And Franklin replied, “A republic if you can keep it.”

Paul Edward Hamilton welcomes comments at [email protected].