Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Government as Criminal Enterprise

Is there any other way to describe how the current administration operates? Nothing has made this more apparent than the firings of several US Attorneys. Some were sacked for their unwillingness to pursue specious voter fraud cases; others were canned for investigating Republicans; some were axed for failing to indict Democrats before the elections. This level of politicization of the DOJ is nothing short of amoral, unethical and unheard of.

There were those who noted the tendencies of the Bush-Cheney cabal long before it became accepted wisdom. They were the ones who spoke up before the Iraq War debacle. Some eyes were finally opened when the Abu Ghraib pictures came to light and the dog and pony show over banning torture. More people became aware of the amoral underpinnings of the administration through the Libby scandal. And many others have become aware through smaller, though no less important, machinations such as the administration's silencing of scientists or abuses of the Patriot Act.

For the past six years this administration has made a concerted effort to consolidate federal power in the executive branch. They show little regard or respect for Constitutional limitations on their power and openly defy Congress via signing statements. They have even tried to play their game with the Courts, though with much less success.

Though the pattern of abuse is clearly established, the question remains as to why. Is it simply because they need this power in order to conduct their war(s) in whatever manner they want. Or, is there an actual principle guiding their belief in executive hegemony? I would make the argument that it is actually the latter, with the former used as a smokescreen. Cheney has a long record of supporting an imperial presidency. September 11 (the day that changed everything) served as a useful tool to obfuscate the administration's true intentions. While Americans came together as one, Bush-Cheney were busy implementing their war plans and their overarching strategy of consolidating power in the White House.

Anyone looking for examples needs go much further than the Office of the VP. The level of secrecy is astounding. They have refused to list the names of their employees, their titles or their salaries. The OVP has its own intelligence shop, ready to cook up whatever was necessary to justify the Iraq War. The OVP has made the claim that it is neither part of the Executive or the Legislative branches, because the Office has roles in each. The end result of this argument is that the OVP is actually a separate unit of government, a fourth branch if you will.

Now, I have read the Constitution more times than I care to remember, and I do not recall any fourth branch. Cheney and his supporters have crafted this notion out of whole cloth. It is an audacious and amazing grab of power. But it becomes sort of a fallback claim for the OVP. In fact, the OVP has largely run the show int he administration on matters of intelligence and foreign policy. So why Cheney et al feel the need to assert this extra-constitutional power is unclear, at least to me.

It is possible that such claims are part and parcel of the overall unitary executive paradigm. What I do know is that it will take historians and political scientists years to decipher exactly what this administration has done to our political norms. Not to mention the work that future administrations will have to do to repair America's standing in the global community.

It's unfortunate that it would be impossible to indict Bush and Cheney under RICO statutes, for their administration has been no less criminal than the Gottis. In fact, its damage is much more widespread and pervasive than anything a crime family has ever inflicted upon its victims.


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