Saturday, July 17, 2004
ELECTION DOOMSDAY MACHINE
"During the Reagan era Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were key players in a clandestine program designed to set aside the legal lines of succession and immediately install a new "President" in the event that nuclear attack killed the country's leaders. The program helps explain the behavior of the Bush Administration on and after 9/11."
--James Mann, The Armageddon Plan, The Atlantic Monthly, March 2004
Campaign 2004 is underway in the middle of July; and with slightly more than a week till the Democratic Convention opens, the Bush Regime does a little more than is necessary to increase paranoia. The chief distraction is yet another official monologue about cancelling or postponing the November election, in the event of a terrorist attack on US soil. Is this an example of brinkmanship gone wrong? It seems like an off-balance game of Truth or Dare, but one that brings back the icy, Cold War grimace of Dr. Stangelove. It's a macabre American icon; and with its satiric comedy it is somehow much darker than Psycho, or even Apocalypse Now. Einstein said that "God does not play dice with the Universe"; but the Machiavellis in the White House find it none too daring to play dice with the Republic, or cast lots for the Planet.
"The fools!...the stupid fools!...THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE!"
George W. Bush is always the backstory in this Theatre of Good and Evil. Though not widely reported yet, the President has positioned seven carrier groups in the waters near Taiwan, alarming the Chinese enough to publicly commit themselves to a colossal naval build-up, that will encompass ten years of armament work. (Chalmers Johnson LA Times). No idle hands here. And during this hot and nervous summer, Bush's Homeland Security office is expounding on possible al-Qaida attacks on the assembled Democrats in Boston, later this month.
President Bush has named DeForest Soaries to head an Orwellian US Election Assistance Committee, whose paradoxical task is to oversee a cancelling or rescheduling of the November election, if there is a disruptive al-Qaida attack. CNN links to this Newsweek article by Michael Isikoff:
"Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge"..."and other counterterrorism officials concede they have no intel about any specific plots. But the success of March's Madrid railway bombings in influencing the Spanish elections--as well as intercepted "chatter" among Qaeda operatives--has led analysts to conclude "they must want to interfere with the elections," says one official."..."Ridge's department"..."asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place."
Secretary Ridge underlines the terrorists' "capacity to succeed" and contrasts that with "the mistaken belief that their attacks will have an impact on America's resolve."
It's hard to imagine a process as diffuse as a national election, being administered individually by the states, across a huge geographic area, from tens of thousands of polling places, being put at any risk whatsoever. Since the administration of a national election and the competant tallying of its result are not seriously threatened; it is necessary, therefore, to look at the real motives for setting up an Election Assistance Committee and spreading all this eerie talk of "securing the election".
"The enemy is seeking to impurify our precious bodily fluids."
New York Times opinion writer, David Brooks, who speaks the Administration line on this issue, gives away a clue that motive is important. Here is the gist of it: Spanish voters could not be trusted to do the right thing, three days after the Madrid Bombing. According to Brooks, "it was crazy to go ahead with an election"..."reversing course in the wake of a terrorist attack is inexcusable."
What Brooks fails to mention, is that the Spanish had other compelling reasons for ousting the Aznar government and installing Zapatero's Socialists; not the least of which was the Aznar government's deception, concerning the real perpetrators of the attack. The government was caught in a lie. The government knew that Islamic militants were responsible; but the people were betrayed and told that it was domestic terror, that Basque separatists had done it. From the Spanish point of view, this was one official arrogance too many. It also focused their attention on the fact that this was the same Aznar government that had taken Spain to war in Iraq against the wishes of the majority. The Spanish voted with political maturity, not cowardice; and it is slander to accuse them of being intimidated by the attack.
By the time National Security Advisor, Condi Rice, officially pooh-poohed the "election securing" talk, last Monday, the seeds of uneasiness had already been sown. But this is the typical "bait and switch" psychological war that is waged by the Bush Administration.
DeForest Soaries, the President's hand-picked Committee Man, had sown the wind alright. Soaries said, "Events in Spain, where a terrorist attack shortly before the March election possibly influenced its outcome, show the need for a process to deal with terrorists threatening or interrupting the Nov. 2 presidential election in America." [my emphasis] (Erica Werner--AP)
The Bush Posse seems to fear the impurifying of America's leadership. They don't want another Spain. Certainly it is more than just the turn of a phrase, when Bush calls himself the War President. War represents the most potent hold the President has on the nation's nerve-endings and anxieties. If, on the other hand, an attack were to expose the Achilles' Heel of this Administration; it would be because they have shortchanged Homeland Security, while placing all bets on the Iraq obsession. In the eyes of a dangerously messianic President, the nation's ambitions/interests are melded with a dogma of ideological and religious purity. In this case, however, Purity Of Essence does not equal Peace On Earth.
George W. Bush and his Neocons have so many Cold War skeletons in their closet, it would be best to step back quickly when opening the door. The Armageddon Plan, as explained by James Mann, is the prime example:
"Rumsfeld [CEO of G. D. Searle & Co] and [Congressman] Cheney were principal actors in one of the most highly classified programs of the Reagan Administration. Under it U.S. officials furtively carried out detailed planning exercises for keeping the federal government running during and after a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The program called for setting aside the legal rules for presidential succession in some circumstances, in favor of a secret procedure for putting in place a new "President" and his staff."
"The program is of particular interest today because it helps to explain the thinking and behavior of the second Bush Administration in the hours, days, and months after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001."
Cheney and Rumsfeld were prominent in these exercises as "team leaders". "Once the United States was (or believed itself to be) under nuclear attack, three teams would be sent from Washington to three different locations around the United States. Each team would be prepared to assume leadership of the country and would include a Cabinet member who was prepared to become President."
" "One of the awkward questions we faced", one participant in the planning explains, "was whether to reconstitute Congress after a nuclear attack. It was decided that no, it would be easier to operate without them." For one thing, it was felt that reconvening Congress, and replacing the members who had been killed, would take too long. Moreover, if Congress did reconvene, it might elect a new speaker of the House [and, as per the Succession Act of 1947] [his] claim to the presidency might have greater legitimacy than that of a Secretary of Agriculture or Commerce who had been set up under Reagan's secret program."..."The Administration, however, chose to establish this process without going to Congress for the legislation that would have given it constitutional legitimacy."
Ronald Reagan established the continuity-of-government program with a secret executive order.
"After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet collapse, the rationale for the exercises changed"..."Finally, during the early Clinton years, it was decided that this scenario was farfetched and outdated"...There things stood until September 11, 2001, when Cheney and Rumsfeld suddenly began to act out parts of a script they had rehearsed years before."
Despite official assurances to the contrary, there is something sinister about backdoor approaches, like the U.S Election Assurance Committee, as well as the Administration's "chatter" about al-Qaida attacks on polling places. This static has its origin in the White House. It's a far cry from the truly Apocalyptic Cold War scenario of Superpower on Superpower, to the real world scenario of asymetric warfare with Islamic extremists.
Similarly, it is hoped that an ELECTION DOOMSDAY MACHINE, if it exists, will not be set off by an effort to untrigger it. The White House announces that it is not being cynical or manipulative by suggesting that al-Qaida would like to attack the assembled Democratic leadership, in Boston. "Just playing it safe", they say. It's the erratic, impulsive nature of this Administration that gives Americans pause. Since 9/11 they have behaved as if they had a mandate, rather than assuming office in a contested election. They act with a haughty, winner-take-all righteousness, and are one of the most politically divisive factions in the history of this country.
How great is the leap of imagination, after all?--from a policy of preventative war against nations which might possibly attack us?--to "securing an election" from voters who are possibly influenced by an attack on this nation's soil?
"[Cheney's and Rumsfeld's] participation in the extra-constitutional continuity-of-government exercises, remarkable in its own right, also demonstrates a broad, underlying truth about these two men. For three decades, from the Ford Administration onward, even when they were out of the executive branch of government, they were never far away. They stayed in touch with defense, military, and intelligence officials, who regularly called upon them. They were, in a sense, a part of the permanent hidden national-security apparatus of the United States." (Mann)
"Mein Fuhrer,...I can walk!"
Sources: digby, john emerson, soccerdad, and billmon
Image via indelible inc