Saturday, February 08, 2003

The 'fifth column' in the mirror

Speaking of Weyrich, his latest Newsmax column raises the rhetoric in the attacks on multiculturalism yet another notch:

Islam and Hate
Islamists truly despise multiculturalists, but, perversely, find them to be a great Fifth Column in our country, helping to pave the way for acceptance of those who truly are our enemy. Just think of the recent reports about our weak immigration laws and some of the very suspicious people from foreign lands who have been able to enter our country.

Of course, Weyrich presents no evidence that Islamists view the multiculturalists of the West with any other than loathing and contempt, because no such evidence exists. But it makes a handy smear.

The reality in fact is rather the inverse: It is the American right, particularly fundamentalist Christians, who have had numerous dalliances with Islamofascism over the years preceding 9/11. Zizka, Le Blagueur Superbe has compiled a largely accurate (if partisan) and generally impressive mound of evidence establishing the facts in this regard.

More to the point, there is not a scintilla of evidence indicating a single connection of any kind between multiculturalism and Islamic terrorism -- or for that matter, with any kind of terrorism (beyond perhaps some vague threads with so-called eco-terrorists).

In contrast, we don't have to look far in today's news columns to see whence the very real threat of a "fifth column" might emanate:
The FBI contends that more than 300 top-secret documents were illegally distributed by Deborah Davila to addresses in North Carolina, Texas and Georgia. She received a total of $2,000 for her efforts, the FBI said.

The documents have not been recovered, the FBI said.

The government is refusing to disclose the contents of the documents for security reasons, although an FBI agent said they had titles like "Strategic, Korea, Russia, chemical warfare, chemical mixtures, nuclear, biological."

Indeed, in this respect, Weyrich himself -- who over the years has maintained numerous connections, ideological and otherwise, with right-wing extremists -- deserves some scrutiny. (I've discussed previously the broader ramifications of his attacks on multiculturalism, particularly the fact that the latter arose primarily as a reaction against white supremacy.) Consider particularly his closing paragraph:
More than hate crimes are being committed against Americans. September 11th was more than the biggest hate crime of the year. It was an act of war because Islam is at war with the West. The sooner that all Americans learn to accept that bitter, hard truth, then the better off we will be as a nation.

The interesting thing about this formulation is that it precisely mirrors the agenda of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda: namely, to unite Muslims by creating a global West-vs.-Islam conflict.

There are probably more definitive sources, but this USA Today compendium on Osama bin Laden sums it up neatly:
His overarching dream is to inspire a campaign that would unite the world's 1 billion Muslims. He seeks to provoke a war between Islam and the West, officials say.

The Bush administration, to its great credit, has done its best to keep a lid on the hatred of Islam that keeps bubbling up from all quarters of the conservative movement, notably from the cloacal Michael Savage quadrant. Much of this is pragmatic, since so much of the U.S.'s logistical support in the Middle East depends upon the cooperation of Islamic nations like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, without that support the U.S. strategic military position would be tenuous at best.

But when it comes to segments of the American public that are most likely to form a "fifth column," it isn't the antiwar left. When it comes to the voices that do the most to advance Osama bin Laden's agenda here and abroad, they aren't those of, say, Susan Sontag. Those voices are coming from the likes of Paul Weyrich and Michael Savage.

The War on Dissent marches on

An Orcinus Principium alert:

Tom DeLay apparently put his name to a letter invoking the "treason" smear against liberals -- but this time it's landed him in trouble. From the New York Times [requires signin]:

DeLay Denies Role in Letter Riling Unions
The letter, which raised money for the National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, criticized "the union bosses' drive to use the national emergencies we face today to grab more power." It said this drive "presents a clear and present danger to the security of the United States."

DeLay is dealing with the story with his usual integrity -- denying that he approved the wording of the letter, even though he put his signature to it.

And of course, the letter questions the patriotism not only of the unions but of firefighters, policemen and machinists:
The letter said that the longshoremen had "exploited America's urgent economic and national security needs" by forcing a shutdown of West Coast ports. It added that the machinists' union had "shamefully exploited the nation's critical war needs" when workers went on strike for two months last year at a Lockheed Martin plant in Georgia that assembled F-22 fighter jets and C130-J military transports.

Said the letter: "As the World Trade Center and Pentagon still smoldered, high-paid union lobbyists convinced Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy and Hillary Rodham Clinton to try ramming through legislation to force the nation's firefighters and policemen to accept union bosses as their exclusive workplace spokesmen."

Harold A. Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, wrote an angry letter to Mr. DeLay yesterday, noting that 343 firefighters died in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

We're starting to see how broadly and easily the Bush regime's invocation of "national security" for partisan political gain has spread to all sectors of the national debate. Taking their cue from the President ("The Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people") it's now become pro forma for conservatives to accuse anyone on the liberal side of the aisle of various forms of "anti-Americanism," thereby qualifying them ultimately as a "fifth column" who open the national door to terrorist attacks.

Simultaneous with these attacks on labor unions, we're also hearing voices from the conservative movement's leadership connecting, once again, liberal causes in general with "Communism." See particularly this recent Newsmax column by Paul Weyrich, the movement guru who reportedly wields great influence in the Bush White House:

Life After the Cold War for Communist Front Groups

Weyrich essentially calls for a return to McCarthyite witch hunts among the antiwar protesters:
Clearly, Congress has the authority to investigate these groups despite the fact that the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee and the House Committee on Un-American Activities were both abolished in the late 1960s. There is plenty of authority to permit Congress to act.

I, for one, want to know where the Workers World Party, the chief organizer of the anti-war event in Washington and San Francisco, gets its money. The last time we had hard data was in 1990 and at that time the money was coming from Moscow. Where does it come from now?

Perhaps, to sate the likes of Weyrich and the right-to-work crowd, we should just hold congressional hearings on the threat to national security posed by anyone who opposes the conservative agenda. That should cover most of the bases.

[A factual side note: The column refers to "the riots in Seattle in 2001." Which were those? You mean that drunken brawl known as the Mardi Gras riots? There were no "marchers" to speak of there. Mayhaps Weyrich is referring to the Seattle WTO riots -- which, of course, occurred in 1999.]

Bill Berkowitz has some further commentary on this at

[Via Daily Kos and Mark Crispin Miller's mailing list.]

Code Orange

Doesn't it seem interesting to you how yet another high-level bump in the national terrorism alert level happens to coincide with President Bush's plummet below a 50 percent approval rating?

It sure is interesting to me. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who notices.

Is it crying wolf? As cynical as this administration has demonstrated itself to be, and with the mounting number of such coincidences, who can tell? All I know is that the regime's fairly crass manipulation of the terrorism threat is only making the general public more complacent and skeptical.

No room under the tent

A thoughtful reply from Andrew at Pathetic Earthlings to yesterday's post about the Republican record on the Japanese-American internment:
I certainly agree, but let's stop there. If I were to have done that, that would be revisionism (here's my post again). I didn't say word one about the Democrats. I didn't even say the Republicans were better or, on the whole, even decent. I know, and will live with, my party's history, warts and all. But isn't Governor Carr the kind of person that everyone should champion (frankly, I'm surprised -- and glad, the Democrats haven't tried to claim them as their own, just like we Republicans have, of late, latched onto Harry Truman or Jack Kennedy's tax cuts)? I certainly think so.

That's the nut graf, but there's more; go read it.

First, an important distinction to make: The point to which I was objecting was the characterization that Carr's record was somehow representative of the Republican Party's in the internment episode. Andrew does not take this leap. My objection sprang from this post by Glenn Reynolds, which did.

In any case, Andrew is forcing me off my duff to address something I had promised, in that same post, to tackle: Namely, the relevance of the example of Ralph Carr in the context of the post-Nixon Republican Party. Which, as it happens, kind of dovetails into my ongoing discussion of fascism. But getting there will take a long personal exegesis. Please bear with me.

I've discussed previously Nixon's 'Southern Strategy' and its continuing legacy in the Republican Party. What perhaps is taken for granted in most discussions regarding this sea change is the profound effect it had on the nature of the Republican Party. This passage from Aistrup is particularly instructive:
Indeed, there was much dissension in the RNC over the adoption of Goldwater’s Southern Strategy. Republican heavyweights such as former RNC chair Meade Alcorn and New York Senator Jacob Javits felt the party should not abandon its historic commitment to civil rights to the votes of Southern segregationists (Klinkner 1992, 24). Kentucky Senator John Sherman Cooper agreed with Alcorn and Javits, emphasizing the amoral dimension of this strategy: “But in the long run, such a position will destroy the Republican party, and worse, it will do a great wrong because it will be supporting the denial of the constitutional and human rights of our citizens” (Bailey 1963).

These fears came directly home to roost, of course. What Nixon, and other mainstream New England-type Republicans -- say, George H.W. Bush -- did not reckon on was the gravitational pull that their new racist right-wing partners in the electorate would exert on their own party. While the flood of new white Southern votes helped the Republicans electorally, particularly in the presidential elections, the party also found that it was driving out many of its longtime members, particularly those who considered themselves "progressive Republicans" -- that is, Republicans in the mold of Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ralph Carr.

I know about this very well. I was one of those Republicans.

Growing up in southern Idaho in the 1960s, I was immersed in Republican culture. My parents were Republicans. So were my paternal grandparents (though not my maternal grandparents, who were devoted FDR Democrats). Nearly all my neighbors -- who mostly worked at "the site," the nuclear-reactor testing station west of town -- were Republican.

I was an avid newspaper reader and politically aware, and active at an early age. When our junior-high school held a presidential political debate in 1968, I played the role of my then-hero, Richard Nixon (hey, c'mon; I was 12), and delivered his positions in the debate (Nixon won handily, though I doubt that had anything to do with me). When I reached high school and then college, I worked on the campaigns of various Republican candidates for Congress and the Senate, leafleting and doorbelling, manning booths at the county and state fairs, that sort of thing.

We were good, middle-of-the-road, Methodist Republicans. This in fact separated us from many of our neighbors, who were much more conservative, Bircherite Mormon Republicans. But we were proud of the tradition of progressive politics in the Republican Party, and I considered the GOP's longtime advocacy of sound civil-rights positions a major component in my identification with the GOP.

What I didn't realize, of course, was just how much havoc the devil's pact by Nixon, in signing on to the Southern Strategy, would wreak on the party itself. But it became immediately manifest by the late 1970s that the conservative movement -- which was more of a Trotskyite ideological movement than genuine conservatism, in my estimation -- had taken over the party's larger machinery. This may not have been apparent in much of the rest of the nation, but it played out starkly in Idaho, where Republican idiot Steve Symms managed to unseat one of the state's political lions, Frank Church. And I was enough of a progressive, though Republican, to admire someone like Church, and despise an outrageous liar and demagogue like Symms. (For those who need a refresher: Symms was the mentor of another Idaho icon, Rep. Helen Chenoweth.)

By 1980, guys like Bob Baumann, Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond were running the Republican show in Congress, and Reagan was ascendant and clearly headed for the White House. A few progressive Republicans -- John Chaffee, for instance -- trooped on, but everyone knew they were utterly voiceless within the party. And it has been that way for them ever since.

So it was that year, and that election, that I reluctantly left the GOP. Though I was a devout Christian, I feared and distrusted the theocratic right with whom Reagan had aligned himself -- I believed, and still do, that they are no respecters of other people's private religious beliefs -- and moreover I could see through Helms and Thurmond where the conservative movement was getting its ideological fires. I couldn't stand Jimmy Carter (a view I've reassessed) and voted for John Anderson.

And thereafter, it became painfully apparent that there was no place in the party for progressives. For years I've considered myself an independent, but have tended to vote Democratic because that is where the progressives have all gone. I've always voted a mixed ticket, though; I've always looked out for and encouraged smart, thoughtful Republicans where I could find them. More often than not I've wound up supporting Democratic candidates.

This is largely because the Republicans have been so wholly overtaken by the conservative movement that the two are inextricably identified now, and have been for some time. There is no place for progressivism in today's Republicanism.

Put another way: The 'Big Tent' that the Republican Party once boasted has shifted. Where once it included mainstream conservatives and moderate progressives, it now only includes those conservatives and the right-wing extremists who comprise a substantial portion of its Southern wing. When Nixon initiated the Southern Strategy, he opened the tent to those reactionaries and forced the rest of us either out of the tent or into their arms. Many of us chose the former, while the Bushes and their power-hungry kind chose the latter.

Early on in that 1980 campaign I actually rooted for the candidacy of George H.W. Bush. I thought -- considering his New England pedigree and stated positions -- that he could provide a progressive-Republican bulwark against the Reagan onslaught. Instead, once he was co-opted by the Reagan camp, he proved to be an abject apologist not only for "voodoo economics" (a phrase he invented) but the whole panoply right-wing extremism that occupied the Reagan camp in various pockets. By the primary, I had turned to Anderson -- in retrospect a bad, Ralph Nader-like vote that I've regretted ever since. Because it (and those millions of other Anderson votes) essentially let Reagan into office.

What has been most disturbing, though, in the ensuing years is the way the opening provided by the Southern Strategy has continued to expand the GOP's 'Big Tent' to include a growing variety of right-wing extremists, ranging from Moonies and Bircherites to the Lincoln-hating neo-Confederates of the Trent Lott wing of the party. And as I discussed here recently, that Big Tent in the 1990s began expanding to even new varieties of right-wing extremism, culminating in the absorption in the 2000 election of a substantial portion of the far-right Patriot movement under those awnings.

Just as the influx of segregationists into the party in the 1970s exerted a gravitational pull that drew the Republican Party's axis far to the right, so too will this new influx of government-hating conspiracists continue to draw the party even to further extremes. And it is in this nexus, as I've been discussing in the series on fascism, that the nation -- which unquestionably is in the GOP's thrall -- is in its most serious danger.

So I'd like to encourage the Andrews in the Republican Party, the hopeful idealists who still buy into the belief that the party's own heritage on civil rights will somehow re-emerge. I was there for many years. But to do that, the GOP must cease being a wholly owned functionary of the ideological conservative movement, because it is in that milieu that all the hopes of past progressive Republicans have gone to die.

It became clear to me through the entire Clinton impeachment episode that the GOP was rapidly becoming unsalvageable in its hatred of all things progressive or liberal. And after Dec. 12, 2000, I came to the conclusion that I could no longer vote a mixed ticket -- not, at least, until the GOP has been summarily dismissed from the halls of power and spends enough time in purgatory to genuinely repent of its ways. I do not anticipate this happening anytime soon.

The Republican Party has become so clearly gorged on its lust for power that it will promote outright falsehoods and simply steal elections through the fiat of corrupt and partisan courts; as a consequence, I cannot in good conscience vote for anyone who runs on its ticket. I can take an election loss, and have indeed taken many over the years. What I cannot countenance is the naked undermining of the Constitution by the Supreme Court, and the abject power-mongering of the Bush Republicans who have seized power in this country without a legitimate mandate and through abject manipulation of the press via crass propaganda techniques and intimidation.

Andrew, I wish you the best of luck in your efforts to try to turn the Republican Party back to its noble heritage. I'll be rooting you on, though I don't expect to see you succeed in my lifetime.

Most of all, be careful that you are not yourself transformed, for the worse anyway, in the trying. If you find yourself slipping, look back on this paragraph you wrote:
Indeed. Ralph Carr is an example of what one should aspire to, not (sadly) a representative of the history of American politics: acting boldy in the face of unpopular opinion, championing the rights of all Americans as equal before the law and knowing that racism is wrong not only because of what it does to those discriminated against, but because it rots one's soul.

I couldn't have said it better it myself.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Getting it together

Here's a post I've been meaning to point out, from the Daily Kos:

Learning to organize

Mary represents a lot of the people I've met since starting this blog, and before: People who see a gigantic train wreck coming down the track and believe they can still do something about it. Average citizens who are frightened at the kind of world the Bush administration is shoving down their throats and are fighting back with everything they've got. It's their first time feeling this, and they're not sure where it's going to take them, but all they know is that they want to fight it. So they do what they can.

Mary's idea is sound: There's a lot of information floating about out there which isn't being networked or funneled in a coheisve fashion that can make a difference, particularly in the blogosphere. She wants to create a clearinghouse where perhaps a cohesive strategy can be worked out for building a long-term progressive agenda.

Mary's plan actually follows more or less the prescription that I gave a group of antiwar activists in Bellingham a few weeks back, who asked me in to speak on media issues: The current media, particularly mainstream U.S. media, has become unconscionably unreliable; this is particularly true regarding antiwar activists' access to fair treatment at any level of the mainstream media, from local newspapers to Bill O'Reilly. Forget about getting your message out, or even effectively organizing, through these formerly traditional means. Ain't gonna happen.

What has to happen is that every voice out there needs to network with all those other voices. The Internet, for all its drawbacks, offers a powerful tool that way. And building an alternative network, and ultimately an alternative media, is the only solution. The bastards have taken over, and they're not giving it back.

Go join your voice with Mary's.

Proving Coble's negative

Rep. Howard Coble wants proof that he was wrong:
"I certainly intended no harm or ill will toward anybody. I still stand by what I said ... that, in no small part, it (internment) was done to protect the Japanese-Americans themselves."

Coble said if it is proven to him that was not one of FDR's motivations, then he will apologize for that remark.

Of course, in this post, I've already provided substantial evidence here that Coble was wrong. (Not that I expect him to read this blog, but at least the information has been published.) Let's rewind the relevant portion of the tape, citing once again Personal Justice Denied: The Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians:
This explanation sounds lame indeed today. It was not publicly advanced at the time to justify the exclusion and, had protection been on official minds, a much different post-evacuation program would have been required. [Internment architect and Assistant War Secretary John] McCloy himself supplied the most telling rebuttal of the contention in a 1943 letter to DeWitt:

That there is serious animosity on the West Coast against all evacuated Japanese I do not doubt, but that does not necessarily mean that we should trim our sails accordingly ... The Army, as I see it, is not responsible for the general public peace of the Western Defense Command. That responsibility still rests with the civil authorities. There may, as you suggest, be incidents, but these can be effectively discouraged by prompt action by law enforcement agencies, with the cooperation of the military if they even assume really threatening proportions.

That is the simple, straightforward answer to the argument of protection against vigilantes -- keeping the peace is a civil matter that would involve the military only in extreme situations. Even then, public officials would be duty-bound to protect the innocent, not to order them from their homes for months or years under the rubric of a military measure designed to maintain public peace.

Further proof is in all the numerous documents that detail the reasoning for undergoing the internment, as well as the discussions that resulted in that outcome. A good summary of these can be found in Roger Daniels' The Decision to Relocate the Japanese-Americans.

Absent that, of course, Rep. Coble should at the very least avail himself of Executive Order 9066, Roosevelt's order for the evacuation. He will find that it is utterly absent of any mention of the need to safeguard Japanese-Americans.

Next on his reading list should be Lt. Gen. John DeWitt's Feb. 14, 1942 memorandum, "Evacuation of the Japanese and Other Subversive Persons from the Pacific Coast," which included the finding of "military necessity" for the internment. The heart of its rationale was positively Kafkaesque:
“The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become Americanized, the racial strains are undiluted. To conclude otherwise is to expect that children born of white parents on Japanese soil sever all racial affinity and become loyal Japanese subjects, ready to fight, and if necessary, to die for Japan in a war against the nation of their parents... It therefore follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today. There are indications that these are organized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity. The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.

Nowhere, however, is there any mention of concerns for the safety or well-being of the Japanese community, much less the need to protect them from their violent neighbors.

The justification to which Rep. Coble refers did not arise until a year later, in Gen. DeWitt's Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast, 1942, which provided the War Department's official justifications for the internment. It is briefly mentioned:
Further, the situation was fraught with danger to the Japanese population itself. The combination of spot raids revealing hidden caches of contraband, the attacks on coastwise shipping, the interception of illicit radio transmissions, the nightly observation of visual signal lamps from constantly changing locations, and the success of the enemy offensive in the Pacific, had so aroused the public along the West Coast against the Japanese that it was ready to take matters into its own hands. Press and periodical reports of the public attitudes along the West Coast from December 7, 1941, to the initiation of controlled evacuation clearly reflected the intensity of feeling. Numerous incidents of violence involving Japanese and others occurred; many more were reported but were subsequently either unverified or were found to be cumulative.

The report, of course, neglects to mention the central role that DeWitt and his officers played in drumming up this hysteria. More to the point, the entirety of the rest of the document is devoted to detailing the supposed threat posed by the Japanese population to the rest, as Personal Justice Denied describes it: "signaling from shore to enemy submarines; arms and contraband found by the FBI during raids on Nikkei homes and businesses; ... concentration of the ethnic Japanese population around or near militarily sensitive areas; the number of Japanese ethnic organizations on the coast which might shelter pro-Japanese attitudes or activities such as Emperor-worshiping Shinto; the presence of the Kibei, who had recent ties to Japan."

There was only one problem with the Final Report: none of its information was true.

As Personal Justice Denied explains:
Two items stand out as demonstrable indications of military danger: shore-to-ship signaling and the discovery of arms and contraband. Reading the Final Report while preparing to defend the exclusion in the Supreme Court, Justice Department attorneys were drawn to the signaling contention. It was investigated by the FCC and found to be so utterly unsubstantiated that, in its brief to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department was careful not to rely on DeWitt's Final Report as a factual basis for the military decision it had to defend. There simply had not been any identifiable ship-to-shore signaling.

Indeed, most of this was purely hysteria. And the press played a significant role. For a war-happy press anxious for a local angle on the conflict, the prospect of a West Coast invasion made great-selling copy. The Los Angeles Times ran headlines like “Jap Boat Flashes Message Ashore” and “Caps on Japanese Tomato Plants Point to Air Base.” Pretty soon, everyone was getting into the act. Reports of “signals” being sent out from shore to unknown, mysterious Japanese boats offshore began flowing in. One report, widely believed at the time, came from someone who heard a dog barking somewhere along the shore of Oahu, and believed that it was barking in Morse code to an offshore spy ship.

In the Seattle area, the stories were almost as ridiculous. “Arrows of Fire Aim at Seattle” shouted the Seattle Times’ front-page headline of December 10. It told of fields in the Port Angeles area, between Seattle and the Pacific Ocean on the Olympic Peninsula, that had been set afire by Japanese farmers in a shape resembling an arrow, when viewed from the air; ostensibly, the arrow pointed to the Seattle shipyards and airplane-manufacturing plants, a likely target for incoming bombers. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer blared a similar front-page story the next morning. Neither paper carried any subsequent stories about the fires -- which investigators soon determined had been set by white men who were clearing land.

In any case, the Justice Department found the Final Report so factually barren that, in defending the evacuation, it wound up relying heavily on the "protective custody" theory before the court -- even though that claim was likewise empty, because there is no contemporary record of this concern playing any kind of role in the decision. It was not advanced in the press; it did not appear during the Tolan Committee hearings (which were Congress' rubber-stamp sessions on a decision that already had been made); nowhere in any records of FDR's conversations with other officials regarding the internment does it appear to have even been mentioned.

What Rep. Coble wants, of course, is for his critics to prove a negative, which in most cases is an unreasonable request. But the record in the internment has been voluminously examined and detailed, and the verdict has always been clear and overwhelming that protecting the Japanese population from vigilantism was, if considered at all, at best a negligible factor in the decision to intern them.

Perhaps, if he demands proof, he should simply be asked this: Why, if they were being interned for their protection, were the guns in the guard towers at the concentration camps pointed inward?

Coble redux

A little more on Rep. Coble's continuing remarks:
"I can see why he (FDR) made that decision," he said. "Fifty years later, looking back, maybe you would say: 'Perhaps, he shouldn't have done it.' "

Actually, there were numerous important voices that questioned the internment contemporaneously (see the earlier discussion of Ralph Carr), and more within a matter of only a year or two. The subject became a national topic of discussion particularly in the wake of the return of the 442nd Regimental Combat Unit -- the all-Nisei fighting team that was the most decorated battalion in the war -- from the front lines in Europe to widespread acclaim, notably by President Harry Truman.

You didn't need fifty years' hindsight to see that it was wrong.

[A tip o' the Hatlo hat to Is That Legal?, which is doing a marvelous job staying abreast of the Coble matter.]

What's in those Slurpees anyway?

Joining in with Howard Coble on the pro-internment front is another North Carolina Republican, Sue Myrick, who contributed this:
"You know, and this can be misconstrued, but honest to goodness (husband) Ed and I for years, for 20 years, have been saying,'You know, look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country.' Every little town you go into, you know?"

"My point is people (who) don't like us are all over the country, and we know that," she said."

Omigaw. Someone alert the FBI. You can't escape them!

Indeed, Rep. Myrick is correct. Those people who hate us are all over the country, and we know that:

Huge danger seen in spy case
"More than 300 top-secret documents got passed," FBI agent Lee McEuen testified. "They are worth, on the black market, millions of dollars, and would be of huge interest to militias and terrorist organizations."

"Based on that, I believe, they are a huge danger to the United States."

The documents included such titles as "Strategic, Korea, Russia, chemical warfare, chemical mixtures, nuclear, biological," the agent said. Because many of the documents are secret or top secret, prosecutors declined to reveal what specific information they contain.

Mebbe we better do some racial profiling on those white supremacists, eh?

Historical note: For what it's worth, Myrick's remarks also echo those heard during the internment episode. See, again, Gen. DeWitt's official rationale for the evacuation:
Because of the ties of race, the intense feeling of filial piety and the strong bonds of common tradition, culture and customs, this population presented a tightly-knit racial group. It included in excess of 115,000 persons deployed along the Pacific Coast. Whether by design or accident, virtually always their communities were adjacent to very vital shore installations, war plants, etc. While it is believed that some were loyal, it was known that many were not. It was impossible to establish the identity of the loyal and the disloyal with any degree of safety. It was not there was insufficient time in which to make such a determination; it was simply a matter of facing the realities that a positive determination could not be made, that an exact separation of the "sheep from the goats" was unfeasible.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

The other kind of terrorism

This shouldn't come as a surprise, but the potential has been building for awhile now:

Espionage charges filed against pair linked to white supremacists
Rafael Davila, 51, and his ex-wife, Deborah Davila, 46, are suspected of providing white supremacists and other radical organizations with sensitive materials involving the strategic response of the Guard to a variety of emergency situations, both foreign and domestic, according to a Department of Justice source.

One of the public-relations purposes of the "militia movement" of the 1990s was to recruit people from with military backgrounds, whether active or on Guard duty or retired. After all, its carefully cultivated public image was that of civic-minded military folk, and there was in fact a fetish about all things military that ran rampant, to hilarious proportions actually, within many of these militias. Jane Kramer's excellent Lone Patriot: The Short Career of an American Militiaman captures this very nicely.

The possibility that far-right moles not only are sharing information, but also are obtaining armaments and materiel through theft, has long been a concern of those who monitor such extremists. So far the evidence has been slender, so this case is decidedly noteworthy.

I picked up this snippet, from an interview on KUOW Radio with Tim Lomperis, a St. Louis University professor and former military intelligence officer:
If this Major gave this information to an adversary they would be able to figure out what our intelligence community is up to, where it's penetrating them and where it's not. So even though you would think of a national guard position as not on the front lines, as an intelligence officer he’s privvy to a lot of information, and can be damagingly revealing of how and where we got the information.

What this story underscores is the fact that Sept. 11 did not dwarf the danger presented to the nation by white-supremacist terrorists. Of course, the sheer numbers and monstrousness of Sept. 11 do dwarf the worst terrorist act committed by the far right, Oklahoma City in 1995. And so they have receded to the background of our consciousnesses when it comes to thinking about the relative dangers to the public.

But that ignores the fact that white supremacists have long hoped for an opportunity where their acts of terrorism could make an actual difference in destabilizing society. And the post-9/11 environment definitely provides that. The basic plan is to piggyback on the terrorist acts committed by Al Qaeda to create increasing social chaos. Their long-term goal is to overthrow the American system completely by creating widespread fear and a belief among the public that their democratic government can no longer protect them -- at which point they intend to present their authoritarian (and racist) selves as the answer.

Remember that William Pierce, author of The Turner Diaries, spelled this out in a strategic essay he wrote before he died, saying: "Things are a bit brittle now. A few dozen more anthrax cases, another truck bomb in a well chosen location, and substantial changes could take place in a hurry: a stock market panic, martial law measures by the Bush government, and a sharpening of the debate as to how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place."

Incidentally, I note that Kirk Lyons is involved in this case. From the Seattle Times story above:

Lyons has not been charged with a crime. He told The Associated Press he barely knew Deborah Davila but that she had attended his wedding, which was performed by Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler at the group's former compound near Hayden Lake, Idaho.

I crossed paths with (though I didn't personally encounter) Lyons back in 1996. He played a crucial role in ending the Freemen standoff in eastern Montana, which I covered. Here's a portion of the text from In God's Country about him:
The talks in Jordan continued apace. The final piece of the puzzle came June 9 when the FBI flew in Kirk Lyons, director of a North Carolina legal organization called the CAUSE Foundation, and two of his colleagues. The group (whose initials ostensibly stand for Canada, Australia, United States and Europe -- everywhere that white people are established) describes itself as a defender of unpopular causes and the powerless: ``I will always support the rights of radicals,’’ Lyons is fond of saying. ``The more radical they are, the more they need to be supported for their rights. If you take away their rights, we’re all losers.’’

Actually, Lyons himself is a white separatist who sneers at the current American system. ``Democracy in America is a farce and a failure,’’ he once wrote. ``It has led us to the brink of a police state.’’ He attended Pete Peters’ 1992 gathering at Estes Park, Colorado, that is widely credited with giving birth to the militia movement. At the session, he led discussions on how to establish common-law courts throughout the country.

Lyons first made a name for himself successfully defending Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon Louis Beam in his 1988 post-Order sedition trial in Arkansas. He attempted to represent David Koresh during the standoff at Waco, filing for a restraining order against the FBI that a judge abruptly refused, and after the siege ended in disaster, he took up the cause of surviving Davidians in their lawsuit against the government.

The Freemen, however, indicated to the FBI that they trusted Lyons to handle some of the legal negotiations. Lyons had previously contacted the FBI in March and told them he’d be willing to act as a mediator. On June 9, they called him and said: ``You have been elevated to a viable option.’’ Lyons and his colleagues caught a flight out the next day and arrived at the Clark ranch on June 10.

There's more, of course, but I mostly wanted to underscore the point that Atrios has already made: That is, despite Lyons' extensive background in the radical right, he likes to pose as a mainstream conservative, and it was in this guise that he recently engineered the takeover of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans by neo-Confederate forces.

Lyons' presence in the leadership of this faction confirms its white-supremacist orientation. It also further underscores the Republican Party's problem in terms of its long-term dalliance with these folks, a la Trent Lott.

The War on Dissent, Episode 92

Kudos and gratitude to James Capozzola at the Rittenhouse Review for saying, succinctly, what needed to be said about that unconscionable editorial in the right-wing New York Sun, hinting darkly at the fate that awaits anyone who dares protest the Bush regime's war plans:
So the New York City police could do worse, in the end, than to allow the protest and send two witnesses along for each participant, with an eye toward preserving at least the possibility of an eventual treason prosecution.

Consider this editorial yet another drop in the rising bucket of rhetorical slime that, as I've remarked previously, is part of a conservative campaign to shut down all dissent regarding not merely the war but virtually all of the Bush regime's policies. So I think it's important to address the poisonous logic at work here:
[Friedman's] point was that if terrorists strike again at America and kill large numbers of Americans, the pressure to curb civil liberties and civil rights will be “enormous and unstoppable.” What we took from that was that the more successful the protesters are in making their case in New York, the less chance they’ll have the precious constitutional freedom to protest here the next time around.

This is a vicious argument, equating protesting the war with inviting terrorists to act. But the reality is that there is no connection between the two.

Sept. 11 didn't happen because we have too many civil liberties. It happened because we were complacent and let our guard down. We had systemically awful airport security. We had a law-enforcement apparatus that did not take terrorism seriously. We had intelligence agencies that bungled and self-blinded themselves into missing numerous chances to stop the conspirators before they acted. And we had an administration that was so intent on building a missile-defense system -- and equally intent on refusing to follow in the footsteps of the Clinton administration, which had placed a great emphasis on combating terrorism -- that it actually cut the nation's counterterrorism budget before Sept. 11.

We've still taken only a few fledgling steps -- some in the wrong direction -- solving those problems. It's going to require long-term investment in the public institutions that are supposed to provide us with security, as well as the public's long-term attention on keeping reforms on track. More to the point, none of these issues will be addressed by limiting Americans' civil liberties, particularly not their right to protest the war.

Shutting down our civil liberties won't prevent or deter terrorists. It will just mean they have won.

Ben Franklin put it simplest and best: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

The entire drive to silence the debate about the war comes from conservatives who are desperate to convince the public that the Bush regimes' measures are working, and that a war with Iraq is a necessary component of the war on terrorism.

They won't win the debate, though, by threatening us.

No partisan glory here

Andrew at Pathetic Earthlings offers this thought on Rep. Coble's remarks:
The Republicans need to start playing offense when it comes to their record on civil rights, and they've got some good folks in their history, and I don't just mean Lincoln. Ralph Carr was a lion. And I hope Colorado Governor Bill Owens, my horse for President in 2008, will invoke this fellow early and often.

Glenn Reynolds chimes in similarly, suggesting "that Coble doesn't even know the history of his own party on the subject."

Actually, it's quite clear that neither does Reynolds, nor for that matter Andrew. Not that it has any actual relevance when talking about the post-Nixon GOP anyway. [More on that later.]

Whenever the subject of the Japanese-American internment is brought up with Republican ideologues (say, Ann Coulter), they are quick to point out that it occurred under FDR. And this is unquestionably true. Moreover, any honest assessment of FDR's presidency has to acknowledge that this decision was a permanent blot, however mitigated it might be by his greatness in other arenas. But Roosevelt was not exactly alone in the blame.

FDR was responding to very broad and bipartisan public and political demands when he ordered the internment, via Executive Order 9066, which he signed Feb. 19, 1942. These included demands from a large number of governors and congressmen of both parties, as well as newspaper columnists from both sides of the political aisle.

But most of all he was responding to demands within his own administration, particularly from War Secretary Henry Stimson and his Assistant Secretary, John McCloy. These two were the main promulgators of the internment within the bureaucratic machinery -- and as it happened, they were both high-ranking Republicans. Indeed, Stimson was probably the most powerful Republican in FDR's administration (which was a truly bipartisan affair, in contrast to the current administration's MO).

In contrast, probably the most strenuous protests against the internment within the administration were made by Attorney General Francis Biddle, who threw up numerous roadblocks to the War Department's plans. Biddle was a classic New Deal liberal, and from the outset, he “was determined to avoid mass internment, and the persecution of aliens that had characterized World War I.” He was skeptical that Nisei citizens posed a threat to either general security or the military, and believed that the “military necessity” that Lt. Gen John L. DeWitt, commander of the Western Defense, ardently claimed was actually a figment of his imagination. Further, he had grave reservations about the constitutionality of evacuation. All of his objections later proved to be wholly accurate.

Moreover, the main players in the internment drama -- Lt. Gen. DeWitt, the aging Western Defense commander who succumbed to anti-Japanese hysteria within days of Pearl Harbor; Provost General Allen Gullion, who was primarily interested in establishing a precedent that would give the military the power to control civilian populations during wartime; and his lieutenant, Col. Karl Bendetsen, the Stanford-educated logician who masterminded both the legal details as well as the architecture of the evacuation and internment -- were all Republicans.

In the press, by far the loudest and most vicious voices clamoring for the internment were conservative Republicans -- notably Westbrook Pegler and Henry McLemore. And then there were Republicans in Congress. Probably the worst of the lot was Rep. Leland Ford of Los Angeles, who demanded on the House floor in January that all Japanese, citizen and alien alike, be evacuated. Growing impatient, he reported that he called Biddle’s office in mid-February “and told them to stop fucking around. I gave them twenty-four hours’ notice that unless they would issue a mass evacuation notice I would drag the whole matter out on the floor of the House and of the Senate and give the bastards everything we could with both barrels. I told them they had given us the runaround long enough ... and that if they would not take immediate action, we would clean the goddamned office in one sweep. I cussed the Attorney General himself and his staff just like I’m cussing you now and he knew damn well I meant business.”

Indeed, the internment in many ways could be said to be driven not by liberals but by conservatives. Among the loudest voices demanding such action were white-supremacist Southern Democrats (who in today's context would have migrated to the Republican side of the aisle). These agitators saw the war as a race war, primarily against the Japanese. For instance, there was this speech by Rep. John Rankin of Mississippi, whose own protege, James Eastland, later mentored Trent Lott:
“This is a race war! The white man’s civilization has come into conflict with Japanese barbarism. ... Once a Jap always a Jap. You cannot change him. You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. ... I say it is of vital importance that we get rid of every Japanese, whether in Hawaii or on the mainland ... I’m for catching every Japanese in America, Alaska, and Hawaii, now and putting them in concentration camps... Damn them! Let’s get rid of them now!”

And finally, there were the moneyed Republicans. These were primarily West Coast businessmen who for the preceding 40 years had agitated against the presence of Japanese immigrants on our shores, concocting "Yellow Peril" conspiracy theories which claimed that those immigrants were actually secret "shock troops" sent by the Emperor to await secret commands for the invasion of the Pacific Coast. (These theories later played a significant role in persuading the public of the threat posed by the Japanese.) Of course, their real motivations in waving the banner of racial hatred were often openly economic.

Likewise, these civic leaders were at the forefront of the public push for internment. And as it happened, they often represented significant development interests -- people who hoped to acquire Japanese land holdings (particularly farmlands) cheaply, often to end their agricultural use. Indeed, the bulk of Japanese farmlands held before the war became suburban residential development properties in the years following the war.

Now, that said: There was no shortage of liberal New Deal Democrats who not only agitated for the internment, but also played significant roles in making it happen, and whose collective record in the matter is abysmal. Nearly the entirety of these were from Pacific Coast states, though not all: Earl Warren, then the Attorney General of California, who worked closely with DeWitt in effecting the evacuation. Washington Sen. Mon Wallgren, who chaired Senate hearings calling for the internment. Then-Rep. Warren Magnuson, who colluded with Republican committeeman Miller Freeman in advocating the internment. Then-Rep. Henry Jackson, who later also advocated harsher conditions for the internees. Even liberal lion William O. Douglas, who joined his colleagues on the Supreme Court in upholding the internment in three separate cases.

Then there was Idaho Gov. Chase Clark, who helped spark the decision to intern the Japanese by decrying the early efforts to voluntarily relocate Japanese immigrants in the inland states. Clark protested loudly in the press, saying: "Japs live like rats, breed like rats, and act like rats." Clark was a Democrat, and in fact was the father-in-law of one of my youthful heroes, Sen. Frank Church.

The reality is that neither side, Republican or Democrat, covered themselves in anything but abject shame during the entire internment episode. For one side to claim now that because some of its members spoke up, that this somehow vindicated the larger party's behavior in the matter, is abjectly untrue. Indeed, such claims could and should be called what they are: revisionism, or the falsification of history.

There were indeed heroes in the whole internment affair. Ralph Carr unquestionably was one of them. So was Francis Biddle. And so, for that matter, was Justice Robert Jackson, who later gained renown as the chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremburg; his stinging dissent in Korematsu is still a legal landmark.

And on the ground, there were other heroes as well -- the few, muted, shouted-down voices of a handful of citizens and activists who opposed the internment at the time and dared to speak out against it. They were summarily attacked as "Jap lovers" and often subjected to threats and intimidation, if not outright violence.

These people, uniformly, were liberals -- often Christian church activists who later performed outreach work assisting the internees during the camp years. They were students and pacificsts who organized little-publicized protests against the internment. They were legal activists from the ACLU. They were a few small-town newspaper editorialists who knew all too well the land-grabbing motives behind much of the internment agitation.

They were the conscience of the nation then. And fortunately, it is many of those same factions who are performing the same function now. For their efforts, of course, they're being denounced as "anti-American" -- which, when you think about it, is just the post-9/11 update to "Jap lover."

It's nice that Reynolds is expressing some skepticism at least about Coble's remarks (which I analyzed earlier). But coming on the heels of his own previous justifications for internment, as well as his vicious attacks on the motives of antiwar protesters, it rings a bit hollow.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Rush, Newspeak and fascism: V

The line between right-wing extremists and "the conservative movement" has been increasingly blurred in the past 10 years. The distance between them now has grown so short in some cases as to render them nearly indistinguishable.

This, in addition to sloppy thinking, is why some on the left will offhandedly label Rush Limbaugh or George W. Bush “fascists.” I’m here to explain why they aren’t. Yet. And how we’ll know when they are.

Now, back when I first covered neo-Nazis in Idaho beginning in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Back then, even in a reactionary Republican state full of John Birchers, it was pretty easy to distinguish between the mainstream conservatives and the far right.

But that all changed during the 1990s. Responding to the serious law-enforcement crackdown on their activities, the white supremacists in the Christian Identity movement -- which was the driving ideology at Hayden Lake -- began morphing in the early part of the decade into the Patriot, or militia, movement. This was essentially an effort by Identity leaders to mainstream their belief system, primarily by locking away or disguising the racial components of their belief systems and instead emphasizing their political and legal agendas, all of which are bound up in the movement’s m├ętier, conspiracy theories.

And the Patriot movement has thrived during that period on its mutability, its ability to confront a broad range of issues with its populist appeal, all wrapped in the bright colors of American nationalism. In the Patriot movement, just about any national malady -- unemployment, crime, welfare abuse, drugs, abortion, even natural disasters -- can be blamed on the “un-American” federal government or the New World Order. If you don’t like gun control, or the way your kids are being taught in school, or even the way the weather has affected your crops this year, the Patriot movement can tell you who’s to blame.

Of course, no discussion of the Patriot movement would be complete without mentioning the important role played in this crossover by its Southern component, the neo-Confederate movement. (Indeed, there are a number of figures prominent among neo-Confederates, particularly Kirk Lyons, who are closely associated with the Identity movement.) Its resurgence in the South was closely associated with the rise of the Patriot movement nationally.

At roughly the same time, movement conservatives -- driven to apparent distraction by the election and then sustained success of Bill Clinton -- became more ideologically rigid and fanatical. And it was in this meeting ground of Clinton-hatred that mainstream conservatism and right-wing extremism became much closer.

Ideas and agendas began floating from one sector to the other in increasing volume around 1994. I noticed it first in the amazing amount of crossover between militia types and the anti-Clinton vitriol out of D.C. that eventually built into the impeachment fiasco. In fact, it was clear that what I was seeing was that the far right was being used as an echo chamber to test out various right-wing issues and find out which ones resonated (this was especially the case with Clinton conspiracies). Then if it stuck, the issue would find its way out into the mainstream.

This crossover is facilitated by figures I call "transmitters" -- ostensibly mainstream conservatives who seem to cull ideas that often have their origins on the far right, strip them of any obviously pernicious content, and present them as "conservative" arguments. These transmitters work across a variety of fields. In religion, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are the best-known examples, though many others belong in the same category. In politics, the classic example is Patrick Buchanan, while his counterpart in the field of conservative activism is Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation.

In the media, Rush Limbaugh is the most prominent instance, and Michael Savage is a close second, but there are others who have joined the parade noticeably in the past few years: Andrew Sullivan, for instance, and of course Le Coulter. On the Internet, the largest single transmitter of right-wing extremism is, whose followers -- known as “Freepers” -- have engaged in some of the more outrageous acts of thuggery against their liberal targets.

And finally, there’s Fox News, which bills itself as “balanced,” but which in fact is a virtual data center for transmitting extremist material into the mainstream. One of the most egregious examples of this was Fox’s broadcasts, on several occasions in 2000-2001, of an anti-tax protester named Bob Schulz. Schulz operated a snake-oil outfit called We The People Congress which operated on the old Posse Comitatus theory that the 16th Amendment -- the one approving the income tax -- was never properly approved. The same theory was also the main serving of a number of Patriot outfits.

However, the really interesting -- and equally enigmatic -- meeting-ground between the far right and the apparent mainstream comes in the field of money. Namely, the funding of the far right tends to be relatively mysterious, since many of them work under the aegis of a religious organization and are thus exempt from reporting the identities of contributors. But it was interesting to see the money flowing from ostensibly mainstream rightist organizations into several neo-Patriot outfits who specialized in spreading numerous conspiracy theories that were clearly Patriot in origin. Most noteworthy of these was the Western Journalism Center and WorldNetDaily, originally financed by Scaife. Moreover, there was a lot of Scaife money underwriting publication of the anti-Clinton material I saw distributed at militia meetings.

Scaife was probably the most visible case. Many observers, myself included, suspect strongly that outfits like Militia of Montana and Bo Gritz' operation are being funded by right-wing sugar daddies who make their livings in real estate or development, perhaps manufacturing. Vincent Bertollini, the right-wing Silicon Valley millionaire who underwrote Richard Butler at the Aryan Nations for a number of years, is another such case -- though as it happens, he is currently on the lam from a drunk-driving charge that is likely to land him in the slammer.

A classic example of the way the far right gets quietly funded by wealthy corporatists from the mainstream cropped up a couple of years ago, when a wealthy Massachusetts lawyer named Richard J. Cotter bequeathed some $650,000 of his estate to various white-supremacist causes. It’s more than likely he quietly slipped them money while he was alive, too. There are other similar cases -- and these are only the ones that happen to become public.

These likely are people who are not public about their beliefs but are sympathetic to Patriot causes, and more importantly, see right-wing extremists as a useful lever, a threat that helps keep "leftists" in line. As Matthew Lyons of Political Research Associates has often argued (especially in the book he co-wrote with Chip Berlet, the excellent Right Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort), the extremist right has long been a very useful tool of the corporatist right deployed purposely for precisely this function, as well as to drive wedge issues such as race between labor unions and working-class people.

It seems clear to me that by any reasonable definition, George W. Bush is a corporatist, not a fascist. It seems unlikely, of course, that he or his family are the kinds of corporatists who would financially underwrite far-right organizations today, but it seems unlikely, given that the discovery of such would doom any political legitimacy for the Bushes. (And besides, they’ve already done their part underwriting (and making millions off) the Nazi war machine earlier this century.)

What is also clear, however, is that Bush and his cohorts have not the least compunction about allying themselves with the thuggish and potentially violent component of the extremist elements that have now been subsumed by the Republican Party. This became abundantly clear in the 2000 election, and particularly in the post-election fight in Florida. Don Black’s Stormfront people were there providing bodies for the pro-Bush protests, and his Web site proudly announced their participation. And as the Village Voice reported at the time:
On November 13, Black helped an angry crowd drive Reverend Jesse Jackson off a West Palm Beach stage with taunts and jeers. "He wasn't being physically threatened," Black says, in a later interview.

No one from the Bush camp ever denounced the participation of Black and his crew or even distanced themselves from this bunch, or for that matter any of the thuggery that arose during the post-election drama. Indeed, Bush himself later feted a crew of "Freeper" thugs who had shut down one of the recounts in Florida, while others terrorized his opponent, Al Gore, and his family by staging loud protests outside the Vice President's residence during the Florida struggle.

These failures were symptomatic of a campaign that made multiple gestures of conciliation to a variety of extreme right-wing groups. These ranged from the neo-Confederates to whom Bush’s campaign made its most obvious appeals in the South Carolina primary to his speaking appearance at Bob Jones University. Bush and his GOP cohorts continued to make a whole host of other gestures to other extremist components: attacking affirmative action, kneecapping the United Nations, and gutting hate-crimes laws.

The result was that white supremacists and other right-wing extremists came to identify politically with George W. Bush more than any other mainstream Republican politician in memory. This was embodied by the endorsement of Bush’s candidacy by a range of white supremacists, including David Duke, Don Black and Matthew Hale of the World Church of the Creator. This identification even cropped up in odd places like the neo-Nazi flyers that passed around in Elma, Washington, in November 2000 that proclaimed Bush their group’s “supreme commander.”

I think, however, that the really signal event of 2000 that went under everyone’s radar was Patrick Buchanan’s bid for the presidency on the Reform Party ticket. It was this move which drove everyone from the Patriot movement firmly into the arms of George W. Bush and the Republican Party.

Right-wing extremists, for the most part, are only a tiny portion of the electorate; they usually represent at best about 3 or maybe 4 percent of the vote. During the 1990s, these voters gave Ross Perot’s Reform Party nearly half its total base. This was critical in the 1992 election, when George H.W. Bush saw much of his conservative base go to Perot. It didn’t matter quite so much in 1996 -- Clinton defeated the GOP’s Bob Dole quite handily, with or without Perot’s help -- but the lesson was clear. That 3-4 percent was killing the GOP.

So in 2000 came the Buchanan takeover of the Reform Party. He managed to do this with a maximum of acrimony, so that the party became split into its Buchananite wing -- which largely was the white-nationalist faction -- and its Perotite wing. Buchanan’s side won the war and got to carry the party’s banner in the national election.

And then Buchanan selected a black woman as his running mate.

The white nationalists who had been Buchanan’s footsoldiers abandoned him immediately. And where did they flee? The GOP, of course. As David Duke’s manager explained it to a reporter: “[A]fter Buchanan chose a black woman as his veep he now thinks that ‘Pat is a moron’ and ‘there is no way we can support him at this point.’” The Democrats -- with a Jew as the running mate -- were threatening at the time to win the race outright. The combination of all these factors herded the far right handily into voting Republican.

If someone had intended to sabotage the Reform Party and drive its voters back to the GOP, they couldn’t have done a more perfect job of this than Buchanan did. While I don’t know if Buchanan’s moves were made with this end in mind, it certainly doesn’t seem like it would be beyond the pale for any old Nixon hand to take such a political bullet for the home team.

In any case, what we’ve been seeing in the field since 2000 is that much of the dissipation of the energy in the Patriot movement is directly related to the identification by right-wing extremists with George W. Bush. The announced reason (according to the New York Times) for the disbanding of Norm Olson's Michigan Militia, for instance, was the belief among members that Bush had the country headed back in the right direction, as it were:
Mr. Olson attributed the dwindling membership to the election of President Bush. ''Across the nation, there is a satisfaction among patriots with the way things are going,'' he said.

Since 9/11, these connections have grown stronger, though there is one element of fraying -- some of the more paranoid of the militia types are now fearful that Bush's anti-terror campaign is going to target them as well. Otherwise, the bulk of the Patriot movement has gotten solidly behind Bush.

These folks are not any less extremist, just a little less likely to cork off right now. But if Bush's presidency is threatened, then I expect we will see them spring into action. And this is where the real danger lies.

Recall that we observed last time out that, even though we identified the Patriots as the main proto-fascist element in America today, they remain “groupuscular,” and thus relatively impotent. Two key components are missing: the alliance with statist/corporatist elements, and allegiance to a single charismatic leader.

By first subsuming the Patriot element under the Republican banner, the Bush regime has effected an apparent alliance -- not explicitly, but systemically. And it is clear that while Bush’s charisma may not appeal to everyone, he has the power to electrify this base.

Now he only needs the pretext to put it in action. The war, or the election, or both, may provide it.

I'll talk next about how the transmitters in the media will play the critical role in this.

Let's round up some brains first

You know, when people start talking about interning Muslims, it reminds me just how incoherent their thought processes are regarding the subject of Islam and nonwhite cultures generally.

My first question to them is: Do we intern Muslim Americans? Or just Arab Americans?

If they answer the latter, then the next question immediately arises: Then what about all those non-Arab Muslims who are likewise implicated by association with Al Qaeda? You know -- the Pakistanis and Indians, the Bangladeshis, the Malaysians and Indonesians and Filipinos? They are, after all, racially distinct. Should we round them up too? If not, then what good are we doing just rounding up Arabs? Aren't we letting a lot of potential Al Qaeda operatives roam free?

All right, then say they answer the former -- intern all Muslims. That raises the next question: Then are they now willing to intern all those black Americans, like Muhammad Ali, who have converted to Islam?

And of course none of them will consider that. (Or if they will, then they are probably working for Karl Rove.)

There is simply no logical consistency to any enterprise that would deprive Americans of their rights based on their ethnicity, regardless of the circumstances. Not unless its promoters are truly and admittedly monstrous.

Slouching Towards Manzanar

The internment of Japanese-Americans in 1942 was one of those almost lightning occurrences -- it began gathering momentum within days of Pearl Harbor, and reached a critical mass within two months. The actual evacuation and internment was completed within a matter of six months.

In contrast, the talk about interning Muslim-Americans in the wake of 9/11 has been relatively quiet, mostly relegated to a few freaks like Michael Savage, Ann Coulter and Glenn Reynolds. The Bush administration, to its credit, has sternly put the kibosh on the incipient Muslim-bashing within the GOP.

But even that lid is starting to come off, and it is becoming clear that such an internment is highly likely if there is another terrorist attack like 9/11 on American soil. Compared to 1942, the internment of Muslim-Americans is happening at a snail's pace, like a steady drip. But it seems to be happening anyway.

First there was Peter Kirsanow, the controversial Bush appointee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, who suggested last July that Arab-Americans might wind up in internment camps. Since then, there has been a steady drumbeat of Islam-bashing from the likes of Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich.

Now comes this, from the Associated Press:

N.C. Rep. Endorses WWII Internments

[Note that this is not merely a Republican official, but one who is in a position to make internment a reality.]
HIGH POINT, N.C. -- A congressman who heads a homeland security subcommittee said on a radio call-in program that he agreed with the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., made the remark Tuesday on WKZL-FM when a caller suggested Arabs in the United States should be confined.

Coble, chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, said he didn't agree with the caller but did agree with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who established the internment camps.

"We were at war. They (Japanese-Americans) were an endangered species," Coble said. "For many of these Japanese-Americans, it wasn't safe for them to be on the street."

This is the "protective custody" theory of the internment. It sounds high-minded now, but it is entirely ahistorical. For starters, even if this were true, it was not part of anyone's argument during the buildup to the internment. Neither the government nor the citizens who demanded the internment ever justified it by suggesting that the "Japs" be put away for their own protection. It was entirely about protecting the populace from the "Japs." Why else, when the internees arrived at the camps, did they discover that the guns in the guard towers were turned inward?

Moreover, it is a complete capitulation on the part of civil society to thuggery and mob rule. It suggests that law-enforcement officials would be unwilling (as they were during the lynching era) to protect the lives and property of the innocent.

Here's the definitive reply to this argument, from Personal Justice Denied: The Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (p. 89), which noted that "the argument that the exclusion served to protect the Nikkei against vigilantism had wide currency":
This explanation sounds lame indeed today. It was not publicly advanced at the time to justify the exclusion and, had protection been on official minds, a much different post-evacuation program would have been required. [Internment architect and Assistant War Secretary John] McCloy himself supplied the most telling rebuttal of the contention in a 1943 letter to DeWitt:

That there is serious animosity on the West Coast against all evacuated Japanese I do not doubt, but that does not necessarily mean that we should trim our sails accordingly ... The Army, as I see it, is not responsible for the general public peace of the Western Defense Command. That responsibility still rests with the civil authorities. There may, as you suggest, be incidents, but these can be effectively discouraged by prompt action by law enforcement agencies, with the cooperation of the military if they even assume really threatening proportions.

That is the simple, straightforward answer to the argument of protection against vigilantes -- keeping the peace is a civil matter that would involve the military only in extreme situations. Even then, public officials would be duty-bound to protect the innocent, not to order them from their homes for months or years under the rubric of a military measure designed to maintain public peace.

Then Coble shifts gears and offers this rationalization:
Like most Arab-Americans today, Coble said, most Japanese-Americans during World War II were not America's enemies.

Still, Coble said, Roosevelt had to consider the nation's security.

"Some probably were intent on doing harm to us," he said, "just as some of these Arab-Americans are probably intent on doing harm to us."

Note that this is a completely different argument, one which undermines the sincerity of the first. And it's equally specious, if not more so.

I've observed previously that not only is the evidence overwhelming that the Japanese-American internment prevented little if any sabotage or espionage, but it is also painfully clear that the enterprise was an enormous waste, a drain on the war effort, and a blot on the Constitution. (I've also knocked down the similarly spurious, but currently fashionable, argument that the unjustness of the internment was the only thing wrong with it.)

But even more chilling about Coble's argument is its bottom line: It is making a case for the imprisonment of American citizens based on a presumption of guilt.

I don't think I need to explain that this is contrary to one of the bedrock principles of American law. Not, however, that such concerns have ever deterred the Bush administration.

I mean, did any Republicans bother seeing Minority Report? If they did, did they get it?

[As it happens, I have an article on this very subject upcoming soon in Salon. Keep an eye out for it.]

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Bush Rodgers in Outer Space

This may not turn out to be significant, but it's certainly worth considering:

Did the Columbia crash create a significant public health hazard?

It's possible. Several public officials warned souvenir-seekers away from crash debris with the warning that the flight contained radioactive material. That may have been an attempt to stave off the slavering e-Bay freaks. But it may also hint at bigger problems.

Here's a report from Democracy Now!, a Pacifica-style progressive radio broadcasting outfit. Their report caught my eye, partly because hardly anyone has stopped to consider whether the crash might indeed pose such a hazard:

NASA so far has not publicly acknowledged the existence of radioactive material. But the crash comes at time when the space agency is quickly pushing forward its controversial plans to increase the use of nuclear power in space flights. Experts warn that had the Columbia been powered by nuclear rockets, much of East Texas and the region would have to be evacuated due to radioactive contamination.

Two weeks ago the Los Angeles Times reported that NASA is seeking "significant resources and funding" to design a nuclear-powered propulsion system. The Times reported: "The project, dubbed Project Prometheus, would greatly expand the nuclear propulsion plans that NASA quietly announced last year when it said it may spend $1 billion over the next five years to design a nuclear rocket. NASA and the Bush administration are keeping the lid on the details, including how much more the agency expects to request from Congress, but O'Keefe said the funding increase will be 'very significant.'

Judging from the way this is shaping up -- and by the modus operandi of the Bush administration to date -- the Columbia crash is being viewed by the president's people as their opening to proceed with the militarization of space.

Who says war opponents aren't coherent?

Here's an excellent essay by Doug McGill:

A Global Citizen Thinks About the War

Doug, who's been in many a newsroom, puts it nice and succinctly:

Yet reality is not made from my wishes, and the reality is that we are pursuing the war on Iraq to maintain the economic status quo in America, while mouthing ideals to mollify our conscience and to preserve the fiction that we can live forever like kings of the earth yet never pay the price.

Infecting the discourse

Here's an excellent post from Paula at Stonerwitch (and I'm not just saying that because she likes my blog):

It seems to me that when people try to define fascism, they are trying make it into something resembling a political or social movement, something understandable in political and social terms. What if fascism were something else, which only used political and social movements as means and not ends? What if fascism were, say, a meme?

Paula raises an important point. Memetics may not necessarily be a key to understanding fascism, but they provide at least a useful tool for coming to terms with it. This argument dovetails into mine (and Griffin's): If fascism is a meme, then it must revolve around the myth of societal rebirth, with all the nationalistic and populist trappings.

I'll try to discuss these memetic aspects of fascism, especially in its affective powers over individuals, near the end of this series. (Newspeak plays an essential role in transmitting the meme, as it were.) But even though I'm getting ahead of myself a little here, I wanted to introduce these ideas into the mix.

The face of fascism

Awfully busy today, but I wanted to point this out ...

Lisa English at Ruminate This makes a very moving point, with the help of Picasso's Guernica:

A reproduction of this painting can be found at the United Nations in New York. It was installed there as a reminder. We should never forget. It is now draped and hidden from view, apparently at the request of the United States.

Forgetting is an important component of totalitarianism.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Nice timing

As luck would have it, Salon has some excellent supplementary reading to complement the last post:

Shock troops for Bush

A crucial passage:

It was like a right-wing version of a Workers World rally, with one crucial difference. Workers World is a fringe group with no political power. CPAC is explicitly endorsed by people running the country. Its attendees are Bush's shock troops, the ones who staged the white-collar riot during the Florida vote count and harassed Al Gore in the vice presidential mansion. Bush may not want to embrace them in public, but they are crucial to his political success and he has let them know, in hundreds of ways, that their mission is his.

Also noteworthy:

Rev. Lou Sheldon, the founder of the Traditional Values Coalition and sworn enemy of homosexuality, put it best. Asked if Bush was in sync with his agenda, he replied, "George Bush is our agenda!"

And finally:

At a Thursday seminar titled "2002 and Beyond: Are Liberals an Endangered Species?" Paul Rodriguez, managing editor of the conservative magazine Insight, warned that the liberal beast wouldn't be vanquished until conservatives learn to be merciless. "One thing Democrats have long known how to do is play hardball," he intoned, urging Republicans to adopt more "bare-knuckle" tactics.

Evidently, they've only been playing tiddly-winks up to this point.

The thing is, I'm beginning to believe them.

Rush, Newspeak and fascism, IV

We’ve established so far that fascism isn’t something that was peculiar to Europe, but in fact grew out of an impulse that appears throughout history in many different cultures. This is, as Roger Griffin puts it: “ultra-nationalism that aspires to bring about the renewal of a nation's entire political culture.”

Obviously we can see that impulse at play in the American landscape. And when we consider some of the other historical traits of fascism, including those it shares with other forms of totalitarianism, then it becomes much easier to identify the political factions that are most clearly proto-fascist -- that is, potentially fascist, if not explicitly so. In the United States, this faction is the Patriot movement.

Those who have read In God’s Country know that I present this argument in the Afterword. I thought I would explore the point in more detail here.

Let’s go back to Griffin’s Searchlight article:

Paper tiger or Cheshire cat? A spotter's guide to fascism in the post-fascist era

Recall that, as Griffin suggests, fascism in postwar society has mutated to a diffuse “groupuscular” form that seems to pose little threat but remains latent in the woodwork:

But the danger of the groupuscular right is not only at the level of the challenge to "cultural hegemony". Its existence as a permanent, practically unsuppressible ingredient of civil and uncivil society also ensures the continued "production" of racists and fanatics. On occasion these are able to subvert democratic, pacifist opposition to globalisation, as has been seen when they have infiltrated the "No Logo" movement with a revolutionary, violent dynamic all too easily exploited by governments to tar all protesters with the same brush. Others choose instead to pursue the path of entryism by joining mainstream reformist parties, thus ensuring that both mainstream conservative parties and neo-populist parties contain a fringe of ideologically "prepared" hard-core extremists. Moreover, while the semi-clandestine groupuscular form now adopted by hard-core activist and metapolitical fascism cannot spawn the uniformed paramilitary cadres of the 1930s, it is ideally suited to breeding lone wolf terrorists and self-styled "political soldiers" in trainers and bomber-jackets dedicated to a tactic of subversion known in Italian as "spontaneism". [emphasis mine] By reading the rationalised hate that they find on their screens as a revelation they transform their brooding malaise into a sense of mission and turn the servers of their book-marked web groupuscules into their masters.

Griffin identifies this manifestation of fascism not only in Europe but in the United States:

One of the earliest such acts of terrorism on record harks back to halcyon pre-PC days. When Kohler Gundolf committed the Oktoberfest bombing in 1980 it was initially attributed to a "nutter" working independently of the organised right. Yet it later transpired that he had been a member of the West German groupuscule, Wehrsportgruppe Hoffmann. It also emerged at the trial of the "Oklahoma bomber", Timothy McVeigh, that he had been deeply influenced by the USA's thriving groupuscular right subculture. His disaffection with the contemporary state of the nation had been politicised by his exposure to the shadowy revolutionary subculture created by the patriotic militias, rifle clubs and survivalists. In particular, his belief that he had been personally called to do something to break ZOG’s (the so-called Zionist Occupation Government) stranglehold on America had crystallised into a plan on reading The Turner Diaries by William Pierce, head of the National Alliance.

Conservatives have successfully re-airbrushed the Oklahoma City bombing as the act of a single maniac (or two) rather than the piece of right-wing terrorism it was, derived wholly from an ideological stew of venomous hate that has simultaneously been seeping into mainstream conservatism throughout the 1990s and since.

The Patriot movement that inspired Tim McVeigh and his cohorts -- as well as a string of other would-be right-wing terrorists who were involved in some 40-odd other cases in the five years following April 15, 1995 -- indeed is descended almost directly from overtly fascist elements in American politics. Much of its political and “legal” philosophy is derived from the “Posse Comitatus” movement of the 1970s and ‘80s, which itself originated (in the 1960s) from the teachings of renowned anti-Semite William Potter Gale, and further propagated by Mike Beach, a former “Silvershirt” follower of neo-Nazi ideologue William Dudley Pelley (for more details on this, see Daniel Levitas’ definitive text on the subject, The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right).

Though the Patriot movement is fairly multifaceted, most Americans have a view of it mostly through the media images related to a single facet -- the often pathetic collection of bunglers and fantasists known as the militia movement. Moreover, they’ve been told that the militia movement is dead.

It is, more or less. (And the whys of that, as we will see, are crucial here.) But the Patriot movement -- oh, it’s alive and reasonably well. Let's put it this way: It isn't going away anytime soon.

The militia “movement” was only one strategy in the broad coalition of right-wing extremists who call themselves the “Patriot” movement. What this movement really represents is the attempt of old nationalist, white-supremacist and anti-Semitic ideologies to mainstream themselves by stripping away the arguments about race and ethnicity, and focusing almost single-mindedly on their underlying political and legal philosophies -- which all come wrapped up, of course, in the neat little Manichean package of conspiracy theories.

Forming militias was a strategy mainly aimed at recruiting from the mainstream, particularly among gun owners. It eventually fell prey to disrepute and entropy, for reasons we’ll explore in a bit. However, there are other Patriot strategies that have proved to have greater endurance, particularly “common law courts” and their various permutations, all of which revolve around the idea of “sovereign citizenship,” which makes every white Christian male American, essentially, a king unto himself. The movement is, as always, mutable. It includes a number of “constitutionalist” tax-protest movements, as well as certain “home schooling” factions and anti-abortion extremists.

As the "Afterword" of In God’s Countryexplains it:

…[T]he Patriots are not Nazis, nor even neo-Nazis. Rather, they are at least the seedbed, if not the realization, of a uniquely American brand of fascism. … There can be little mistaking the nature of the Patriot movement as essentially fascist in the purest sense of the word. The beliefs it embodies fit, with startling clarity, the definition of fascism as it has come to be understood by historians and sociologists: a political ideology with a mythic core of populist ultranationalism, focused on an ideal of societal rebirth. As with previous forms of fascism, its affective power is based on irrational drives and mythical assumptions; its followers find in it an outlet for idealism and self-sacrifice; yet its support, on close inspection, proves to derive from an array of personal material and psychological motivations.

Griffin appear almost to be describing the Patriot movement two years before it arose, particularly in his description (pp. 36-37) of populist ultra-nationalism, which he says “repudiates both ‘traditional’ and ‘legal/rational’ forms of politics in favour of prevalently ’charismatic’ ones in which the cohesion and dynamics of movements depends almost exclusively on the capacity of their leaders to inspire loyalty and action ... It tends to be associated with a concept of the nation as a ‘higher’ racial, historical, spiritual or organic reality which embraces all the members of its ethical community who belong to it.”

But by remaining in this “groupuscular” state, the Patriot movement cannot be properly described as full-fledged fascism. Certainly it does not resemble mature fascism in the least. My friend Mark Pitcavage explains:

… “[T]hough it definitely has nationalistic and volkische elements,” the Patriot movement does not meet “the key standard: a corporatist-statist authoritarianism. Indeed, it often seems antithetically opposed to such arrangements (and often believes that this is the arrangement the U.S. government has).”

This view, however, overlooks the historical fact that Italian, German and Spanish fascism all lacked any corporatist-statist leanings in their developmental stages as well -- and indeed could have been described as antithetically opposed to authoritarianism.

A second missing characteristic might be more telling: leadership under a central, authoritarian figure. The lack of such a personage is what leads Chip Berlet to define the Patriot movement as “proto-fascist.” Berlet, an analyst at the Cambridge, Mass., think tank Political Research Associates, says: “This is a kind of right-wing populism, which historically has been the seedbed for fascist movements. In other words, if you see fascism as a particularly virulent form of right-wing populism, it makes a lot more sense. It’s missing a couple of things that are necessary for a fascist movement. One is a strong leader. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t get one. But until they get one it isn’t fascism.”

Berlet takes little comfort in the difference in terms: “This is one trigger event away from being a fascist movement,” he says. “There’s no guarantee it’ll go that way. You would need a very charismatic leader to step forward. But it could happen at any time.”

The Patriot movement certainly is in a down cycle nowadays. Its recruitment numbers are way down. Its visibility and level of activity are in stasis, if not decline. But right-wing extremism has always gone in cycles. It never goes away -- it only becomes latent, and resurrects itself when the conditions are right.

And during these down periods, the remaining True Believers tend to become even more radicalized. There is already a spiral of violent behavior associated with Patriot beliefs, particularly among the younger and more paranoid adherents. As Griffin suggests, we can probably expect to see an increase in these “lone wolf” kind of attacks in coming years.

But there is a more significant aspect to the apparent decline of the Patriot movement: Its believers, its thousands of footsoldiers, and its agenda, never went away. These folks didn’t stop believing that Clinton was the anti-Christ or that he intended to enslave us all under the New World Order. They didn’t stop believing it was appropriate to pre-emptively murder “baby killers” or that Jews secretly conspire to control the world.

No, they’re still with us, but they’re not active much in militias anymore. They’ve been absorbed by the Republican Party.

They haven’t changed. But they are changing the party.

We’ll explore this in detail soon.

(For the previous posts in this series, see here (I), here (II), and here (III).)