A “Presidential Coup,” The Continuity Of Government, And Blackwater Watching Midtown Manhattan

blackwatergraphic1.jpgI have argued that in the closing stages of a `fascist shift’, events cascade. I am hearing about them, even across the globe. Here in Australia I hear from the nation’s best-know feminist activist, and former adviser to Paul Keating, Anne Summers, who was also at the time this took place Chair of the Board of Greenpeace International. Summers was detained by armed agents for FIVE HOURS each way in LAX on her way to and from the annual meeting of the board of Greenpeace International in Mexico, and her green card was taken away from her. `I want to call a lawyer’, she told TSA agents. `Ma’am, you do not have a right to call an attorney,’ they replied. `You have not entered the United States.’

Apparently a section of LAX just beyond the security line is asserted to be `not in the United States’ — though it is squarely inside the airport — so the laws of the US do not apply. (This assertion, by the way, should alarm any US citizen who is aware of how the White House argued that Guantanamo is not `in the United States’ – is a legal no-man’s land — so the laws of the US do not apply.) Toward the end of her second five-hour detention she asked, `Why am I being detained?’ `Lady, this is not detention,’ the TSA agent told her. `Detention is when I take you to the cells out back and lock you up.’

Last week in Boston, while attending Bioneers by the Bay, I heard that one of the speakers for our event, an environmentalist named Gunter Pauli, was going to miss the time of his scheduled speech; he had been physically taken OFF THE PLANE by TSA agents and had to take a much later flight. More chillingly, the camerawoman doing my interview said that another well-known environmental writer found that his girlfriend was effectively `disappeared’ for three days as she sought to enter the US from Canada. Lisa Fithian, an anti-globalization activist, was denied entry across the Canadian border in 2001 and was offered the choice of turning back or being arrested.

A friend emails me a story from USA Today about a 24-year-old college graduate who testified before Congress about her family of immigrants and the difficulties they face; shortly afterward, the entire family was arrested by immigration agents. Another online piece reports that Blackwater is setting up operations along the US/Mexico border and an insightful post on Daily Kos describes how the TSA list will revert from the airlines to the management of the Department of Homeland Security shortly and that by February we may well face the need to apply to the State for permission to travel. If this proposed regulation goes through, we will move from 1931 to about 1934—when the borders started to close— with the stroke of a pen. Jews in America have hardwired into their DNA a sense of the distinction between those who got out before the borders closed and those who waited a moment too long.

Why should Congress impeach and prosecute this instant, not waiting till February? Why should this impeachment and prosecution be solidly bipartisan? After February it is the leaders on both sides of the aisle — and the people writing these essays — who are at most risk of being turned back at the border. People who can’t leave in a police state are effectively silenced. And history shows that Republicans are at the exact same risk as Democrats of being violently silenced once liberties are lost. I am reading about IBM’s close, profitable involvement with Nazi Germany — much akin to Prescott Bush’s well-documented close and profitable involvement with Nazi Germany through German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen. Right up to the top of the solidly Nazi hierarchy of the IBM affiliate, corporate executives were terrified of taking a wrong step in the eyes of the Party: `There are concentration camps’, they would whisper to their US backers. The teenage son of one solid Nazi ally was taken hostage when he resisted Party orders. So alignment with the regime in a police state offers no ultimate protection.

Let us think like business consultants analyzing the decisions of a business that claims it is going to close its door in just a year. What kinds of decisions is it making? Here is a quiz, if you still doubt that we need to shift our thinking and recognize what appears to be ‘a paper coup.':

— Is building a US Embassy in Baghdad the size of eighty football fields and at a cost of well more than half a BILLION dollars evidence of short- or long-term thinking?

— These walls would crumble if the next legitimate president independently ends the war. How about defending and expanding the basis for FISA violations at this late stage — after all, these folks will be gone in a year?

— How about the decision to fight so hard for a US attorney who will defend the view that the President is above the law? (more…)

Taking It To the Streets

_1506028_vietnam-protest.jpgAll right: Blackwater and other contractors have four BILLION dollars in US funds and, the New York Times reports today, almost no oversight in Iraq; wildfires are consuming acres of Southern California and many counties have been declared to be in a state of emergency — and nothing at all but a whisper of popular opposition and a prayer — nothing legal — would prevent Bush today from declaring that the National Guard is overstretched and that it is Blackwater’s torturers and murderers, recruited from Salvadoran, Ecuadoran and Nigerian paramilitaries, who will be `maintaining order’ in the `public emergency’ that is Southern California; and Mukasey has informed Congress that he has no idea what waterboarding is — which professed cluelessness alone should disqualify him from service — and that the President does not actually need to obey the law of the United States of America — which alone should alert us that if he is confirmed the game is over. Once Congress confirms someone to decide the law of the land who holds that the President is exempt from the law of the land (which assertion was, notably, an historic tipping point when Hitler asked his Reichstag to confirm a similar position about his powers in regard to the law and the constitution) it is open season on all of us.

It is time to take to the streets.

Many of you have asked about a national strike. This is the next step in a democracy movement. We need to hold monthly strikes — a word that is too scary for some, and we want to be inclusive, so rather we will urge people of all walks of life to participate in mass-action Constitution Days.

What will we do — in our millions, hopefully, we will Sit Down for the Constitution in the most public space in our communities. The seated mass citizen action is more effective now than a march; less cause for confrontation, more family-friendly, you can gather more people for a longer time and it can be more of a community affirmation of American values and the Rule of Law. Daniel Ellsberg, whom I had the honor of meeting last week in Berkeley, along with his brave and beautiful wife Patricia, reminded me that it took only three days of a widely observed National Moratorium to strike a real blow to the war in the Vietnam.

We propose that local citizens organize these Constitution Days once a month, on the 6th, starting Nov. 6 (before or after you vote). We suggest that those who can refrain from going to work or to school — use the time to be with your fellow citizens at the event or reading about democracy and sharing those ideals with your friends and neighbors. Those who can’t leave work, come for lunch hour. If millions join the nation will react, and even if the first few are small, we must begin. You guys have to organize these locally — we can’t. But that is powerful. Here is how to proceed:


Won’t Back Down

377495516_c8d80de767.jpg(Naomi Wolf is the author of The End of America: A Letter of Warning To A Young Patriot.)

I wish people would stop breaking into tears when they talk to me these days.

I am traveling across the country at the moment — Colorado to California — speaking to groups of Americans from all walks of life about the assault on liberty and the ten steps now underway in America to a violently closed society.

The good news is that Americans are already awake: I thought there would be resistance to or disbelief at this message of gathering darkness — but I am finding crowds of people who don’t need me to tell them to worry; they are already scared, already alert to the danger and entirely prepared to hear what the big picture might look like. To my great relief, Americans are smart and brave and they are unflinching in their readiness to hear the worst and take action. And they love their country.

But I can’t stand the stories I am hearing. I can’t stand to open my email these days. And wherever I go, it seems, at least once a day, someone very strong starts to cry while they are speaking.

In Boulder, two days ago, a rosy-cheeked thirtysomething mother of two small children, in soft yoga velours, started to tear up when she said to me: `I want to take action but I am so scared. I look at my kids and I am scared. How do you deal with fear? Is it safer for them if I act or stay quiet? I don’t want to get on a list.’ In DC, before that, a beefy, handsome civil servant, a government department head — probably a Republican — confides in a lowered voice that he is scared to sign the new ID requirement for all government employees, that exposes all his most personal information to the State — but he is scared not to sign it: `If I don’t, I lose my job, my house. It’s like the German National ID card,’ he said quietly. This morning in Denver I talked for almost an hour to a brave, much-decorated high-level military leader who is not only on the watch list for his criticism of the administration — his family is now on the list. He has undertaken many dangerous combat missions in his service to his country over the course of his career, but his voice cracks when he talks about the possibility that he is exposing his children to harassment.

Jim Spencer, a former columnist for the Denver Post who has been critical of the Bush administration, told me today that I could use his name: he is on the watch list. An attorney contacts me to say that she told her colleagues at the Justice Department not to torture a detainee; she says she then faced a criminal investigation, a professional referral, saw her emails deleted — and now she is on the watch list. I was told last night that a leader of Code Pink, the anti-war women’s action group, was refused entry to Canada. I hear from a tech guy who works for the airlines — again, probably a Republican — that once you are on the list you never get off. Someone else says that his friend opened his luggage to find a letter from the TSA saying that they did not appreciate his reading material. Before I go into the security lines, I find myself editing my possessions. In New York’s LaGuardia, I reluctantly found myself putting a hardcover copy of Tara McKelvey’s excellent Monstering, an expose of CIA interrogation practices, in a garbage can before I get in the security line; it is based on classified information. This morning at my hotel, before going to the airport, I threw away a very nice black T-shirt that said `We Will Not be Silenced’ — with an Arabic translation — that someone had given me, along with a copy of poems written by detainees at Guantanamo.

In my America we are not scared to get in line at the airport. In my America, we will not be silenced.


Blackwater: “Newly Created Thug Caste”


(Naomi Wolf is the author of The End of America: Letter of Warning To A Young Patriot. She has written extensively about Blackwater and joins us in the comments — jh)

Congress is finally asking questions of Erik Prince, the head of Blackwater, the private mercenary organization that massacred seventeen civilians in Iraq recently. As I mentioned before, Blackwater operates in Iraq entirely outside the rule of law and has close ties to the White House. The New York Times today reported just how close — Prince’s sister-in-law is a major Bush fundraiser and ally.

What still evades the framing of this debate, though, is that the violent lawlessness perpetrated against civilians in Iraq by this newly created thug caste is a taste of what is in store for us at home — unless Congress confronts the President’s and Prince’s plans to bring Blackwater increasingly to a neighborhood near you. It is remarkable that the hearings focus on what Blackwater is doing in Iraq — but not on what Blackwater plans to and is legally able to do here in the US when the President determines there is a `public emergency’ that requires the restoration of `public order’ — a power (more…)

Blackwater: Are You Scared Yet?



(Naomi Wolf is the author of “The End of America — Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot,” an amazing book that discusses, among other things, the implications of the growth of paramilitary forces like Blackwater. She’ll be here for the Book Salon on Oct. 14 — JH)

The New York Times reported today that Blackwater, the infamous organization that has been accused of killing civilians in Iraq, “has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms.” A mercenary firm in Iraq with an itchy trigger finger is bad enough. But it now appears that Blackwater’s activities may be massively expanded — and not in Iraq.

In little noticed news, Blackwater, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Arinc were recently awarded a collective $15 billion — yes, billion — from the Pentagon to conduct global counter-narcotics operations. This means that Blackwater can be deployed to engage with citizens on a whole new level of intimacy anywhere around the world — including here at home. What is scarier than scary is that Blackwater’s overall plans are to do more and more of its armed and dangerous ‘security’ operations on U.S. soil.

In my recently released book, The End of America — Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot, I describe the 10 steps that would-be tyrants use to close down a democracy and produce a “fascist shift.” The third of the ten steps is to ‘Develop a Paramilitary Force.’ Without a paramilitary force that is not answerable to the people’s representatives, democracy cannot be closed down; however, with such a force available to would-be despots, democracy can be drastically and quickly weakened.