Petroleum: How to Fight Fascists and Restore Justice
October 4, 2002
By David Cogswell
The world crossed a threshold when the Bush regime presented
its National Security position paper ("The National Security
Strategy of the United States of America") to the U.S. Senate.(See
The Moscow Times, The Sunday Herald, The
Washington Post and The New York Times.} Now we
are seeing the open presentation of a plan for world domination
that most alert political observers were already able discern
from the actions of the group of Nixon and Reagan-Bush holdovers
that now runs the executive branch.
A prototype of the plan was produced in September 2000 by
a think tank for Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush and
Cheney's chief of staff Lewis Libby. The plan's title "Rebuilding
America's Defenses," goes far beyond euphemism to the point
of being a bald, absurd lie. America's military machine is
not designed for defense (as witnessed September 11, 2001),
but for aggression. And now it is explicitly for world domination.
The word "rebuilding" implies some depletion, which does not
apply to the most massive and powerful military machine the
world has ever known. As the world learned in 1939, great
military machines never sit idle for long. They demand to
The plan specifically stated that the U.S. will not allow
any other country to build up a military that will threaten
its superiority. And it now reserves the right to strike pre-emptively
whatever it deems a threat. This report comes at a time when
the regime is planning an attack on a country it says is planning
to gain "weapons of mass destruction." This pretext is not
even that the country has such weapons, which there is little
evidence for. (The biological weapons Iraq made from germs
provided by the U.S. under the Reagan administraion in 1985
are not "weapons of mass destruction.") The administration's
reasoning is arbitrary and won't withstand a moment's examination.
But when you have superior force, you don't have to make sense.
Unfortunately for tyrants, the habit of not making sense does
come back to bite them. The Greeks were right about tragic
flaws. What is initially the very source of the tyrant's power
is in the end his undoing.
It is transparently obvious that Iraq is a domino in the
regime's plan to control the Middle East. This position paper
is saying explicitly that the president can choose to attack
anyone he wants anywhere. It also explicitly points out that
the U.S. wants more power in the Middle East. The international
community sees through the regime's illogical pretexts, but
no one has the strength to resist its force. The destructive
capability of the U.S. military is so overwhelming that even
the threat of its use can be an effective tool for control.
The Bushistas understand that, and this is the way they view
the world, as a property to be defended by overwhelming force.
Use power to build and consolidate power. All for power. We
can rule the world.
Similar autocratic powers have now been claimed for the president
domestically through the Patriot Act. So far the powers have
only been used selectively, mostly against immigrants. But
the power is being tested, broadened, and there is no doubt
that the pattern of continuing expansion of its powers and
dominion is the design of the administration.
The nations of the world have been put on notice that any
of them can at any time be pre-emptively attacked by the country
that has now deemed itself the master of the world. Now the
other countries of the world find themselves in a situation
analogous to what Americans experienced on December 12, 2000,
the day that the corrupted Supreme Court subverted the democratic
process and installed a fake figurehead leader.
Days of Infamy
As time draws the lines of history more clearly, December
12, 2000, will emerge as a date of greater infamy than September
11, 2001. Even with the suppression of investigations by the
White House, the evidence is already available to show that
the second incident flowed out of the first, "as surely as
the night follows the day."
December 12, 2000, is more significant in American history
because it is the day that a coup installed the present undemocratic,
militaristic corporate regime into power. I remember the day
well, and Americans were stunned. Even the talking heads on
CNN could not hide their shock. Americans were accustomed
to law prevailing in the resolution of such disputes, for
all parties to at least put on a show of respect for law and
the democratic tradition. Those were the rules of the game.
Underlying all the hard-fought battles in the political theater,
there was a shared respect for fundamental civil and legal
principles, respect for the rules that governed the conduct
of the affairs of government. This was what was cast aside
by the Republicans, and it was precisely what constituted
their advantage in the post-election debacle in Florida. They
were not more right. They did not have a better case, their
case was a joke. They had only force, and the willingness
to cast aside ethical restraints. That is the recipe for the
Republican victory that fraudulently gave them the White House
when they obviously did not win that election fair and square.
This is the very definition of tyranny. Americans have not
been accustomed to dealing with tyrants, and they have been
stymied. It has appeared as if they have just allowed the
theft of their country and the overthrow of their greatest
principles. But Americans have been slow to react because
they have not learned how to deal with tyrants. This disrespect
of law and tradition is not an American trait; it is not customarily
the way the government is supposed to operate. In the aftermath
of the coup, as America mourned the democracy that was crucified
in broad daylight, troubling questions arose and circulated
through uncorporate media at home and abroad: Will Americans
stand by dumbly and watch as their democratic republic is
overthrown and replaced by a fascistic regime? Have they become
so fat and lazy, so brainwashed by their incessant media propaganda
that they will let the American Dream of "government of the
people, for the people, and by the people" fall to dust without
even a whimper?
Commentators in Europe and elsewhere made sardonic comments
about the apparent lack of will of Americans to save the democracy
that was once the envy of the world. Americans asked the same
questions about themselves. Are we going to stand by and let
this happen? Are we going to let our country become the heir
to the philosophies of the Third Reich? And when we found
we didn't know what to do, we hung our heads in shame.
Americans lost face in the world. It appeared that the people
stood by and compliantly allowed a lawless group to wreak
havoc over anything that stood in its way. With barely any
noticeable resistance, the regime has proceeded to dismantle
one by one every restriction that limits the power of major
corporations to rape the country and steal the public's resources.
Two years after the regime seized illegitimate power in the
U.S., it is confronting the international community in the
same way. Now in a sense the nations of the world stand with
the American people, who were robbed of justice in their own
country two years ago and have not yet seen it restored. All
people in the world who care for democracy and justice are
confronted with the same dilemma. How do law-abiding people
defend themselves against those who respect no law but force?
The dilemma Americans have been wrangling with for the last
two years is now the whole world's problem. The regime that
declared war on democracy in America has made it clear that
it will not stop until it dominates the entire world.
Tools for fighting tyrants
How indeed does the world defend itself against such an onslaught?
To fascists, gangsters and tyrants, anything but superior
force is seen as weakness. Both Bushes have told Saddam, "We
will not negotiate!" Diplomacy is for sissies. Being reasonable
is seen as capitulation. The Bush crowd showed in 2000 that
for them to win was supreme. They will do anything required
to gain victory. And no one can hope to have a chance against
them who is restrained by respect for principle.
For Americans who respect law, who honor justice and democracy
it was a conundrum. How can you fight against lawlessness
without becoming lawless yourself? If you use their own tactics
against them, you have become them. You have thrown out the
very principle you were fighting for, without which there
is only "mine versus yours." So what can you do, besides stand
idly and watch the usurpers destroy everything you -- and
a majority of Americans -- cherish?
Though I anguished privately over these problems, I know
that I was not alone in my torment and shame as I helplessly
watched the great American traditions wiped away one by one.
In my personal struggle with it I found solace in books and
searched for historical precedents to draw strength and courage
from, and ideas. I found myself drawn to France during World
War II, when it was invaded and occupied by the Nazis, when
its freedom was taken away, its cities occupied by soldiers,
its people killed and imprisoned, its resources systematically
siphoned off, its culture desecrated, its traditions taunted
Parallels between today's American right wing and the Nazis
are pointed out more and more frequently. The comparisons
are inescapable. I think we are past the point of having to
establish the similarities. It is no longer necessary to refrain
from using the F word. What we call it doesn't matter anyway.
We are under the dominion of a militaristic regime whose stated
purpose is world domination.
The National Security document stated that the U.S. would
use its power in a benign fashion, supporting democracy, but
we know that is not true. The U.S. supports dictators all
over the world, as long as they serve the interests of the
U.S. business elite. What the Republicans call "freedom" and
"democracy" mean the freedom of that elite to take whatever
it wants from anyone.
So here we are, in some ways back to 1939, when the fascists
in Germany threw all domestic and international law and civility
aside and mounted a drive to seize absolute power.
To console myself I looked back to the French during World
War II, overrun by the Nazi Blitzkrieg. The "lightning war"
was long prepared for on the German side, but the French were
unprepared and were caught off guard. For their failure to
take the Nazi threat seriously enough, they suffered a humiliating
defeat and an occupation that killed the nation bit by bit.
Eventually a resistance did take shape. Albert Camus wrote
about the transformation of his people during the occupation
in some letters that appeared in the resistance journal Combat.
Camus wrote four letters to a former friend, a German who
had joined the Nazis. They can now be found in the book Resistance,
Rebellion, and Death.
The letters address the humiliation of being defeated by
an enemy who was much more ruthless and was willing to abandon
all standards of civilized and humane conduct to achieve power.
This addressed the fundamental problems of our present situation.
This is what gave the Republicans the advantage over the
Democrats in the election debacle of 2000. That was the difference
that enabled the Republicans to seize power in 2000, by doing
what had been unthinkable in America: renouncing democracy,
the very principle that distinguished this country in history
and made it great.
Some who don't like my use of the word "fascism" to describe
what is going on in America remind me that there are differences
between the U.S. today and Germany in the '40s. One person
told me, "I've seen the camps. People in my family were killed
in them. We don't do that here..." True enough, there are
differences. That regime had a certain kind of barbarism enhanced
through sophisticated killing technology that was in a class
by itself. But that is no reason to let tyranny proceed to
gain force until it becomes equal to the Reich.
Yes, Camus' situation was different. We may pray that we
never live to see what the people of France endured under
the Nazis. Even so, we have undergone our own humiliation
and our own occupation of a fascist power. There are those
who will quibble over my choice of words, but there are still
those who say Hitler was misunderstood and that the holocaust
never happened. Those kinds of Byzantine conversations will
always go on, but they don't matter.
People have told me, "You will never persuade anyone if you
use that word. You will alienate most of the people you want
to reach. You will only be preaching to the converted." So
let it be. Those who are not yet convinced that America has
allowed a totalitarian military state to take over can stay
in their medieval world and I hope they will be happy there.
Camus' letters are the timeless cry of rage of a freedom
loving man to tyrants. It gave me hope to read them.
In an argument with his German friend a few years before
the war, Camus had said, "No, I don't believe everything can
be subordinated to a single end. There are means that cannot
be excused. And I should like to be able to love my country
and still love justice."
The German said he put his country "above truth, and beyond
despair." Camus' failure to do the same, he said, meant, "You
don't love your country."
Later, after three years of occupation, of being dominated
and suppressed by violence and murder, an embittered Camus
had the answer to the question of how freedom-loving people
are able to defeat tyrants.
"I want to tell you at once what kind of greatness keeps
us going," he said. "But this amounts to telling you what
kind of courage we applaud, which is not your kind. For it
is not much to be able to do violence when you have been simply
preparing for it for years and when violence is more natural
to you than thinking."
The Nazis saw intelligence as weakness. Pausing to think,
to ponder ethical questions, to yield to humanitarian impulses,
that was weakness. And in one moment of weakness you could
be overpowered by a determined enemy.
At first, Camus said, there was a desire to emulate their
oppressors. "For there is always something in us that yields
to instinct, to contempt for intelligence, to the cult of
efficiency. We become ashamed of our intelligence, and sometimes
we imagine some barbarous state where truth would be effortless.
But the cure for this is easy; you are there to show us what
such imagining would lead to, and we mend our ways."
Conscience was a weakness that was well exploited by the
Nazis in their blitzkrieg. Camus said, "This is why we were
defeated in the beginning: because we were so concerned, while
you were falling upon us, to determine in our hearts whether
right was on our side."
The French had also to overcome their "image of a peaceful
destiny," Camus said, their reluctance to mutilate mankind.
While the French were trying to determine their own truth,
they were defeated. Camus said they had to make a "detour"
to get to where they were ready to fight. "It is a detour
that safeguarded justice and put truth on the side of those
who questioned themselves. And, without a doubt, we paid very
dearly for it. We paid for it with humiliations and silences,
with bitter experiences, with prison sentences, with executions
at dawn, with desertions and separations, with daily pangs
of hunger, with emaciated children, and, above all, with humiliation
of our human dignity. But that was natural. It took us all
that time to find out if we had the right to kill men, if
we were allowed to add to the frightful misery of the world.
And because of that time lost and recaptured, our defeat accepted
and surmounted, those scruples paid for with blood, we French
had the right to think today that we entered this war with
hands clean --- clean as victims and the condemned are --
and that we are going to come out of it with hands clean --
but clean this time with a great victory won against injustice
and against ourselves.
"For we shall be victorious, you may be sure. But we shall
be victorious thanks to that very defeat, to that long, slow
progress during which we found our justification, to that
suffering which, in all its injustice, taught us a lesson.
It taught us the secret of any victory, and if we don't lose
the secret, we shall know final victory. It taught us that,
contrary to what we used to think, the spirit is of no avail
against the sword, but that the spirit together with the sword
will always win out over the sword alone. That is why we have
now accepted the sword, after making sure that the spirit
was on our side.
"... this is why we were the stronger -- because of the detour
that took us out of our way to seek our justification, because
of the delay occasioned by worry about our rights, because
of the crazy insistence of ours of reconciling everything
that we loved. ... we paid dearly for that detour. Rather
than running the risk of injustice we preferred disorder.
But at the same time that very detour constitutes our strength
today, and as a result we are within sight of victory...
"For three years you have brought night to our towns and
to our hearts. For three years we have been developing in
the dark the thought which now emerges fully to face you.
Now I can speak to you of the intelligence."
Like the Nazis, the Bushistas put themselves above truth.
They sought victory at the price of justice. They have succeeded
in achieving their dreams. They have taken over. They are
at the pinnacle of world power, it is undeniable. But their
dreams go no farther. They do not have the vision to take
it any farther. They can see no future; they know of nothing
but conquest. Without vision, they will fall apart. They have
already sacrificed their integrity for power. Through living
so long in self-created contradictions, they have lost the
integrity of their own minds. The rest of their dissolution
will inevitably follow.
Americans have fallen prey to fascism in their own country
because they were seduced by a value system in which all worth
is measured by money. In a society that adopts that value
system, the degradation of everything of quality is sure to
follow. It is time for Americans to relearn the transcendent.
"What is spirit?" asked Camus. " We know its opposite, which
is murder. What is man? There I stop you, for we know. Man
is that force which ultimately cancels all tyrants and gods.
He is the force of evidence...
"If nothing had any meaning, you would be right. But there
is something that still has meaning...
"Even the gods are mobilized in your country. They are on
your side, as they say, but only as a result of coercion.
You no longer distinguish anything; you are nothing but a
single impulse. And now you are fighting with the resources
of blind anger, with your mind on weapons and feats of arms
rather than on ideas, stubbornly confusing every issue and
following your obsession. We, on the other hand, started from
the intelligence and its hesitations. We were powerless against
wrath. But now our detour is finished. It took only a dead
child for us to add wrath to intelligence, an now we are two
against one. "
"...among the reasons we have for fighting you... there is
none more fundamental than our awareness of having been, not
only mutilated in our country, wounded in our very flesh,
but also divested of our most beautiful images, for you gave
the world a hateful and ridiculous version of them. The most
painful thing is seeing a mockery made of what one loves...
"You speak of Europe, but the difference is that for you,
Europe is a property, whereas we feel that we belong to it...
"For all those landscapes, those flowers and those plowed
fields, the oldest of lands, show you every spring that there
are things you cannot choke in blood. That is the image on
which I can close. It would not be enough for me to think
that all the great shades of the West and that thirty nations
were on our side; I could not do it without the soil. And
so I know that everything in Europe, both landscape and spirit,
calmly negates you without feeling any rash hatred, but with
the calm strength of victory... The battle we are waging is
sure of victory because it is as obstinate as spring...
"henceforth we have a superiority that will destroy you..."
It may not show in the official polls, but Americans are
waking up to the outrage that has been perpetrated on them.
They were slow to react. Their own best qualities, their tolerance,
and their trust were used against them. The Bushistas have
taken our most sacred truths and dashed them in the mud.
This then is a bitter call for revenge against those who
took our democratic republic away, who took our honor away,
who stole our country from us, using our good will against
us. You won't get away with it. Your reign of terror is drawing
to a close. We have found our strength.
Now as the second year of our occupation by a fascistic state
draws to a close, we begin to gain clarity. We begin to see
and feel our power. And we know the will of the people will
rise against the outrages and be victorious.