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Tim Howells Donating Member (224 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-20-07 04:59 AM
Original message
Crimes so great that they make the laws themselves tremble
Edited on Tue Feb-20-07 05:17 AM by Tim Howells
Here are some very interesting and relevant observations from Gary Sick, who served on the National Security Council under Presidents Ford, Carter and Reagan. The political crimes of the 1980s may seem quaint compared to what we have become accustomed to, but Sick has articulated the principles involved and the political and social dynamics as well as anyone.

October Surprise, Americas Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan
Random House, NY, 1991
Pages 226 - 228

We are accustomed to the petty scandals of Washington politics: A candidate for high office is a lush or a compulsive womanizer; an official lies to cover up an embarrassing policy failure. These are misdeeds on a human scale, and those miscreants who are unfortunate enough or careless enough to get caught are pilloried and punished by the press and their peers in periodic cleansings. We regard such rituals with a certain satisfaction, evidence of our democracy at work.

There is another category of offenses, described by the French poet Andre Chenier as les crimes puissants qui font trembler les lois, crimes so great that they make the laws themselves tremble. We know what to do with someone caught misappropriating funds, but when confronted with evidence of a systematic attempt to undermine the political system itself, we recoil in a general failure of imagination and nerve.

We understand the motives of a thief, even if we despise them. But few of us have ever been exposed to the seductions of power on a grand scale and we are unlikely to have given serious thought to the rewards of political supremacy, much less to how it might be achieved. We know that groups and individuals covet immense power for personal or ideological reasons, but we suppose that those ambitions usually will be pursued within the confines of the laws and values of our society and democratic political system. If not, we assume we will recognize the transgressions early enough to protect ourselves.

Those who operate politically beyond the law, if they are deft and determined, benefit from our often false sense of confidence. There is a natural presumption, even among the politically sophisticated, that no one would do such a thing. Most observers are predisposed toward disbelief, and therefore may be willing to disregard evidence and to construct alternative explanations for events that seem too distasteful to believe. This all-too-human propensity provides a margin of safety for what would otherwise be regarded as immensely risky undertakings.

Illegitimate political covert actions are attempts to alter the disposition of power. Since all of politics involves organized contention over the disposition of power, winners can be expected to maintain that they were only playing the game, while those who complain about their opponents methods are likely to be dismissed as sore losers. Even if suspicions arise, the charges are potentially so grave that most individuals will be reluctant to give public credence to allegations in the absence of irrefutable evidence. The need to produce a smoking gun has become a precondition for responsible reporting of political grand larceny. The participants on political covert actions understand this and take pains to cover their tracks, so the chance of turning up incontrovertible Documentation of wrongdoing such as the White House tapes in the Watergate scandal is slim.

This leads to a journalistic dilemma. In the absence of indisputable evidence, the mainstream media themselves large commercial institutions with close ties to the political and economic establishment are hesitant to declare themselves on matters of great political gravity. The so-called alternative media are less reluctant, but they are too easily dismissed as irresponsible. By the time the mainstream media are willing to lend their names and reputations to a story of political covert action, the principal elements of the story have almost always been reported long before in the alternative media, where they were studiously ignored.

When the Iran-Contra scandal exploded in 1986, both Congress and the media pulled up short. Neither had the stomach for the kind of national trauma that would have resulted from articles of impeachment being delivered against a popular President in who was his last two years in office. So, when it could not be proven conclusively that the President saw the smoking gun in the case a copy of a memo to Reagan reporting in matter-of-fact terms that proceeds of Iranian arms sales were being diverted to the Nicaraguan contras the nation seemed to utter a collective sigh of relief. (The original memo, bearing the signatures of those who had seen it, had been deliberately destroyed.) The laws trembled at the prospect of a political trial that could shatter the compact of trust between rulers and ruled, a compact that was the foundation upon which the laws themselves rested. The lesson seemed to be that accountability declines as the magnitude of the offense and the power of those charged increase.

The ultimate dilemma, which Chenier captured so perfectly in his comment on the revolutionary politics of eighteenth-century France, is the effect of very high stakes. A run-0f-the-mill political scandal can safely be exposed without affecting anyone other than the culprits and their immediate circle. A covert political coup, however, like the one engineered by Casey in 1980, challenges the legitimacy of the political order; it deliberately exploits weaknesses in the political immune system and risks infecting the entire organism of state and society

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dos pelos Donating Member (224 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-20-07 05:23 AM
Response to Original message
1. The great lie,does it apply to recent political events?
Does some power use the human tendency to interpret and integrate stimuli into a context that is familiar and accustomed,against those perceiving that stimuli?If you're used to only seeing sheep,it is hard to conceptualize a wolf wearing sheep's clothing.You continue to see sheep.
Poor brave Zbigniew Brzezinski,recently testifying before the senate."There are wolves about,they are disguised as sheep.Beware." Even he must guard his speech,speak elliptically,not be too direct,for to credibly reveal the truth would indeed create ,"a political trial that could shatter the compact of trust between rulers and ruled, a compact that was the foundation upon which the laws themselves rested. "
Be certain that the organs of the government and both political parties seek to limit and contain
the awareness and response of the public to whatever dark truth may be at the root of current troubles.
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Selatius Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-20-07 05:33 AM
Response to Original message
2. Why not do it?
The laws trembled at the prospect of a political trial that could shatter the compact of trust between rulers and ruled, a compact that was the foundation upon which the laws themselves rested.

Would the end be necessarily bad if that social compact between rulers and the ruled were broken? Would this not lead to change?
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SpiralHawk Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-20-07 05:41 AM
Response to Original message
3. "Traitoryism, it's a republicon tradition." - Commander AWOL
"Me and my cabal of corrupt republicon cronies are
just following tradition. You got a problem with that?"

- Commander AWOL

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CJCRANE Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-20-07 05:53 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. There's a famous quote
(at least on DU) from George Bush Snr that if the people knew what the govt was up to they would chase them down the street and lynch them.
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Tim Howells Donating Member (224 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-20-07 07:19 AM
Response to Reply #4
6. Here's the exact quote:
"If the people were to ever find out what we have done, we would be chased down the streets and lynched."

George H.W. Bush, cited in the June, 1992 Sarah McClendon Newsletter
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Tim Howells Donating Member (224 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-20-07 09:01 AM
Response to Reply #3
7. Right! And here's another quote ...
If ever the constitutional democracy of the United States States is overthrown, we now have a better idea of how this is likely to be done. During the course of the Iran-Contra affairs, from 1984 to 1986, something in the nature of a junta was at work inside the U.S. government. We usually think of a junta as plotting to overthrow a president; this junta came into being to overthrow an established constitutional rule of law with the help of a president. The main lesson from this experience is that the chief danger to our political system is from within, not from without.

Theodore Draper, Foreword to "The Iran-Contra Scandal, The Declassified History", Kornbluh and Byrne eds., The New Press, 1993, NY, pg. xiii

Notoriously, George Bush Jr. has surrounded himself with officials associated with the worst scandals involving covert operations of his father's administration, including the Iran-Contra scandal. These officials include men like Richard Armitage, Elliott Abrams (convicted of two misdemeanors), John Poindexter (convicted on five felony charges), and Richard Secord (convicted on six felony charges). (Unfortunately most of these convictions were later overturned on the technicality that they were contaminated by immunized testimony before congressional committees.)
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CJCRANE Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Feb-20-07 05:57 AM
Response to Original message
5. Politicians of all stripes
generally accept the supremacy of the state (as in the political apparatus). To investigate something like 9/11 MIHOP for instance would pretty much destroy the credibility of all political institutions and could lead to chaos. That is why, even if Bushco is guilty of such a crime, it is a national security issue to ensure that this is never revealed.
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