Democratic Underground

The Velvet Banana, Part Four: The Velvet Dictator
November 26, 2001
by Jack Rabbit

Part One: The Coup d'etat of 2000
Part Two: The Era of Good Stealings
Part Three: An Attack on Freedom

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Those who have read The Republic know that it foreshadows Jung's Psychological Types more than The Federalist Papers. It is principally not a work about politics but psychology. Plato considers the state to be an extension of the individual; therefore, just as one can classify a state as aristocratic or democratic according to its characteristics, so the same classifications can be assigned to individual men.

For Plato, the ideal man is a philosopher; a philosopher is not merely an intellectual, but a man who is imbued throughout his being with self-discipline and courage. Think of Shakespeare's far-sighted young men, the ones left standing at the end of the great tragedies. A common theme in Shakespeare is the growth of unpromising youth into this philosopher king, such as how Prince Hal, the boy who keeps company with Falstaff, grows into Henry V.

Plato did not trust democracy as we do. However, his fears about it are not something to dismiss easily. For Plato, democracy - both in states and in individuals - is something that descends directly into tyranny. The element which he distrusts is freedom, which for Plato connotes a certain lack of self-discipline, a hedonism. A tyrant will stop a nothing to satisfy his passions. There is no bond he will not betray, no custom he will not violate (The Republic, 565e).

In Shakespeare, this is Falstaff. The jolly man sits at the table in the tavern, eating Manningtree ox and pudding, drinking cup after cup of sack and all while dodging payment of the bill. This is Falstaff as those uninitiated to Shakespeare think of him - Santa Claus with a drinking problem. But if Falstaff is in need of money, he will carry out a robbery on the highway. If given money for the purpose of recruiting troops for the king's army during a rebellion, he spends it on drink. He uses his friendship with young Prince Hal in hopes of gaining an office by which he can loot the royal treasury once Hal ascends to the throne. He leaves the tavern hostess, whom he has not paid, to fend for herself in debtors' prison. He leaves his lover, a prostitute who carries his child, to fend for herself as she is led off to court to face morals charges. In the end, Prince Hal becomes King Henry when he banishes Falstaff from his court.

Now, imagine Prince Hal continuing to be a follower of Falstaff rather than rejecting the old man. After all, Hal is born to wealth and power, therefore he is entitled to wealth and power and to use it as he sees fit. Nobody will tell him what to do. He would be like a spoiled child in a man's body.

This is George W. Bush, the spoiled frat boy who did not grow up.

Perhaps nowhere is Bush's tyranny more evident than in his handling (or mishandling) of foreign policy. The term isolationist has often been used, but this would imply that Bush, like Warren G. Harding, wishes to withdraw America from the world and let foreign nations solve their own problems and go to war among themselves. There is something isolationist in Bush's expressed contempt for "nation building." Even now, in the wake of his attacks on Afghanistan, he seems content to leave the rebuilding of the country to the United Nations. But Bush's foreign policy is really too engaged to be called isolationist. He is an exponent of trade liberalization, something that itself requires engagement with other nations.

However, Bush would loathe dealing with another nation as an equal. Like any tyrant, he believes that his interests are superior to all others. Thus, Bush engages with other nations, but as a unilateralist. He does not negotiate or listen to the concerns of others, he tells them what he is going to do and expects them to fall in line. This is the kind of unilateralist structure that may befit the CEO of a modern multinational corporation or a eighteenth-century French king - to name a couple of offices made-to-order for tyrants - but it bodes ill for a modern national leader, especially the leader of an industrial democracy. Bush's unilateralism is the expression of the inner tyrant in him that, like a spoiled child, wants his way.

He does not need to listen to the concerns of others about global warming. Bush's way is to forget about global warming and let fossil fuel industries pollute unabated so that they will have more money to give to his election campaign. The planet is his toy and he can break it if he wants.

If Bush wants to build a new missile defense system, but existing international treaties prohibit that, he may go through the motions of negotiating but in the end, if the ABM treaty stands, he'll simply tear it up, throw it to the ground and stomp on it. None of Putin's concerns matter. Putin is Bush's new best friend, as long as he does what Bush wants. After that, bets are off.

Would George W. Bush betray a friend? Ask General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's dictator, who stuck his neck out for Bush over the Afghanistan action; when it just became convenient to allow the Northern Alliance to ride into Kabul, Bush was either unable or unwilling to stop it. This increases the possibility that Musharraf will face serious domestic strife in Pakistan's north, dominated by Pashtuns, the same ethnic group that dominates Afghanistan's south. Musharraf could lose his country in a coup lead by the same kind of Islamic fascists as the Taliban and al-Qaida. Some friend he is, George W. Bush.

Of course, following international law and going through the United Nations before attacking Afghanistan is simply out of the question. Bush doesn't have to do that. They might tell him he has to play fair, by the rules. Everybody else may have to follow those rules, but not Bush. Don't talk to him about an International Criminal Court. He's not going to play if you're going to have one of those. Besides, this spoiled brat has bigger and better toys than anyone else. This tyrant has the military might of the world's last surviving superpower to help him get his way.

It is not just in international affairs that Bush has acted tyrannically. Plato's description of a tyrant had to do with the ways a tyrant would betray any sacred trust. We were being a hint of that this time last year, when Bush betrayed the trust Americans have in their system of elections and seized power.

Although it is not a popular position to take in America at present, the only way to rein in Bush's rampant tyrannical approach to foreign policy is to support an International Criminal Court. There is a move in Congress, led by like-minded unilateralists, to only deal with the Court if American leaders and military personnel are exempt. Furthermore, some of the more extreme in this group, such as Tom DeLay and Jesse Helms, would even authorize military action to "rescue" any American being held under the jurisdiction of such a Court. What kind of arrogance is this? These people either believe that Americans are so enlightened that they just don't commit war crimes - the evidence of the Indian Wars and Vietnam to the contrary - or that Americans are above the law.

If there is to be an International Criminal Court, as there should be, then Americans are subject to its jurisdiction as Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Yes, that includes spoiled frat boys.

This series now concludes.

We have seen Bush has betrayed the trust of his country's traditions. He has subverted its tradition of free elections in order to take power. Had the election been a free and fair election, he would have lost. The election was stolen. There are not two ways of looking at it. Officials in the state of Florida conspired to illegally disenfranchise voters from groups within the population with Democratic voting profiles. It was an election theft right out of a banana republic. From whom did the Florida Republicans learn these techniques? Ferdinand Marcos? Manuel Noriega? Alberto Fujimori? They did the job.

We have seen how Bush, with callous disregard for the will of the people, looted the federal budget surplus and gave the lion's share of it to his wealthy friends, the ones who contributed to his campaign. He has allowed other friends to use market manipulation to overcharge utility ratepayers in California and other western states. He would allow other industrial friends, who contribute to his campaign, to continue to pollute the air unabated by any international action to deal with such problems, and has made every effort to subvert implementation of any such action under the Kyoto Protocol. In foreign affairs, he has acted unilaterally and without regard for international law.

We have seen how Bush now shows disregard for the very principals that he claims to defend - the American Bill of Rights. He has actively conspired with other members of his administration to institute a system of secret detention, to effectively deny defendants the right to an attorney and of defendants to a fair and impartial trial by jury. He has sought to intimidate and censor the press.

This is tyranny. Mr. Bush feels, as a man of wealth and power, he is entitled to do what he would with that wealth and power. He has become a law unto himself. He rules without the consent of the governed. He is not the President; he is a dictator.

Much of his power has come with the consent of other institutions of government. For many of his crimes he can claim Congress as an accomplice. The Supreme Court gave him the White House, cementing a coup d'etat that cast aside the will of the voters. Congress grants his request to loot the treasury on behalf of his friends. And it is Congress, frightened as we all were in the wake of attacks directed against our country by a madman, that granted him extraordinary powers to make war and an excuse to abridge liberties.

Were this man President, he would be deemed unworthy. We will take back that he stole from us. We will not give this tyrant our freedom. It is a dictatorship gained by means that wear a velvet glove, but a dictatorship nevertheless. A dictatorship does not befit the American people.

We must let our dictator know that we defy him and his corrupt and decadent friends. We support our right to speak out. We support our right to read balanced and complete news analysis - and the right of fine journalists to produce it. We support the right of the accused - no matter how heinous the crime - to a fair trial. We support the right of every citizen to vote with the expectation that the vote will be counted.

Americans, do not surrender your freedom. Reclaim it from the dictator. Take back Constitutional government.