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The Corporate State and the Subversion of Democracy

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Posted on May 31, 2008

By Chris Hedges

(Page 5)

So what do we do?  Voting is not enough.  If voting was that effective, to quote the activist Philip Berrigan, it would be illegal.  And voting in an age when elections are stolen by rigged ballot machines and a stacked Supreme Court willing to overturn all legal precedent to make George Bush president, will not work.  I am not saying do not vote.  We should all vote.  But that has to be the starting point if we want to reclaim America.  We must lobby, organize and advocate for the dissolution of the World Trade Organization and NAFTA.  The WTO and NAFTA have handcuffed workers, consumers and stymied our efforts to create clean environments.  These agreements are beyond the control of our courts and have crippled our weakened regulatory agencies.  The WTO forces our working class to compete with brutalized child and prison labor overseas, to be reduced to this level of slave labor or to go without meaningful work.  We need to repeal the anti-worker Taft-Hartley law of 1947.  The act obstructs the organization of unions.  We need to transfer control of pension funds from management to workers.  If these pension funds, worth trillions of dollars, were in the hands of workers the working class would own a third of the New York Stock Exchange.

The working class has every right to be, to steal a line from Obama, bitter with liberal elites.  I am bitter.  I have seen what the loss of manufacturing jobs and the death of the labor movement did to my relatives in the former mill towns in Maine.  Their story is the story of tens of millions of Americans who can no longer find a job that supports a family and provides basic benefits.  Human beings are not commodities.  They are not goods.  They grieve, and suffer and feel despair.  They raise children and struggle to maintain communities.  The growing class divide is not understood, despite the glibness of many in the media, by complicated sets of statistics or the absurd, utopian faith in unregulated globalization and complicated trade deals.  It is understood in the eyes of a man or woman who is no longer making enough money to live with dignity and hope.

George Bush, who will be here on Saturday, has done more to shred, violate or absent the government from its obligations under domestic and international law.  He has refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, backed out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, tried to kill the International Criminal Court, walked out on negotiations on chemical and biological weapons, and defied the Geneva Convention and human rights law.  He has set up offshore penal colonies where we deny detainees basic rights and openly engage in torture.  He launched an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated evidence we now know had been discredited even before it was made public.  And if we as citizens do not hold him accountable for these crimes, if we allow the Democratic majority in Congress to get away with its refusal to begin the process of impeachment, which appears likely, we will be complicit in the codification of a new world order, one that will have terrifying consequences.  For a world without treaties, statutes and laws is a world where any nation, from a rogue nuclear state to a great imperial power, will be able to invoke its domestic laws to annul its obligations to others.  This new order will undo five decades of international cooperation—largely put in place by the United States—destroy our own constitutional rights and thrust us into a Hobbesian nightmare.  We are one, maybe two, terrorist attacks away from a police state.  Time is running out.
We must not allow international laws and treaties—ones that set minimum standards of behavior and provide a framework for competing social, political, economic and religious groups and interests to resolve differences—to be discarded.  The exercise of power without law is tyranny.  And the consequences of George Bush’s violation of the law, his creation of legal black holes that can swallow American citizens along with those outside our borders, run in a direct line from the White House to Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and military brigs in cities such as Charleston.
George Bush—we now know from the leaked Downing Street memo—fabricated a legal pretext for war.  He decided to charge Saddam Hussein with the material breach of the resolution passed in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War.  He had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was in breach of this resolution.  And so he and his advisers manufactured reports of weapons of mass destruction and disseminated them to a frightened and manipulated press and public.  In short, he lied.  He lied to us and to the rest of the world.  There are tens of thousands, perhaps a few hundred thousand people, who have been killed and maimed in a war that has no legal justification, a war waged in violation of international law, a war that under the post-Nuremberg laws is defined as “a criminal war of aggression.” 

We have blundered into nations we know little about.  We are caught between bitter rivalries and competing ethnic groups and leaders we do not understand.  We are trying to transplant a modern system of politics invented in Europe characterized, among other things, by the division of earth into independent secular states based on national citizenship in a land where the belief in a secular civil government is an alien creed.  Iraq was a cesspool for the British when they occupied it in 1917.  It will be a cesspool for us as well.  We can either begin an orderly withdrawal or watch the mission collapse.


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A rule-based world matters.  The creation of international bodies and laws, the sanctity of our constitutional rights, have allowed us to stand pre-eminent as a nation—one that seeks at its best to respect and defend the rule of law.  If we demolish the fragile and delicate domestic and international order, if we permit George Bush to create a world where diplomacy, broad cooperation, democracy and law are worthless, if we allow these international and domestic legal safeguards to unravel, our moral and political authority will plummet.  We will erode the possibility of cooperation between nation-states, including our closest allies.  We will lose our country.  And we will, in the end, see visited upon us the evils we visit on others.  Read Antigone, when the king imposes his will without listening to those he rules or Thucydides’ history.  Read how Athens’ expanding empire saw it become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home.  How the tyranny the Athenian leadership imposed on others it finally imposed on itself.  This, Thucydides wrote, is what doomed Athenian democracy; Athens destroyed itself.  For the primary instrument of tyranny and empire is war and war is a poison, a poison which at times we must ingest just as a cancer patient must ingest a poison to survive.  But if we do not understand the poison of war—if we do not understand how deadly that poison is—it can kill us just as surely as the disease.

Hope, St. Augustine wrote, has two beautiful daughters.  They are anger and courage.  Anger at the way things are and the courage to see they do not remain the way they are.  We stand at the verge of a massive economic dislocation, one forcing millions of families from their homes and into severe financial distress, one that threatens to rend the fabric of our society.  We are waging a war that devours lives and capital, and that cannot ultimately be won.  We are told we need to give up our rights to be safe, to be protected.  In short, we are made afraid.  We are told to hand over all that is best about our nation to those like George Bush and Dick Cheney who seek to destroy our nation.  A state of fear only engenders cruelty; cruelty, fear, insanity, and then paralysis.  In the center of Dante’s circle the damned remained motionless.  If we do not become angry, if we do not muster within us the courage, indeed the militancy, to challenge those in the Democratic and Republican parties who herd us towards the corporate state, we will have squandered our courage and our integrity when we need it most.

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By Bill Faren, May 31, 2008 at 8:48 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Any school that invites the Prez (or VP or just about any member of Congress) to speak at their graduation should have their accreditation yanked. Any student who shows up to the ceremony deserves the “education” they get.
It certainly doesn’t seem like schools have the nation’s (or planet’s) well-being in mind. It’s sadly obvious that too many are just functioning to maintain the status quo and benefit a few at the expense of many.
I’m off to TMZ. This stuff’s too heavy.

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By vstalick, May 31, 2008 at 7:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is the first time I have visited your site as a result of seeing you on Democracy Now.  This is an excellent site and I particularly enjoyed the speech by Chris Hedges whom I have admired for some time.  He is a true patriot and Christian.

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By Conservative Yankee, May 31, 2008 at 6:40 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris Hedges has substituted the word “Country” for the word “Nation” Personally I have always loved my “Country” but at the same time mis-trusted our “Nation”.

Hedges cites Bill Clinton for corporate coziness and abandonment of the “working poor” but hasn’t this been going on for longer than 16 years?  Wasn’t it Truman who used Taft Hartley 19 times in not so subtle attempts to break rail, mining and longshoreman’s unions? Wasn’t it Roosevelt who refused to sign “anti-lynching legislation? Wasn’t it Carter who (before Reagan) began the process of deregulation?

No, again in my opinion, Hedges gets it wrong when he cites “...champions of the working class in the Democratic Party.” In the Twentieth Century there were two presidents who (arguably) might be called “champions of the working class. One a Republican, the other a Democrat.

In my life I’ve seen abject poverty in the Democratic fiefdoms of New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. Admittedly this same kind of poverty exists in South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Florida. But to single out “Democrats” as somehow more moral, upstanding, or as advocates for the poor is a perfidy worthy of Senator Clinton.

We had a wealthy Blue-blood Republican Governor in Massachusetts in the late Sixties, and early Seventies. He closed the horrible ineffective “reform schools” and gave some poor children a second chance. He reformed the Commonwealth’s mid-evil prison system and demanded that incarcerated persons get the medical care they needed, and counseling services. this resulted in a decreased recidivism rate. He also set up state wide “councils for children” and had a portion of the seats reserved for “consumers of welfare services”. Under his administration the State Education system enacted “chapter 766” mandating the mainstreaming of handicapped children… the prototype for PL 94-142.

Frank Sargent was the reason I registered (in 1970) as a Republican.  I am sure he would be an Independent were he alive today.

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By troublesum, May 31, 2008 at 5:26 am Link to this comment

Oh my God, why didn’t I see it before?  Chris Hedges is a “bitter” person who “clings to religion.”  Let’s hope he doesn’t have a gun.

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By troublesum, May 31, 2008 at 5:07 am Link to this comment

In Obama-world Hedges wouldn’t be allowed to say these things because they’re “divisive” and definitely not nice.  We’re all part of one big happy family here whether we are an oil executive making $20 million a year or a waiter/waitress working for tips.  Isn’t family values what makes America great?  We’re all going to feel a lot better when Obama changes the drapes, the carpeting, the stationary, and the furniture.

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Purple Girl's avatar

By Purple Girl, May 31, 2008 at 3:39 am Link to this comment

‘Once I was Blind and Now I SEE’
Having voted for Bill 2x’s, I admit being ‘Had’. But now hindisght has returned and see his ‘Presidency’ as nothing more then a continuation of the SCAM that has been being played on US for Decades.I thank Hillary for smacking those Rose Colored Galsses off my face (the ONLY thing I will Ever Thank her for).Her behavior while in the Senate and certainly Now on th eCampaign Trail has Revealed not only He rcomplicity with this Corp ‘New World Order’ bu talso her Husbands contributions. I despise Both Now. I’d noticed in recent years while watching CSPAN or any other Media covering Politicians- I would be surprised by the ‘D’following their names underneath- WHAT??Then i looked Up the members of the DLC. Funny how Gore /LIEbermann and Kerry?Edwards both caused me to hold my nose when I voted for them in the Elections- Now I know Why, My intution told me they were Not True Blue. Granted these Members of the Neo CONS in blue are not the only Traitors to our party and the Nation, Bu tI figure the rest are either already getting paid Well enough by the Corps or their ‘applications to the DLC’ have not yet been Accepted . Here’s a Revelation for the DNC to consider when deciding WHO is more Electable when it comes to Clinton or Obama-  2 rounds of DLC’ers Proved they can Not ‘Seal the Deal’ with the Dem Base!!!WE can Smell the Corp Stench comig from them a MILE AWAY!! Look Down Hillary your Red Logo’ed Slip is Showing!Orwell was a damn Prophet- year of inception of the DLC (covert Operatives) 1984!!! They got US to look away with the obvious Right ‘Moral Majority’ threat while proceeding with the Up Swing Punch from the ‘left’.A great Ploy of ‘Divide and Conquer’ stratedgy.
It’s the same thing they Hope to accomplish with this lastest ‘Dissentor’s’ ‘Tell All’ book. McClellan is still a Loyalist. He has thrown US a crumble to Hyper ‘analyze’ while in reality not reveal the real Motivation of the Con which led US into Iraq, and probably into Iran. Our Treasures Our Reputation and Ours (and far more Others) Blood is being Used for the Corp and foreign sponsors Oil Land Grab in the M.E. (and actually around the world). Bush Co’s crime is not Misguided Arrogance and Idealism- it is Corporate Imperialism. They’re Hope is tha tWhen charges are Levied against them (and they know something is coming) It is a mild Rebuke for such Ideological misadvnetures- Not for intentional Malice…Treason, War crimes and Crimes Agaisnt Humanity. They are hoping for a slap on the hands Now and a mere Blemish on their Historical record. Consider the lighter punishments which would be handed down for ‘Ignorance and arrogance’ as opposed to Reckless endangerment with forethought and Malice. Sorry Boys and Girls this Crumb of Scotty’s does not Suffice. But Good Try!

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