(this was written by author/editor Paul Loeb, www.theimpossible.org )
At the height of the nuclear arms race, those who marched against it used to
say that in the ashes of a nuclear war, no one could tell a capitalist from
a communist. "Not necessarily," others would joke, "Richard Perle could
tell." For Perle, even total annihilation would have its victors and losers,
and he knew which side he wanted to be on.
Perle has continued to preach the virtues of usable nuclear weapons while
helping orchestrate our invasion of Iraq. Now he's a key allied strategist
of an administration willing to obliterate democracy itself if they don't
get their way on judicial nominees and everything else.
I'm thinking of the ease with which Trent Lott, Bill Frist, and other
Republicans have talked of a "nuclear option" to intimidate the Democrats
into capitulating on every right wing judge that Bush sends to Congress.
Although Republicans have backed off from using the phrase since it began
polling negative, it may reveal more than they intended about their Party.
They doesn't just seek to enact particular programs, but have done their
best to turn politics into total war, seeking to annihilate the opposition
Their talk of political nuclear strikes in fact goes further than the actual
Cold War arms race. The logic of Mutually Assured Destruction was at least
partly defensive, even if its brinksmanship almost destroyed the planet. The
Soviets wouldn't attack us for risk of being annihilated. We'd do the same.
A precarious balance would hold. Of course the US didn't just use nuclear
weapons for nuclear deterrence: We brandished them against the Chinese in
Korea and offered them to the French in Vietnam. Nixon, through Kissinger,
threatened their use on North Vietnam if they didn't surrender, then backed
off in response to massive US anti-war demonstrations. But with the
exception of people like Perle and Herman Kahn, our leaders mostly justified
ultimate risks in the name of preventing an ultimate cataclysm.
So what is the threat that merits blowing up 200 years of the Senate's right
to require more than a bare majority to confirm lifetime judicial nominees?
That they might only get 95% of their nominees through? That Republican
presidents would end up with just an overwhelming majority of judges already
appointed, and not every single one? That someone somewhere might not bend
to their will? The only threat they're facing is resistence to their
absolute power, but that now seems to be threat enough.
Honorable conservatives used to warn against the raw power of the state. It
was Lord Acton who wrote, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power
corrupts absolutely." But now that the political right controls more and
more of our key institutions, the love of power has become their religion,
and the slightest notion of checks or balances heretical treason.
In relations with the world, this administration has pulled out of every
international rule and treaty from global warming, to bio terrorism, to land
mines--substituting a rule of raw force that insists we can do whatever we
choose because God is on our side. John Bolton as UN nominee just flaunts
this approach. Now this administration is trying the same thing on the
domestic front. Surrender or be obliterated.
The filibuster hasn't always been used for good. It was a prime tool of
Southern segregationists blocking civil right bills promoted in part by
moderate Republicans. But to annihilate 200 years of tradition simply
because you happen to hold the reins of power is to worship this power as a
God. They may not be destroying the world to save it, but they'd be
perfectly content with the ashes of democracy.
Paul Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A
Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear (Basic Books), named the #3
political book of 2004 by the History Channel and American Book Association,
and of Soul of a Citizen See www.theimpossible.org