Monday, March 31, 2008

Just Desertion

"The president carries the biggest burden, obviously. He's the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm's way for the rest of us."

Dick "Cthulhu" Cheney, the incarnate expression of unfiltered evil, discussing the completely useless and unjustified death of 4,000 Americans in the Idiot King's illegal war

Does anyone living where reasoning bears sway honestly believe that George W. Bush, whose brow has never known the sweat of honest labor or been furrowed in socially useful thought, is "burdened" by his whimsical decision to send Americans to kill and die in Iraq?

Is there anybody -- apart from Sean Hannity and other cerebrally-challenged and character-deficient partisan whores -- who would profess to believe that Bush, who lives in the cushion of unparalleled luxury, travels in a cocoon of impenetrable security, and whose every transient appetite is immediately satisfied, groans under a burden comparable in any way to an American GI on his second, third, fourth, or fifth tour of duty in Iraq?

Buck up, soldier:
Bush the Dumber contemplates the burdens of the Iraq War as he prepares for a mountain bike ride (above); he courageously conceals the anguish of his soul while polluting a golf course (below).

With his "surge" proving to be a pointless, cynical exercise in marketing, Bush has blithely let it be known that a "pause" will take place in the process of withdrawing troops from Iraq. This means that tens of thousands of Americans who had dared entertain the hope of returning to their families and putting the war behind them have had seen those hopes ruthlessly crushed.

Some of them won't return. Many others won't return whole in body, mind, or soul.

Some will see their marriages end, their families disintegrate, their civilian jobs evaporate, or their homes foreclosed on as a result of repeated deployments to Iraq. But their burdens are trivial, according to Cheney. They are mere trifles compared to the sufferings of our divine Emperor-King.

The American Conservative recently reported that the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment "just returned to Iraq for a fifth tour." That unit includes Reymondo Parra, who has already earned two Purple Hearts in Iraq. The "signature wound" of this war, notes the magazine, is IED-inflicted traumatic brain injury.

Thousands of Americans have been left incapacitated by IED attacks. And "even those who escape without visible damage are experiencing long-term effects," American Conservative observes. "One in six troops sustains at least one concussion in Iraq, and of those reporting loss of consciousness, 44 percent go on to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Symptoms include sleep problems, psychological disruption, and social adjustment issues.... One immediate tally is rising at an alarming rate: in 2007, suicide among active-duty soldiers reached its highest level since the Army began keeping records, up 20 percent from the year before."

But surely, as Cheney insists, the unseen wounds inflicted on our all-compassionate Emperor are graver and deeper still. Sure, he seems to be an vindictive, incurably superficial dimwit who is proudly indifferent to the facts, contemptuously dismissive of anything but his own desires and assumptions, and who sleeps the untroubled sleep of a sociopath. But ... that's just a brave front, y'all, albeit a very convincing one. His is actually a soul of such trackless depths that he can't help but mourn the loss of every single soldier, and feel every tremor of their pain.

Well ... maybe not.

It's hardly uncommon to hear people speaking obscenities. Dick Cheney, as the comment quoted above reminds us, is himself an obscenity.

His reflexive reaction to a question about the protracted agonies being inflicted on military personnel and their families by the political class is to demean those sufferings while casually asserting a proprietary claim on their lives: The soldiers volunteered, Cheney insists, which means that we (those at the top of the oligarchy) can do with them as we please for as long as we want.

The question that prompted Cheney's obscene remarks dealt with the practice of "stop-loss," which is probably the most brazen of the numerous ways the Regime unilaterally redefines the terms of an enlisted man's service contract.

Stop-loss orders are a form of conscription. They impose an involuntary extension of a soldier's enlistment period, irrespective of the specific terms of the service contract.

Joshua Key, who enlisted in the Army in 2002 and served seven months in Iraq, recalls asking his sergeant about the sanctity of the contract he had signed -- and his sergeant's Cheneyesque reply.

The conversation began with Key asking "What's the point" of the war. He was part of a unit that routinely raided Iraqi homes in search of supposed terrorists and arms caches, only to find neither -- even though every male taller than five feet in height was routinely zip-cuffed and taken away to heaven only knows where.

What's the point of this? Key asked his sergeant.

"There is no point -- it's just your job," came the reply.

"But what's the justification for this war?" Key persisted with touching, if misplaced, faith in human reason.

"The justification is that you signed a contract and you're told to be here," pronounced the sergeant, channeling Cthulhu with remarkable fidelity.

"But when do I get to go home?" Key pressed, no doubt with a growing sense of disillusionment.

"Private," the sergeant hissed, "we can keep you here just as long as we want, and we ain't never got to send you home."

Key wasn't afraid of combat. He came from a small, economically depressed Oklahoma community in which fighting and firearms were common. Violence was also common during his distressed upbringing. He actually enjoyed basic training, and was blessed with an impressive skill-set (he was an adept welder and automotive mechanic) that made him very valuable.

But he couldn't abide the sense that he had become implicated in a hideous, world-historic crime as the result of a bait-and-switch.

Yes, he did sign an enlistment contract.

Sure, the recruiter had told him to conceal the fact that he and his wife already had two children and a third on the way -- a status which would disqualify him from enlisting.

Sure, the same recruiter had likewise told him to keep to himself the fact that he was seriously in debt -- another impediment to both Joshua's enlistment, and the recruiter making his quota.

And, well, sure, the same recruiter had promised him, in all apparent sincerity, that Joshua would be given "nondeployable" status as a bridge-builder for the Army Corps of Engineers.

"You're going to be building bridges from nine to five every day and spending every evening home with the family," lied the recruiter, who scribbled the acronym CONUS -- for "Continental United States" -- on the enlistment contract as supposed surety of this agreement. Asked later for supplemental reassurance, the recruiter promised that "Because of your growing family, you would be the last person sent overseas."

All of this took place in 2002. In 2003, Key was among the first to be sent to Iraq.

His training at Fort Carson clearly anticipated that deployment: During bayonet drills, he and the other recruits were urged, "Kill! Kill! Kill the sand niggers!" The rules of engagement, he was told, were quite simple: "If you feel threatened, kill first and ask questions later."

His training with C-4 explosives was sometimes set to an inventively depraved cadence that could just as easily have been chanted by trainees at an al-Qaeda camp in Pakistan: "Take a playground, fill it full of kids; drop on some napalm, and barbecue some ribs."

Where his unit was concerned, Joshua writes, "Iraqis were not people at all -- they were terrorists, suicide bombers, sand niggers, and ragheads..... We were taught to think of Iraqis in degrading ways during military training, and those attitudes crossed the oceans with us when we flew into battle."

Although he and his comrades came under enemy fire on numerous occasions, they never fixed their sights on actual combatants: They "were on the run and gone while we were still diving for cover against flying shrapnel. We fought back by lashing out at civilians who had no means to defend themselves. It seemed the only way we could fight back -- but it was wrong."

Shortly after Joshua's above-quoted conversation with his sergeant, he went on patrol with another sergeant named Fernandez. As their APC passed beneath a grove of palm trees, Joshua described how easy it would be to ambush the unit. "To my surprise," Joshua recalls, "the sergeant did not lecture me for speaking my mind. Softly, he told me, `I'd do the same thing if people invaded America.'"

That brief conversation catalyzed Joshua's misgivings about the war. If a foreign power occupied the United States, if its soldiers "blasted into my home and terrorized my family," Joshua writes, "I would become a force to be reckoned with. I would invent my own booby traps and come up with the most unexpected methods of mayhem. I would give the occupiers hell and keep at it until I was dead and gone, twice over."

For this reason, Joshua decided that he was fighting the wrong war, the wrong way, against the wrong enemy. The real enemy was at his back -- the Decider Guy, his adult handler, and the Power Elite they represent. They had orchestrated the horrors in Iraq and taken cynical advantage of those who enlisted in the mistaken belief that they would take part in the actual defense of our country.

Joshua was deceived into signing his contract, misled about the cause and purpose of the war, and put into a position in which would be among those who would be sent into Iraq as many times as the Grand and Glorious Decider considered necessary, to kill and terrorize people for no reason that made sense.

So when he was sent back to the United States on furlough, Joshua excused himself from any further responsibility for a supposed commitment that had been made in bad faith. Because the Government ruling us didn't obey the terms of its contract, Joshua simply quit. This meant that he and his family (which has now grown to include four children) had to flee to Canada, since the Regime still claims the supposed right to murder soldiers who decide to quit their jobs and seek other employment.

Joshua describes that experience, as well as those recounted above and a few too horrifying to contemplate, in his book The Deserter's Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq.

(Continues after the jump.)

Some wounds can't be seen, and will never heal: A US soldier weeps in anguish as a young Iraqi girl dies in his arms. Some American servicemen, according to Joshua Key, have been trained to dehumanize the Iraqis. Obviously, many of them (such as Key himself) either weren't given that indoctrination, or simply retain the innate decency inscribed on their hearts by the Creator. For them, and for many others, the Iraq war will continue to be hell long after it ends, assuming that it ever does.

A contract that is binding only on one party, and can be revised at will by the other party, isn't a contract in any sense I can recognize. The Regime claims that it can extend the period of service required of enlistees; equity demands that enlistees be able to abbreviate their service at will as well, perhaps forfeiting some portion of their enlistment bonus in the process.

If we truly had a volunteer military, would "desertion" be a crime? I can't see how it could be. Under the Nuremberg Principles, there are times when desertion, or something closely akin to it, is a moral imperative. This is a point made by Joshua Key, Ehren Watada, Ricky Clousing, and other defecting soldiers who have properly described the Iraq War as illegal, immoral, and insupportable.

It will be recalled that George W. Bush, whose Vietnam Era military "service" was of a piece with his seamlessly privileged life, unilaterally redefined the terms of his own enlistment contract to suit his fancy, and suffered no punishment of any kind.

Ah, but surely Providence spared the young Bushling such torments, foreknowing the grievous burdens he would eventually have to bear as he sent less privileged Americans off to fight in Iraq.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tyranny, The One-War Mirror, and the Criminal Syndicate Called the ATF

Thuggin' it incognito: An armed enforcer for one of the Regime's official criminal gangs, the ATF, decked out in the familiar terrorist hood. Any resemblance to an anonymous hooded medieval executioner (below, left) is entirely ... appropriate.

In a republic, accountability is indispensable. In a dictatorship, it is impermissible.

Ryan Horsley of Twin Falls, Idaho can testify from first-hand experience that the Regime ruling us is seeking to criminalize citizen efforts to hold its agents accountable for their misconduct.

Mr. Horsley is manager of Red's Trading Post in Twin Falls, the Gem State's oldest gun store. The family-owned business is in good repute with both customers and local law enforcement agencies: Horsley pointed out to Pro Libertate that "Our clients include police officers both locally and from around the state. And we're on very good terms with [Twin Falls County] Sheriff [Wayne] Tousley."

Despite the fact that he's not an anti-government radical -- he is chairman of the local planning and zoning board, and sits on the local draft board, as well -- Horsley seems to be an upstanding and respectable person who is making an honest living providing a genuinely indispensable public service: Putting firearms in the hands of the citizenry.

Which is all that is necessary in order to attract the Regime's malevolent attention.

A year ago the squalid extortion ring called the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms -- a branch of the Leviathan that exists without so much of an echo of a whisper of a hint of constitutional legitimacy, for the sole purpose of providing secure, albeit socially useless, employment for reprobates, criminals, and degenerates -- attempted to shut down Red's. Claiming that the store had committed numerous "willful" violations of federal paperwork regulations, the ATF revoked the store's federal firearms license.

This tactic has been used by the ATF to drive tens of thousands of federally licensed firearms dealers out of business, most of them succumbing to the financial pressures of battling tax-funded bureaucratic parasites. The same method was used to shut down another gun dealer in Twin Falls.

Ryan Horsley and his mother, Terry, outside their-family owned gun shop in Twin Falls, Idaho.

But Horsley -- a telegenic, articulate, and determined individual -- decided to fight back, both in court and through a direct outreach to the public. Accordingly, he created a very well-stocked and accessible blog to publicize the plight of his business, networked with like-minded activists, and sued the ATF. He secured a preliminary injunction in March 2007 from federal Judge Edward Lodge that permitted his store to continue operating until the case came to trial.

The two-day trial took place on March 4-5, and testimony confirmed what honest observers of the case had long known: The "willful" paperwork violations committed by Horsley and his associates were ridiculously trivial. For example, ATF inspector John Hansen gravely testified that of 970 sales records reviewed by the ATF at Red's, some 150 had errors. On cross-examination, Hansen grudgingly admitted that most of those "errors" consisted of "would-be gun purchasers putting a `Y' or an `N' to indicate yes or no answers to a required questionnaire," according to an Idaho Statesman account.

Once again: This supposed infraction accounts for "most" of the paperwork errors found by the ATF, and on this basis the agency affected to find the business in "willful" violation of federal firearms laws.

The agency claims that inspectors found 10 firearms sold by Red's for which no proper accounting had been made. Bear in mind, however, that Judge Lodge, in granting Horsley's injunction, made a finding of fact that the ATF had practiced exceptionally shoddy bookkeeping. Lodge also ruled that allowing the shop to remain open posed no danger to the public. It's doubtful that a federal judge would have made such a ruling had any plausible evidence existed that it had displayed culpable negligence in permitting firearms to fall into the hands of the criminal element (apart, that is, from government employees who purchased weapons there).

The ATF has been conducting its jihad against Red's since 2000. It claims to have found a handful of violations in 2000 and 2005; however, inspections in 2001 and 2007 failed to turn up any problems -- and this certainly wasn't for a lack of looking. Horsley notes that his store had a 99.6% success rate for the ATF audit in 2005, which isn't the kind of score they would have achieved if they had been flagrantly violating federal requirements.

Horsley also pointed out to Pro Libertate that "Every time the ATF sends someone here to conduct an inspection, I've called Sheriff Tousley, with whom I've had a very friendly and cooperative relationship. But the ATF, as far as I know, never paid the Sheriff the courtesy of letting him know when they're here. Sheriff Tousley had told me more than once that this really frustrates him, because he is the chief law enforcement officer in the County."

My kind of store -- if it sold precious metals and used books, I would never leave: Alas, Blue Lakes Sporting Goods in Twin Falls was driven out of business by the execrable ATF a few years ago.

On the strength of Judge Lodge's favorable findings in 2007, and the solid case his side presented in court, Horsley is confident that the final ruling -- which is due sometime in early Summer -- will be favorable. This would be something akin to a miracle, given the agency's track record in shutting down honest gun dealers and the tactics it has used to avoid congressional oversight.

"We've spent about $200,000 in fighting the ATF, and I don't know how many hours of our time we've invested in this fight as well," Horsley told me. "Most FFLs in this position simply can't hold out as long. When I went into this I thought this was a misunderstanding that would be quickly cleared up. It wasn't until I started talking with people experienced in these issues that I learned that the ATF almost always succeeds in shutting down targeted firearms dealers."

"They've spent about $3 million in an effort to revoke a $300 federal firearms license," Horsley continued. "That means we, along with other taxpayers, have been footing the bill to have this agency try to put me out of business. And they immediately worked to cut off our representation in Congress: Whenever Rep. [Mike] Crapo, or [Senators] Kempthorne and Craig made an inquiry about my case, the ATF stiff-armed them, telling them that there was an `investigation' underway, and so they couldn't reply to any information requests."

The harassment Horsley's business has endured from the ATF inspired Idaho's Senate delegation, as well as Louisiana Republican Senator John Vitter, to place "holds" on the nomination of acting ATF Director Michael "Maximum Mike" Sullivan, a self-enraptured federal prosecutor from Massachusetts whose disdain for the Constitution is roughly equal to his zeal for civilian disarmament.

Given the fact that Horsley had the financial and political means to confront the ATF, it should surprise nobody to learn that the agency decided, over a year ago, to treat Ryan as a "threat" -- not just a suspected violator of arcane federal regulations, mind you, but a threat. This explains a fascinating ex parte meeting that took place immediately after the second day of the federal trial.

"During the second day of the trial, there were about a dozen ATF employees in attendance, and federal `Court Security' personnel at the back of the courtroom," Horsley recalls. "After the hearing ended, my attorney and I were told to meet in a small room with a couple of federal attorneys and one of the `Court Security' people."

The latter was an individual named David A. Meyer, identified by his business card as a "Judicial Security Inspector" for the US Marshals Service office in Boise.

"Meyer took out a huge, thick file with my name on it," Horsley recalled. "It had all kinds of papers in it, including photographs of me and print-outs from my blog. Meyer told me that he had come to the hearing `for the protection of the ATF.' He went on to tell us about this new law that just went into effect -- the Court Security Improvement Act -- that covers judges, prosecutors, witnesses in federal trials, and other federal officials. He told us that under that new act we could be arrested if we threaten or give out the personal contact information on ATF personnel."

Horsley told Meyer that he had made a point of calling the Sheriff "every time the ATF paid me a visit." The Marshal replied (by Horsley's account) that he was "aware of this," and that "I've not found anything" to suggest that Horsley had threatened or "intimidated" any federal official.

This didn't stop Meyer from making an utterly gratuitous threat of his own, of course, telling Horsley the following (once again, by the gun dealer's account): "Under this law you can be arrested, and I have no problem coming down to Twin Falls and arresting you."

Bear in mind that Meyer, by threatening to use armed force to kidnap Horsley under the color of supposed law, was committing one crime and threatening to commit a second. The crime he committed was assault -- defined in Title 18, Chapter 9 of the Idaho Criminal Code as the "intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent."

By his own admission, Meyer had no evidence that Ryan Horsley had ever committed a criminal act of any kind. Yet Meyer was threatening to commit violent acts against Horsley should the gun dealer exercise his constitutionally protected right to criticize the ATF, should one of the agency's gun-grabbers, chair-moisteners or paper-defacers feel "intimidated" or "threatened" by something Horsley published.

The crime Meyer threatened to commit was false imprisonment as part of the same illegal act of retaliation.
Title 18, Chapter 29 of the Idaho Criminal Code defines "false imprisonment" as "the unlawful violation of the personal liberty of another." Those convicted of that offense are subject to a $5,000 fine, a one-year jail sentence, or both.

(Continues after break.)

Da Boyz are jus' havin some fun: Gee, guys, are you sure you're safe, given that there are several armed feds surrounding one unarmed guy, whose hands are cuffed behind his back and his head being ground into the concrete? The college student needlessly subjected to criminal assault by these polyester-clad revenue hogs from the ATF was seized as a "suspicious person" because he was wearing a ninja costume as part of a campus activity. It was his misfortune that the ATF was conducting a "Project Safe Neighborhoods" event at the same facility, and the sight of a harmless prankster was too much for these guys -- impotent windsocks, every one of 'em -- to resist.

Furthermore, Meyer indicated designs on either committing or abetting similar crimes against other law-abiding citizens elsewhere in the United States. In his conversation with Horsley, Meyer made mention of Dave Codrea, who publishes an invaluable blog entitled The War on Guns, and another group he referred to as "those ... Jews."

"Those Jews"?

Yes, that's how he described Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership and their chief spokesman, Aaron Zelman, who resides in Hartford, Wisconsin.

In the fashion of a Mafia underboss delivering an extortion threat, Meyer told Horsley that he might want to "pass along" the warning to Codrea and Zelman.

Because those two men are who they are, Codrea and Zelman have have told Meyer what they think of his threats. Zelman's letter is particularly plangent.

Meyer strongly hinted that bloggers like Ryan Horsley and David Codrea might be subject to prosecution in the event that remarks posted on comment threads are construed as threatening or "intimidating" by federal officials covered under the Court Security Improvement Act. As Codrea pointed out in his letter to Meyer, most genuinely alarming comments are posted anonymously. And given that federal agents have dutifully monitored Codrea's blog and Horsley's website, it's hardly unreasonable to speculate that tax-feeders of that kind could be responsible for at least some of those comments.

Would it be tidy if Meyer or somebody of his ilk were to arrest a gun rights blogger on the basis of a comment planted by the same fed who carries out the arrest?

In presenting the account of the meeting between Horsley and Meyer, I've relied entirely on Horsley's version of events. That's because when I called Meyer to get his side of the story, he told me: "The conversation I had with him isn't for publication. You'll have to call the Marshals Service public affairs office in Washington, D.C. to find out anything more about it."

Yeah, it's a bummer when the victims can shoot back, isn't it? Inept, bucket-headed Berserkers in the ATF's employ are repelled by the Branch Davidians on the morning of February 28, 1993. Four of the assailants were killed -- some by friendly fire, others as a result of the righteous use of lethal force by the Davidians. Five innocent Davidians were murdered by the ATF for defending their home and religious sanctuary from the agency's illegal assault. On April 19, the Feds celebrated the anniversary of the Nazi assault on the Warsaw Ghetto by incinerating scores of innocent people inside the Mt. Carmel retreat.

That wouldn't be helpful, of course, since (as far as I know) nobody in the Imperial Capital was present during the conversation in question.

Our lives are becoming utterly transparent to the Regime. At the same time, the official dealings of the Regime's enforcers are becoming increasingly opaque. It is as if the Regime had erected an immense one-way mirror permitting them to keep us under surveillance, while withholding from public scrutiny not only the private lives but the official conduct of its enforcers.

A self-important functionary like David Meyer can receive an obese dossier on a harmless, law-abiding gun dealer and use it to threaten to imprison him. But if, heaven fofend, one of us were to publish Meyer's home address or photograph in a way that caused his widdle heart to quivver, he and his colleagues in official crime claim the right to imprison the person responsible for distributing the samizdat in question.

It's been said that the difference between a republic and a "People's Republic" is akin to that separating a chair from an electric chair. The degenerate system under which we live has no noticeable resemblance to the constitutional republic proposed in 1787, but a very strong kinship to the "People's Republic" of East Germany -- another state in which government informants were rife, tree-devouring dossiers on private citizens common, and officious ex-Nazi law enforcement officers shared David Meyer's disdainful opinion of "those Jews."

Dum spiro, pugno!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Rights and Wrongs of Reverend Wright

"There is a purely civil profession of faith of which the sovereign should fix the articles, not exactly as religious dogmas, but as social sentiments without which a man cannot be a good citizen or a faithful subject.
While it can compel no one to believe them, it can banish from the state whoever does not believe them — it can banish him, not for impiety, but as an anti-social being, incapable of truly loving the laws and justice, and of sacrificing, at need, his life to his duty. If any one, after publicly recognizing these dogmas, behaves as if he does not believe them, let him be punished to death: he has committed the worst of all crimes, that of lying before the law.”

The loathsome Jean-Jacques Rousseau, explaining his totalitarian concept of the "Civil Religion" in his tract The Social Contract.

The "Weeping Prophet," as envisioned by Michelangelo: The Renaissance master's rendering of the Prophet Jeremiah, as found on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Jeremiah was a defeatist.

No, I'm not referring to Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, the much-execrated former Pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. I'm referring to the Hebrew prophet for whom Rev. Wright was named.

For about a quarter-century, Jeremiah made himself notorious in Jerusalem for loudly and unapologetically denouncing its religious and civic corruption: "... from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is given to covetousness; And from the prophet even to the priest, Everyone deals falsely." (Jer. 6:13, NKJV).

The City's inhabitants had come to trust entirely "in lying words that cannot profit." Those were seductive deceptions, all the more alluring because they were clothed in diaphanous robes of piety, giving them license to "steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely," commit idolatry of various kinds, and then take comfort in the conceit that they were God's Chosen People in His Chosen City. Yet Jeremiah's prophetic message was one of irrepressible divine judgment, with the Lord repeatedly posing the rhetorical question, "Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" (See 5:9, 5:29, 9:9).

Not content merely to speak the message he had been given, Jeremiah chose to act it out as well, walking through the streets of Jerusalem wearing a yoke to symbolize the impending conquest of the City by Babylon and subsequent captivity.

This did nothing to enhance Jeremiah's social standing, of course. (See 20:7-10.) He suffered relentless ridicule, arrest, and mistreatment of various kinds, such as being imprisoned in a miry pit.

But this is only to be expected: Shouldn't Jeremiah have knelt in abject gratitude every day for the singular blessing of being born in the greatest community in the world? Why couldn't he find something positive to say about the Holy City and its inspired rulers? How dare he undermine civic morale, thereby emboldening Jerusalem's implacable enemies!

Tangible evidence of Jeremiah's historicity:
This clay tablet, dated to around 595 B.C., makes reference to an obscure Babylonian official mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3.

After the first Babylonian assault on the City, Jeremiah was thrown in prison as punishment for his "defeatist" talk -- specifically, his prophecy that the Babylonians would come back and finish the job.

He was still imprisoned when that prophesy was fulfilled. The Babylonians freed him, and some traditions claim that Jeremiah wound up in Egypt, where he was murdered in his dotage by former fellow citizens of Jerusalem who had never forgiven him for bearing prophetic witness against the City's evils.

What got Jeremiah killed -- if the tradition adverted to above is true -- was his disdain for Jerusalem's Civil Religion. His anti-social insistence on telling the truth, as God inspired him to understand it, about the evil of the government that ruled him, and the people who sustained that government and permitted it to lead them to destruction, was what provoked people to kill him.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright
has on occasion displayed a gift for anti-social truth-telling. His notorious and much-misrepresented post-9/11 sermon did not minimize the horror inflicted on our nation that day, or the blood guilt of those responsible for the atrocities.

Speaking with commendable courage and mesmerizing passion, Wright described the long train of abuses and outrages committed by the government that rules us -- from the Trail of Tears through Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from Wounded Knee to the first Gulf War -- and asserted that the criminal violence of our rulers did much to sow and nourish what we harvested on that terrible Tuesday morning.

These were unwelcome but indispensable truths spoken in a timely fashion. That having been said, it must not be thought that Rev. Wright is a prophetic figure.

Wright's creed, to the extent I can understand it on the basis of broad but not particularly deep research, is an Afro-centric variation of the socialist heresy called Liberation Theology. Wright's chief theological influence is James Cone of the Union Theological Seminary.

A sense of Dr. Cone's doctrine can be found in the following widely quoted statement:

"Black theology refuses to accept a God who is not identified totally with the goals of the black community. If God is not for us and against white people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the black community ... Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy. What we need is the divine love as expressed in Black Power, which is the power of black people to destroy their oppressors here and now by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject his love."

Cone's theology is actually a form of idolatry: He insists on creating a "God" to suit his personal specifications, which in this case would be a variant of the Golem myth -- a monster summoned to smite and destroy an enemy. It is a photographic negative of the neo-Nazi "Aryan Christ" heresy.

More importantly, Cone's version of idolatry is unmistakably akin to every other version of the Civil Religion -- that is, a theology that supports concentration of power in a political state and the punishment, through ostracism, banishment, or liquidation, of those who refuse to make the State the cynosure of their existence.

Wright's denomination, the United Church of Christ, is unmistakably a hyper-liberal outgrowth of the late-19th Century "social gospel" movement, which was inspired in large measure by Hegel's appropriation of Rousseau's Civil Religion concept. What is not widely understood is that the contemporary "Christian Right" shares the same pedigree, a fact amply documented in Richard M. Gamble's compulsively readable -- and entirely indispensable -- book The War for Righteousness: Progressive Christianity, the Great War, and the Rise of the Messianic Nation.

Both strands of "progressive" Christianity, whether they admit it or not, view the State as an instrument through which divine ends can be achieved through the skillful and pious use of lethal force. "Left" progressives extol the supposed virtues of wealth redistribution and various policies intended to cure people of prejudice through state terror. "Right" progressives condemn wealth redistribution, preferring to promote punitive policies regarding various forms of personal immorality and the holy wholesale slaughter of non-Israeli foreigners.

The strands can be traced back to the reign of Woodrow Wilson, during which the State was unleashed, with the clergy's enthusiastic approval, on both the foreign and domestic fronts.

As I've noted before
, the gospel of the Total State, as translated into the idiom of American Christianity, has rarely if ever been stated as bluntly as it was by
William P. Merrill in this couplet published in the April 26, 1917 issue of Christian Century (just weeks after war was declared on Germany):

The strength of the State we'll lavish on more, Than making of wealth and making of war; We are learning at last, though the lesson comes late, That the making of man is the task of the State.

Difficult though it might be for some to understand, there was a time when doctrinally orthodox and socially conservative American Christian clergymen wanted nothing to do with statist sentiments of that variety, even -- no, especially -- when they took on a nationalist tenor.

One very suitable example was offered by Rev. Clarence Waldron of the First Baptist Church in Windsor, Vermont. Mildly Pentecostal in his worship style, Waldron was entirely conservative in his theology and moral views. He was also insurmountably opposed to American involvement in World War I.

In October 1917, Wilson, acting as Pontifex Maximus of the American Civil Religion, urged churches across the nation to decorate their sanctuaries in Red, White and Blue on the twenty-first and lead their congregations in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner." Then a collection was to be taken up as part of "Liberty Loan Sunday," with the mulcted proceeds to be sent as war tribute to Washington.

Waldron refused to play along. When the twenty-first arrived, he preached a gospel message in a chapel blessedly bereft of jingoistic adornments. As Vermont historian Mark Bushnell recalls,
after the service a mob descended on Waldron in front of the church and forced the pastor to wrap himself in the flag and sing the National Anthem.

Shortly thereafter, Waldron was removed as pastor, in large measure because of suspicions about his "loyalty" -- not his loyalty to Christ, or his fidelity to Christian precepts, mind you, but his loyalty to the "god" revered by adherents of the Social Gospel -- the American State.

In December 1917, Waldron was indicted by a federal grand jury indicted for violating the Espionage Act. Passed the previous June, that measure imposed prison terms of up to 20 years for any act or statement perceived as willfully obstructing "the recruiting or enlistment service of the U.S."

The specification against Waldron was that "he had once been heard to say 'to hell with patriotism.'" To his undying credit, Waldron admitted on the stand that he had said those words -- in condemnation of the cultish "Gott mitt uns" nationalism promoted by Kaiser Wilhelm's regime in Germany.

"If this is patriotism," a disgusted Waldron had told his acquaintances, "to hell with patriotism."

Apparently, it was a crime and a sin in Wilson's America to impugn nationalism of any variety:

Waldron was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, eventually serving a little more than a year. Of the
roughly 1,000 Americans convicted under the World War I Espionage and Sedition Acts, Waldron was the first to be imprisoned exclusively for his religious beliefs.

The Divine State, as Hobbes saw it: The original frontispiece of Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes's theodicy for the omnipotent unitary state, depicted it as combining the civil (sword) and religious (crozier) powers in a sovereign figure composed of countless subjects. Rousseau commended Hobbes for embracing tyrannical absolutism, and built upon his work.

Rev. Waldron's "crime" was essentially the same as Rev. Wright's offense, and I suppose the fact that Wright has not yet been forced to undergo prolonged public humiliation and imprisonment means that our nation hasn't sunk into the abyss of collective dementia that claimed the liberty of so many during World War I.


What I find most interesting about the manufactured controversy about Wright is this: Nearly all of the commentary generated about Wright's sermons focuses on the racial aspect of his theology, rather than examining the merits of his critique of the warfare state. Even Obama's widely praised speech about his decades-long relationship with Wright focused chiefly on issues of race relations, while either ignoring or condemning Wright's principled critique of Washington's wars and foreign policy.

Clearly, there are people who seek to exploit, for consummately cynical reasons, lingering inter-ethnic tensions (Michelle Obama, an attorney who specializes in "diversity consulting," could be considered a profiteer of sorts in this respect). Republican herd-poisoners are already preparing to depict Obama and Wright as closer than Damon and Pythias, and on previous experience I don't think many of the GOP's campaign flacks care whether or not that characterization is true.

Amid all of this, it's important to remember one vital fact: What prompted the ritual denunciation of Wright (including an artfully parsed one by Sen. Obama) was not his congregation's aberrant race-centered theology or even his own intemperate remarks on that subject. Rather, it was his blasphemy against the Civil Religion and the endless good works done in its name -- bombings, invasions, official liaisons with dictators, all of that good and righteous stuff. That kind of "sin," as Rousseau warned centuries ago, simply can't be forgiven.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Reflections on Resurrection Sunday: We're Commanded To Be Free


The Almighty State personified:
The demented Caligula (here depicted by Jay Robinson in the 1953 epic The Robe), who once openly wished that all Rome might have one neck so that he could behead the entire population at a stoke, was the first emperor to proclaim his supposed divinity while still alive. He was hardly the first or last ruler to do so, of course.

"You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men."

1 Corinthians 7:23

The world was too small for Alexander, Juvenal pointed out, yet in the end he found that a small sarcophagus was sufficient. By way of contrast, the tomb could not contain Jesus, who repeatedly explained that His kingdom is not of this world. For believers, Resurrection Sunday celebrates the victory of Jesus -- the only One truly entitled to be called a king -- over sin and death. It should also prompt us to reflect on our duty to live as free men.

Jesus carried out his ministry in an ignominious province of a globe-spanning Empire on the descending slope of its imperial peak. Yes, several centuries would pass before Rome extinguished itself, but the republic was long dead, and the afflictions that would kill the empire were already well advanced.

Decades earlier, Scipio the Younger had wept amid the ruins of Carthage, not so much because his conscience was wounded by the pitiless destruction of an enemy, but because he foresaw a day when Rome would be on the receiving end of what it had just dealt out. Sallust would later lament that Rome's precipitous moral decline began with the destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War.

That conflict, interestingly enough, began because Rome's long-standing rival, having been disarmed at the end of the First Punic War, abrogated the treaty in order to defend itself against incursions by a Roman ally. So we see that needless and opportunistic wars are hardly a recent invention.

By the time Jesus used a denarius to illustrate the limits of Caesar's jurisdiction ("render to Ceasar that which is Caesar's" means that we are to give rulers no more than that which they are entitled to under God's law), the Empire had already begun the process of debasing the currency through coin-clipping. Tribute from the provinces being inadequate to sustain the empire, the imperial regime resorted to this primitive but surprisingly effective form of pre-Federal Reserve inflation -- and the result, then as now, was to abet the malignant growth of government power and the wholesale corruption of public and private morals.

Clipping and adulteration of the precious metal content of Roman coinage began shortly after Tiberius (whose face disfigured the silver coin used in Jesus's parable) ascended to the purple in 14 A.D. "By the time he was assassinated in AD 37," write Bill Bonner and Addison Wiggin in their indispensable book Empire of Debt, "there were 700 million denarii in the treasury -- far more than there had been at the time of Augustus's death."

Caligula, who inherited the throne, quickly wiped out this budget surplus and spent Rome into a huge deficit. When Nero came along, widespread currency debasement was undertaken once again, and it would persist until Alaric and his Goth buddies crested the seventh hill.

By the time Honorius found himself hip-deep in Visigoths, note Bonner and Wiggin, Roman currency "still bore the ancient form with the images of dead emperors pressed on it. But the value had been taken out; the currency had lost 99.98 percent of its value."

This quite understandably seems quite shocking -- until we remember that since 1913, when the Regime created its official counterfeiting arm, the US dollar has lost 95 percent of its value. What took Rome half a millennium -- the complete devaluation of its currency -- Washington has nearly accomplished in a little less than a century. It will be a miracle of sorts if the dollar survives this decade.

At the time of Jesus's ministry, Rome was mired in what Bonner and Wiggin call "a new system of consuetudo fraudium -- habitual cheating." Romans still "remembered their Old Republic with its rules and customs," and they still "thought that was the way the system was supposed to work" long after the senate had become a vestigial body and the emperor's will supplanted the law. Willing parties to this universal, State-imposed deception, Roman citizens and subjects practiced and fell prey to private fraud of various kinds. If credit cards and sub-prime mortgages had been available at the time, Romans would have defaulted on both at rates rivaling our own.

It seems to me that this kind of behavior is to be expected when the government-issued medium of exchange is fraudulent. This is particularly true of the Roman denarius, which was designed to propagate the cult of the divine emperor: The coin used by Jesus in His parable bore the inscription, Ti Caesar Divi Aug F[ilius] Aust Imp -- Latin shorthand for "Tiberius Ceasar, divine son of the Emperor Augustus."

The fraudulent Roman denarius:
The irregular shape of the coin seen here attests to "clipping," a method used to steal its value.

Which is to say that the Roman currency claimed that the emperor, depicted wearing a laurel as a token of his future exaltation, was the son of a god.

Once this is understood, Jesus's familiar saying takes on -- for me, at least -- a much deeper meaning than I had previously appreciated.

Writing five decades ago, theologian Roland H. Bainton points out that this debased and blasphemous currency was "Rome's best device for popularizing in the provinces the cult of the divine Emperor." Not surprisingly, Zealots and other Jewish rejectionists rebelled against the Roman currency, hammering them flat, melting them down, and stamping them with Hebrew characters. "But many of the Jews," writes Dr. Bainton, "while adamant as to the Roman standards [of morality and religion], were pliant in regard to the coins."

Among that number, perhaps, were some of the Pharisees who -- with unearned confidence in their supposed cleverness -- posed their trick question to Jesus: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?

The import of Jesus's answer -- "Render unto Caesar that which is Ceasar's, and to God that which is God's" -- is paraphrased by Dr. Bainton thus: "If, then, you trifle with your scruples and carry the tainted coins, give back to Caesar what he has given to you, but remember your prime allegiance is to God."

While pointedly limiting Ceasar's jurisdiction, Jesus did not specify how much the emperor was entitled to. My belief is that He deliberately left that question to the individual conscience. He expects us to know when Caesar or any other ruler (or representative) has transgressed the limits of his authority, thereby attempting to lay claim on an allegiance we owe only to God.

What was the market value, circa 70 A.D., of a pinch of incense? A trifle, by any standard. And speaking the phrase "Caesar is Lord" as that minuscule amount of incense was burned in front of the Emperor's likeness incurred no tangible expense. Yet the cost of this gesture, to Christian believers, was prohibitive, and many of them regarded death by torture a comparative bargain when the alternative was to deny their Lord, their faith, and their freedom.

Such Christians understood that Caesar was their ruler, and that they could do little to change that reality. One thing they could do, however, was to refuse to recognize them as their master. That is the demand every State eventually makes of its subjects, and it was prefigured in the blasphemous coin used by Jesus in his parable.

Does this mean that it was a form of idolatry to use Caesar's coins -- that is, to participate in the imperial economic system at all? Jesus never said as much. But His parable, when understood in its historical context, clearly anticipated the time when the Roman State, which already demanded so much of the bodies of its subjects, would lay a proprietary claim on the souls of the Christians living under its jurisdiction as well. Every State, if permitted to, will eventually do the same.

Freedom, in its most elemental sense, is the power to withdraw one's consent when the State -- or anyone else -- lays an improper claim to one's life or property. For the Christians ruled by the Roman Empire, this meant defying terrestrial authorities by assembling in the catacombs to worship, by refusing to serve in the Empire's armies of conquest, and by refusing to worship emperors either living or dead. Thus for many of them, the only way to refuse consent was to choose the path of martyrdom.

Many early Christians who didn't suffer martyrdom understood that the State was the implacable enemy -- not only to them, but to God as well. As the brilliant libertarian philosopher George H. Smith (a professed atheist) observes in an essay published by the Acton Institute, many Fathers of the early Church, while not counseling revolution, treated the Roman State as entirely illegitimate because everything it did was backed by actual or threatened use of lethal violence.

Tertullian (born in Carthage, ironically, as the son of a Roman centurion) "argued that `all secular power and dignities are not merely alien from, but hostile to, God,'" recalls Dr. Smith. "Secular governments `owe their existences to the sword.' All institutions of the Roman government, even its charities, are based on brute force. This is contrary to the way of Christians, among whom `everything is voluntary.'"

How it might have been:
Tribune Caius Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton, left) purchases a refractory Corinthian slave named Demetrius (Victor Mature, right). Marcellus and his slave are sent to Judea, where Demetrius becomes a follower of the Troublemaker whose crucifixion Marcellus is ordered to supervise. Eventually the slave leads his "master" to Christ; they become friends and brothers in the faith. Did it happen? Probably not, but it made a terrific movie.

What is the limit of Christian submission to a State of that description? According to Origen, explains Dr. Smith, the Christian must “`never consent to obey the laws of sin.' His first allegiance is to `the law of nature, that is, the law of God.' The Christian will submit to secular punishment rather than transgress a divine law."

Those sentiments read like a distant ancestor of the Declaration of Independence, which properly recognized the law -- God's "perfect law of liberty" -- rather than any terrestrial ruler, as the power to which all must submit. In a republic, the law is king, and all political leaders exercise their authority by the grace of the governed, with the understanding that it can be revoked at any time.

Taking up the sword against an evil-doer: Tribune Gallio, defying imperial "authority," defends a Christian enclave at Cana from an unlawful assault by troops he once led. Like I said, it's a pretty cool movie.

It was under this vision of republican liberty (however imperfectly realized) that Americans had the opportunity to be the first people ever to carry out the divine mandate to live as free men under God's law. That right was secured through righteous rebellion against un-Godly tyranny -- each man, empowered by God's law, taking up the sword against evil-doers in positions of supposed authority.

We've squandered that opportunity. Will God condescend to give us another? I don't presume to know. It is clear, however, that we've traveled a great distance down the same Roman thoroughfare to ruin, and that the Regime ruling us is ripening into the kind of Reich (that's just a fancy word for "empire," after all) that would claim jurisdiction over our souls.

Many Americans will readily pay that price, so far gone in materialism that they don't realize that a "soul" can be found in their personal inventory. Others will profess allegiance to Christ while acting as enablers and inquisitors for Caligula.

Some of us, if our country pursues its present course to its logical destination, may find ourselves caught in a predicament akin to that of Tribune Marcellus Gallio, as depicted in my second-favorite film, The Robe.

Like many other "bathrobe epics" of the 1950s, The Robe could be seen as a form of Christian midrash -- in this case, a story that could have happened, but probably didn't, that draws from situations described in the Bible. In the story Marcellus is the wastrel son of a senator who is a political opponent of Caligula before Little Boots ascends to the throne. Marcellus and his slave Demetrius are exiled to Judea; there the latter becomes a follower of the Galilean Troublemaker whom the former is assigned to execute.

Eventually Demetrius leads his master to Christ, and Marcellus finds himself on trial for high treason before Caligula, newly installed as Ceasar. Knowing that his words will convict him, Marcellus doesn't cavil at telling the unvarnished truth:

"If the Empire desires peace and justice and goodwill among all men, my King will be on the side of the Empire and her Emperor. If the Empire and the Emperor desire to pursue the slavery and slaughter that have brought agony and terror and despair to the world ... if there is then nothing further for men to hope for but chains and hunger at the hands of our Empire -- my King will march forward to right this wrong! Not tomorrow, sire -- Your Majesty may not be so fortunate as to witness the establishment of His kingdom -- but it will come!"

The verdict is as predictable as the course of a waterfall.

Caligula, who wants to make Marcellus submit even more than he wants to kill him, offers to commute the death sentence for high treason if Marcellus will renew his oath of loyalty and recant his allegiance to "this dead Jew who dared call Himself a king."

Marcellus has no trouble doing the first, reiterating his oath of loyalty and pointing out that he had never broken it. Pressed by Caligula to denounce Jesus, Marcellus stands unwavering before the Emperor and refuses:

"I cannot renounce him, Sire, nor can you. He is my king, and yours as well. He is the Son of God."

In the film Marcellus and his would-be wife Diana go to martyrdom, as have countless believers across the centuries. But they did this as an expression of freedom: They knew that they had been bought by a price, and chose not to be the slaves of a man claiming to be a god.

To those who don't believe, this may seem the most perfect foolishness. But those of us who believe must understand that our individual freedom may ultimately demand such a price. If we're not ultimately willing to pay it, what were we really celebrating today?

A quick housekeeping note:

Several of you have informed me that the PayPal button at The Right Source isn't working, and thus you've not been able to buy Liberty in Eclipse. We're working on the problem, and hope to have it fixed soon.

Dum spiro, pugno!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Iraq, Five Years In: They Really Don't Care (Updated, March 20)

Oh, lucky you!
What a privilege you've been given by your Emperor, who so earnestly wishes he were young enough to join you on the front lines! (Or not. I'm betting on "not.")

The setting was the National Religious Broadcasters annual convention at Nashville's infelicitously named Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, and George W. Bush thought he would do a little trash-talking at the expense of the "Islamo-Fascists."

"Our enemies are ruthless, but they're going to be defeated," mock-drawled Bush to Pavlovian applause. "They've got the capacity to blow people up through suicide -- but you notice none of the leaders ever are the suicide bombers, however."

Yes, I'd noticed that.

I'd also noticed that the Idiot King who sent thousands of our men to die needlessly in his useless wars hasn't exactly led from the front, either.

Admittedly, that comparison is somewhat unfair. It's difficult to imagine the typical jihadist leader being so stupidly self-absorbed as to send off a corps of suicide bombers with the following benediction:

"I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here at Islamo-Fascist Central, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of building the new Global Caliphate. . .. It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, to experience the blessings of martyrdom. You're really making history, and thanks."

Adapted ever-so-slightly (by the inserted red text), that is the statement Bush the Blessed made during a recent videoconference with U.S. military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan. While this made a poor pep talk, it makes a wonderful emetic, if you happen to need that kind of help.

Although the Idiot King treats the Afghan front of his eternal war as an afterthought, it is every bit the debacle that Iraq has become. And while Bush tries to enhance the morale of those stationed in Afghanistan by portraying that conflict as some kind of Outward Bound experience -- only with, you know, suicide bombers, and stuff -- the stolid wad of congealed evil who actually runs his administration has made it known just how little our rulers care about the views of those who bear the burdens of the wars they've inflicted on us.

"Two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting," pointed out Martha Raddatz of Good Morning America during a recent interview with Cthulhu.

"So?" replied Cheney, his porcine eyes glinting with self-satisfied contempt.

"So? You don't care what the American people think?" pressed Raddatz.

"No," Cheney responded. "I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls. "

While it's true that we shouldn't be governed by opinion polls, a finding of 67% in opposition to a policy doesn't reflect a "fluctuation" in public opinion; it represents a super-majority.

Dick Cheney: He's even evil in the Mirror Universe.*

But this doesn't make a particle of difference to those who rule us. As Tony Snow once put it during his term as chief spokesliar for the White House, the Regime, having manipulated a terrified public and opportunistic Congress into supporting the war, has never been interested in "re-litigating" the issue -- no matter how many lives are wasted, how much damage is done to the economy, or how many times the rationales for the war have been revealed as conscious falsehoods.

Here's the division of labor, as our rulers see things:

They have the task of contriving foreign wars by cultivating, supporting, and subsidizing foreign thugs like Saddam, and then pivoting on an inflation-depleted dime to depict their sub-contractors as this year's Hitler. This permits them to mobilize the country for wars that result in long-term reconstruction projects that offer nearly unlimited opportunities for themselves and their cronies to cash in at taxpayer expense.

Oh, most fortunate Iraqi! Have you prostrated yourself today in humble gratitude to Bush the Benevolent for conferring the blessings of "liberation" on your unworthy family?

Our role is to provide, uncomplainingly, the blood and wealth to be devoured by the wars those people contrive; to believe the self-contradictory and palpably untrue pretexts our rulers supply for those wars; and to purge our minds of the accumulated knowledge and understanding that would make it difficult to repeat this experience as often as our rulers desire.

Our rulers frankly claim to create their own reality, but unlike other solipsists they insist on compelling us to live -- and, of course, to die -- within it, as well. When the facts prove intractable, they simply bury them and enlist the help of their media courtesans to mis-direct those few people who may have been paying attention.

Last week, for example, the Pentagon announced that a comprehensive review of tons of captured Iraqi documents, in addition to the interrogation of scores of top officials from the old regime, have made it clear that there was no operational connection between Saddam's junta and al-Qaeda. The Regime reacted to this disclosure in now-familiar fashion: It consigned the report to the memory hole and took refuge behind a barricade of belligerent denial.

At the conclusion of a press conference held Monday (March 17) during a fleeting visit to Iraq, Cheney engaged in a highly orchestrated piece of performance art to dismiss the significance of the Pentagon report. Calling on a reporter identified as "Steve Hayes," Cheney was asked the softest of softball questions about that Pentagon report.

Cheney replied by making reference to the report's executive summary and "an article in -- I think it was the Weekly Standard that dealt with the subject." On the basis of that review, Cheney confidently asserted that the really important question was not whether there was an "operational" link between Saddam and the 9-11 plotters, as the administration carefully led the public to believe, but rather the extent to which "he was a state sponsor of terror," a status he shared with, well, pretty much every ruler of consequence. But the links between Saddam and al-Qaeda would be made "clear" to anyone able "to dig into the report in depth," Cheney declared.

Oh. What a pity, then, that the White House has chosen not to make available, via "the internets," the very report that, Cheney insists, so completely validates their chief rationale for the war.

Oh sure, you might be able to get it via snail mail several weeks from now in the event the administration sees fit to let you have it. But one would think that the administration would disseminate it as widely and quickly as possible, given that it so thoroughly vindicates the administration. Or so Cheney said in Baghdad a couple of days ago.

At the end of that press conference, Cheney was asked directly: "So you think there was a direct link between al Qaeda...."

"You heard what I said," snapped Cheney. "I was very precise."

"Yes, you were," simpered the supposed journalist, who chose not to pursue the matter further.

Alleged journalist Stephen Hayes, Dick Cheney's "Jeff Gannon."

"Steve Hayes," the alleged reporter involved in that colloquy, was Stephen F. Hayes, author of the same Weekly Standard piece Cheney cited to deflect the conclusions of the Defense Intelligence Agency report.

Some reporters are mere stenographers, but where Cheney is concerned Hayes is a full-service sycophant, having been commissioned to write the Vice President's official biography. That's a chore that wouldn't be assigned to someone inclined to challenge Cheney's assertions.

So when Cheney needed someone with whom to carry out a circle-jerk of mutual self-validation, Hayes was the obvious choice -- just as "Jeff Gannon" was George W. Bush's go-to, uh, guy whenever he wanted to duck a question from a real journalist during a White House press conference.

Cheney was still in the region today. How did he choose to commemorate the fifth anniversary of an unnecessary, immoral, illegal war he did so much to bring about?

He borrowed the 60-foot royal yacht that belongs to the Sheik of Oman in order to do some deep-sea fishing. But Cheney wasn't too busy to continue his campaign to expand the war to Iran.

While there is little, if anything to commend the likes of Cheney as human beings, I will say this: He and his little simian front-man have helped me understand one largely under-appreciated blessing conferred by my Christian faith. Most of the time I take comfort and strength from the knowledge that heaven exists. But as I examine the misery, bloodshed, and horror wrought by Bush, Cheney, and their ilk, I find some consolation in the knowledge that there is also a hell.

Update: This really is a dictatorship....

In January 2005, after the incumbent secured a second term in an election that offered two almost entirely interchangeable candidates (right down to their shared affiliation in Yale's Skull & Bones society), the Bushling was asked if there would be any changes in policy toward Iraq.

His face falling into the contemptuous smirk that is its natural expression, Bush sneered that the 2004 election was an "accountability moment" that ratified ... well, everything he and his cabal had done: The demonstrable lies that led to the war, the evisceration of the Bill of Rights, the implementation of torture, wholesale violation of constitutional principles and criminal statutes -- all of that was made retroactively inconsequential because Bush had won (or stolen) an election.

Yesterday (March 19), Dana Perino, the current White House lie-flinger, was asked about Dick Cheney's "So?" response regarding the public's overwhelming opposition to continuing the Iraq war:

HELEN THOMAS: The American people are being asked to die and pay for this. And you’re saying they have no say in this war?

PERINO: No, I didn’t say that Helen. But Helen, this president was elected…

THOMAS: But it amounts to it. You’re saying we have no input at all.

PERINO: You had input. The American people have input every four years, and that’s the way our system is set up.

(See the video of this exchange here.)

As with so much that is done and said by the degenerate criminal junta ruling us, the statements above are the product of an idiot child's version of Leninism -- in this case, the concept of "democratic centralism." The idea here is that once consent is obtained by a ruler, it is irrevocable, and the decisions undertaken by him are to be supported without cavil or question.

Adolf Hitler, Lenin's largely disowned but very faithful disciple, refined that concept into the fuhrerprinzip (Leader Principle), in which the Fuhrer was seen as embodying the General Will.
Brought to power democratically, Hitler and his Party created a revolution within the form of the fatally flawed Weimar constitution (which permitted, inter alia, the executive to rule by decree in emergencies). They then decreed that there would be "no second revolution" -- because, you see, just like the Bushified GOP, they insisted that the election that had put Hitler into a position to become Germany's ruler had been the Nazi movement's "accountability moment."

Though milder in application than its Soviet and Nazi antecedents -- unless you have the misfortune of being an Iraqi, or someone at the mercy of the Homeland Security State -- the Bush Regime, and the Republican Party it leads, have embraced a Leninist/Hitlerian doctrine of executive power.

In contradiction to Perino's claim that the American "system" is set up to facilitate executive dictatorship, the Declaration of Independence explicitly acknowledges the unlimited right of the people to withdraw their consent, at any time, from any government that becomes "destructive" of the individual rights it was created to protect.

It's likely that I'll have more to say about this subject later....

Dum spiro, pugno!


*The line about Cheney being evil even in the Mirror Universe comes by way of William Wallace Grigg, age 10.