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October 11, 2008

N More Years!


by Gordon Prather

Four-score years ago our forefathers overwhelmingly elected Herbert Hoover to serve as President of the United States. He was inaugurated March 4, 1929, just in time to take the rap for not preventing the Wall Street crash of October 29, 1929, which according to the conventional wisdom, triggered the Great Depression.

Of course, it was a bum rap; under then current law, the President was essentially powerless to affect what did or did not happen on Wall Street.

But the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was pending before Congress in late 1929 and was signed into law by Hoover in early 1930. Other scribes (most notably the late Jude Wanniski) have concluded that Congressional Act – whose protective tariffs not only could, but did, affect what happened on Wall Street and Main Street – was the real "cause" of the Great Depression.

So what has all that got to do with the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the upcoming presidential election and the impending wars in Iran and Pakistan?

Well, scroll back to 1933. By then the Great Depression was worldwide and getting worse. On January 30, Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany and on March 4, Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated as our 32nd president, both promising to do whatever it took to effect economic recovery in their countries.

FDR was reelected in 1936, but some scribes do not consider economic recovery to have really began in this country until 1938. And why then?

Well, in early 1938, Hitler made himself Supreme Commander of all German armed forces, and ordered them to enter and occupy Austria. Hitler threatened to do the same to the Sudentenland, so Brit Prime Minister Chamberlain went to Munich and "appeased" Hitler, gaining "peace with honor."

Whereupon FDR began to lobby Congress to repeal certain provisions of the Neutrality Act, to make it legal to produce and sell zillions of dollars worth of armaments to Great Britain and France. By 1940, with FDR seeking an unprecedented third term, with our construction of a powerful two-ocean navy underway and with Great Britain and France at war with Germany, our Great Depression had begun to come to an end.

Of course, the Great Depression had come to an end in Germany – under Hitler – much earlier. Hence, the argument could easily be made that Hitler's successes also inadvertently enabled FDR to seek – and obtain – unprecedented "emergency" third and fourth terms.

But now, return to the present, with ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the stock market crash of 2008, the upcoming presidential election and the impending wars in Iran and Pakistan, with Bush the Younger constitutionally limited to two terms.

Scott Ritter, former U.S. Marine Intelligence Officer in the First Gulf War, and Chief UN Inspector in its aftermath, an outspoken opponent of the Second Gulf War and the impending wars against Iran and Pakistan, recently wrote at Truthdig:

"The war in Iraq has morally crippled the Republican Party, if not all of America. The fact that a conflict which has taken the lives of more than 4,150 Americans to date, wounded tens of thousands more, and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians serves as the centerpiece of the Republican Party platform boggles the mind."

But:

"The more I listened to Obama, the more I realized that on the major issues of war and peace, there was in fact very little that separated him from the Republicans he opposes. Both have sold out American sovereignty in the name of Israeli security (or more important, Likud-inspired, AIPAC-driven policies falsely sold as being in the best interest of the Israeli people). Both assume Iranian nefarious intent, and point an accusatory finger at "Russian aggression" without reflecting on the cause-and-effect reality of irresponsible American foreign policy (the expansion of NATO, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, and the installation on Polish and Czech soil of a ballistic missile defense shield claimed to be for the Iranian threat, but optimized for missiles launched from within Russia)."

Ritter's Conclusion?

"The two-party system is failing America. There isn't time between now and Election Day to create a viable third-party candidate, and so the sad reality is one of two deeply flawed men, the byproduct of a deeply flawed political system, will serve as president for the next four or eight years."

But, Ritter to the contrary, there could be an alternative to McCain or Obama serving as president for the next four or eight years.

After all, on August 28, 2008, President Bush extended for another year the National Emergency he first declared on September 14, 2001, "along with the powers and authorities adopted to deal with that emergency."

Congress has also given the Commander-in-Chief of the War on Terror the "authority" to commit U.S. Armed Forces to military actions in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the UN Charter.

And, with the Military Commissions Act, Congress effectively "authorized" Bush to suspend the Constitutional guarantee of the writ of habeas corpus, by which "detainees can seek relief from unlawful imprisonment."

Furthermore, with the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress effectively overturned the Posse Comitatus Act, which had prevented since the War Between the States the use of U.S. Armed Forces to disrupt "civil disturbances."

Now, until recently it seemed likely that Bush would launch a preventative attack – or would not object to the paranoid Israelis launching a preventative attack – against Iran's nuclear facilities, notwithstanding all facilities being subject to a Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Such an attack before the election would probably have not been opposed by Congress, even though it would probably have resulted in the election of John McCain.

But the increasingly dangerous situation on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, coupled with the vigorous Russian reaction to the invasion of South Ossetia by American and Israeli equipped and trained troops, have apparently much reduced the likelihood of that attack.

Okay, but now comes this One in a Century financial crisis – which McCain initially reacted to by "suspending" his campaign – and it looks more and more like there's nothing Bush can do that could result in McCain succeeding him. It's a slam dunk for Obama.

What to do, Bush?

Well, why not suspend or cancel the election, citing his existing State of Emergency powers? Or at least suspend the inauguration of Obama – if he wins – for the duration of the emergency?

Why not?

What are you going to do – write irate letters to your representatives in The Best Congress Money Can Buy?

By the way; if you were thinking of staging a "civil insurrection" on the White House lawn, there's now the Third Infantry Division, all trained, armed and ready to ruin your whole day.


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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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