June 29, 2002

Bush's Trifecta:
Control Through Fear

Seattle-based freelance journalist David Neiwert has put together a definitive analysis of Bush's Trifecta joke, showing clearly that it is not only tasteless -- as is obvious -- but that it is a lie. (see "Hitting the Trifecta")

No one can find an instance in the record when Bush actually said what he claimed to have said. He claimed to have said during the campaign that there were only three conditions under which he would go back on his solemn promise not to dig into the nation's retirement fund. But the fact is he didn't say that during the campaign. The first time he mentioned it was a couple of weeks before September 11. By then his tax cut for the rich had already ensured that the Social Security fund would be violated.

He just used September 11 as an excuse.

It is strangely disturbing that he first began setting up that excuse just two weeks before the attacks. If we set aside the "what did they know and when did they know it?" questions for the benefit of the Bush Blind Faith crowd and just look at what happened since the attacks, we are still left with the fact that the September 11 attacks were the greatest moment of political opportunism ever for the right wing. The attacks justified everything the right wing wanted to do, many things that have no imaginable connection to the attacks.

Bush's programs gave that trust fund to his rich friends. There was a corporate welfare bonanza of billions of dollars from the treasury to corporations like Enron; increased power for the government and decreased rights for the people; a steep dive into deficit spending that gives the big banks that lend the government money their pre-Clinton interest payments back again. Voices of dissent were almost completely silenced. About the only thing the administration didn't use the attacks for was to take steps to actually make the country safer. It has too much to lose to let that happen.

The Bush administration has used terror to manipulate the people very effectively. It's like a mob protection racket. Since the executive branch is the only entity with the means to protect the people against attacks like September 11, it can hold the threat of attacks over the country through the implied threat of withholding that protection. It can tighten the screws whenever it needs to divert attention from some breaking scandal that is getting a little too close to the White House, like Bush's buddy Kenny Boy's robbery of millions from Enron employees and stockholders, or his extortion of the people of California, holding them under the knifepoint threat of cutting off their electric power.

Given that the Bush administration has this power (seized through its shady activities in Florida in 2001), what is our defense? The undeniable fact of September 11 stands before us. Almost nothing was done to prevent it. Warnings were unheeded. No alerts were issued to the public or even to appropriate security authorities. Not even minimal steps were taken. Even the usual, automatic defense procedures were not activated during the attacks. Agency operatives trying to do their jobs and ward off the danger were thwarted.

So we know to what lengths they will or will not go to protect the American people, or to push through their agenda. And yes, it's very scary. So what do you do with that realization? Most Americans seem to be letting fear rule the day, letting the right wing do whatever it wants because it's the toughest guy on the block.

But the administration holds this power through an implied threat, and there is a limit to how much it can actualize the threat. It holds the bludgeon over the heads of millions, who are effectively cowed and controlled as a result. It can do practically whatever it wants. But if the millions who are being robbed and ripped by the corporate oligarchy just rose up and expressed their objections, exercised their democratic power, the administration would have to back down. It holds those millions in check through fear. But if it acts out its threats too much, the balance may shift and people may begin to hold the government responsible for doing its job of protecting them. For the most part, the threats can only be implied. A hint of it is enough to evoke the memory of the horrible spectacle of the WTC attacks and strike fear into the hearts of the people.

There will no doubt be further acts of terror that are not prevented. When the population starts to feel a little too free, and bold enough to question its rulers, another attack or two should straighten the rabble out.

How do We the People defend ourselves against a rogue government that uses its "inability" to protect us as a threat to keep us in line. We don't have tanks and planes and advanced surveillance systems. Only the government has those, and it is under the control of a corporate oligarchy that has shown itself to be hostile to the will of the majority. So what do we do?

We cannot fight them in the streets. That's a fool's game. They have all the weapons of mass destruction and you can be sure they have an endless arsenal of spy toys we have not seen or imagined. But what we do have is democratic power. Look at the numbers. Look at the polls. Look beyond the bogus "approval ratings" which are also driven by fear, to the polls on issues and see what a tiny minority is being served by the current government. The rest of us need to go back to school and learn about democracy. Learn how to exercise democratic power. The power has gotten a long way from the people and it won't be easy to get at it. But we have the numbers. If we educate ourselves and apply ourselves to our democratic responsibilities, we constitute a massive, irresistible force. It begins with self-awareness, solidarity, and exercising freedom of expression. The very first step is to let go of fear.

With the latent power of the majority at our fingertips waiting to be actualized, Franklin Roosevelt's words take on new meaning: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." We must steel ourselves in the face of the very real threats of a rogue executive branch that has demonstrated that it can destroy us by merely twiddling its thumbs. The demonstration of destructive power of September 11 made a strong impression that keeps the public cowering in fear. But if the regime tries to play out its implied threat too much, it could upset the delicate balance that keeps the tiny ruling elite in control of the masses of people whose will it defies.

There will be more violence and destruction. More people will die at home and abroad. But if we give in to fear, it will only get worse. So if Americans want to reassert the principles of a democratic society on which the country was founded, they will have to stand up for those principles in the face of threats. Americans will have to relearn courage.

-- By David Cogswell

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