Monday, November 05, 2007

Randi Rhodes Interviews Naomi Wolf -- "... the conclusion is to rise up, and to understand that we have very little time."

The End of America: A Letter of Warning To A Young Patriot

Randi Rhodes Interviews Naomi Wolf on The End of America: "... the conclusion is to rise up, and to understand that we have very little time."

Is waterboardining torture? Yes. The answer is that simple. Is torture illegal both by US domestic law and by international treaty? Yes. Is either the Geneva Accords or the US Army's own field manuals vague or inconsistent on this issue? No. And yet, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), two senior members of the US Senate Judiciary Committee, are throwing their support behind an Attorney General nominee who refuses to answer these questions unequivocally.

One of the most shameless syncophants of the Bush-Cheney regime, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) co-sponsors an amendment designed to shove this country farther down the slippery slope to a military attack on Iran, and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), the media-annointed frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, votes for it.

How is it possible that Sens. Feinstein and Schumer would endorse this man's embarrassing refusal to answer a simple question about waterboarding?

How is it possible that Sen. Clinton, who blundered so badly (politically as well as morally) on the Iraq authorization, would sign on to Leiberman's war-mongering?

It is very late for us all. If you are an optimist you will see the time as five to Midnight; if you are a pessimist, you will see it as five after Midnight. Either way, there is not much time left to stall and overturn the juggernaut that is bringing fascism to the USA.

Here is an important dialogue between two of the USA's most important voices -- Air America's Randi Rhodes and heralded author Naomi Wolf.

Randi liberates minds and empowers hearts over the air waves, Naomi liberates minds and empower hearts through the pages of books and magazines.

Wolf's The End of America: Letter to a Young Patriot is one of the two most important books you to read this one; the other is Naomo Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

Just as I recently transcribed excerpts from Randi's interview with Naomi Klein ( Randi Rhodes Interviews Naomi Klein -- "Not just the craziness of the Bush gang ... the logical culmination of a 25 year war on the state ..." ), I have trancribed and posted these excerpts from her interview with Naomi Wolf, in the hope that you will print it out, e-mail it, link to it, tack it to the wall, i.e., pass it on any and every way you can -- before it is too late.

To go to Naomi Wolf's American Freedom Campaign web site, and sign the pledge, click here.

To learn more about the Randi Rhodes Show, click here.

-- Richard Power

Randi Rhodes: This book cuts across political parties and ideologies, it speaks directly to those among us who are concerned about the ever-tightening noose (yes, noose) being placed around our necks, by taking away our liberties piece by piece ... It is a checklist, the ten things to do if you want to be a dictator in America, and I went through the list one day, with the audience, and it was so surprisingly easy to check off every one of the ten things. Now you did a great deal of research to show how the events of the last seven years in this country are parallel to steps taken in the worst dictatorships of the 20th Century. Would you like to go through them with us?

Naomi Wolf: I would be thrilled, especially since your audience are exactly the people who need to rise up and lead the charge to save the country before its too late. What I did was look at various times and places when a would=be dictator or despot wanted to close down an open society or crush a pro-democracy movement. And so I looked at Italy in the 1920s, which was a parliamentary democracy, and Germany in the 1930s [also] a parliamentary democracy, I looked at Russia in the 1930s, East Germany in the 1950s, Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, China's crackdown on democracy at the end of the 1980s, and Pinochet's coup in Chile in 1973. What I saw made my hair stand on end. ... All would-be dictators do the same ten things, whether they are on the right or the left, and those ten things are happening in America. I will do the first four, because it is too scary to do all ten at once. The first thing a would-be dictator always does is to #1: Invoke A Terrifying Internal and External Threat, and often that threat is real, and they will manipulate the fear of it. For example, Stalin talked about "sleeper cells," now readers of End of America will see a lot of recycling of phrases and images and actual sound-bytes from the Greatest Hits of Mid-20th Century Dictatorship. Stalin talked about "sleeper cells," he invented this. These were capitalist agents who were going to hide among the Soviet citizens and cause terror. Pinochet talked about "armed insurgents," and there were armed insurgents, but then he used hyped documents to scare people, and we have seen hyped documents with the yellow cake. So the second thing they always do is #2: Create A Gulag, i.e., develop a secret prison system outside the rule of law, where torture takes place. And often, they will have military tribunals that strip prisoners of due process. And of course, despite the White House sound-bytes, "We don't torture, we don't torture," they are torturing people right now -- in our name, at this very moment. The reason it is so worrying to us here in Middle America, innocent American citizens that we are ... We should worry about these brown people that are being tortured on this island, not only for the moral reasons, but because would-be despots always start with people on the margins and move to the center. So in Germany, they started torturing, when torture was still illegal, anarchists, communists, homosexuals, Jews, whatever, and the Germans were fine with that, but always there is this blurring of the line, where within a very few months, or after a year and half, as in the case of Germany, they will go after people at the heart of civil society, meaning you and me, Randi, and a lot of people listening, activists, labor leaders, opposition leaders, outspoken clergy; and the evidence of this not being an exaggerated fear is that the President has claimed the right to call anyone an enemy combatant. If he says I am an enemy combatant, than I am an enemy combatant, and I can be taken to a cell and kept there in solitary confinement.

Randi Rhodes: And we know that it has happened to journalists. Recently. There is a story out there about an Associated Press journalist, a Pulitzer Prize winning photo-journalist, there was this drumbeat of "that person is a terrorist," and he has been detained by the United States, we don't know where he is, we don't know what the charges are, he doesn't know what the charges are, and simply talking about that person will get you angry letters from Gen. Petraeus' right hand guy. ... and it has been a year and a half. And because he had the audacity to question the detainment of this person, Glenn Greenwald got these crazy e-mails from .. Gen. Petraeus' public affairs officer.

Naomi Wolf: I think this is the same AP photographer whom I mention in my chapter about going after the press, Bilal Hussein, and yes, he was taking pictures of women and children who are casualties of the war, very moving and emotional pictures. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and they disappeared him. He is gone. I see what they are doing to reporters in Iraq as practice, because they are going after reporters here at home as well. For example, Greg Palast, who wrote Armed Madhouse, was investigated by the Department of Homeland Security. There is a record number of journalists in prison. Josh Wolf, a blogger, is in jail in San Francisco. There are these drumbeats, like to call Bill Keller a "traitor," and prosecute him for treason for publishing the SWIFT banking stories. Now what is so chilling about that is that if you read Stalin, it is one of those recycling moments, Stalin actually charged the publisher of Ivestia, the equivalent of the NY Times, with treason in 1936. Right-wing pundits were calling for Bill Keller to be executed. And Nikolai Bukarin was actually executed. So it is not a happy trajectory. ...

Randi Rhodes: ... This book is so well-researched, and it shows clearly that the secret to all dictatorships, to all repressive leaders, the way that they seize power is incremental and it always takes a similar route to the one we are seeing in the United States. ... Now, we are up to #3, and #3 is one of the most troubling for people to digest, although the recent news is going to make it easier ...

Naomi Wolf: ... #3: Develop A Thug Caste, i.e., a military force that is not answerable to the people. We know Blackwater has closed ties to George Bush. We know Blackwater just got a billion dollar contract to closer to home. We know that they just murdered 17 civilians in cold blood in Iraq. We know that the State Department is covering up for them. And that's a bad sign, because we know that what happens in a fascist shift, the state starts to protects its torturers and murderers. Most people don't know that the guys who work for Blackwater are hand-selected from countries like Chile, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Salvador, Nigeria -- places where the paramilitary and the military are trained to torture their own civilians. And not only that, most people do not know that Blackwater is already working with Homeland Security, patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Katrina, and Jeremy Scahill reported that contractors were firing at civilians in New Orleans, and most of us need to know that Blackwater's business plans call for expanded operations in the United States in the event of a natural disaster, or a "public emergency." And to close the circle, the 2007 Defense Authorization Act gives the President, on his say-so alone, the power to define a "public emergency," deploy either Blackwater or federalized National Guard, and tell Congress after the fact. Why is this so frightening? Why does this keep me up at night? I was in Chicago last week, and people told me, "Oh yeah, Blackwater just opened a training facility in Fremont, Illinois, right near the Mississippi River, a major waterway for the United States. ... Blackwater has been positioned along the Mexican border. ... What is on their web site? News about unruly demonstrators in New York. NOTHING stops the President from, tomorrow, sending Blackwater to taser, or worse, protesters who are "out of control" ... on the streets of your home town or mine ... And you mentioned, Randi, that all would-be dictators #4: Setup An Internal Surveillance System and aim it at ordinary citizens. Mussolini pioneered this, Hitler took over from that, Stalin perfected it, the East German Stasi made it into an art form, and you do not have to surveill most citizens, only 10% of East Germans were under surveillance, but everyone thought they had a file, so I believe that all of this information about FISA coming from the White House is messaging to us that nothing is private anymore. The reason this is so disturbing personally to me is that when you go on to an airplane now, they know what you are reading, who your seat mate is, who you are going to visit when you get off the plane, and what their phone number is. This really scares me to death personally, because for a year and a half, every time I got on a plane, I would be taken aside and given extra searching ... There is a watch list, and a no-fly list combined. The White House now says that there are almost 800,000 Americans on it, and I am on it. I was off it for a year and a half, but on my last flight from LA back to here, I was terrified because I had just been interviewing someone who had been detained in LA for five hours, and had her green card removed, and was threatened with being put in a cell and locked up, the Chairman of the Board of Greenpeace International, and I am back on the watch list, and there are critics of the administration, environmentalists, peace activists on the watch list, and are getting harassed when they fly, people like Richard Murphy, a top Constitutional scholar, who had just given a speech that was critical of Bush ... [Sen.] Ted Kennedy is on the watch list, staff at the ACLU are on the watch list ... a colonel in the military who has been critical of the Iraq war, he is on the watch list, his sixteen year old son is on the watch list, and his 83-year-old mother is on the watch list. So why is this so terrifying? It is just a hassle when they take you aside for extra checking, but in a closing society, based on the historical blueprint, and these blueprints are predictive, readers of The End of America can tell from the historical blueprint what is going to happen six months from now. Based on the historical blueprint, you could predict what happens in February, which horrifies me, which are that the borders are going to close, the way they did it in Germany and Russia, meaning in February a little noticed proviso says you are going to need apply to the government for permission to fly out of the country. And I am sorry to tell you that this is a hallmark, a turning point, a no going back point of a closing society.

Randi Rhodes: Which brings us to #5, which is harass citizens groups how small or trivial, it could be a small church in Pasadena where the minister was preaching that Jesus was in favor of peace, or it could be the ACLU ... We know that the Quakers in Florida, who simply wanted to debate whether or not the recruiters should have access to schools [were targeted]. Of course, we found out the hard way that inside of No Child Left Behind, there is a mandate that you must open your schools to recruiters. So the setup of the internal surveillance system leads right into #5: Harass Citizens' Groups, the harassment of citizens groups, and #6: Engage in Arbitrary Detention and Release -- I am so proud of you for noticing this -- I have always been sort of confused and confounded by the catch and release program that we have at Guantanimo Bay and that we had at Abu Ghraib ... We found out that the people in Abu Ghraib that had been rounded up and put in a prison that was under mortar attack, which is a big no-no in the military, but they did it, where literally released because they had done nothing; after we found out about the torture, we found out about the circumstances under which these people were rounded up, they had stolen a loaf of bread or a gallon of gas ... Same with Guantanimo ... There were rumors that there were six to eight hundred, but we are down to approximately two hundred, and they were just arbitrarily capturing and releasing people. Now what is the point of that?

Naomi Wolf: It is a really relevant question, especially now that Mukasey's nomination hinges on whether or not he is going to say it's torture, which it is, waterboarding is torture. If he does that, it is a fascinating and important moment -- because if he does say it, which he can't, but if they force him to the line of criminality goes right up to George Bush and Cheney, and they know this ... The legislation of the Military Commissions Act was designed to protect them, and their torturers, from being prosecuted. So what is the catch and release thing? You're absolutely right, most of the people in Guantanimo are innocent people who were handed over by bounty hunters for five thousand dollars ... If baffled me to, until I did the research on the purpose of torture. There are huge profits to be made from a global war on terror, a hyped global war on terror ... Basically, at the end of the Cold War, that third of the economy that made Cold War weapons was looking at declining market share unless we found a new enemy, and so these same arms manufacturers have now shifted into security technologies and surveillance technologies, and they have lobbyists, and their lobbyists are working closely with Homeland Security, and writing these laws. So, in a hyped war, where billions are at stake, you need an enemy. Torture doesn't get better intelligence. Everyone who has interrogated people knows that. Torture gets you false confessions. And I looked at the Gulag, and how the same kinds of behavior that they are using ... at Guantanimo, they took right from Stalin's Gulag: the heat and cold, the standing positions ... And there are memoirs from the Gulag that say after three days of the standing positions, we would have signed anything. So, this is designed to get false confessions. In this horrific economy, I asked myself why, given the international community hates it, and it doesn't get good intelligence, Americans don't like it that much, why is torture so mono-manically pursued by this administration? And the answer, horrifically, is that a false confession of guilt by a brown person with a Moslem name has a very high economic value, and a very high political value, right now.

Randi Rhodes: The idea that there are independent contractors, or whatever you want to call them, that are actually getting paid to do this, and the uniformed military are the ones that take the fall, they go to Leavenworth. But there are paid people in there, instructing, and the orders come from on high. That Mukasey won't say whether waterboarding is torture, and the excuse that the White House gave is that he hasn't been read into the program ... Meanwhile, we are reading articles publicly, about how beautifully it worked on Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the waterboarding ... You had supposedly CIA guys saying, "He lasted two minutes, two minutes is a long time for a waterboard guy to last." How could he take an oath to uphold the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and say,"Oh well I do not know that we do waterboard," and yet have a media reporting so widely that waterboarding worked so well with this guy.

Naomi Wolf: He can't say it. People do not understand what huge jeopardy he is putting the President in. He is really in an interesting corner. I do not think Congress really understands its power. If he acknowledges that waterboarding is torture, truly we can begin hearings -- and we should begin them now -- on criminal behavior on the part of the President, and Cheney, and right on down the chain of command. Because this came from the top.

Randi Rhodes: ...#7: Target Key Individuals ... Let's look at the parliament of Italy or the parliament of Germany, the Enabling Act and all of that. What makes Congress roll over and play dead like this? Is it that they are afraid? Is it that they have been wiretapped? Is it that they are being blackmailed? Are they being promised enormous amounts of profits? What made the Enabling Act possibly?

Naomi Wolf: Well, it seems clear from the historical record that someone in the White House has read history deeply, and reproducing tactics, because you are exactly right. What happened in 1931 to 1933 is that there was an alleged terrorist act, Communists allegedly set fire to the Reichstag, i.e., Congress. They said "Oh, my God, they have plans to blow up infrastructure, they have plans to blow up the water supply." They claimed there were all of these terrorist acts that they never had to produce the evidence for. Germans were petrified. And so, the parliament passed the Enabling Act because they didn't want to be seen as unpatriotic. And the Enabling Act is the model for the PATRIOT Act. It said, "Yes, you can open Germans mail, you can listen to their phones." It stripped Germans of civil liberties. It guts parliament of its own powers. The parliament right before Hitler became Chancellor weren't Nazis, but they were so intimidated by all of this that they gutted their own constitutional powers, which opened the door for the nightmare to come. People do not realize that Hitler did not seize power in a coup. He seized power absolutely legally. He used the law to subvert the law, exactly as we are seeing now. So what happened to Congress? It is a good question. I do argue that surveillance intimidates people, because we all have secrets. And all of them know that their bisexuality, their affairs, their addictions, their conversations with their shrinks or their accountants are all transparent now. People are very intimidated when that happens. But I would have to say with the penumbra of violence that is emanating from this administration ... They are going after people's loved ones. Valerie Plame said that the bolts were taken off her deck, which is fifty feet above ground, and she has two small children. I do not know if they have received actual threats, but their complete passivity makes one speculate, because that is something that happens in a fascist shift. The brown shirts were lining the halls of parliament, even before Hitler was Chancellor, and the same in Italy, they were intimidating legislators. But there is enough sense of recrimination, violent intimidation, people being prosecuted, people going to jail in Alabama, that even without a direct threat to one's children, people would hesitate to engage in robust democracy if one was in Congress.

Randi Rhodes: And then, of course, my favorite, #8: Control the Press. Now the press, of course, is completely corporate these days, and yet there are still some voices out there, yours and mine included. And they can never really shutdown all of the truth-telling. So one of the tactics that has been used before you institute a complete state run media system is to inundate the air waves with an inordinate amount of lies, so that people do not know the difference anymore.

Naomi Wolf: That was such an insight to me, in reading about fascism and totalitarianism, there were all these good books coming out, like Frank Rich's and Amy Goodman's, pointing out the lies of the Bush administration, but when I was reading about Stalin, and the Chinese politburo, I realized that lying has a different function in a fascist shift. A would-be fascist, and I use that term quite technically, it's when the state starts to use violence against the individual to oppose democracy, which is what we are seeing now ... In a fascist shift, the leader lies in order to confuse people, in order to flood the plain of discourse with lies, so that citizens can no longer trust their agency. That's what we are seeing now.

Randi Rhodes: And then, of course, #9: Dissent Equals Treason. I think that is self-evident to each and every person listening, that US citizens have been broadly painted as "unpatriotic," broadly painted as "traitorous" for even suggesting that we question whether or not the shifting reasons for our occupation of an unarmed nation was legitimate, we are branded as less than American, less than patriotic, less than someone who would wear the uniform and die for our country, even though many of us did wear the uniform, and would have died for our country, if we had been asked. And then there is #10: Suspend the Rule of Law, i.e., a complete suspension of the rule of law. That's pretty much "case closed," isn't it?

Naomi Wolf: Unfortunately. We are in a very dire emergency. The conclusion isn't to despair, the conclusion is to rise up. And to understand that we have very little time. But the good news is that when millions of people do rise up, even in a closing democracy, they have great power to push back and restore the rule of law. You are right to be worried, especially about #10. At the end of the book, I have got these various scenarios, based on the historical record, about things that we are likely to see in the months running up to the election. The months leading up to the election, according to the blueprint, are very unstable, Randi. And we are likely to see hyped threats, agents provocateurs (i.e., agents of the state, dressed like protesters, but intent on creating disruptions, some kind of violence, to give the police an excuse to crack down violently on protesters) ... We are likely to see increased harassment of voting rights groups. I was reading Goebbels, and that's why I wasn't surprised that the White House tried to purge the whole civil service, with the US Attorneys scandal, because that is what Goebbels did in 1933, and that is what despots imitate ever since. He purged the civil service. He focused on lawyers and judges. Then you can still have elections, but it is over, essentially, because your guys are the ones deciding. So we are in very great peril. Congress and the people are wrong in thinking we can just vote them out, because based on the historical record, it is very unlikely that we are going to have a transparent election.

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