by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH
It was an event little noted by persons other than those of us who are devoted to the American Dream of Constitutional Democracy. But it will be long remembered by the whole world, if there is a future history to record it. On Sept. 29, 2006, the Congress of the United States passed what can be termed "The US Enabling Act." It is the equivalent of the Act by the same name passed by the German Reichstag on March 23, 1933. The latter gave the German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, the power to over-ride the protections for freedom and liberty written into the German (Weimar) Constitution of the time, if he determined that so doing was necessary to protect the nation from terrorism and "actions endangering the state." It was under that Act, of course, that Hitler established his dictatorship.
The US version gives the President the power to over-ride Articles I, II, V and VI and Amendments I, IV, V, VI and VIII of the US Constitution if he determines that it is necessary to do so to protect the nation from terrorism, if a person "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States." (See, for example, "Rushing off a Cliff," New York Times Editorial, 9/28/06, "It's Mourning in America," a BuzzFlash Editorial, 9/29/06; "In Case I Disappear," William Rivers Pitt, truthout, 9/29/06.) We do not know at this time whether the long-term outcomes of the events of this week in the US will be in any way similar to those that befell the German nation and the German people, as well as the people of much of Europe, under the Hitlerites. The potential for Georgite harms of course spread much further, to the future of our species and perhaps to all the species of the Earth. What happens remains to be seen. But it will be much easier to fight the Georgites if people will begin to see the similarities between them and the Hitlerites.
A friend said to me recently, "isn't it amazing what is happening here, the drive towards fascism?" ("Fascism," its simplest terms can be defined as: unitary executive branch control of government; the abrogation of any inherent human and personal rights; the repression and then punishment of any dissent; in support of complete corporate domination of the economy. Sort of like the Cheney dream of a "Unitary Executive" in fact.)
I replied that what was amazing to me was not that a group like the Georgites were attempting it. Rather, I told him that I was amazed that there was so little awareness of the parallels between what is going on here now and the Nazi German experience (see, for example, a series of columns of mine published on the webmagazine The Political Junkies the links to which can be found at the end of every column I have published there). At least the German people could be excused in part for what happened because at that time there were no historical parallels to look back upon. There are differences, of course. Interesting among them are differences in the mode of the taking of total power in the two instances.
Hitler was appointed Chancellor by the German President, Marshall von Hindenburg, on Jan. 30, 1933. The Enabling Act was passed less than two months later. It has taken the Georgites close to six years to get similar powers. Hitler actually went through the formal process of amending the Weimar Republic's Constitution with a 2/3's vote of the German Parliament, the Reichstag. The vote was fixed a bit, to be sure. Hitler banned the large number of elected Communist Party members completely. (Most of those who had not been immediately arrested in early February, 1933 had fled Germany anyway.) Most of the Socialist members were banned or under arrest also. The Nazi members, less than an elected majority, showed up for the vote wearing their SA "Brownshirt" uniforms and the hall was surrounded by SA troopers in uniform. However, Hitler at least went through the motions of amending the Constitution. He had, after all, upon taking office promised Pres. von Hindenburg that he would respect the Constitution.
In the US, the Republican Congress, with some Democratic allies, have amended the US Constitution without bothering to go through the amendment process provided for in that document. Neither force nor the threat of force as applied to the members of Congress was necessary. Why is Bush so successful, despite the fact that (like Hitler) he has only a minority of the population behind him? There are two reasons, only. First he has the Congress. He has it in large part because of the un-Constitutional re-districting for House seats; the grand tilt to the under populated, right-wing states in the Senate caused by the two-seat formula; and the Rovian Grand Theft Election machine (active in Congressional as well as Presidential elections). But he has it. Second he has his vast Privatized Ministry of Propaganda. It's a contemporary Orwellian World, as so eloquently pointed out by my friend Michael Carmichael in his essay "Ignorance is Strength" (The Planetary Movement.org, 9/26/06).
So for the Georgites, facts don't matter, even as they come spilling out in ever more horrifying detail (e.g., the National Intelligence Estimate, the testimony of an increasing number of US generals about Iraq, the on-going Katrina disaster, the new Woodward book). Consider once again the Nazi German experience. Between the conclusions of the battles of El Alamein in November, 1942 and Stalingrad in January, 1943, Nazi Germany had lost the war and the General Staff knew it. The German people were getting their kishkas bombed out from that time on to the end. Yet Hitler remained in power and in January 1945, with the Soviet Army moving steadily across Eastern Europe, his Rove-model Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels was telling the German people that Hitler was still going to win. And his internal terror system (the Gestapo, et al), enabled by his original Enabling Act, remained in place. Facts mean nothing when you've got the world's most powerful propaganda machine broadcasting your message to your own people, you have no effective political opposition, and you've got an over-arching internal terror machine that was originally created by seemingly legal means.
The Georgites are in control of the governmental levers of power. They may well right now be planning how to keep hold of them after Jan. 20, 2009. If now is not the time to mobilize political action, beginning with a takeover of the Democratic Party, I don't know when that will be.
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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) a weekly Contributing Author for The Political Junkies (www.thepoliticaljunkies.net) and a Columnist for BuzzFlash.