Wither Congress, Wither America?
Crushing Congressional Dissent: The Fall of Hilliard, Barr and McKinney
by Wayne Madsen*
22 Aug 2002: Historians will one day write that the 107th Congress was the last to stand up to the constitutional encroachment by the military and monarchist policies of the Bush II administration. Just as with the Roman Senate, the Congress of the United States is becoming an elite club of pathetic assenters and global elitists. Once the domain of great orators and dissenters like Cato and Cicero, the Roman Senate was eventually subsumed by the Roman Army when the Emperor took on dictatorial powers. The Roman Senate could say nothing as the Roman dictatorship annexed Macedonia, Spain, Greece, the Middle East, and North Africa. By the time Emperors Tiberius and Septimius Severus took power, the Senate, which had grown to an elite club of 600, was a rubber stamp body that had no choice but to go along with the military's continued usurpation of power.
The United States Congress stands on the same precipice as its Roman ancestor. If Bush pulls another electoral coup in 2004 and we see the presidential election thrown into the House of Representatives, the future for the country appears very dim.
The August 20 defeat of two Georgia Representatives, one Democrat, the other Republican, is a bellwether event that bodes ill for this November's elections. Rep. Cynthia McKinney was successfully challenged by a Republican-turned-Democrat for her Fourth District seat. Before a cleverly contrived political operation was launched under the aegis of Georgia's other quasi-Republican, Senator Zell Miller, no one outside of Georgia had ever heard of former state judge Denise Majette, a self-described supporter of fringe lunatic GOP presidential candidate Alan Keyes in 2000. Majette will join in Congress fellow Ivy Leaguer Artur Davis, who beat Alabama Democratic Representative Earl Hilliard in that state's primary because of the latter's outspoken support for a more even-handed Middle East policy. Hilliard and McKinney join a long list of politicians who were defeated after advocating an independent U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East: Senators Charles Percy, James Abourezk, James Abdnor, and J. William Fulbright, and Representatives Paul Findley and Paul McCloskey. The careers of Adlai Stevenson and William Scranton were similarly ended after they supported a Middle East policy less tied to the interests of Israel. Only Michigan's veteran Representative John Dingell was able to stave off a recent assault from the powerful American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) in a match off with fellow Representative Lynn Rivers in a redrawn congressional district.
However, Dingell's National Rifle Association ally, Georgia Representative Bob Barr, was not as fortunate. Barr was also a target of Miller's political operation. An opponent of the more draconian elements in Bush's and John Ashcroft's USA-PATRIOT Act and Homeland Security Department bill, Barr was a target of opportunity for the extreme right that favors turning the United States into a version of East Germany or North Korea. Moreover, Barr's chairmanship of the House Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law gave him real gavel power to block Bush and Ashcroft on critical civil liberties and privacy infringements, a power Barr has not hesitated to wield. And after supporting Steve Forbes in the 2000 GOP primary, Barr did not fit into Bush's binary and simplistic world: "If you're not with me, you're against me." Therefore, Miller, who, according to a former aide, is targeting fellow Senator Max Cleland and Georgia Governor Roy Barnes for defeat by conservative Republicans, figured out that if Barr supporters in Gwinnett County, which straddles McKinney's Fourth District and Barr's Seventh District, could be coaxed into crossing over party lines and voting for Majette, it would kill two birds with one stone. Barr would lose votes to his opponent John Linder and McKinney would get trounced by Majette in a low turnout (25 per cent) election with a high GOP crossover vote. The gambit paid off. McKinney and Barr were both defeated handily, McKinney with the help of 25,000 crossover votes. Of course, the fact that people not authorized to vote in the Fourth District may have voted anyway would fall into the category of election fraud. But after the Florida debacle, the Ashcroft Justice Department sees such electoral machinations as a way to remain in power a la any totalitarian regime parading around before the world as a democracy.
That McKinney and Barr were on the same neo-conservative hit list was exemplified on August 21 by a second-tier conservative radio talk show host in Washington, DC. Speaking on WTNT-AM, Oral Roberts University graduate, Pat Buchanan political adviser, and Tom DeLay-style Republican talk show host Michael Graham said it was great news that two "kooks" had been beaten in Georgia. He then stated he was talking about "Cynthia McKinney and her photo negative twin, Bob Barr." The statement was clearly racist in nature and a not-so-veiled reference, through a warped attempt at humor, to Barr's long rumored African-American heritage. But for the extreme right that dominates the GOP, such incendiary ethnophobic comments are the rule and not the exception.
McKinney had incurred the wrath of the White House by her question about what George W. Bush knew in advance about the September 11 terrorist attacks. But that was only the tip of the iceberg for the Republicans and their major campaign contributors. While it true that McKinney has championed the cause of Palestinian statehood and self-determination, thus inviting the enmity of major Jewish organizations in the United States, it was her long-time opposition to the trade of blood diamonds and other strategic minerals in Africa that earned her a major challenge from multinational corporations, including Barrick Gold, on whose board President Bush's father serves as an international adviser. Among its other misdeeds, Barrick has been accused of helping to cover up the 1996 burying alive by one of its subsidiaries of over 50 Tanzanian gold miners in Bulyanhulu, in the northwest part of the country. Of course, when it comes to the lives and welfare of non-white people, the Bushes have never really held any soft spot, whether they are blacks in Africa or America's inner cities, Afghan or Iraqi children, or even a troubled half-Hispanic daughter/niece/granddaughter in Florida.
McKinney long advocated a halt in the pilferage of blood diamonds out of African war zones. She cited, on numerous occasions, the result of such commerce: the hacked off limbs, hands, and ears of small children in Sierra Leone; the permanent crippling from land mines of children in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and over 2.5 million deaths from civil wars in the DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi. The diamond profiteers from this mayhem and death are largely the Hasidic diamond dealers of Antwerp, Amsterdam, New York, and Tel Aviv. These dealers and their lobbyists often circled in and out of House hearing rooms and McKinney's office when issues relating to stemming the flow of ill-gotten African diamonds came up for discussion. These diamond merchants also have a powerful ally in long-time Democratic Party fundraiser and diamond cartel magnate Maurice Tempelsman.
The 108th Congress, lacking the consciousness of Cynthia McKinney and the skepticism of Bob Barr, will be a far more dangerous place. I have had the pleasure of working and knowing both of them over the years - fighting battles, in the case of McKinney, against U.S. human rights offenses in Africa and elsewhere and in the case of Barr, against rampant U.S. government surveillance of the private lives and activities of American citizens. The next Congress will be full of complacent African-American parlor servants like Majette and Davis, dangerous extreme rightists like former cockroach exterminator DeLay and former sportscaster J. D. Hayworth of Arizona, pitiful morons like Florida's former Secretary of State and chief election rigger Katherine Harris, Republican moles and sleepers like Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman, and Democratic spineless amoebas like Richard Gephardt and Tom Daschle. They will stand ready to back Bush's military campaigns into Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, Colombia, or wherever Bush's economic interests are at stake. The country stands on the brink of disaster. But we cannot count on the future Congress to save us. Lacking a spine or any guts, it will surely help to bury us.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington-based investigative journalist. He testified before Cynthia McKinney's hearing on the genocide in the DRC in May 2001 and has worked with Bob Barr on privacy legislation in the past. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth.
Madsen can be reached at: WMadsen777aol.com