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Bush's And Maduro's Power Grabs

25 March 2015

By Jacob G. Hornberger

The Venezuelan legislature has just granted President Nicolas Maduro’s request for emergency powers to deal with the crisis posed by President Obama’s recent decree that Venezuela poses a grave threat to U.S. “national security” and Obama’s imposition of sanctions on Venezuelan officials.

Not surprisingly, U.S. conservatives are ridiculing Maduro for exaggerating the threat posed by the U.S. national-security state and using it as an excuse for assuming extraordinary powers.

But where were those same conservatives when President Bush did the same thing after the 9/11 attacks? I’ll tell you were they were: they were doing the same thing that the Venezuelan legislature is doing — deferring to authority and letting Bush assume the same types of extraordinary powers that Maduro is now acquiring.

Well, except for one big difference. Maduro actually went to the legislature and requested the grant of emergency powers. That’s not what Bush did. He simply decreed that he now had extraordinary emergency powers. Bush’s rationale was that he and his national-security establishment were now at war against the terrorists and, therefore, that he was now a wartime commander in chief, one with totalitarian powers.

Never mind that terrorism is a federal criminal offense, and never mind that even in war the Constitution does not make the president a dictator. That didn’t matter to Bush. As far as he was concerned, the 9/11 attacks changed everything by automatically vesting him, his military, his CIA, and his NSA with dictatorial powers.

American conservatives not only went along with Bush’s power grab, they cheered it, much like Venezuelan leftists are doing today with Maduro’s power grab.

How else to describe Bush’s (and Obama’s) omnipotent power to assassinate American citizens than dictatorial? And the omnipotent power to take Americans into custody and toss them into a military dungeon or concentration camp for life? Or to torture Americans?

Ironically, Maduro called the legislative approval of his dictatorial powers an “Enabling Act.” Why is that ironic? Because that’s the term that is used to describe the Reichstag’s grant of extraordinary emergency powers to Hitler after the terrorist attack on the Reichstag.

Yes, as uncomfortable as that might make people, Hitler did what Bush and Maduro did: He used a crisis — one involving a terrorist attack — to assume extraordinary emergency powers over the citizenry.

The problem is that while foreigners can easily see what a ruler is doing when he uses a crisis to acquire dictatorial powers, his own particular citizens are unable to recognize it owing to the mindset of trust and deference to authority that the government inculcates in citizens from the time they hit the first grade in public (i.e., government) schools.

Thus, while American conservatives can see through what Maduro is doing, many Venezuelans cannot. By the same token, when Bush used 9/11 to assume his extraordinary powers, foreigners could see what he was doing but many Americans, especially conservatives, couldn’t. Foreigners could see what Hitler was doing with his Enabling Act, but average Germans were convinced that such powers were necessary to keep them safe.

American conservatives are mocking Maduro’s claim that Venezuela is under threat of a U.S. regime-change operation. Actually, however, it’s easier for Maduro to justify his fear-mongering than for Bush, Obama, the Pentagon, and the CIA to justify their fear-mongering.

Everyone knows that it’s the mission of the U.S. national-security state to engage in regime-change operations against regimes that are independent of the U.S. Empire. Latin Americans especially are well-versed in this process — Chile, Guatemala, Brazil, Nicaragua, Grenada, Panama, etcetera, etcetera.

Given Maduro’s and his predecessor Hugo Chavez’s severe critiques of U.S. foreign policy and his close ties to communist regimes in Cuba and China, there is every reason to believe that Venezuela is being made the target of a U.S. Cold War-like regime-change operation, either through sanctions (like in Cuba and Iraq), a coup (like in Chile, Guatemala, and Iran), assassination (like in Cuba), or even an invasion (like in Grenada, Panama, and Iraq).

Bush’s rationale for the assumption of dictatorial powers, however, was always ludicrous. There was never any possibility that the terrorists were going to invade, conquer, and occupy the United States and take over the IRS, the DEA, and the rest of the federal government. At worst, there might be a few terrorist attacks in retaliation for what the Empire was doing to people in the Middle East but that’s a far cry from an existential threat against the United States.

Moreover, there is no nation-state, including Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, or Vietnam, that has the money, the resources, the troops, the equipment, or the armaments — or, for that matter, the interest — to cross either the Atlantic or Pacific to carry out a successful invasion, conquest, and occupation of the United States.

In other words, at least Maduro has some degree of rationality in his fear-mongering and power grab. Bush had none and neither does Obama.

What should Americans do about Maduro’s power grab? They should ensure that the U.S. government butts out of Venezuelan affairs. And they should show Venezuela and the rest of the world how a free people respond to dictatorial power grabs on the part of their rulers. Americans should demand that Congress repeal the Patriot Act and the FISA Act and go even further by dismantling the entire Cold War-era national-security establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, and NSA.

What better way to have the world move toward freedom than to lead the way? 


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