Welcome Andrew Kolin, and Host Marjorie Cohn.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. -bev]

State Power and Democracy: Before and During the Presidency of George W. Bush

Marjorie Cohn, Host:

This compelling book traces the history of the assault on democracy and the rise of a police state that reached its zenith in the George W. Bush administration. From the war on communism, to the war on labor, to the war terrorism, our government has used surveillance, preventive detention, torture, and a climate of fear to consolidate its power and neutralize dissent. Under the guise of nurturing democracy at home and abroad, the U.S. government has actually undermined it.

After the American Revolution, members of the economic and political elites believed that America had become “too democratic,” especially on the state level. After the Constitution was adopted, they set out to diminish mass democracy through state repression.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw state repression against organized labor, especially against labor-socialist parties and organizations. Unions, socialists and communists were perceived as political outsiders who had formed an alliance with an external threat, which led to the adoption of emergency measures.

U.S. exceptionalism has led to empire-building. Throughout much of the 19th century, this took the form of genocide against Native Americans and the exploitation of the labor of African-Americans. Slavery became increasingly important to the economy and to the expansion of state power. American Indians and slaves were the earliest groups defined by the government as political outsiders.

Domestic unrest in the United States was considered to be the work of foreigners, so laws targeted non-citizens. The Alien and Sedition Acts, Foreign Agents Registration Acts, Alien Registration Act, and Internal Security Act were enacted to outlaw unorthodox political thought and alternative viewpoints.

The red scare was a response to an increasingly progressive labor movement that stressed economic democracy. The House Un-American Activities Committee linked the New Deal to Communism. The government used the Cold War to identify the Soviet Union as a threat to global democracy.

As assertions of executive power have increased, presidents have become more and more willing to work outside the law. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the FBI engaged in surveillance of political outsiders. By the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War, state repression accelerated during the Truman administration with the passage of the National Security Act and the growth of the CIA.

Cointelpro paved the way for a police state, targeting the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, the New Left, the Puerto Rican independence movement and the American Indian Movement.

Beginning in the 1950s, the CIA used a clandestine torture program through MKULTRA. This provided the basis for the Bush administration’s later program of torture and abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody.

Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese-Americans targeted outsiders identified as an internal and external threat. As mass democracy was being crushed in the U.S., the United States became a major colonizer. The government, through the CIA, formed alliances with dictatorships to help suppress democracy and dissent overseas as well. The Reagan doctrine supported repressive right-wing military dictatorships in Guatemala, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Mozambique, Angola and El Salvador.

The military industrial complex was based on the premise of permanent war-making. As the arms race accelerated during the Cold War, the United States established military bases throughout the world.

Kolin calls Watergate “a dress rehearsal for a police state,” where political repression was extended to the Nixon administration’s internal enemies.

A permanent state of emergency has led to preventive detention, a “hallmark of a police state,” where people are held in custody without criminal charges against them. The so-called war on terrorism was used during the Bush administration to justify an ongoing state of emergency. As Kolin points out, “in the name of national security, all state actions are justified.”

The American police state developed as the government tried to establish a link between internal and external terrorist threats in times of national emergency. Policies during the Clinton administration laid the groundwork for the Bush administration’s “war on terror” and the transformation into a police state.

As the Bush administration violated international law, extreme secrecy was essential to cover up the government’s criminal behavior. For example, they manufactured reasons for going to war, which led to the commission of war crimes, including a policy of torture.

“In Iraq and Afghanistan, the administration created a system of rule based on detention and interrogation, the justification for which was to confront these ‘aliens’ identified as terrorists,” Kolin writes. The system of extraordinary rendition globalized the police state.

“The so-called war on terrorism would end what remained of democracy in America,” according to Kolin. The Patriot Act blurs the line between criminal and terrorist acts, and undermines the right to engage in political dissent. The 2006 Military Commissions Act attempted to eliminate habeas corpus for Guantánamo detainees until the Supreme Court stepped in and declared that to be unconstitutional. And Bush’s Terrorist Surveillance Program expanded domestic spying by partnering with corporate telecoms.

The book ends in the early days of the Obama presidency, when Kolin predicts that the American police state will be modified, but not eliminated.

Indeed, Obama has discontinued Bush’s policy of “enhanced interrogation techniques” – aka torture and abuse. But Obama signed an executive order legalizing indefinite detentions, and has stepped up illegal targeted assassinations – of Osama bin Laden – and his unmanned drone attacks against “suspected terrorists” have killed untold numbers of civilians. Obama has also gone beyond the Bush administration by reserving the right to assassinate U.S. citizens. And Obama refuses to allow the investigation and prosecution of Bush officials and lawyers who developed and carried out the policy of torture and abuse.

Throughout U.S. history, there has been a tug-of-war between the rise of political movements and the assault on democracy, the latter often reacting to the former. The rise of the Right has resulted in the repression of progressive movements. The book traces different forms of resistance, including the Abolitionist and Feminist movements. State repression of organized labor generally occurred during time of economic downturn.

Andrew Kolin is Professor of Political Science at Hilbert College. His books include The Ethical Foundations of Hume’s Theory of Politics, One Family: Before and During the Holocaust, and State Structure and Genocide.

117 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Andrew Kolin, State Power and Democracy: Before and During the Presidency of George W. Bush”

BevW May 15th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Andrew, Welcome to the Lake.

Marjorie, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

hello to all and thank you for giving me this opportunity to discuss my book.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Thank you and welcome.

Andrew: What has been the ongoing conflict over the course of US history between state power and democracy?

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Throughout the course of US history, the ongoing conflict has been between the enlargement of state power in terms of seeking to control people and territory, which placed the US government at odds with mass democracy.

bluewombat May 15th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Jeeze, another book I have to add to my political reading list.

Is the thesis of your book that we had democracy before Bush and state power afterwards?

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:03 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 4

How did state power grow at the expense of democracy in America?

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Great question. the answer is no. If you were to examine closely the state of affairs after the American Revolution, in terms of the transition from the Articles of Confederation to the US constitution, the shift was motivated by a fear on the part of political elites of mass democracy. Throughout the 19th to the 20th and now 21st century, the US government has used political repression against various mass based movements that took democracy seriously in terms of including the excluded. Without getting into all the specifics, by the second decade of the 20th century, there was the formation of anti democratic federal agencies, such as the FBI, who in the name of anti-Communism, was seeking to instill political mass conformity.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

What social movements opposed this trend and how did the government react to them?

BevW May 15th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

As a technical note, there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Pressing the “Reply” will pre-fill the commenter name and number you are replying to and helps everyone in following the conversation.

(Note: If you’ve had to refresh your browser, Reply may not work correctly unless you wait for the page to complete loading)

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:09 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 6

In addition, looking back at the goals of US government, the hostility to democracy is rooted in the drive toward empire-building. As of 1896, with the close of the frontier, North America for all intents and purposes, was conquered. Empire building continued outside N. America with the Spanish American war and empire building continues up to the present time.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:12 pm

How has the government used immigrants as scapegoats in times of economic crisis?

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:14 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 10

Whose interests does empire-building serve, and if it’s the corporations, why does the government continue to engage in it?

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:15 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 8

The social movements that opposed this trend were a mixture of reformist and more radical ones; reformist movements such as feminism, and those seeking to organize labor into unions. In addition, there were more radical socialist and labor groups such as the IWW. The response by state power to the reformists was two fold: one, initial repression and then co-optation. As for the socialists and communists and radical groups, the repression was swift and violent. What is essential not to overlook is that from early on, the repression was justified as necessary to confront “political outsiders.” In part, through the passage of oppressive measures from the Alien Sedition acts to the Patriot Act.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 11

As I said in the previous comment, immigrants are the quintessential political outsiders and a convenient scapegoat as well as central to a divide and conquer strategy, creating an us-versus-them mentality. At the same time, the hypocrisy of such policy is evident in that immigrants throughout US history have been the source of cheap labor.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

What created the foundation for the emerging police state?

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 2:18 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 10

In addition to your two profoundly correct comments, if you toss in campaigns of genocide, slavery, and a legal system devoted primarily to protecting wealth, power, and privilege, then you’ve summed up much of American history, Andrew.,

So, has the bush “change” been one, mainly, of accelerated “degree”?

The “unitary executive” had it serious beginnings with the use of atomic weaponry during WWII and the National Security Act of 1947 enshrined the sacred nature of “necessary” secrecy.

Good to have you here, Andrew.

And thanks to you, Marjorie, for hosting this salon.


Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:20 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 12

If empire building has any function at all, ultimately, it serves the needs of capitalism. For the political elites, they are serving the interests of a social system based on acquiring new markets. So what we have is the classic confrontation between the interests of the few versus the interests of the many.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:25 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 16

Many thanks for your comments. Much of what you mention is discussed at length in my book. Post 9/11 America made it possible for the Bush administration to build on past precedent, for as I argue in the book, a police state which developed full blown after 9/11 was the result of many factors, such as the concentration of power in the executive branch, the near elimination of mass democracy, and yes the development after WWII of the national security state. a component of the national security state, the military industrial complex, has put in place a policy of permanent warmaking and with it, the need to identify enemies to confront first communism then terrorism. What is most troubling is that in the pretext of confronting communism and terrorism, the goal is to ultimately create political conformity, for the US government did not stop with the persecution of communists and terrorists, but went after almost only viewpoint that differed from the official government position.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:26 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 16

Hi DW,
It’s interesting that John Yoo, author of the most egregious torture memos, introduced the “unitary executive” into Bush’s signing statements, whereby the president has control over the entire executive branch. E.g., if the president doesn’t like an agency Congress has created it, he can disband it.

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

How did democracy beat back the police state in the past? Any hope for that looking ahead? O seems worse than W. Saw a headline a couple of days ago that O reserves the right to censor USG material that is not even classified.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:27 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 15

Very simply, the foundation of an American police state developed as the conflict of an empire at odds with the ideals of having a democracy. Looking at US history up to the present, it becomes clear that there cannot be an empire which coexists with democracy. So, government policy has been to suppress democracy at home and overseas.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

What are the characteristics of an American police state?

Tammany Tiger May 15th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Let me tell you a story: At Yearly Kos in 2007, all but one of the presidential candidates appeared at a forum. The co-moderator asked the candidates what they would do about the growth of Executive Branch power, and added that it was the question most frequently asked by Daily Kos members. With the exception of John Edwards, whose credibility later came under a cloud, the candidates fell over one another trying not to give a straight answer. That performance spoke volumes.

Bottom line: Obama and the other leading Democrats had no problem with George W. Bush’s arrogation of power to the presidency. They did, however, have a problem with someone other than themselves having that power.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 20

Interesting comment. I will try to get to the heart of the matter. As I discussed in my book, the path toward a police state was not a direct one, but characterized by various historical twists and turns. Over the course of US history, political repression ebbed and flowed. The red scare gave way to the actual legalization of the communist party in the 1920s. We see in part the protest movements of the late 1950s and 1960s was a response to the extremism of Mccarthyism. But, most important, in spite of what I call this ebb and flow, certain measures were being put in place which would eventually lead to the police state. For example, as stated earlier, the formation of a national security state and anti democratic federal agencies, such as the FBI and CIA. In summary, by Bush 2, the police state was waiting for an opportunistic moment to come to fruition.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 23

Thanks for this comment. Democratic and Republican administrations and the current Democratic one will not give up the power they have acquired. So for all of Obama’s campaign rhetoric, once in office, he was not about to give up the extraordinary illegal powers he acquired from the Bush administration. To arrive at the current police state, as I argue in my book, it has a bipartisan effort.

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 2:34 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 18

As a side note, Andrew, it is interesting to note that Eisenhower originally entitled his “concern”, “The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex”, yet political “correctness” and ruffled feathers “edited” the title so successfully than many historians, today, are not familiar with this re-writing.


Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:37 pm

What are some of the parallels between the war on communism and the war on terrorism?

Tammany Tiger May 15th, 2011 at 2:37 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 19

Doesn’t the idea of a unitary executive go farther back than Yoo? I seem to recall that both the unitary executive and signing statements (another species of Executive Branch power grab) were floated by Federalist Society types in the Reagan Justice Department.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:38 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 28

Yes, but John Yoo introduced it into Bush’s signing statements. Presidents before Bush used signing statements but not close to the extent he did. Signing statements are added by a president when he signs a bill; they generally say that he reserves the right not to follow all of what Congress has enacted in the bill.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 22

I will cover the essentials: Overall, a police state is a state within a state. As we see after 9/11, the essence of a police state unfolds with the proclamation made on 9/14/2001 and which Obama continued on Sept. 10, 2009 that the nation is in a state of national emergency. The foundation of a police state begins with this. With a state of national emergency, for all intents and purposes, the constitution and the bill of rights are discarded. As a result, we have another element appearing, which is the elimination of habeas corpus. With it, another characteristic is put in place, that of preventive detention. In the absence of law, wholesale torture is state policy. With such concentration of power in one part of the government, for the most part, the Bush and Obama administrations have been quite effective in eliminating the role of the courts. Other characteristics are an ongoing state of permanent war, a government which engages in excessive secrecy in order to mask its criminal deeds.

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 23

Spot on, tammany.

‘Tis the stripe of tiger-truth you state. However, the “leaders” of both parties happily share and share alike … the political class (which includes the media) has much to answer for … from its aristocratic beginnings to its slavish regard of obscene wealth and those “astutes” whom claim the wisdom and the power of gods.


Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:42 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 26

Yes, Eisenhower also referred in his famous speech to America becoming a “garrison state” which it is now. From the time of Eisenhower to the Obama administration, congress has been playing more or less, follow the leader. Presidents as you know, wage war without the consent of Congress. Democrats and Republican presidents merely have to state a threat and congress goes along and supports it. Once again, a precondition for the police state was the shift in power from Congress to the president, especially in matters of foreign policy and the use of force.

Tammany Tiger May 15th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 29

Many thanks, Marjorie, for setting the proverbial record straight.

What amazes me is that legal theories that were considered straight out of fantasyland when I was in law school (have become at least semi-mainstream as the country has moved to the right. One of the craziest ones I remember was stripping the federal courts of jurisdiction over certain issues. It came up, of course, after several pitchers of beer on a Saturday night at a campus bar.

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 2:44 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 27

The war on drugs was the shift to the concept of endless war, before that time, the general public and university communities would have risen aghast at the very notion of perpetual war, Marjorie,

The smaller war, a “moral war” was necessary to establish both the rectitude and the legality of never-ending and ever more violent “response”.


Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:44 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 30

Yes but remember that it was the Supreme Court that put the brakes on the Bush administration during the “war on terror.” In Hamdi, the Court said a US citizen captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan is entitled to due process. In Rasul, the Court shot down Bush’s claim that US courts had no jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions because Guantanamo is part of Cuba. In Hamdan, the Court struck down Bush’s original military commissions because they violated the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. And in Boumediene, the Court said Congress could not deny Guantanamo detainees habeas corpus by amending the habeas statute in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (which Bush rammed through Congress like he rammed through the Patriot Act and the Iraq War). But in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, the Roberts Court upheld the material support to terrorism statute and said people could be criminally prosecuted for aiding a group on the US terror list even if they donate to peaceful causes of that group.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:44 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 28

Yes, it goes back as far as Abraham Lincoln, when presidents in a time of national emergency assume extraordinary powers. As I’m sure you’re aware, Lincoln was the first president in a time of war to suspend the right of habeas corpus. Overall, through empire building, within North America, and then overseas, power would continue to shift to where it is now, with the executive branch.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 35

While I agree with your interpretation of these court cases, the essential problem is that the Bush and Obama administrations operating in secret have found inventive ways to get around Supreme Court rulings, for example, the Military Commissions Act. Bottom line, US courts do not have a final say on whether or not there should be prosecutions for alleged illegality on the Bush and Obama administrations for such actions as torture.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:52 pm

It is true that Obama has refused to allow prosecutions of Bush official and lawyers for the torture regime. So that, under the theory of universal jurisdiction, other countries will eventually bring these war criminals to justice (torture is a war crime under the Geneva Convention and the US War Crimes Act). There was a case pending against 6 of Bush’s legal mercenaries in Spain. But that has been dropped because of Obama’s non-responsive answer to Spain’s question about whether they would face justice here. Evidently much political pressure was applied by Obama on the Spanish government. But eventually, justice will be done abroad (one would hope).

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:55 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 27

This would take some time to explain. I go into detail about this in my book that if there is a unifying idea between the actions against communists and terrorists it is the depiction of what I term political outsiders who are used to justify extremist policies against not just so called communists and terrorists but non communists and non terrorists, the ultimate goal being political conformity. Overall, the repressive measures put in place are identical, only the “names” have been changed from communists to terrorists. But by 9/11, the Bush administration believing there is a combined internal/external threat, put in place what I define as a police state.

RevBev May 15th, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Since this is all such scary stuff…does your book tell us what we need to be doing? I had thought the Sup Ct case giving us W was the true undoing.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:56 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 38

I agree for this reason alone: because bush administration officials are very reluctant to travel overseas in part because they do not want to be subject to what happened to Pinochet.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 2:56 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 39

How has the American police state acted outside the law since 9/11?

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 2:56 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 37

This is the crux of the means by which the judicial “branch” is neutered.

The “law”, as “interepted” by such as Yoo or Rotunda, is used to destroy the rule of law … and the legal profession in general, but the judiciary in particular, seem unwilling or unable to recognize very clear patterns of deceit and usurpation which daily undermine civil society.

And too often, the judicary mumble something about deference, but Bush v. Gore was essentially the death knell of the rule of law … the precedent which wasn’t.


Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to RevBev @ 40

Interesting point in that a case can be made that in some ways, the 2000 election helped put in place a police state because that election was fixed. If there is hope, by and large, without attempting to prophesize when and how, police states do eventually become dysfunctional. The key question is as this police state becomes more dysfunctional, will the masses be able to seize the initiative?

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:00 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 24

So how/why did the communist party get legalized? Who organized to do it?

P.S. I got news for the police state. The U.S. economy can no longer run without the U.S. consumer, now around 70% of the economy. One of these cycles (maybe even this one if there’s a serious double dip), the U.S. consumer is running out of wherewithal to spend. Then the economy is in for some serious retrenching which will not support the police state, although I suppose it would still be possible that the top 1% could continue to increase their share of a shrinking pie.

AdamPDX May 15th, 2011 at 3:01 pm

The “right to bear arms” was the actually the right to arm yourself to put down slave rebellions.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 43

Allow me to answer in this way: As discussed in my book, one event that helped pave the way for the eventual police state was Watergate, which I call a dress rehearsal for the police state. Certainly, there was cause for optimism with the Church Committee hearings exposing the criminality of the administration. But again, as discussed in my book, the reform that came out of the Church Committee that actually made a police state more possible was the creation of the FISA court, which for the first time, made government surveillance legal. Then, president after president sought to reassert their power post-Watergate in domestic and foreign policy.

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:02 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 32

WRT Libya, prez doesn’t even need to tell anyone anything to get the U.S. into war. O looking at the 60-day limit (or whatever the # of days is) by stopping (i.e. temporarily halting operations) then starting the calendar over & over again as a way of keeping congress out of the loop altogether.

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:04 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 47

creation of the FISA court

Aha! I’d never put that together with Watergate before. (One can’t know everything that’s obvious.)

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 45

In part, the legalization of the Communist party was the relaxation of the tension of the red scare. As I argue in the book, by the end of WWII, with the Cold War and the second Red Scare, for all intents and purposes was once again persecuted. Keep in mind the pattern: the government was not content with so called communists, which were in the 50s very few in number, it was to target all political nonconformists; hence, the McCarren Internal Security Act.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 3:06 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 47

True, and FISA established a secret court that approved nearly all executive requests for surveillance. But that wasn’t enough for Bush. His Terrorist Surveillance Program went way beyond FISA, requiring no judicial oversight. And Congress later legitimized the TSP, including giving immunity to the telecoms that conspired with the Bush government to spy on us (Then-Senator Obama voted for the bill, by the way).

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:08 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 48

It is very simple. Post-Watergate, all Republican or Democratic presidents have to do is declare a foreign policy crisis and congress goes along. One interesting exception in 1982 was the passage of the Boland Amendment, but the Reagan administration found a way around that. From that time forward, congress played follow the leader.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:09 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 51

Yes I couldn’t agree more. What I discuss is the growth of what I term a police state culture in which Americans are not just made to be fearful but to accept as normal surveillance in all their daily activities. Yes the granting of immunity to the telecoms is further evidence that the secrecy necessary to have a police state continues.

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 44

The masses are confused, deliberately so.

Both education and the media, the fourth estate, have failed … by design and intent, to fulfill their obligation to “the people”.

Without coherent understanding, hoi paloi will NOT be able to imagine that they, themselves, must choose, must insist, and must be willing to “lead”, with their own bodies, their own wits and their own conscience.

Your book is but a part of the Great Educational Outreach which must continue … for “success”, as you well know, comes one mind and one heart at a time.

A serious concern of mine is that by the time “the people” of America have grasped what has happened, what has been done, the rest of the world’s people will have had more than “enough’ of our wars, our droning, our torture, and our hubris, and decided to do something about it.

The people of this nation may well be on the receiving end of WAR before they comprehend that all of the terror, for that IS what we are “about” has been done in the name OF the people, in THEIR name. It is the people who will be held to international account.

Of course, in our “exceptionalism” such things cannot happen here …

Which myth-es the point.


RevBev May 15th, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Does the book set out remedy, solution, hope? As you say, we have been on this slippery slope for years, and 9/11 just made everyone go along.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:14 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 54

My understanding which is a hopeful one, is that the American people are far more progressive than the political elites who are in power. Americans want the US to leave Afghanistan and Iraq, they want healthcare for all, they are supportive of Social security, etc. What is the crux of the matter, as far as I am concerned, is for the American people to overcome their sense of helplessness and to, in a word, organize. this is obviously a challenging task but one must expect the unexpected, consider recent events in the Middle East. Oppressive regimes when they seem at their strongest may be at their weakest.

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:15 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 52

IIRC Reagan didn’t find a way around Boland but simply violated it with no consequences. Do I have that wrong?

Some on FDL, sometimes even me, look for international accountability for U.S. prez on torture and other war crimes. But more realistically, Spanish judge who was leader on this is now under legal assault himself.

And more generally, with the demise of communism, there is no left left anywhere in the western world. So Europe is also becoming more rightwing with a lag to the U.S.

Any comments, perspective?

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:16 pm
In response to RevBev @ 55

Please see my respone to DWBartoo. I would add that what is possible is a combination of dysfunction or structural breakdown with an upsurge of mass democracy. There are a few hopeful signs such as in the labor protests in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 3:16 pm

What are some of the policies in the Obama administration that exemplify an ongoing police state?

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:17 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 56

How do peeps organize after Citizens United. Financial nut against real peeps is just too huge, I think.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:19 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 57

Regarding Boland, when I said “a way around it” I meant, yes he violated it.

Spain is not the only country looking into violations of international law by the Bush administration.

As for the left in the Western world, one must wait and see what could happen over the ever-increasing protests in Europe in particular, France, over the efforts to destroy the social welfare state. One must also distinguish between short term, knee jerk responses that seem unprogressive and what can happen in the long run. Remember, there was at first widespread support for the vietnam War and the war in Iraq.

RevBev May 15th, 2011 at 3:20 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 58

Thanks….would you say if, during the election, you envisioned that Obama would give us more of Bush? That is often a theme on these pages.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 3:20 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 60

There is some legislation that could minimize the effects of CU, for example, forcing disclosure of who donates the money. But with the Repubs controlling the House, this is unlikely right now. The key is to give people more information, like Andrew’s book and FDL, etc.

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 3:20 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 47

Again, you nail it precisely, Andrew. The effort is concerted, long-term, and most definitely “bi” or “buy” -partisan, for it is the larger, extra- national alliance of government and corporate “interest” that drives the “reason” for the desire of such concentrated power, as power alone is not sufficient to the end design of world domination. America is merely the most successful example at the moment and long-term resource-hegemony by the anonymous well-protected few, the ultimate elites is the goal.

Both Obama and Bush were game.

As will be the next “players” …


Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 59

There are many! I will summarize: consider HR968, the Detainee Security Act of 2011. The President could be given the ability to permanently wage war without constitutional approval. According to HR 968, there would be the continued use of military commissions without access to Article 111. Also the Detainee Act would make Guantanamo permanent; persons charged with a terrorist offense would be held in military custody; in addition the US would be able to wage permanent war against unnamed and foreign forces. Also, the Obama administration continues the practice of extraordinary rendition. Obama has made use of the extrajudicial execution of US and non US citizens, a violation of a number of international agreements; expansion of warrentless spying, ongoing FBI infiltration and raids of organizations nationwide; support for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act; pressure on foreign governments not to prosecute Bush administration officials; aggressive persecution of whistleblowers along with the preventive detention of Bradley Manning, to name a few.

tjbs May 15th, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Torture/ Murder / Treason can’t have one without the other, you know.

Where are KSM kids anyway ????

Can they watch their Dad’s “trial”???

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:25 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 64

Once again, there is cause for cautious optimism as to the limits of maintaining an empire. The US is having increasing difficulty imposing its will on latin America and China; also, the cost of maintaining an empire cannot be sustained. This by itself is yet another reason why the American people may yet rise up as the infrastructure continues to crumble, the economy continues its tailspin, etc.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:28 pm
In response to RevBev @ 62

In a word, yes. Simply based on past historical precedent. I had no reason to believe Obama in spite of some loft campaign rhetoric would make any significant rollback of Bush administration police state policies. Obama became like his predecessors, interested in holding onto the new powers he acquired and in fulfilling the wishes of the financial backers who bankrolled his election, banks, insurance companies, etc.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 3:29 pm

And Obama signed executive orders legalizing preventive detention and the assassination of US citizens (even Bush didn’t do that). Bradley Manning has been charged with crimes, so it’s not preventive detention, but has been tortured (solitary confinement can lead to hallucinations, catatonia, suicide) and subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment (stripped naked in front of other inmates). All of the treatment violates US and international law. Obama has also continued Bush’s claim of state secrets privilege to prevent civil litigation of torture and extraordinary rendition claims.

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:31 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 61

Well, Libya seems to have been a Sarkosy scheme, partly owing to his pique over Gaddafi cancelling contracts, and partly owing to Sark’s need for a quick victory for reelection. Expat (think Chalaby) whispering in his ear.


We’ll soon see if French have any more balls than U.S.ians.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:31 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 69

Just one thing: what I found most disturbing about the treatment of Bradley Manning was that his being charged and the change in his treatment came only in response to Obama being embarrassed publicly. His detention also preceded the charges.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 3:31 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 69

But after 300 law profs signed a letter complaining about Manning’s treatment, he was moved to Kansas, where he is being treated better. So pressure does work.

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 3:32 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 56

Basically, my hopes are in argeement, but watching the celebration over bin Laden’s extra-legal murder and the economic conditions which pit individual against individual and devil take the hindmost, coupled with the “belief” that those who are out of work somehow deserve that fate in the old puritan ethic view, does give me pause.

In time, as things become quickly far worse, understanding, at the surface will come, but unless a deeper understanding of the necessity of such things as the rule of law might sink in, I think the demagogues may yet make sport.

Ultimately, people will rise to their humanity, but it may take more than we can now imagine.

That said, the conversation, today is far further along than it was fifty years ago when I first started to listen and consider.

It is time, coupled to courage, tolerance, and understanding which we all must “spend”.

(Actually time is really all that any of us ever really “have” to spend.)


Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:34 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 70

There is a certain amount of political hypocrisy in how the US got involved in Libya. One motive, which I believe is a longterm one, is to perhaps lead to a US military presence in the region in order to quell the popular uprisings. Also, the US has taken no action against its other ally, Bahrain, becasue of the US naval presence there. Up until the overthrow of Mubarak, the Obama administration continued support for his regime until it was obvious he was going to be pushed out of power.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 3:36 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 74

Yes, but the Libyan invasion (which goes beyond the Security Council resolution in that Bush, Cameron and Sarkozy are calling for regime change) was justified by the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine – enshrined in no treaty and not a norm of customary international law. It’s the new kindler, gentler face of neo-colonial intervention.

Dearie May 15th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

DW@73: I don’t think the general populace of Germany “rose to their humanity” under Hitler, and at this point I cannot imagine general American populace rising, either. I suspect things are going to get way worse.

At least with VietNam there were pictures and dead kids (some even the dead of the well to do) that sparked a backlash. In the current “war(s)” everything is kept off the radar and relatively ‘polite.’

I just read Krakauer’s book about Pat Tillman, and I weep. Most Americans haven’t got a freakin’ clue.

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 74

Yes, I noticed the U.S. distinguishing among countries and waffling when U.S. dictator de jour was under pressure.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 75

Yes but for me the question is, when and where will the US decide to intervene? Intervention is for the purpose of furthering and or protecting US interests in a region.

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 75

Huh? What international law? The one that the U.S. ignores at the drop of a hat? The one that was enacted by U.S. puppets like NATO, U.N., Arab League?

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 75

Which will translate smoothly, domestically, into a neo-fuedalism premised upon the Divine Right of Money, which is equally “understood” right behind “greed is good” … especially considering that corporations are “people” too. (Which IS enshrined in law and convention, just ask SCOTUS.)


mzchief May 15th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 78

“US interests” seems mostly a euphemism for multinational corporate interests that happen to be doing business in the US.

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 78

Simple As to simple Qs. U.S. will intervene when it think it can succeed in forcing its will.

2 As to most Qs: BC it can & bc it has to. U.S. intervened in Libya bc it could.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 78

Correct. Which is why the US will veto any Security Council resolution that would authorize a no-fly-zone over Gaza (which the Arab League also proposed). I really thought Bush would invade Iran but that didn’t happen. France and the UN are bombing Ivory Coast, which is one of the world’s largest coffee growers, used to be a French colony, and hundreds of French troops are stationed there. But the US didn’t join in.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to Dearie @ 76

Except that for the most part, the typical German in Nazi Germany was not enthusiastic or supportive about the regime. The German example may not be applicable to America in that in the case of America, change will not be imposed from without. To the extent that change may be imposed from without, as I stated earlier, it will be as nations continue as they have been, to break free from American control and dominance. I believe the key issue, if I may prophesize, and which will be the basis of my future research, is the struggle for economic democracy. One cannot have political democracy in the absence of economic democracy. What I mean is that without worker control of the workplace, political decisions will continue to be made by an economic elite.

RevBev May 15th, 2011 at 3:44 pm
In response to Dearie @ 76

The movie does that too…in that way you can’t believe what our people do. Brings the sickening home into that family.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to mzchief @ 81

Yes, I agree as stated earlier. But in order to maintain such corporate control, an authoritarian state which suppresses democracy at home and overseas, is essential.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 79

I understand your frustration but NATO and the Arab League did not create international law. We should be pressing to uphold IL, which includes the UN Charter, Convention against Torture, Race Convention, Women’s Convention, International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, etc.

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:46 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 82

Keep in mind this is becoming increasingly difficult as the world becomes more diverse and independent from US control.

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 84

So U.S. peeps have to rely on nutcases like Hugo Chavez? Why do I find no comfort in that?

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to Dearie @ 76

I’m actually talking species, here, Dearie, hoi paloi in the States might have to be sacrificed on the altar of conscience and the inability to control themselves …

Americans cherish comfort above all things but complacency.

However, it is a foolish people who believe that all tomorrows will be just like the sunny and rosey today, even if those people “believe” that they are God’s chosen and exceptional.

Anerica and Germany share many conceits and even more assumptions.

Who are the “good” Americans?

How will we know them and what will history, if such a thing obtains, remember and say of them?


eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:48 pm
In response to Marjorie Cohn @ 87


Who is that “we” you refer to?

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 3:49 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 91

You, me, and all of us who care about protecting human rights.

RevBev May 15th, 2011 at 3:49 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 84

And I have a creepy fear that that is the basis for our schools being so under attack and allowed to rot….so the people are not just barefoot and pregnant, but also stupid. I am very concerned about our education system; maybe that can be another spot where the folks will fight back.

nonpartisanliberal May 15th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

…a police state that reached its zenith in the George W. Bush administration.

Not very prescient, is it?

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 89

Briefly, the question is not whether or not we like someone like a Hugo Chavez but Venezuela, being a major oil producer, perhaps should have the right to go its own way, without American pressure to get access to its oil. Again, the key issue as I see it, is for America to abandon the maintenance of an empire. It can be done. It has been done. Look at England.

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
In response to RevBev @ 93

Yeppers. Part & parcel of police state is dumbing down of peeps.

nonpartisanliberal May 15th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Anyone: How much net worth do I need to have to earn a spot in the oligarchy? How much will I need to give to politicians each year to have any influence?

BevW May 15th, 2011 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this interesting Book Salon,

Andrew, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending your afternoon with us discussing your new book and State Power.

Marjorie, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Andrew’s website and book

Marjorie’s website and books

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

We shouldn’t want to have to earn a spot in the oligarchy since they will not accept us as members. The real political challenge will be to form a politics that is not tied to the one party system with two branches: Democrat, Republican.

mzchief May 15th, 2011 at 3:54 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 88

Keep in mind this is becoming increasingly difficult as the world becomes more diverse and independent from US control.

I’m seeing it happen in my lifetime. The fact of the advancement of the BRICs and PIIGs have a lot to do with this as mentioned before including the important development of the election of the first indigenous president of Bolivia.

Thank you, Andrew, Marjorie and salon attendees for another great discussion!

eCAHNomics May 15th, 2011 at 3:55 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 95

England lost WWI badly in the sense of U.S. pulling its potatoes out the fire, allowing U.K. time to recover.

What financial setback has U.S. suffered that is in any sense commensurate with the cost of WWI to U.K?

And even so, what country would pull U.S. potatoes out the fire? The owners of U.S. debt, like China, India? Maybe the Saudis. Oh joy. U.S. empire saved by Saudis, who have reached peak oil if you agree with Simmons analysis.

RevBev May 15th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Thank you for so much information and clarity….you did a great job.

Marjorie Cohn May 15th, 2011 at 3:55 pm
In response to BevW @ 98

Thank you, Andrew, for a provocative book, and to all of you bloggers for this important conversation. Let’s continue it….

Best regards,

Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Many thanks to all for all the thoughtful and challenging questions. And thank you Bev for your help and thank you Marjorie–it was an honor to have you moderating this discussion of my book.


Andrew Kolin May 15th, 2011 at 4:00 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 101

The collapse of the English empire, in part, made it possible for England to focus attention internally and create something lacking in the US, which is a right of all. As for the United States, the endless warmaking with its enormous domestic cost, will in all likelihood, force it to give up empire building.

mzchief May 15th, 2011 at 4:04 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 105

It is high time to make peace with and even restitution to the indigenous people that were mowed over in the process of creating and expanding the US empire.

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 4:08 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 84

So you do not imagine that change will be forced upon us?

How long do you imagine that we may continue our warlike ways?

The money and power elite are convinced they’ve safe haven beyond our shores, even the Bush family.

The people of the US are hostage to an elite who regard others as their playthings – even as the President of the IMF reminds us.

The mask has slipped from the face of US “leadership” and revealed the ever-grinning face of death beneath.

The elites will not stop until they’ve plundered and pillaged to their hearts’ content, stealing everything that is not welded to the floor, they care not a whit what happens, in any way, to the nation OR the little people who reside here.

Until and unless the people of this nation recognize their common plight, they will have insufficient solidarity of understanding or of purpose to successfully rise to challenge the elite, an elite who will not hesitate, in the least, to order the people gunned down.

THAT is what I consider we are facing. The elites own the law and the economy, they control the police and the military and have, already, plans to incarcerate huge sections of the populace if significant “disquiet” is detected.

The people are, presently, disorganized and lack empathy and understanding, while the end of the one and beginnings of those other things is evident, it is only the beginning, and subject to many pitfalls, not the least of which are clever semantic evasion and intellectual hubris among those who should know better.


DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 4:13 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 95

Ah, thank you, Andrew and Marjorie.

A most excellent book salon.

I hope that you both may return whenever your time may permit.

Many thanks, Bev, for the many stimulating and informative salons.


Tammany Tiger May 15th, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Anyone: How much net worth do I need to have to earn a spot in the oligarchy?

That question would have been easier to answer in the Roman Republic. There was an official called a censor, who determined which citizens had enough money to qualify for membership in the Senate, and where in the pecking order of voters a man’s net worth placed him. The censor could also boot out senators for immoral conduct but from what I’ve read, the bar was awfully damn low.

RevBev May 15th, 2011 at 4:15 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 107

I do not know how long you have known most of this; obviously the mess and its factors are clearer, it seems to me. But I find it very helpful to see all this spelled out; what a good discussion.

RevBev May 15th, 2011 at 4:16 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 109

And of course, God forbid that you be a woman….;)

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 4:22 pm
In response to RevBev @ 110

I agree, RevBev, and here’s to many more (or a sufficient number) of these good and great discussions.

It is such discussions that shape the compelling narratives with which others may come to realize and grasp truth, and, as well, those things necessary to true civil society and, thus, sustainable and conducive to the maximazation of the potential and humanity of all.

That is not a dream, it is dire necessity, if life is survive and thrive, on this planet, this paradise.


DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 4:24 pm
In response to RevBev @ 111

Well, unless you were Livia, the wife and mother of “gods”, who bent them all to her will and wiles …


RevBev May 15th, 2011 at 4:33 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 113

Well, nice name for a token….

DWBartoo May 15th, 2011 at 5:06 pm
In response to RevBev @ 114

Livia was not a token, RevBev, she was a “holy” terror and the true tyrannt behind the throne. Several of them.

In other news, the world has not changed all that much from Roman days regarding the plight and position of women …

Of course, then and now, most men do not strut ’round as kings … regardless of what certin louts might assume is their due.


nonpartisanliberal May 15th, 2011 at 6:11 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 109

If we went to that system, it would have the following advantages:

1. It would streamline the process by getting rid of the middlemen (politicians).
2. We wouldn’t have to spend money on elections.
3. It would create a job (the censor).
4. It would remove the delusion that government works for the people and your vote is important.

Thank you for your response.

nonpartisanliberal May 15th, 2011 at 6:14 pm
In response to Andrew Kolin @ 99

Would they let me in if I made a lot of money and lost all my scruples?

Congratulations on the publication of your book and please forgive my cynicism. Though I think the police state has yet to reach its zenith.

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post