Failed State of U.S. Democracy

Minneapolis demonstration during jury selection in trial of George Floyd's killer, April 19, 2021 as people continued to fight for their own interests and demand accountability.

While U.S. President Joe Biden organized a Summit for Democracy in Washington, DC on December 9-10, 2021, close to 100 former high-ranking U.S. national security officials sent a letter to Congress -- not to the President who is Commander-in-Chief or to the Summit for Democracy, but to Congress -- to express their concerns about the state of the U.S. democracy.

Biden organized the Summit to bring together "leaders from more than 100 governments alongside activists, trade unionists, and other members of civil society, leading experts and researchers, and representatives from the business community," to "lock arms and reaffirm our shared commitment to make our democracies better," as he put it. These included various organizations and individuals the U.S. is already funding and backing internationally, such as the Community of Democracies and groups like the Young African Leaders Initiative and Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. What have always been called non-governmental organizations are now called civil society organizations (CSOs). The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a major health care union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) were also present, among others.

At the Summit Biden put forward his Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, which involves establishing various organizational forms that serve to bring all these forces together, both nationally and internationally. They are organizational forms that essentially serve to bypass and replace existing authorities and standards, such as those enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the UN itself, while putting decision-making power in the hands of the U.S. presidency. The Initiative itself is called "a significant, targeted expansion of U.S. government efforts to defend, sustain, and grow democratic resilience with like-minded governmental and non-governmental partners." It is backed by an initial $424.4 million, with the State Department and its U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) playing a main role.

Meanwhile, the people signing the letter sent to Congress include those from the military, intelligence, and the diplomatic corps who have served Democrat and Republican administrations and/or administrations of both parties. While their letter focuses on elections, they are far more concerned about making sure privileged elites remain in power and the people are kept out on the basis of peaceful transitions of power. They seek to make sure peaceful transitions are not in jeopardy.

The letter begins: "We write to express our alarm at ongoing efforts to destabilize and subvert our elections... We believe these efforts are profoundly damaging to our national security."

Two of the more influential signers, both former Air Force Generals, James R. Clapper and Michael Hayden, also published an op-ed in the Washington Post. Clapper and Hayden express the legitimacy problem of the rulers and their preoccupation with defeat. They write: "Poll after poll shows declining trust in our elections and declining belief in the concept of democracy... and these effects will not be contained to our borders... A society struggling to separate fact from fiction is the perfect environment for these actors to further erode electoral trust and kick democracy into a death spiral."

They continue with fear of U.S. decline on the world stage. "The once-high regard for American democracy is in steep decline, and with it America's global influence and moral authority," they write.

Given that the majority of the people in the U.S. are armed, many with military training, the letter writers also fear that the civil war they speak of could turn into one where it is the people who rise and fight in their own interests.

These forces recognize the connection between civil war and imperialist war. One can give rise to the other. In the past, the U.S. has used the tactic of launching an imperialist war to unite the contending factions and prevent civil war. But the latest such wars against Iraq and Afghanistan, besides others such as Libya, Yemen and Syria, have not achieved that aim. The conditions of disequilibrium brought on by the retreat of revolution have deepened. This disequilibrium set in when the former Soviet Union collapsed and the domination of the world by two superpowers ended along with it. The striving of powerful private interests which have usurped the states of various countries goes hand in hand with their inability to sort out their conflicts on a peaceful basis. Anarchy and violence have been raised to the position of authority revealing the need for democratic political renewal but this need is not what Biden and others in the U.S. are addressing.

The inability of the current institutions to sort out conflicts was further evident on December 17 when yet another public stand was taken by three retired Army Generals shortly after Biden's Democracy Summit. They openly spoke of the likelihood of violent civil war in a Washington Post opinion piece where they reference the January 6, 2021 Trump coup attempt and say they are "increasingly concerned about the aftermath of the 2024 presidential election and the potential for lethal chaos inside our military, which would put all Americans at severe risk."

"We are chilled to our bones at the thought of a coup succeeding next time," the three retired Army Generals wrote. They outlined a scenario of a contested election and divided loyalties within the military, with rogue units armed and taking action and arms that "might not be secured depending on who was overseeing them. Under such a scenario, it is not outlandish to say a military breakdown could lead to civil war."

"The potential for a total breakdown of the chain of command along partisan lines -- from the top of the chain to squad level -- is significant should another insurrection occur," the retired Army Generals write.

As a means to solve these problems, the Generals say "the Defense Department should war-game the next potential post-election insurrection or coup attempt to identify weak spots. It must then conduct a top-down debrief of its findings and begin putting in place safeguards to prevent breakdowns not just in the military, but also in any agency that works hand in hand with the military." "The military cannot wait for elected officials to act," the generals said.

The irony of asking a divided military to conduct and oversee war games to avoid civil war seems to escape these Army Generals. The call to "war-game" the situation is a call to prepare for civil war, one which includes targeting and removing what the Generals refer to as "propagandists" within the military's ranks. Despite their facts concerning divided loyalties already existing, they also propose having the Pentagon reinforce "unity of command" to make "perfectly clear to every member of the Defense Department whom they answer to," and have a "review of the laws of war and how to identify and deal with illegal orders."

It is a dictatorial call to concentrate powers. Given that the U.S. wages illegal aggressive wars and relies on illegal orders, including illegal drone strikes, what the Generals plan to implement is not clear, logical or convincing. Nonetheless, while the proposals are irrational in the context of the divided loyalties that exist as part of the vicious battles for power within the military and between the military and president, they are significant in so far as they reflect the very real threat of embroiling the people in violent civil war, and the very real possibility of U.S. military and policing forces dividing not only at the federal level but between states and the federal government. This is also evident in how the National Guard is being used. The National Guard is under the authority of the Governor of each state. They are, however, part of the armed forces and can be federalized by the president, in which case they come under presidential control. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, could not have been fought without use of the National Guard.

Governors can nonetheless refuse to comply with federalizing the National Guard under their command and they can also call the Guard into action themselves. For example, the Texas National Guard is being used by the Governor at the border against refugees and immigrants coming into the country. Florida and South Dakota sent their Guard to Texas to assist. Federal troops also remain at the border. And there are the armed Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) forces as well. One wonders if Biden has kept the military there in part to contend with the Texas National Guard, as well as to potentially launch attacks against Mexico. The border, like the elections, is another potential trigger for both civil war and imperialist war.

In another example, Biden has mandated that all military forces get vaccinated for COVID. The Governors of Oklahoma, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska and Wyoming are contesting this, saying the National Guard of each state is under the command of the Governors, not the President, until and unless they are federalized. Brigadier General Thomas Mancino, the commanding general of the Oklahoma National Guard, refused the order from President Biden mandating vaccinations, saying his commander is the Governor.

This open defiance of the role of the President as Commander-in-Chief is further indication of the degree to which the divisions among the vying factions are reaching a point of open, violent civil war. And all consider the 2024 elections a likely time-frame, something now being promoted by academics and the monopoly media as well.

Retired or not, the military is not supposed to openly challenge the Commander-in-Chief nor make their concerns public. The fact that this has become the norm, such as when various supposedly public servants publicly lined up behind either Clinton or Trump in the 2016 election, or when the 124 military forces publicly supported Trump's claims that the election was not legitimate in 2020, is an indication that the U.S. state machinery is no longer a single machinery, but is splintering and dividing and does not answer to a single authority.

Clearly the democratic institutions with their elections are no longer able to resolve the conflicts among the contending forces. Further, given that the private interests which have taken over the powers of the state are global, talk of representing a "national interest" no longer jives with the reality. Contending forces are in a vicious fight to claim their faction represents the "national interest" and their rivals are committing treason. Indeed, the more these divisions and lack of "unity of command" intensify, the more difficult it becomes to speak of a United States in any sense of the name.

(Photos: VOR, T. Webster)

This article was published in

Volume 52 Number 1 - January 9, 2022

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