Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dry Run for Dictatorship

The always-interesting and informative Jen Clark has a new post up about Pervez Musharraf's seizure of power in Pakistan. She notes that Mushy's declaration of "emergency rule" bears a troubling resemblance to George W. Bush's National Security Presidential Directive 51, which calls for the Executive Branch to take control the functions of federal, state, and all other territories in the United States if the Decider-in-Chief decides that the country is in a state of "catastrophic emergency". She further notes BushCo's seeming indifference to the fact that their second-favorite partner in the Glorious War on Terra has just set himself up as an absolute dictator, suspending that country's constitution, shutting down independent media, and arresting thousands of dissidents. Could this, Jen speculates, be a dry run for a similar seizure of power by the Commander Guy if it looks like the Dems are going to win the 2008 presidential election? (Would it be irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to speculate!)

The 20-something Jen wouldn't remember some interesting stuff that happened in the early 1970s, but I do, so I think I'll share. Back in 1972, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos was nearing the end of his second (and legally last) term of office. Even though the country was generally peaceful, there was a sudden spate of political terrorism in the summer. Marcos responded by declaring a state of martial law on September 21 (secretly at first; he didn't actually announce that the country was under martial law until two days later). The military seized control of the media and various opponents (actual and potential, real and imaginary) of the regime were arrested. Elections were suspended.

At the time, the Philippines was the USA's closest ally in that part of the world, and formed an essential component of the military organization that had been built up to carry on the war in Vietnam. So, what was US President Richard Nixon's response to such a vital ally suddenly becoming a dictatorship? Pretty much identical to Bush's response to Pakistan. In fact, given how important the Philippines were, it's pretty much inconceivable that Marcos could have seized absolute power without Nixon's complicity.

If the Watergate scandal hadn't intervened, would Marcos' seizure of power have served as a model for Tricky Dick as his own second term came to a close in 1976? It would be irresponsible not to speculate.

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