The Bullet We Dodged:
How Close Did We Come to Martial Law?

The scariest costume worn to my door this past Halloween was a tiny Sarah Palin outfit. This was a week after the real Palin went on record in an NBC interview arguing that those who would bomb healthcare facilities that provided abortions weren’t necessarily “terrorists.” No tykes ever showed up at our doors pining for Hershey bars dressed as “pro-life” doctor killer James Kopp. That would be in bad taste, even on Halloween. But Palin? Sure. Why not? Most folks were just not aware that the woman soon to be considered for the position of stand-in for the oldest incoming president in history had just went on record legitimizing the bullet or the bomb as a legit alternative to the democratic process. Or maybe she was just too much of a moron to know what she was saying. Either way, the real specter of a McCain/Palin administration made this the scariest Halloween of my life. As a nation, we were about to possibly fall, or get pushed, into an abyss.

John McCain

A few days later, on Election Day, I finished teaching class, like I always do on Tuesdays, by bidding my students farewell and telling them I’d see them on Thursday. But as the words rolled off my tongue, I hesitated. I didn’t really know if indeed I would see them on Thursday, or if the nation would be locked down under martial law by then. It was a crap shoot. Would Election Day bring a sigh of relief or a curfew?

I didn’t mention my trepidation to many people for fear of sounding neurotic. But the people to whome I did voice my concern, folks from various walks of life, rather than jokingly suggest that maybe someone needed to adjust my medication, instead nodded along, adding their own twists on possible doomsday what-ifs.

My fears were based on what are now well-documented “voter caging” operations that were in the process of disenfranchising up to six million voters in over a dozen states, building on efforts that are documented to have proven successful in catapulting George W. Bush to victory in 2000 and 2004. Then there is the still ongoing investigation of electronic electoral fraud which appears to have stolen Ohio’s electoral votes from John Kerry in 2004. Karl Rove’s IT consultant, Mike Connell, who worked with the Bush campaign in 2004 and was under contract with the McCain/Palin campaign this year, was just compelled by a federal judge to answer questions on November 3, the day before the election, in a voter rights lawsuit concerning the alleged theft of the 2004 Ohio presidential election. Connell is a shady, Matrix sort of dude who has an uncanny knack for showing up on the scene at contested computerized elections. Legal observers are currently speculating that Connell’s testimony could lead to a RICO indictment of Rove for his role in stealing the 2004 election. This is big stuff.

A perfect storm was brewing at the beginning of this month. Both the Republicans and Democrats were joining the corporate media in praising Bush for working with both parties pre-planning a smooth and speedy presidential transition. Reports indicated that Bush might install key members of the president-elect’s cabinet as early as November 5. That sounded good—Bush uncharacteristicly working in a spirit of cooperation. But if the outcome of the election had been contested on November 5, Bush’s quick appointment of McCain/Palin cabinet members would have given legitimacy to a claimed McCain/Palin win, just as the baseless premature election night call by Fox News declaring Bush the winner of the 2000 election gave the Republicans perceived legitimacy as winners, framing the Gore campaign as challengers rather than winners. That call was made by Bush’s first cousin, John Ellis, who was running election night coverage for Fox.

Central to this year’s storm was Bush’s September order to redeploy the US Third Infantry’s First Brigade combat force from Iraq, to serve on call in the United States “homeland” theater of operations. The force, which the military refers to as a Consequence Management Response Force, started arriving stateside on October 1, a month before the election, ready to armor up, jump in their Humvees, and, um, manage consequences, whatever they might be.

Put all the pieces together and this was how election night could have shaped up. Picture a close election. A lot closer than anyone predicted—again. Lots of people show up at the polls but don’t appear on the voter rolls. Others give up after waiting on line for hours. Both these things actually happened this year, but the consequences were negated by Barack Obama’s decisive win. Picture instead McCain and Palin squeaking through with a razor-thin upset victory, helped by anomalous surges in a few heavily populated Florida and Ohio municipalities.

Now, despite Gore rolling over in 2000 and Kerry rolling over again in 2004, picture “Yes, we can” Obama, backed by an energized electorate, standing up tall in 2008 and crying foul. Picture supporters, who we actually saw pour out into the streets and onto college campuses celebrating on election night, instead come out to express their outrage at what they suspected to be yet another stolen election. They’re met by the US Third Infantry’s First Brigade and dozens of federalized National Guard battalions. On November 5, Bush quickly moves to solidify the coup by beginning early appointments of the McCain/Palin cabinet, in the interest of “restoring stability during an economic and civil crisis.” As a last act in office, Bush does the hatchet work for his party, declaring an indefinite “state of emergency” while “restoring order.”

I know this article is starting to read like a poorly written cousin to Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or Orwell’s 1984, but nothing whatsoever about this scenario is fiction. This is how the ducks were lined up on November 3. This is the bullet we dodged. This is how history will remember this election.

This is also why people from across the political spectrum who followed all of these stories were anxious on Election Day. In the end, I think the enormity of this whole fascist juggernaut frightened even its own shady architects, since even they must have realized that nothing short of martial law would have allowed this election to be stolen. And I have a hunch that McCain wouldn’t go along with this treasonous insanity. At the end of the night on November 4, Palin’s motorcade took her to the airport, where she boarded the private McCain/Palin jet for Alaska. McCain just slipped away, got into his Toyota, and drove himself home. Enough was enough.

I think there are two reasons why Democrats never raised the issue of electoral fraud during the campaign. First, the issue is hard to digest and frankly seems a bit nutty. It could be political suicide to raise such an issue. And second, if people believed that the election was fixed, that belief would foster apathy, resignation to an outcome that was already ordained—which in fact it wasn’t. Investigators who warned about these possible scenarios, people such as the BBC’s Greg Palast and New York University’s Mark Crispin Miller, argued to the contrary, that the threat of election fraud made it even more imperative for people to come out and participate, since only a landslide and an overwhelming show of support for the Obama/Biden ticket could overwhelm a gamed system.

It seems that’s what we got. The system was overwhelmed not only by Obama voters and the “hope” that they brought to the polls, but by well organized election protection organizations and an army of vigilant poll watchers and lawyers. If this election was going to be stolen, the theft would be extraordinarily well documented. Hence, a McCain/Palin administration, should it actually have emerged from the chaos with a grip on the White House, would never have had any legitimacy. Likewise, a month of chaos and martial law would have destroyed what’s left of the US economy and our standing in the world.

If this election had been stolen, there might well have been something akin to Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, the spontaneous nonviolent uprising in the Ukraine after the November 2004 theft of that nation’s election. There was both fear of electoral theft and a buzz like none I have ever heard. People—all sorts of people—with no specific plan other than to vent their anger and assert their patriotism, were ready to take to the streets if the election went awry. There were going to be a quarter of a million people in Chicago’s Grant Park no matter the outcome that night. November 4, 2008 was destined to go down in history, no matter what.

I can safelvy write that, with this election, a long nightmare has finally ended. Hopefully the age of preemptive war, indefinite and preventative detention, and warrantless surveillance is behind us. But even if this dark chapter of history is over, it can’t be forgotten just because it’s convenient to forget that which is too disturbing to confront.

There were no real consequences to Watergate, despite evidence of a presidential conspiracy to undermine our democracy. Hence, the same faces reemerged a decade later to engineer the Reagan administration’s illegal Contra war against Nicaragua, funded by arms sales to Iran and illicit drug sales in the US. Again, there was a crime, and despite a few token felony convictions, there were no real consequences for those who engineered the crimes. Hence, once again, the same criminal crew, the same faces, were back cooking the intelligence to justify the Iraq War in 2001 and 2002. If there had been justice after Watergate, Nicaragua wouldn’t have had to suffer the Contra War, and if there had been justice after the Iran-Contra scandal, we might not currently be occupying Iraq. If you don’t confront your history, it repeats itself.

This brings us to the task at hand. As this outlaw administration finally surrenders the White House, we need to restore the rule of law by investigating and documenting crimes against the American Constitution, the American people, and our American values by the outgoing government. The only way we can confront a culture of lies is to unconditionally embrace the truth, no matter where it leads us. As a nation we need to learn what has been happening to us—why we’re at war, where our national wealth has gone, how our environment was plundered, and so on. The past is never behind us. We’ll relive it over and over until we confront it. A spirit of reconciliation shouldn’t demand amnesia. We can have a spirit of bipartisanship that respects different points of view, but nowhere does bipartisanship say we should ignore crimes against our nation—especially when they came so close to sinking us as a democracy.

Back in March I hoped that one day we’d be beyond Bush, writing that after Bush is gone, the first step will be to “restore the reign of truth—to return meaning to language and return credibility to government.” This, I wrote, could be done with “a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” More than 30 countries have convened such commissions, from South Africa and Rwanda to East Timor. Back then I wrote, “Only with truth reestablished can a nation have reconciliation, and with its history in order, move forward into the future.” Today, maybe against most odds, we are about to emerge from underneath one of the biggest threats and ugliest stains our struggling democracy has faced. At this historic juncture, let’s not fail future generations by failing to confront the ugly reality of our recent history. It’s bad enough we’re leaving them an economic and environmental deficit to pay off. Let’s not leave them to contend with yet another reemergence of this anti-democratic movement.


ęCopyright 2008

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