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 Day 19

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Coronation in the Garrison State

Flags, Cops and F-16s

by MIKE WHITNEY

The Bush inauguration is designed to shock the American public into noticing the fundamental changes within the government. Like Guantanamo, it is intended to be more symbolic than substantive. The event is a means of acclimating people to the seismic shift in the basic structure of the state. The administration has taken the country from Republic to National Security State in four short years. Now, they,re determined to saturate the public consciousness with that new reality.

The presence of 4,000 fully-armed policemen, many in riot-gear, will be the first thing that most people notice. Security has never been tighter even though there’s no indication of a terrorist threat. This unnecessary show of force isn’t a sign of paranoia on the part of the administration. It’s a political calculation to discourage dissent. The excessive demonstration of power is exactly what the inauguration architects had in mind. It’s their way of saying, "Get used to it."

The same rule applies to the 2,500 military personnel who will be deployed to the streets of Washington DC. They serve the dual purpose of intimidating the public and celebrating the further militarization of the country.

The police-state transformation of the nation’s capital is astonishing. Even the manhole covers have been welded together along the Presidential parade route. No detail, however insignificant, has been ignored in "battening-down" a major metropolitan area. The armed contingents of roaming soldiers and the familiar trappings of Martial Law should remind us of ceremonials in banana republics; the apparent model for the Bush inaugural grand-opera. According to the Associated Press, the capital has readied itself, "with rooftop snipers, missile batteries, bomb-sniffing dogs, high-tech monitors and miles of metal barricades Coast Guard cutters are on duty in the Potomac River, while customs aircraft and other surveillance flights are in the skies above the city. Sophisticated sensors to detect chemical, radiological or biological material are in place," and, "Canine bomb-sniffing squads, bicycle patrols and crowd control units also are at the ready Hour by hour the city of grand buildings and marble statues disappears behind curtains of steel security fences and concrete barriers."

"Disappears behind curtains of steel?" Or, was that an Iron Curtain?

No matter, the accoutrements of despotism are forever the same; the little man with grand aspirations followed by legions of armed goons. The pageantry of militarism is unalterable; men in suits or starched uniforms waving white hankies from a lofty plateau as the missile launchers and tanks trundle by below.

Who said it can’t happen here?

In the "Garrison State" the speeches reflect the values of its leaders. We should expect another dose of Messianic braying from the Bush pulpit; more incendiary taunting of imaginary enemies, more Simian chest-pounding over fabricated victories; more saccharine praise of our valiant military. And, of course, throughout the speech, the buzz-words that arouse the Christian faithful to near frenzy; knowing that one of their own occupies the thrown.

It’s all gibberish, but the underlying factoids are quite real. The State and Corporate America have linked-together in a conjugal embrace; there’s not a hairs-breadth between the two of them. While the corporate warriors are inside lining up at the public trough, the military is busy keeping the plain-folk at bay. The essential message is hard to ignore.

Still, White House press secretary, Scott McClellan reminds us that we should try, "to enjoy and celebrate this great American traditionparticularly during the time of war that we are in."

Oh, yeah; that "great American tradition" of deploying troops on our city streets to bully and intimidate the public.

Who does McClellan think he’s kidding?

As the F-16 fighters screech overhead and the helicopters click by with there ultra-sonic sensors pointed at the people below, how many Americans will be celebrating the "Bush Mandate" with a bottle of "bubbly" and a Texas style Bar-B-Q; and how many will simply be stunned by a flag-waving spectacle reminiscent of the Munich rallies.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com