October 15, 2001
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Back in the days of bulletin boards, the forerunners of AOL chat rooms and
Internet discussion groups, someone I'd been debating wanted to nominate
me for president so that I could straighten out the country. It's
possible, of course, that he was just being just a wee bit sarcastic,
since we weren't exactly philosophical soul mates.
But I answered him anyhow. I wouldn't accept the presidency, I told him, because no president can buck the system currently in place. But, I said, I would accept one ten-year nonrenewable term as dictator.
That came to mind when Swans' publisher and co-editor, raised the post 9-11 challenge: "What would you do, concretely, if you were 'in charge'?"
In one sense, it is a foolish challenge. The ruling elite in the U.S. and yes, Virginia, there is a ruling elite have made it nearly impossible for anyone to make a serious run at the presidency who isn't already part of the inner circle. Perhaps President Carter was an exception, but he was quickly made impotent.
But as an exercise in possibilities, it is a reasonable challenge, one that might demonstrate just what is required to change things around, to turn the U.S. off the path of imperialism. Hence my stipulation that I be in charge only if I had short-term dictatorial powers.
I'd make some radical changes, starting with foreign policy and the agencies involved -- and starting with the premise that if you want to get out of a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging. If we want to live peacefully in a world full of terrorists, it's time that we stopped our own terrorism and stopped encouraging it elsewhere.
The U.S. has interfered with an amazing number of countries in the years since World War 2, with interference being everything from outright invasion, to using the CIA to help overthrow democratically elected governments, to teaching governments how to use torture to keep their populace in line, to embargos that result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, to lobbing missiles at countries we're not even at war with, to funding terrorists like bin Laden and trying to aim them at only targets we like.
All that is just a form of state-sponsored terrorism in the political lexicon; we just don't want to recognize that it applies to us.
So, first I'd stop digging.
More concretely, I would:
1) Cut the military budget by half. As this would cause major economic dislocation, the cuts would be staggered over five years. Budget priorities would be drastically altered, to slash the amount devoted to high-tech toys and increase the amount spent for the troops. And the first high-tech toy to eliminate is the ludicrous and unworkable Star Wars anti-missile system.
2) Cut in half the budgets of the spy agencies -- and limit them to spying. No more operations devoted to overthrowing governments and assassinating foreign officials.
3) Pull back nearly all of the 200,000 U.S. troops stationed around the world -- in South Korea, Germany, Japan, the Balkans, etc.
4) End the embargo of Iraq and stop sending war planes over the country.
5) Tell Israel that future aid will be dependent on progress in withdrawal from the Occupied Territories and the dismantling of settlements in Palestinian areas.
6) Use a large chunk of the $200,000,000,000 annual savings from the cutbacks in the war budget to set up a Marshall Plan style operation in conjunction with the UN to feed the world's malnourished and starving. Adopt a ten-year plan to move the millions of people stranded in refugee camps into permanent homes.
7) Work with the UN to set up an anti-terrorism program that doesn't involve unilateral attacks on countries 'suspected' of harboring 'terrorists'. Eliminating the large concentrations of desperate people in the refugee camps would do far more to eliminate terrorism than Cruise missiles.
8) Agree to work with a world court under the mantle of the UN, while keeping the protections built into American law.
On the domestic front, I would:
9) Provide real campaign financing reform by providing publicly-financed elections and curbing the power of corporations to buy candidates with legal bribery. We can't restore real democracy until we fix the campaign financing cesspool.
10) Put into place single-payer health care on the model of Social Security and Medicare.
11) Reduce taxes on the poor and middle class e.g. the Social Security tax, sales tax, etc. and increase the taxes on the rich.
12) Reinstall the anti-trust laws and regulations that helped keep corporations under reasonable control in the past.
Then I'd set up a committee even dictators need committees to consider what other reforms were needed.
Oh, and one last thing. I'd demand to see all the information the CIA and other spy agencies have been collecting on the UFO phenomena over the past 50 years. Presidents and senators have been asking about that for decades and been told they 'had no need to know'! The first spook who'd tell me that would be spending a long time in a prison cell.
Deck Deckert has spent nearly two decades as copy editor, wire editor and news editor at several metropolitan newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Miami News, before becoming a freelance writer. His articles and stories on everything from alligator farming to UFOs have appeared in numerous U.S. publications. He has written two young adult novels under a pen name, and co-authored a novel about the NATO war on Yugoslavia, Letters from the Fire, with Alma Hromic, who he met in an Internet discussion group. Deckert and Hromic subsequently married and are writing a book about their experience with Internet romance, Cyberdance.
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This Week's Internal Links
What Would You do if You Were in Charge? - by Gilles d'Aymery
Casualties Of War - by Alma A. Hromic
Sparrow - by Michael W. Stowell
I'm Against Terrorism: Now, If Only We Could Get Washington On Side - by Stephen Gowans
Preface: Bingo! Simplicity Itself; Oligarchy - by Milo Clark
Back to Basics on the Way to Going Ahead - by Milo Clark
The Presidential Speech - by Milo Clark
Afterword: Function of Failures - by Milo Clark
Suggestions for Concrete Actions - by Jeff Lindemyer
Change the Education Paradigm - by Philip Greenspan
Wisdom and Compassion Need to Become Action - by Andreas Toupadakis
The Media Marches off to War - by Deck Deckert
A Day in Kafka Land - by Alma A. Hromic
Civil Disobedience (1849) - by Henry David Thoreau
Deck Deckert on Swans
Essays published in 2001
Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath