A Most Public Coup Plot
By Terrell E. Arnold

On April 12, 1945, the President of the United States died. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had started his fourth term as President only weeks earlier, was succeeded by Harry Truman, who had been Vice President less than three months and had spent little of that time with Roosevelt, because FDR was away at Yalta much of the time. It is possible that Murphy's Law could have arranged for a less experienced new President at a time when the United States was at war in Europe and the Pacific. But the main thrust of America 's war effort, along with key domestic policies, did not falter, and in short order Truman made very hard decisions including use of atomic weapons against Japan, terms of the Japanese surrender, and the startup of recovery in Europe.
In the years since World War the United States has faced potentially severe leadership crises with the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the resignation of Richard Nixon a decade later. But the ship of state did not flounder, because experienced people, who understood how our system works, and who worked within our system of laws and practices, were able to take over the helm.
Nothing in world or national history, not wars or rumors of wars, or attacks on Americans have challenged the stability of our system since the Nixon fiasco. Except that now we appear to have an administration that is looking for ways to stay in power after its lawful term expires.
The groundwork for this is a series of moves toward a soft coup, "soft", because the intent is to continue in power without the use of force. According to Newsweek, Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, has been tasked to find a rationale for postponing the Presidential election in November. That is a step obviously based on Tom Ridge's close ties to George W. Bush, because Homeland Security has no mandate to make, interpret or enforce election laws. Homeland Security can, however, obtain, discover, or even invent a scenario that Bush could use for such purposes, and given the information management record of this administration, Ridge could find himself under unbearable pressure to do that.
Ridge's first step, if he pursues this assignment, would be to publish a statement of enhanced terrorist risk, perhaps to put the country on long-term orange alert. The next step would be to issue a threat statement, however arrived at, predicting that the United States will be subject to a major terrorist attack before, during or immediately after the election. The threatened attack would be unspecified as to perpetrators, timing, target, location, or means, because a scenario with who, where, when, why, what, how details would make it only an incident to be managed. Even so, Osama bin Laden and al Qaida surely will be the villains of choice. The scheme would be for the Bush team to publicize that position, assert that an election could not be held under conditions of such potential nationwide stress, therefore the election should be delayed beyond a period when, presumably, selection of leadership and the handoff to new leaders would be most in process and most subject to disruption.
The final step would be to get a compliant Congress, the only entity that can fix or change the date of a Federal election, to codify the scheme. Congressional action may take longer than remaining session time would allow this year, but such action is not impossible, especially if Bush were to press for it.
Just like that! Present leadership could remain in power. Elections could be indefinitely postponed, because the threat would hang over us indefinitely. The country would be truly under un-elected leadership for whatever period the Bush team could keep this ball rolling. There will never have been a more public, or softer, coup d'etat.
Quite aside from the obvious objection to any tinkering with a system that has worked well for more than two centuries, there are several problems with this scheme.
Problem one is the scheme is unnecessary. Under our system, a national, regional or local disaster could disrupt polling, but the process, and such emergency decisions respecting changes of time and venue are the responsibility of state and local-mainly county-- officials. For elections to occur, plans must be made months in advance, changes are not easily managed, and schedules should be kept unless there is a compelling reason, one that prevents voters and officials from getting to the polls. The risk of a terrorist attack in some location should not alter the nationwide system, granting that a publicized risk may well reduce voting.
Problem two is a workable system for assuring continuity of government has been in existence for a long time, and that system is designed specifically to deal with crisis disruption and/or loss of leadership. The lines of succession developed for such a scenario are established and agreed, implementation is virtually automatic, and the roster of candidate leaders is such that experienced politicians will take over. The country does not face loss of leadership in any situations short of the end of the world catastrophic scenarios that were the focus of exercises during the Cold War. One of the primary missions of Homeland Security must be to assure that the operating systems to support continuity of government plans are current, well staffed, and properly coordinated across department and agency lines. Creating a trigger to start this system, however, was never previously in the cards.
Problem three is that the scheme plays into the hands of the terrorists. What would be the terrorist goal? Regime change? If that were the case, the choice between Bush and Kerry on Middle East policy appears, to say the least, limited. However, any American President will go after anyone who attacks our country, so the gain for the terrorists appears illusory, no matter who gets selected, or whose swearing in gets disrupted. .
Much has been made of the regime change that occurred in Spain following terrorist bombings. However, the link is by no means assured, especially because the losing candidate, Asnar, was not a shoo-in before the bombings. Moreover, for many years Spain has had attacks on leading political figures, many of them fatal, of wholly indigenous origin, mainly works of the Basque Fatherland and Liberty movement. So asserting that outside terrorists pulled off a regime change in Spain, and one that, incidentally, did them little good, is a stretch.
Problem four is the opportunity such a scheme gives the terrorist to play with the minds of the American people. In a regime of established readiness to postpone elections when threatened, the terrorists have the ball. All they need to do is threaten, and the United States will give a suitably Pavlov's dog response. In that case, the threat itself need be the only attack. This is no risk, maximum gain for the terrorists: A disrupted America, squirming under the possible threat of a dirty bomb in some unknown place.
Problem five is this scheme looks like another playing of the fear card. Many critics suggest that the national terrorism alert system run by Homeland Security has been used excessively to maintain a state of fear that causes the public to huddle under Bush leadership. It is tempting in the run-up to the election to play the fear card and underscore the Bush role as a wartime President. The only way the Bush team can avoid a charge that the game is fear mongering is to treat all threat information-terrorism, war, natural or manmade disaster-with complete detachment and integrity. That has yet to happen, and that fact surely makes any proposal to tinker with the election very suspect.
Problem six is how long does this interregnum last? Does the country defer elections until the war on terrorism is won? If so, our country is in deep trouble. Terrorism is one symptom of complex political, economic, social, and cultural problems in many countries, including the United States. The treatments for this symptom are responsive political, economic, social, and cultural remedies, supported by law enforcement. War-making strategies and tactics cannot defeat it, because they never address its causes, and armies of all sizes are too bulky to deal with lone terrorists or small groups. Given those conditions, normal governance could be suspended forever, an outcome that might well please extremists.
The final problem is whom do we trust? The Bush team has shown itself eminently capable of lying or stumbling around over the truth about Iraq, terrorism, and Middle East issues in general. Moreover, a Republican led Congress has shown itself too subservient to the President on matters of war and peace. Nothing visible has occurred to improve that track record. We need to stop attacks and deal with terrorists whenever necessary, but should we the people permit the Bush team to manhandle our electoral processes because of a terrorist threat, when we survived World War II, Korea, the assassination of President Kennedy, Vietnam, the Watergate, and the Cold War without such meddling? The answer has to be an emphatic no!
How can we the people keep such an absurd action from occurring? First, we must use what we know about the system. Only Congress can change the date of the election; thus we should be in touch with our Senators and Representatives to protest vigorously any such action. Congress sets the time, but State and County officials in every state run the elections, and we should be sure they understand that we want no interference in this process. State and local officials should also make it clear to the President and Congress that the electorate does not support such tinkering.
Finally, the Bush administration has made subtle and constant use of fear as a device to gain public support. As the facts of both 9/11 and the Iraq situation show, that fear mongering often has been based on ignorance, incomplete information, and deceit. But even if the threats are real, we must not be driven by fear, and we must not allow our leaders to mislead us because of fear. In real life, we all know that bad things happen, but we must face them as issues and move on. If, out of fear, we continue to allow this administration to restrict or remove our basic freedoms, we will have only ourselves to blame. The idea of tinkering with the election is only the current horror.
The writer is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the United States Department of State. He can be reached at:
From Anonymous
Dear Mr. Arnold,
I read your article on Rense and I agree with(your comments on)the intent and motives of the administration. I thought, prior to the 200 elections, that they were some very dangerous people and I voiced my concern to a number of friends at that time.
Guess what? They did not care or they did not believe it. This makes for some interesting thoughts. Is this man right? I don't think so. Are the people that disinterested? It does not seem so from the bumper stickers and I've seen and the conversations I have had. Are they so entirely underinformed as to the reality of the situation? Possibly, if you look at the state of education in this country today.
Finally, and here is the most worrisome of all. Do they all agree with him for whatever reason? I think this is a distinct possibility. As a people, we have become more bloodthirsty the last 10 to 20 years. Almost like in Roman times. This worries me most because if this is the case, there is no stopping what will eventually happen here.
I just hope that people open their eyes and realize what it is they are giving away here in return for once again being "the big boy on the block". The Germans and Japanese learned that all too well after WWll. If we don't learn from history we will be doomed to repeat it.



This Site Served by TheHostPros