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At year's end, signs of dictatorship abound in Washington

Wayne Madsen | Dec 30 2003

As 2003 winds to a close, it is perhaps timely to assess the state of affairs in the nation's capital. As a long time resident of Washington, DC, it is striking how this city has changed—and not for the better.

The telltale signs of dictatorship and fascism abound in this city on the Potomac. Some of the signs—concrete barricades and 8-foot walls around monuments—are apparent. Others, like video cameras, although more subtle, are every bit as ubiquitous. For those who have never visited Washington, DC, or who traveled here during better times, the city that is suppose to represent the aspirations of the American people is now a hollow shell of its former self.

The White House Ellipse is now a security bivouac. The grassy area that once played host to Frisbee games between dogs and their owners, touch football scrimmages, and throngs of tourists marveling at the south façade of the White House are largely gone. They have been replaced by chain link fences, concrete Jersey barriers, menacing black Secret Service SUVs, squad cars, and security "men in black" armed to the teeth. Sitting in the midst of this security encampment is the National Christmas Tree. Once surrounded by rosy-cheeked youngsters who marveled at its thousands of ornaments and lights up close, the tree is now viewed after dark from afar—its future as endangered as its rooted relatives in the Rocky Mountain and Alaska National Forest and Wilderness areas.

Vice President Dick Cheney sent out thousands of Christmas cards this year that extolled the Bush administration's international imperial agenda by suggesting God approves it. Taking a quote by founder Benjamin Franklin out of context, Cheney's card read, "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?" Fascists, imperialists, and colonialists throughout history have tried to invoke God's name in justifying their global ambitions. The Bush-Cheney regime is no different and hopefully it will meet the same fate as its fascist and imperial antecedents.

Across Constitution Avenue, the Washington Monument is surrounded by an 8-foot wall, reminiscent of the one that used to divide Berlin and the one now being built to bifurcate the West Bank. A similar wall surrounds the U.S. Capitol—the so-called "peoples' house," and one has been erected on one side of the Supreme Court. The steps of the Supreme Court are now largely restricted to access by "we the people." The Capitol Building is constructing an underground security control center that will soon screen Girl Scouts and 4-H Club members as suspected terrorists.

If you are doing a news report or a documentary and set down a camera tripod on the National Mall or at any of the monuments, you will be confronted by nasty Park Police, who order you not to film without permission from the Park Police. Bush's thugs in the Interior Department even go after their own. US Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers was recently fired because she had the temerity to question orders from above to use her thin forces to take on even more "homeland security" surveillance duties.

The famed Washington Metro system now bans the sale of newspapers in its stations. Newspaper vending machines have been boarded up. Trash piles up on subway platforms and trains because waste containers on the concourses are also banned. Recorded announcements appeal to passengers to report anyone who looks "suspicious." Recently there was an incident in the Metro Center station in which a vicious Metro police German shepherd viciously lunged at a man's seeing-eye dog. The police dog's handler seemed amused by the incident while the poor blind man was truly as upset and disoriented as his canine companion. The ghosts of Bull Connor of Alabama (who ordered German shepherd attacks on African American civil rights marchers) and the dog handling Nazi guards of Auschwitz must be smiling down on Washington, DC.

Retractable barricades now appear around the Senate and House office buildings. Streets around the Capitol, with their barricades and guards, resemble Checkpoint Charlie in East Berlin or the armistice site at Panmunjom on the 38th parallel of Korea. Even the once publicly-accessible Library of Congress, complete with its own barricades, seems to say in agony, "I'm closed to the public."

Fly out of or into Washington's National Airport and you're informed that if anyone stands up within 30 minutes from takeoff or landing, the plane will be diverted to another airport under military escort. Of course, none of the planes involved in 911 took off from National Airport. But in an era of Code Orange terror alerts being declared around every American holiday, the people just do as their told and don't ask why.

The Christmas Code Orange alert named Washington, DC, as a likely target. Washington's tourist industry, already pummeled by 9/11, cannot take many more hits. But for an administration that has done everything to block access to government buildings and monuments by tourists, such alerts seem to fit in nicely with its overall goal of turning the nation's capital into a sterile and gray Pyongyang or Cold War era East Berlin. No sooner had the Texans taken over the White House, Washington area caterers felt the pinch. Gone are the diplomatic receptions and elaborate state dinners for visiting dignitaries. Washington's caterers, florists, limousine drivers, hotels, upscale bars, and trendy restaurants immediately felt this trickle down effect of Bush's low class approach to diplomacy. Around my place of employment, a number of restaurants have shut their doors. They include a trendy martini bar and restaurant, an upscale Spanish tapas restaurant, an Italian deli, a health food eatery, and, unbelievably, a Chinese restaurant. How many more Code Oranges and phony terrorist alerts can this city take? Not many, I would suggest. The glamorous days of Kennedy's Camelot and Reagan's "Morning in America" at the White House are now in the distant past for America's capital.

Drivers and passengers who drive past the Pentagon on Virginia state highways are confronted by menacing Humvees with their high caliber machine guns pointed at the traffic. Virginia State Police cars are required to stop suspicious vehicles on the highways long before they approach the Pentagon. One such "suspicious" vehicle stopped and searched during the past year was the Oscar Mayer "Weiner Mobile." A number of commercial vehicles driven by dark skinned and hirsute men have been stopped, questioned, and searched by police engaged in blatant "ethnic profiling." Targets have included tow truck operators, couriers, caterers, and airport shuttle van drivers.

Tours of the White House are out. So is the famous White House Easter egg roll (it is now reserved for the kids of Bush's cabal and select service peoples' children). Public tours of the FBI are a thing of the past, so are those of the Pentagon. Forget strolling through the Capitol Building unless you pay for an organized tour (the GOP trickle up theory in action).

Sirens constantly wail in the nation's capital and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs. One security expert has reported that Washington, DC, Metro Police have sometimes been instructed to turn on their sirens for no reason because police in Israel discovered that sirens are a psychological deterrent to would-be terrorists. Add the sirens to the almost constant noise from patrol helicopters, fighter aircraft, and the extremely high-pitched whine from unmanned aerial vehicles and you realize you no longer live in the capital of the Free World, but some bizarre Twilight Zone version of the capital city of an America in its death throes after some sort of nuclear cataclysm.

The Canadian embassy near the Capitol now appears more and more like an American embassy in some Third World dictatorship or behind the Iron Curtain. It represents a land that is still largely free—-and is becoming home to a growing number of American emigrés—but is under increased political pressure from the fascists in Washington to adopt totalitarian ways. Just as Hitler constantly berated neighboring Poland and France for Germany's ills, the Bush fascists have accused Canada of being responsible for last August's major power failure and now charge Canada with being responsible for the first mad cow outbreak in the United States. Both charges are patently inane.

Take part in a constitutionally-protected demonstration in Washington and you are instantly espied by video surveillance cameras situated around the capital, in monuments like the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, on roof tops of office buildings, on helicopters and in glass bubbles disguised as street lamps. Cameras will soon be installed on Potomac River dinner boats so John Ashcroft can know who you are dining with and perhaps even what you are talking about.

Washington's homeless, while still relatively large in numbers, have been strategically moved away from places where they once found refuge. Lafayette Park, across from the White House, has been emptied of many of its homeless "residents," while other areas such as Farragut Square and a small park across from the State Department are now largely devoid of the homeless. Where have they gone? It is a question that is often asked around Washington these days, but many fear the answer they might receive.

The Washington Post has become nothing more than a version of the old Soviet-era paper Pravda. In fact, its nickname has become "Pravda on the Potomac." Rather than investigate the mysterious "suicides" of anti-Iraq war foreign policy experts who were reported to have jumped from Washington buildings and the mysterious death of a Bush family domestic employee in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, the Post continues to sycophantically treat the Bush regime as a legitimate, run-of-the-mill administration—publishing puff pieces on Bush's dogs and White House Christmas decorations. White House press credentials are considered as good as gold these days and the Post will bend over backwards and forwards to keep its access to the West Wing.

The Washington corporate media acts as virtual public relations agents for the dictatorship. Instead of concentrating on the myriad scandals that envelop the Bush-Cheney regime, corporate broadcasters conduct propaganda-oriented interviews with the fascistic political leadership. Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press" allows First Lady "Pickles" Bush to get away with comparing President Kennedy's famous Inaugural Address on America setting an example for the rest of the world to her husband's pathetic reasons for preemptive warfare. In response to Russert airing a tape of a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King on volunteerism, Pickles invokes Colin Powell, as if she were trying to say, "Yes, King's speech is okay, but our colored man also said something important and better." Eva Braun could have not been more condescending to the regime she blindly served.

There is a chance to try and return the nation's capital to the American people. Let us hope and pray that next Christmas the White House will be boxing up the Bush family possessions for their shipment back to the Crawford "Ranch." With a new administration, perhaps, just perhaps, this city will begin to return to better days.
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