George W.’s handling of Iraq has been such a mess that his numbers are in the ditch. I’m not talking about poll numbers (which are at new lows)—but his recruitment numbers.
More than 1,800 of our troops have died there, veterans hospitals are more than a billion dollars short of being able to treat the influx of soldiers wounded in the war, the insurgency is more aggressive than ever, Iraq is now sliding into civil war, and the Bushites have neither a clue nor an exit strategy. Who wants to join that? So to goose up recruitment, the Army National Guard has signed an oily deal with a national temp agency called Labor Ready. Recruiters from the Guard are given access to Labor Ready’s 700 offices around the country, where they’ll try to hustle economically squeezed day laborers. These people, used for manual labor on short-term jobs, are among America’s working poor, and they’re some of the most vulnerable workers in the country. That’s exactly why the Pentagon is targeting them, hoping that they’re so hard up that they’ll take a killing job. Of course, Labor Ready makes it sound as if it’s doing a favor for these poverty-wage workers by helping enlist them. “Young people can get a career,” enthuses a Labor Ready employee. “If they’re down on their luck, they have an opportunity to get up, to see something new, to see the world.” Trying to fill Bush’s military quota by targeting folks who are afforded no other real opportunities in our economy amounts to conscription of the poor—it’s an economic draft, and it’s an outrage.
If an ideologically incorrect study is done inside the Bush regime, does it make a noise? Not if the Bushites can squelch it, which is exactly what they’ve tried to do to a report about labor abuses in Central America. For more than a year, W.’s Department of Labor has fought to block the release of a study showing that working conditions in six Latin nations are abysmal and that government officials in the region do little to enforce labor protections. These findings do not fit with the Bushites’ ideology that workers can trust global corporatization to improve their lives.
The 400-page report was particularly inconvenient and untimely for Bush & Company, because they had been pushing hard to ram another glob of globaloney called “CAFTA” down our throats. CAFTA—the Central American Free Trade Agreement—was this summer’s number one legislative priority for Bush’s global corporate backers, and the last thing they wanted was its documentation that their corporate ilk are already exploiting, injuring and otherwise abusing workers in the CAFTA region. Ironically, the study in question was commissioned by Bush’s own Labor Department! It contracted with the International Labor Rights Fund to do the study. But when the results were not what the Bushites wanted to hear, they impounded the report, forbade the Labor Rights Fund from publishing it, and even denied repeated requests by members of Congress to review it. Finally, after Rep. Sandy Levin filed a freedom-of-information action to force the release of the tax-paid study, they relented—but not before blasting the report as “rife with unsubstantiated and unverifiable claims.” To see the report yourself, go to: www.house.gov/levin.
If you want to see federal police power run amok, sneak a peek at the FBI’s counterterrorism task forces. These top-secret spy units were set up after 9/11 to identify, monitor, and root out cells of America’s most dangerous enemies. It turns out, however, that the FBI’s idea of “enemies” includes you and me!
Instead of devoting all their energies and resources to uncovering Al Qaeda cells within our midst, government gumshoes have been focusing on Greenpeace, the ACLU, anti-war protestors, demonstrators at the Republican National Convention, and other Americans whose only “act of terrorism” has been to speak out against some of W.’s policies. The Bushites do seem to be terrified of public criticism, but FBI snoops need to brush up on the gaping difference between terrorism and Constitutionalism. When the infamous USA Patriot Act and other autocratic rules were rushed into law after 9/11, Bush & Company scoffed at concerns that they could use these laws and the scare of terrorism to go after their political enemies. Yet, here they are four years later, caught with thousands of pages of surveillance documents that these counterterrorism forces have been secretly amassing on domestic groups engaged in peaceful, totally lawful (and totally American) First Amendment activities. The Bushites contend that they are not trying to stifle free speech, but are snooping to prevent any “disruptive” activity at demonstrations. I don’t believe them, but even if it were true, this is not a role for counterterrorism agents.
Besides, disruptions are a core part of our democracy—the Sons of Liberty set that proud precedent for us Americans in 1773 with that little disruption they called “The Boston Tea Party.” To help stop this subversion of basic rights by Bush’s counterterrorism police, contact the American Civil Liberties Union at www.aclu.org
Jim Hightower is a speaker and author. To order his books or schedule him for a speech, visit www.jimhightower.com. To subscribe to his newsletter, the Hightower Lowdown, call toll-free 1-866-271-4900.