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The Day They Arrested President Roosevelt July 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, History, Honduras.
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FDR
US PRESIDENT FRANKLIN DELANA ROOSEVELT
 
 
zelaya
HONDURAN PRESIDENT MANUEL ZELAYA
 
Published on Saturday, July 18, 2009 by CommonDreams.org by Robert Naiman

What a dark day for American democracy it was – February 5, 1937, the day they arrested President Roosevelt.

The pretext for this assault on democracy was President Roosevelt’s proposal of the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937, which would have allowed President Roosevelt to appoint more members to the Supreme Court, which had blocked New Deal measures President Roosevelt had introduced to try to bring America out of the Great Depression. Supporters of the New Deal were particularly galled by the Supreme Court’s decision the previous year throwing out New York’s minimum wage law.

But some of President Roosevelt’s opponents in Congress (including many conservative Democrats), the Supreme Court, and the military claimed the proposed bill was an assault on the Constitution – even though the Constitution doesn’t say how many Supreme Court justices there should be, and Congress had changed the number of Supreme Court Justices many times in the past – and that Roosevelt’s move was a dangerous power grab. So dangerous, in fact, that Roosevelt’s proposal could not even be considered in Congress. Roosevelt’s opponents claimed that he had violated the Constitution by even suggesting the idea, and had to be removed from office immediately; that Roosevelt and his supporters were such a threat to the established order that due process had to be dispensed with — if Roosevelt were put in prison, maybe there would be riots.

Therefore, on the morning of February 5, soldiers under the command of General Smedley Butler arrested President Roosevelt and deported him to Canada, still in his pajamas.

With President Roosevelt out of the way, the Supreme Court overturned Washington State’s minimum wage law on March 9. On April 12, the Supreme Court threw out the National Labor Relations Act — which sought to guarantee the rights of workers to organize into “unions” so they could bargain collectively for higher wages and better working conditions. Finally, on May 24, the Supreme Court overturned the law establishing Roosevelt’s proposed “Social Security” system – a public pension scheme to guarantee some income to less privileged workers and their dependents in retirement and to the disabled. The New Deal was crushed.

Imagine how different America might be today, if President Roosevelt had been allowed to continue his term and the New Deal had been allowed to proceed. Maybe sixty per cent of our fellow Americans wouldn’t live in poverty, as they do today.

Some of the foregoing things didn’t happen in the United States, but some of them did. The Supreme Court really did overturn New York’s minimum wage law, and many feared that it would overturn Washington’s minimum wage law, the National Labor Relations Act, and Social Security. The Court narrowly upheld them — 5 to 4 — after Roosevelt introduced his proposed judicial reform, when one of the anti-New Deal justices switched sides. Roosevelt’s proposed judicial reform itself was decisively defeated in Congress, with strong Democratic opposition – many did say, including many Democrats, that it was an attack on the Constitution.

U.S. soldiers never arrested President Roosevelt and deported him to Canada, although General Smedley Butler did testify to Congress that he had been recruited by people claiming to represent corporate interests to lead a coup against President Roosevelt.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was deported by Honduran soldiers to Costa Rica on June 28 for the “crime” of proposing that Hondurans be allowed to consider a non-binding, advisory referendum on reforming their constitution.

US corporate interests — including textile and clothing importers that pay their Honduran workers poverty wages — recently sent a letter to President Obama asking for “business as usual” with the coup regime in Honduras, a letter the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation denounced as ‘disgusting.’

Today sixty per cent of Hondurans live in poverty. They deserve a better future — a future they may never see if this coup is allowed to stand.

Democrats in the U.S. Congress are starting to stand up against the coup. Rep. Bill Delahunt and Rep. Jim McGovern have introduced a resolution calling for President Zelaya to be returned to office. Ask your Representative to support this resolution. The Capitol switchboard is 202.224.3121; or you can send an email here.

The Obama Administration has many levers it can use to pressure the coup regime. The Los Angeles Times has called for the Administration to consider “imposing sanctions on individuals involved with the coup, such as canceling visas and freezing bank accounts.“. The Obama Administration is much more likely to exert more pressure on the coup regime if Members of Congress speak out against the coup – so call or write your Representative now.

Robert Naiman is Senior Policy Analyst at Just Foreign Policy.

Robert McNamara and Smedley Butler July 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Vietnam, War.
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Published on Monday, July 13, 2009 by CommonDreams.org by Tom Gallagher
There’s been a lot of ink spilled in the past week over how we ought to think about the late Robert McNamara. (And yes, real ink, not just virtual – even the remaining real newspapers were in on it.) Does the fact that he came to realize that the Vietnam War (“McNamara’s War” to some) was wrong even as he continued to pursue it as Lyndon Johnson’s Defense Secretary make him a better or a worse person? And what of his willingness to say it publicly – but only three decades later? There may be a more useful way to think about him, however. And it involves considering him not in conjunction with, say, Henry Kissinger, who followed a course similar to his but apparently without hesitation, but more in terms of General Smedley Butler, someone who did learn from his experience.

Butler, of course, achieved far greater clarity than the ever-hedging McNamara did. Butler’s story is fairly well known: four years after a military career that included service in Cuba, China, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico, Haiti, and France, he wrote a book called “War is a Racket.” He gave speeches in which he would say things like, “during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.”

Whether any of this later-in-life understanding made Butler a better or worse person I do not know. What I do know, though, is that what Butler was willing to say and write was extremely helpful to more than one generation of antiwar activists: “Hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. Listen to this guy, he should know.”

Likewise, I suggest to no one that they should get over their antipathy to Robert McNamara if that is what they feel – the evil that he and Kissinger and the rest did will long outlive them. And anyone who no longer hates the criminals should certainly remain outraged at their crimes. But let us take something of value out of McNamara’s life.

When we encounter potential military recruits looking to serve in one of the nation’s seemingly always available wars but not looking too closely at exactly what it is we’re fighting for because they assume our leaders wouldn’t lead them astray on matters of life and death, let’s tell them about Robert McNamara. If the man in charge of one of our wars could later write that what the US did at the time was “wrong, terribly wrong,” don’t we all owe it to ourselves to take a closer look at where those in power are leading us today?

And when it comes to questioning the conduct of modern war, it’s hard to beat McNamara’s comments in Errol Morris’ documentary film “The Fog of War”: “We burned to death 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo — men, women and children,” he told Morris. “[General Curtis] LeMay said, ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.’ And I think he’s right. He — and I’d say I — were behaving as war criminals.” And that was World War II he was talking about – the “good war.” Words to keep in mind the next time one of our drones accidently bombs a wedding.

A remark of McNamara’s made during a C-SPAN discussion of his 1995 memoir, “Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam,” is a good reminder of just how infuriating he could be, right to the end. In regard to Vietnam, he told his interviewer, “We were fighting — and we didn’t realize it — a civil war. Now, true, obviously there were Soviet and Chinese influence and support and no question that the communists were trying to control South Vietnam, but it was basically a civil war.”

Well, if McNamara didn’t know it was a civil war, it wasn’t because tens of thousands of the war’s opponents hadn’t said so or because President Eisenhower hadn’t publicly acknowledged that Ho Chi Minh would have been elected president of Vietnam in a fair election.

But even if McNamara may never have been a man to be taken entirely at his word, what he went on to say on C-SPAN that day might just have some value today as the US plunges deeper into an already nearly eight year old war in Afghanistan: “And one of the things we should learn is you can’t fight and win a civil war with outside troops, and particularly not when the political structure in a country is dissolved.”

 
Tom Gallagher is a San Francisco antiwar activist who initiated last November’s successful Proposition U calling upon the city’s congressional representatives to vote no further funding for the Iraq War.  He is a past member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  Contact him at TGTGTGTGTG@aol.com
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