Saturday, January 9, 2021

Post-Putsch: Why There Should Be Consequences for Enablers of the Capitol Invasion

 I usually find myself agreeing with Glenn Greenwald, but not today.  GG has posted a heartfelt warning against overreaction to the attempted fur-and-horn putsch at the Capitol Building Wednesday.  He says the mob trampled on symbols of state power but otherwise did little of consequence, and vilifying them and their supporters will lead to repressive overreach, just like we saw after 9/11.  Cool it, says Glen.

Actually, I agree with one piece of this, the use of the “t” word, terrorism.  No the mob was not a terrorist brigade; it was mostly unarmed and did not commit mass or random violence to induce passive cowering from the rest of us.  There was minimal effort to locate and assault politicians; the intent was mostly to physically prevent the certification of the electoral college votes that would legally end any opposition to the replacement of Trump by Biden.

But that’s why the invasion mattered.  Repeat: it was an attempt to physically prevent the winner of an election from taking office.  This is where GG misses the point in his narrow comparisons of body counts and weapons supplies.

Yes, it was confused and amateurish, much like the president whose bluster it expressed.  But the danger of mob violence is not so much what the mob does as what the police do.  If the police (and military) go over to the side of the mob, the mob wins no matter how disorganized or ill-equipped it is.  

That’s not a threat when the mob represents the Left, but it is always a risk when the mob comes from the Right.  And in fact we did see a softness on the part of many (but not all) Capitol police officers who fraternized with the invaders and forgot (or “forgot”) the part of their mission that was about protecting not only the building, but the political leaders inside it.  It is extraordinary that senators and congresspeople were not warned about the breach until their own chambers were under attack.  The unwillingness of Trump to call out the National Guard makes it clear that the Guard was unlikely to be so accommodating, which we can take as reassuring news.  Nevertheless, we should never forget that the threat of right wing putschists is never just a product of their own arms or numbers but always comes down in the end to whether the armed protectors of the state will resist or join them.

So this is why I disagree with GG about the importance of this event: it was very important.  Its purpose was to prevent the winner of an election from taking office, and it is only because Trump’s popularity among those with badges, stripes and guns is not stronger that we could view the invasion as almost a joke and not something far worse.

Because the attempt to overturn a democratic election is so serious, its suppression justifies exceptional measures.  Of course, Trump should be denied any media platform from which he can be excluded.  Of course, other politicians who gave support to this putsch should be expelled from office.  This should take place immediately, understood as a response to this specific episode and not as a precedent for all dissent or demonstrations.

Longer term, we need to give urgent attention to the characteristics of our political and communication systems that nurtured the Trump disaster.  For starters, no private corporation should own the platforms over which most people receive and send communication, except perhaps in the limited role of common carrier.  The rules by which such platforms function should be publicly set for the purpose of enhancing real democratic discourse.


Sandwichman said...

"it was mostly unarmed"

Except for those who were armed and carried zip ties to shackle hostages with. As with pregnancy there is no such thing as "only a little bit terrorist."

Peter Dorman said...

S-man: There have been armed people at anti-racism demos too. An individual may be terrorist or not, but a group of individuals can have varying proportions.

The Sophist said...

"There have been armed people at anti-racism demos": sure, but the organizers of the demos almost invariably both denounce those armed people, and do whatever they can to exclude them. These armed people are completely welcome; hell, the rhetoric of these groups celebrates them.

Also, the *point* of terrorism is to change policy, to effect political change, thru violence. And in *fact* there were elements of this force who were actively seeking out legislators, and certainly the chanting "Hang Pence" tells us they were serious about violence. When one of the groups encountered the protective detail guarding the VP, they were only dissuaded after meeting deadly force.

If you were going to attempt to decapitate the chain of succession (#2, #3, #4), how would you do it? Unless you could actually muster a significant military force, a good way of doing it would be to encourage a rabble to rise up, and insert your team in the midst, to perform your mission; if you fail to find your target, you can always sneak back out, again under cover of that rabble.

One thing that really worries me, is that we're not going to catch all the participants: and the ones we're least likely to catch are the ones we should most worry about, b/c best-organized and -disciplined.

kevin quinn said...

Peter: Unlike you, I almost never find myself agreeing with GG! However, I almost always find myself agreeing with you. Your point #4 in your previous post on this attack on democracy is paradigmatically lucid -

Sandwichman said...

I don't "disagree" with Glenn Greenwald anymore. I ignore his disingenuous, objectively pro-Trump propaganda. Greenwald is Kevin McCarthy or Mario Rubio in drag. said...

Once upon a time GG did some publicly useful things, notably with releasing the Snowden stuff. More recently he has been a tool of right wing propagandists all too often.

The Sophist said...

Peter, maybe this will influence your thinking:

Pull-quote: “That was a heavily trained group of militia terrorists that attacked us," he said. "They had radios, we found them, they had two-way communicators and earpieces. They had bear spray. They had flash bangs ...They were prepared. They strategically put two IEDs, pipe bombs in two different locations. These guys were military trained. A lot of them were former military,” the veteran said, referring to two suspected pipe bombs that were found outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee.

The officer even described coming face to face with police officers from across the country in the mob. He said some of them flashed the badges, telling him to let them through, and trying to explain that this was all part of a movement that was supposed to help.

Peter Dorman said...

Thanks, Sophist. Not surprised to hear this, especially the presence of cops in the mob. As I tried to indicate in the OP, this is why *any* right-wing putsch or similar adventure has to be taken seriously. When we go from ballots to demos to takeovers to bullets, it's all about which side the security forces are on.

But it's still factually wrong, as far as I can tell, to claim that the invasion in any encompassing sense was a terrorist event. I don't even get why we would want to use the t-word when it's more than enough to say the explicit goal was to prevent the removal of a president after he had been voted out of office. It's sort of like the way some people have to call every act of violence or aggression genocide, as if just calling it murder or suppression is an indication of deficient political consciousness.

Enough hyperbole.

ken melvin said...

The failure is that of not precluding what could have happened. Too, too damned close to bringing America down for a POS.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Police officers who traveled to Washington are being investigated for connection to the Capitol melee

NY Times - January 8

Police departments across the country have suspended officers or referred them to internal reviews for attending the events on Jan. 6 in Washington that devolved into an assault on the U.S. Capitol.

The commanding officers or officials involved in the cases in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington State stressed that while the officers attended as private citizens, the question of whether they broke the law would be investigated. ...

Fred C. Dobbs said...

Pelosi says House will impeach Trump unless VP forces ouster

via @BostonGlobe - January 10

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday the House will proceed with legislation to impeach President Donald Trump as she pushes the vice president and Cabinet to invoke constitutional authority to force him out, warning that Trump is a threat to democracy after the deadly assault on the Capitol.

Pelosi made the announcement in a letter to colleagues, saying the House will first vote to push Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the powers of the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. After 24 hours, she said, the House would proceed with legislation on impeachment. Trump could become the only president to be impeached twice.

“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” she said, and added: “The horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this President is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”

On Monday, Pelosi’s leadership team will seek a vote on a resolution calling on Pence and Cabinet officials to invoke the 25th Amendment.

With the House not in session, there is likely to be an objection to its consideration. Pelosi would then put the resolution before the full House on Tuesday. If it were to pass, Pence and the Cabinet would have 24 hours to act before the House would move toward impeachment.

With impeachment planning intensifying, pressure was mounting for Trump to leave office even before his term ended amid alarming concerns of more unrest ahead of the inauguration.

Two Republican senators have now said they want Trump to resign immediately in the wake of deadly riots at the Capitol. The president whipped up the mob that stormed the Capitol, sent lawmakers into hiding and left five dead.

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on Sunday joined Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in calling for Trump to “resign and go away as soon as possible.” ...

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on Sunday joined Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in calling for Trump to “resign and go away as soon as possible.”

“I think the president has disqualified himself from ever, certainly, serving in office again,” Toomey said. “I don’t think he is electable in any way.”

A growing number of lawmakers want to prevent him from ever again holding elected office. ...

Murkowski, who has long voiced her exasperation with Trump’s conduct in office, told the Anchorage Daily News on Friday that Trump simply “needs to get out.” A third, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., did not go that far, but on Sunday he warned Trump to be “very careful” in his final days in office.

During an interview on “60 Minutes” aired Sunday, Pelosi invoked the Watergate era when Republicans in the Senate told President Richard Nixon, “It’s over.”

“That’s what has to happen now,” she said.

Fred C. Dobbs said...

House Moves to Force Trump Out, Vowing Impeachment if Pence Won’t Act

NY Times - January 10

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would formally call on
Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to
strip President Trump of power, and move to impeach the
president if he refused.

WASHINGTON — The House moved on two fronts on Sunday to try to force President Trump from office, escalating pressure on the vice president to strip him of power and committing to quickly begin impeachment proceedings against him for inciting a mob that violently attacked the seat of American government.

In a letter to colleagues, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said the House would move forward on Monday with a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, and wrest the powers of the presidency. She called on Mr. Pence to respond “within 24 hours” and indicated she expected a Tuesday vote on the resolution.

Next, she said, the House would bring an impeachment case to the floor. Though she did not specify how quickly it would move, leading Democrats have suggested they could press forward on a remarkably quick timetable, charging Mr. Trump by midweek with “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“In protecting our Constitution and our democracy, we will act with urgency, because this president represents an imminent threat to both,” she wrote. “As the days go by, the horror of the ongoing assault on our democracy perpetrated by this president is intensified and so is the immediate need for action.”

Ms. Pelosi’s actions effectively gave Mr. Pence, who is said to be opposed to the idea, an ultimatum: use his power under the Constitution to force Mr. Trump out by declaring him unable to discharge his duties, or make him the first president in American history to be impeached twice.

Far from capitulating, Mr. Trump made plans to proceed as if the last five earth-shattering days had simply not happened at all. But momentum in Washington was shifting decisively against him. ...