It’s mind-boggling what Bush and Cheney have shown doesn’t matter. The sheer magnitude of their ambitions and mission - their very audaciousness - are astonishing. But what is even more amazing … is that they have been successful. As I write these words, it appears as if they will serve out the entirety of their two illegitimately seized two terms in the White House without indictments and without impeachment.
While a few individuals within the political leadership class in this country have dissented, and a few individual journalists have done their best to call out the sins of omission and commission of this regime, Bush and Cheney have gotten their way virtually every time. And when they have been blocked, by, for example, a bedridden and hospitalized John Ashcroft for whom even Bush and Cheney’s latest demands for unrestricted access to every Americans’ phone calls and Internet activity was too much, they have simply backed off and found another way to get what they wanted. Ashcroft won’t co-operate? No problem. We’ll get the Congress, even if it’s a Democratic ruled Congress, to pass the “Protect America Act” and the telecom amnesty bill and thus legalize what we wanted to do and legalize what we were doing before when it was patently illegal.
Bush and Cheney have screamed and yelled like spoiled rich kids when they don’t get what they want and even when caught with their hands in the cookie jar, even when caught beating up and torturing the pets and neighborhood kids, including killing some of them, and lying about it, they have gotten their way.
Grasping the Bush regime’s precedents is central to understanding the Bush/Cheney legacy. It’s a poisoned path almost impossible to overestimate in its significance.
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When I think about Bush and Cheney’s legacy, the image that keeps coming to mind is that of a black hood, covering an anonymous prisoner, held in indefinite captivity and tortured at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, at Bagram, in Egypt, Syria, Uzbekistan, or in all too many other places where prisoners have been rendered extraordinarily, human beings treated like meat by tenderizing, through beatings.
Bush and Cheney are modern day Torquemadas, revivers and open exponents of that exquisite Spanish Inquisition innovation for torturing critics, unbelievers, and heretics: waterboarding.
Unjustly shed blood spreads in an ever-widening pool from foreign lands, now splashing onto our American sidewalks and in police interrogation rooms: “shock and awe” comes home. Pre-emptive wars abroad beget pre-emptive arrests of American demonstrators in St. Paul before the RNC. Torture of non-Americans abroad begets torture of an American, one of the RNC 8, here at home. Trumped up charges of terrorism off our shores begets domestic terrorism charges of U.S. citizens attempting to exercise their rights of speech and assembly.
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Revelation upon revelation of the White House’s shocking acts, cascading like a waterfall, has not precipitated impeachment, calls for their immediate resignations, or their prosecution as war criminals. Bush and Cheney remain in office unscathed, like Jason Voorhees, the hockey-masked, horror movie murderer who lives on, movie after movie.
While the crimes of U.S. imperialism are legion, what was done largely behind the scenes in the past is now increasingly being carried out as official policy: no longer de facto but now de jure, no longer retail but wholesale.
What accounts for this momentous shift?
1968 and 2008