By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
This is an essay about the consequences of lies and law-breaking emanating from the top levels of government. We'll get to Russia's Putin and Georgia's Saakashvili below. First:
How can you tell when the Busheviks in America are telling lies or trying to hide the truth? One could resort to the old saw "When their lips are moving," but sometimes these guys inadvertently spill the beans. Remember Bush's own accidental truth-bomb when he said his role as president is to "catapult the propaganda"?
And often they just shove the truth in your face and dare you to respond.
For example: Attorney General Mukasey last week said that no indictments will be filed against Department of Justice employees who, in violation of the law, used partisan political criteria for hiring and firing. Mukasey just came right out and said it: "Not every...violation of the law is a crime."
That's an interesting interpretation of the law. When YOU Democrats do it, it's definitely a crime, to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. But when WE Republicans do it, even though it's against the law, since we're the good guys, we'll just let the matter rest.
OUR GUYS AND YOUR GUYS
Other examples: If Bill Clinton or John Edwards tells a lie about his secret sexual trysts, we'll destroy those guys and make sure they never serve in public office again. True, John McCain was having a sexual affair with a younger woman, his current wife Cindy, while his then-wife was battling uterine cancer -- but, hey, he's OUR guy, that's old news, no harm done, nothing to see here just move along, folks.
But all those are examples of lies that have mainly personal consequences. What about lies that have grave ramifications? Well, the GOP has an answer to that as well. If OUR guy, George W, tells lies and hundreds of thousands of people are killed or maimed as a result -- our troops along with "collateral-damage" Iraqi civilians -- it's no big deal, get over it, mission accomplished, "victory"will be coming along any day now.
That's how the hardliners in the CheneyBush administration proceed to do their dirty work: OK, you caught us out violating the law. What are you going to do about it? (And, by the way, we'll make sure never to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate our indiscretions -- never ever -- so suck on that.)
The House issues subpoenas to Administration officials to testify and produce documents relevant to government business. The officials, acting on orders from the White House, refuse to appear. A court, citing the separation of powers established by the founders, backs the House and says Administration officials are required by law to appear and also must supply the relevant documents. The officials do neither. The House writes nasty letters to them. Eventually it cites them for contempt of Congress. And that's the end of it. There is no move made to have those law-breakers arrested, charged and tried.
THE BIG SHRUG OF "SO?"
Taking a leaf from Dick Cheney (who responded with "so?" when reminded that the American public has been overwhelming opposed to his Iraq war-policy for several years now), the Administration's response to public anger about the Executive refusing to obey lawful congressional subpoenas is: "So? Whatcha gonna do about it?"
Since the Democrats wimp out and do nothing that could make any difference, the upshot of this kind of behavior is that the corrupt, power-hungry officials in the CheneyBush Administration feel free to do whatever they want whenever they want because they know they will suffer no political or legal consequences for so doing.
The one constitutional remedy available to the Legislative branch when the Executive branch goes out of control like this, impeachment, has been ruled "off the table" by the Democratic leadership, thus further enabling the unconstitutional, run-amok behavior of the CheneyBush Administration.
"OFF-THE-TABLE" A MISTAKE?
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who issued the "off the table" dictum prior to the 2006 balloting -- presumably so as not to scare off potential moderate voters in that midterm election -- now has come up with more non-sensical excuses not to impeach. Basically, what this rationale suggests is that:
1. It simply doesn't make sense to enter into such a time- and energy-draining enterprise as impeachment this late in the game. Obvious reply: Impeachment could have been initiated two years ago, if Democrats had been willing to OK a preliminary House hearing on the Administration's alleged violations of the Constitution. But at the very least, beginning impeachment hearings now would alert future presidents that they will be held accountable if they ever overstep their legitimate authority. By doing nothing, all presidents now have a green light to violate the Constitution whenever they so choose. This is a dagger in the heart of democratic, constitutional government.
2. Pelosi now says she'd consider holding impeachment hearings if anyone can show her compelling evidence of crimes committed by Cheney and Bush. Apparently, Pelosi didn't catch the Democratic primary debates, where the issue of impeachment was broached by Dennis Kucinich and Joe Biden. And it would seem that poor Ms. Pelosi didn't acquaint herself with Kucinich's list of 35 impeachable offenses committed. Maybe she simply doesn't read newspapers, or watch television or know how to use the Google on the internet tubes.
But wait. A third explanation presents itself: That on the most important issues that might make Cheney and Bush liable for impeachment and/or criminal prosecution, key Democrats, including Pelosi, were and are complicit: authorizing the Iraq war and occupation (and continuing to fund it off the books, as it were), acquiesing to Bush's warrantless spying on and amassing data about millions of Americans, approving of retroactive immunity for the giant telecom corporations that broke the domestic-spying laws, etc etc.
In other words, to accuse the White House of immoral, illegal and
unconstitutional behavior would be to focus attention on their own similar lapses and potential criminal acts. Hence, the Congressional Democrats make sure not to look too hard into Administration misbehavior.
McCAIN: GEORGIA ON HIS MIND
There's no way one can even begin to provide a shorthand version of the Georgia/Russia clash. If anyone tries to tell you that one side is the victim and the other a monster, don't you believe them. Everyone is lying, deceiving, acting on their own power agenda, attempting to use history to rationalize their actions. There are no simple black hat/white hat situations in the Caucasus. This is one of those infinitely tangled Eastern European social/political/economic webs where everyone is to blame for the death and dying and social dislocations.
And that includes the U.S., which has supported and encouraged Georgia to bash the nose of their neighboring Russian bear. Saakashvili may have chosen to believe that Bush Administration had encouraged Georgia to attack the ethnic-Russian region of South Ossieta. (Oh, by the by, did I mention -- surprise! -- that there are huge oil reserves in the Caspian basin, and a vital pipeline across Georgia?)
To McCain and his neo-con supporters, itching to return to the oh-so-simple proscriptions of the Cold War era, last week's events are as plain as plain can be: With no provocation, Russia invaded a sovereign state, peace-loving Georgia, and occupied the country in order to foment "regime change." (The hypocrisy of Bush leveling these charges at Russia with a straight face, given his behavior in Iraq, is almost laughable, especially this line: "Bullying and intimidation are not acceptable ways to conduct foreign policy in the 21st century.")
Therefore, according to McCain and Bush -- and, to a certain extent, Obama as well -- Russia needs to be confronted for its perfidy in invading Georgia, which just happens to be a firm ally of Bush's U.S. of A. (Oh, by the way, McCain's top foreign-policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, up until a few months ago worked as a high-priced lobbyist for the Georgian government, and remains the president of the lobbying firm that continues to pick up contracts for pushing Georgia's point of view inside the White House.)
McCAIN: RECKLESS AND DANGEROUS
McCain, who never met a situation that shouldn't be handled with a show of strength and violence, is displaying his true militarist colors: shoot first and ask questions later. Show strength, act with muscularity, go to war if the other guys don't back down.
McCain, as usual, shoots from the lip. In this, he is dangerous and reckless and, it would seem, increasingly out of his guord. But that's the man who could be President in six months, making Bush and Cheney seem almost reasonable by comparison.
It seems clear that McCain and his neo-con backers feel most comfortable and energized when there's a military confrontation going on. McCain got stuck in the "must-not-give-in-must-show-strength" mode when he was a POW in North Vietnam, and he's still caught up in that groove, even when current situations call for other approaches.
And, after watching Barack Obama behaving "presidential" on his recent world tour -- meeting with foreign leaders, mingling with U.S. troops, flying around Iraq in a helicopter with General Petraeus, addressing hundreds of thousands of admirers in Germany, etc. -- McCain felt insulted, diminished, unable to respond in kind. He was reduced to visiting a German sausage restaurant in Pennsylvania.
So, offerred the gift of an ongoing war in Georgia, McCain decided now it was his turn to act "presidential" in the foreign-policy field. So he dispatched his envoys (Lieberman and Graham) to Georgia on a "fact-finding" mission -- which, if they engage in any kind of negotiations with the parties there, would be a serious violation of the Logan Act, which states that only the Executive branch is authorized to do so. McCain, backed up by the neo-con chorus behind him, is calling, in essence, for a return to the Cold War against "evil" Russia. He and Rice and Bush are threatening NATO action against Russia.
THE ORIGIN OF QUAGMIRES
As I write this, a ceasefire of sorts has been worked out by the French, even though the Russians are continuing to destroy Georgian military capabilities as they oh-so-slowy depart and/or redeploy to South Ossieta. (The French, who have street-cred in Europe, were able to arrange the ceasefire, whereas America under CheneyBush has lost all credibility and moral stature there, and elsewhere around the globe.)
Initially, McCaine's overheated rhetoric was too much for the Administration. CheneyBush preferred, at first, to tone down the bellicose verbiage and tried to cajole and diplomatically lean on the actual Russian leader, Putin, to alter his policies in Georgia. But CheneyBush, with few if any creative foreign policy design of their own, soon adopted the McCain line and spoke of moving U.S. troops into the key ports and cities of Georgia -- for "delivery of humanitarian aid." This is throwing gasoline on a smoldering fire, dangerous and reckless as can be. Defense Secretary Robert Gates had to come out in public and make clear that the U.S. would take no untoward action.
Now, Bush and Rice and McCain are threatening to send NATO forces to the area, which potentially could ignite a military response from Russia. And the Americans are tightening their influence over the Ukraine and other ex-Soviet satellite states, by promising them entry into NATO as they sign on to the CheneyBush missile-defense system in Europe.
It never fails: The U.S., anxious to police the world and control various regions' natural resources, moves into ongoing conflicts outside its geographical zone of influence and knowledge (Vietnam, Iraq, Georgia, etc.), doesn't understand the complex local politics and thus gets sucked into age-old conflicts between warring tribes and factions, and endlessly repeats the quagmire syndrome: wrong war, wrong place, wrong time.
McCain, CheneyBush and their neo-con backers are lighting matches in the explosive situation in Georgia, and elsewhere in Europe (now Russia says it will target its missiles at U.S ally Poland, since that country has signed on to Bush's missile-defense system), and thus are risking a renewed Cold War, and maybe even a hot one, with Russia.
Nobody in their right mind would want to do that. Unless, like McCain and his neo-con backers, you thrive on war and chaos. #
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment:
First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 8/19/08.
Copyright 2008 by Bernard Weiner.