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Rulers Who Inhabit an Amoral World:
Part I: The Rejection of All Restraint

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Andrew Bard Schmookler     Permalink
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We may all live on the same planet but, in terms of our consciousness, we don 't all inhabit the same world. And it 's a challenge as historians and anthropologists teach us --to understand the nature of the world inhabited by others, different from ourselves.

That challenge is especially great when, as with America 's present rulers, those others are consistently dishonest with us about who they are and where they 're coming from. The world they inhabit, and the world they pretend to inhabit, are at such odds that, in seeking to understand them, we are compelled to be like detectives looking for the pattern in the clues that will disclose the hidden truth.

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When we have gathered enough clues, however, a clear and disquieting truth emerges from the pattern: their world is a fundamentally amoral one.

In this first of a three-part series, we will look at one such pattern --a pattern that could be called "The Rejection of all Restraint. "

The Clues,

It did not take long for the Bushites to show their disdain for international order. Even this, though, emerged as a pattern piece by piece. The World Court --rejected. A treaty to better monitor the flows of money --rejected. The ABM treaty --abrogated. The Kyoto Treaty --contemptuously scuttled.

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If we hadn 't noticed before, it became unmistakable not just in the fact of the unsanctioned invasion of Iraq, but in the arrogantly unilateral manner of the build-up toward that war. By the time the president went to the United Nations apparently nudged in that direction by public importunings from the old advisors to the first President Bush --it was already clear to all the world that this American leadership had none of the regard even for the ideas of collective security and the global rule of law that had marked the run-up to the first Gulf War.

And now, this country 's Ambassador to the United Nations is a man whose pronouncements have denigrated the whole concept of an international order to constrain the actions of its members by mutually-agreed rules. Why have such rules, his position seems to be --at least so long as the United States has the unchallengeable power to act however it wishes?

Our present ruling group has shown consistent hostility, too, to the system of environmental regulation that would govern how industrial corporations may act on American soil, and on this planet --in the pursuit of their private profits. Across the board, our governing powers have worked to weaken the restrictions enacted in the United States over the past generation --Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, occupational safety regulations, etc.

Most dramatically, perhaps, in the crucial area of climate change they have made the United States an environmental pariah. Besides utterly rejecting the Kyoto Treaty and failing to offer anything in its place, they 've scoffed at the very idea of a national effort to conserve energy. This despite the evidence from other countries that America could make huge improvements in the efficiency of our energy use, without sacrificing our economic vitality, and despite the ever-growing scientific evidence that global warming is already under way with possibly severe consequences for future generations.

Then there is the pattern of their rejection of Constitutional restraints on their power. This has been particularly evident in the way they used the Patriot Act to institute broader police powers that infringe on personal privacy. It has been evident also in the way they 've tried to give the President essentially unchecked powers in the prosecution of suspected terrorists.

The Pattern

What is the pattern that emerges from all these clues? In each case, the Bushites have shown a hostility toward any order that would restrain their freedom of action.

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This is not how people act if the world they inhabit is a moral one. For the person who inhabits a moral world, the fetters imposed on him by good order are welcome because of his allegiance to the right.

That 's why so many of us were struck by the press conference held by the Special Prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald. His palpable love of good order seemed so strange in this Bushite era that for many it served as an inspiring reminder of an aspect of America that 's lately been dismantled before our eyes. One sensed that, though he might like to speak more freely about what he knows and what he suspects, he feels honored to bow before the rules that govern his office and the grand jury process because he understands their rightness and he loves the justice these rules protect.

(Contrast that with the evasiveness and equivocation of the president 's press secretary, Scott McClelland, whose failure to deal with entirely appropriate questions like, "How does the president 's saying 'We don 't torture ' fit together with his vice president 's seeking an exception to the McCain bill, and the president 's threat to veto it? ' --seems so transparently to me, "Answering such questions does not further our interests, so I 'll evade them. ")

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
 

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