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Bigots and Psychos and Killers, O My!

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Message weldon berger
It is naive to attempt to characterize activities a President might authorize as 'legal' or 'illegal' without reference to the circumstances under which he concludes that the activity is necessary. - Richard Nixon Another bloody year draws to a close, which means it's time to pay tribute to a few of the truly bloody-minded among us. This is by no means a comprehensive list, or one limited to this year; just a few enduring governmental and institutional press examples of cluelessness, cupidity, arrogance, greed and vampirism, beginning with the Vampires in Chief.
The Theory of the Urinary Executive
The formal designation is actually 'Unitary Executive,' but the alternate title more accurately conveys the odor and effect of it on our constitution and our increasingly fragile republic. In brief, the theory assumes that when the Founding Fathers repeatedly and emphatically declaimed against the dangers of an unfettered executive branch, they meant precisely the opposite. Hence wiretapping in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and whatever other illegalities we haven't yet learned of, and hence the tsunami of bill signing statements in which the president makes clear that he regards any Congressional strictures on his actions and those of any government agencies run by political appointees as suggestions rather than imperatives. L'etat, c'est Bush; the law is meant for thee and me, not he. Nixon ran aground on the shoals of Watergate; although that turned out to be among the least, and least explicable, of his sins, his excesses already hint at modesty in comparison with Bush's, before the latter have been even partially explored beyond what's in the newspapers. A brief note on the late Saddam, whose death leaves me unmoved in part because I oppose the death penalty in any circumstances, let alone those surrounding his trial, and in part because at this point it's meaningless in any of the senses it was once anticipated to be meaningful. He and Bush have much more in common than either would care to admit. Saddam, who overcame significantly more obstacles than Bush on his way to the top, would surely have relished the luxury of a complaisant citizenry and sufficient resources to wreak his havoc on people far enough outside his borders to mute the blowback. One suspects Bush - who has throughout most of his regime been almost equally unencumbered by an independent legislative body as was Saddam, although for somewhat different reasons - might enjoy summoning the steely resolve necessary to keep the peace in his own country should occasion arise, although the hours might be too much for him. At any rate, he's assembling a state security apparatus that could handle the task.
I feel blue. Let's kill someone.
Most people would, I think, agree that in any war the overwhelming number of casualties are not the people responsible for starting the conflagration, who generally number in the tens or hundreds rather than the tens or hundreds of thousands. In the absence of any particularly good explanation for starting a war, people tend to make up their own. Americans in general took wholesale leave of their senses after 911, so the explanations provided by those in charge of such things didn't have to be especially reasonable, and by god, they weren't. Among the anointed are pundits, most of whom joined their fellow citizens in that parallel universe where conscience and reason are more than usually malleable. Some of them have been so bludgeoned by reality this past year or two that they're forced to pay it a degree of reluctant homage but many still haven't quite got the hang of it back - it's apparently not much like riding a bicycle - and remain marooned in the territory to which they fled after 911. It's as though they fear that this world and theirs are matter and anti-matter, and their heads will explode if they dast poke a nose through the shimmering force field separating them from the rest of us. Which might in fact happen, but it's a risk they're paid well enough to take. Thomas Friedman, Richard Cohen and Jacob Weisberg, of the New York Times, Washington Post and Slate, respectively, may not be the worst of all possible pundits on the subject of Iraq but they're close enough for death metal. All three combined variously astonishing capacities for credulity with an astonishingly casual blood lust. The short versions:
  • Friedman: we had to kill very large numbers of innocent people to prove we could.
  • Cohen: We had to kill very large numbers of innocent people because "I thought the prudent use of violence could be therapeutic."
  • Weisberg: We had to kill very large numbers of innocent people because Ken Pollock told me so.
Weisberg has since allowed as how he was wrong to support the war, but still insists that he arrived at his support through a logical process far superior to that of the rabble who didn't listen to Ken Pollock. Cohen is a bit more humble about his awakening, but not humble enough to get himself to a nunnery, and nothing will ever bring Friedman back to reality other than perhaps electroshock therapy, which probably wouldn't work either but might make for good television.
Fucken Ragheads
Among the things wars require from their supporters is the belief that the people being killed in their name either deserve to die or are no great loss (worth the investment, as Ms. Rice says.) Implicit or explicit, it's a belief inseparable from the support: you can't genuinely value someone's life at the same time as you advocate taking it. So war, along with dropping the national IQ into moron territory, is also and not remotely by coincidence, a windfall for bigots of all sorts; cultural, racial, religious. A great many people don't need war to tap that vein, as with George "Macaca" Allen, but very likely Allen's former Congressional colleague, Virgil Goode, who had the sense to keep his inner bigot to himself until after the election, wouldn't have ventured into that territory at all absent 911 and Iraq, or at least not so vocally. So whether from racism or religious intolerance or a sociopathic indifference to the claim upon life advanced by those who happen to be in the wrong country at the wrong time, or of the wrong race or religion or class in the same country, war requires of its supporters that they set aside whatever degree of concern for innocent life that they possess in favor of enthusiastic butchery. The enemy, and those at home who talk like them or look like them or act like them or are seen to be in sympathy with them, are demons, heathens, savages, dirt, dogs, traitors, irrelevancies (eggs in an omelet). With Friedman, Cohen and Weisberg, and other allegedly liberal supporters of the war, that trek into sociopathy seems the likeliest explanation: people for whose lives they might plead were they victims of natural disasters are suddenly worthless or invisible when the disaster is visited on them by us. It doesn't take a war to bring out the bigot in Americans, as witness our general history, as witness our general history, as witness Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and others who have dined out on it for years, but wars certainly expedite and expand the process. I think one reason the institutional press are so allergic to the prospect of thorough investigations into the provenance and conduct of this war, and to the consequent potential for impeachment of Bush and Cheney, is that they don't want to face up to the facts of what they supported. They wanted lots of people to die, and lots of people died; to hold Bush formally accountable is to hold themselves accountable; to examine his motives, which will inevitably be proven shoddy, is to raise the question of their own. They haven't the courage or grace to admit shame even were they able to see the appropriateness of it.
Another Dead Soldier
The bubbly will be flowing tonight, and the empties lining up behind the bar. How extraordinarily synchronistic that the death toll among US troops reached 3,000 in Iraq today. Happy New Year, Mr. Bush.
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Weldon Berger is a freelance writer and the proprietor of BTC News, the only progressive web site with a White House correspondent. He fails to see the point in waiting around for George Bush's performance to improve.
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