The land of the what? The home of the who?


Is this really what we’ve become? Glenn Greenwald explains:

Decadent governments often spawn a decadent citizenry. A 22-year-old Nebraska resident was arrested yesterday for waterboarding his girlfriend as she was tied to a couch, because he wanted to know if she was cheating on him with another man; I wonder where he learned that? There are less dramatic though no less nauseating examples of this dynamic. In The Chicago Tribune today, there is an Op-Ed from Jonah Goldberg — the supreme, living embodiment of a cowardly war cheerleader — headlined: “Why is Assange still alive?” It begins this way:

    I’d like to ask a simple question: Why isn’t Julian Assange dead? . . . WikiLeaks is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb. . . .

    So again, I ask: Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?

    It’s a serious question.

He ultimately concludes that “it wouldn’t do any good to kill him, given the nature of the Web” — whatever that means — and reluctantly acknowledges: “That’s fine. And it’s the law. I don’t expect the U.S. government to kill Assange, but I do expect them to try to stop him.” What he wants the Government to do to “stop” Assange is left unsaid — tough-guy neocons love to beat their chest and demand action without having the courage to specify what they mean — but his question (“Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?”) was published in multiple newspapers around the country today.

Christian Whiton, a former Bush State Department official, wasn’t as restrained in his Fox News column last week, writing:

    Rather, this [the WikiLeaks disclosure] is an act of political warfare against the United States. . . . .Here are some of the things the U.S. could do: . . .Explore opportunities for the president to designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them.

I emailed Whiton and told him I’d like to do a podcast interview with him for Salon about his WikiLeaks proposal and he replied: “Thank you for the invitation, but I am starting a trip tomorrow and will be on a plane just about all day.” I replied that it didn’t have to be the next day — I’d be happy to do it any day that was convenient for him — and he then stopped answering ….

It was only Tuesday that various guests, including former NSC Director for Defense Strategy Kori Schake and former Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, explained on KCRW’s To the Point that there wasn’t anything particularly significant about the latest WikiLeaks release, save for its volume. Still, though, we see journalists like Goldberg, or former Bush administration officials, suggesting severe actions against WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

Are we really—really—so frightened by information? Would we support other nations that attempt to suppress public information about what the governments are doing? Would we not protest suggestions that whistleblowers should be assassinated or imprisoned as enemy combatants?

What ever happened to “the land of the free and the home of the brave”? How is it that “transparency” has become a political buzzword in the United States? More than bombs and bullets, it seems information brings night terrors to some, who feel that truth is anathema, and those who seek it ought to be punished harshly.

People don’t want transparency. They want someone to blame, to hate, to condemn. This is a fairly common psychological phenomenon; as people feel more and more alienated by the world around them, they seek some means of exercising a degree of authority. To blame and condemn satiates the hunger for a time, but that satisfaction is fleeting. For the Goldbergs, Whitons, and other warmongers of our age, the missions abroad have been disastrous blows against their identity politics. To admit and accept that the Iraqi Bush Adventure should never have happened, and the mission in Afghanistan was played to lose from the outset, is too great a burden for their identity complexes, so they must find someone or something to blame for every appearance of failure and injustice; the something is truth, and the someone is whoever brings it.

This is what we’ve come to. This is what we want. What I can’t figure, though, is why.

A note on the aptly suggestive?


Every now and then, we get a clear glimpse inside the American conscience. This time around, it’s Thomas Friedman, writing for The New York Times:

Former President George W. Bush’s gut instinct that this region craved and needed democracy was always right. It should have and could have been pursued with much better planning and execution. This war has been extraordinarily painful and costly. But democracy was never going to have a virgin birth in a place like Iraq, which has never known any such thing.

Maybe it’s Friedman, and maybe it’s me, but given some of the rhetoric we’ve heard over the last seven years, it’s a macabre choice of words, because—

    Democracy in Iraq can only come about after we have ______ the country.
    (A) screwed
    (B) fucked
    (C) raped

Then again, maybe I’m not the one to ask. After all, I’m a Freudian.

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What the hell is wrong with these people?


Let us pause for a moment to consider … well, what should we consider? Indeed, amid the high-volume histrionics of Republicans lamenting the end of the world now that Senator Barack Obama has been elected president, complaining such as they do about things Obama has not even had an opportunity to do—pre-emptively defending themselves against any further loss of credibility, or something like that—one could easily forget that there is, in fact, another man currently serving as President of the United States. For his part, though, it is enough to say that even he seems, at times, to have forgotten that he is still president.

Nonetheless, some, including McClatchy’s Warren Strobel seem surprised at attempts by the Bush administration to revise history in order that the outgoing president will be treated more kindly in our memories. Wait a minute, that can’t be it. Who the hell is surprised at that? After all, the administration has been trying to revise history for most of its tenure.

Perhaps, then, it is the shameless severity of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s remarks in an interview with C-SPAN’s Steve Scully on Monday that caught Strobel and his colleagues’ attention:

QUESTION: But as you know, even overseas, some of that sharpness, some of that derision has been aimed at George W. Bush. So despite all of the accomplishments that you just outlined, why is he, in some parts of the world, detested?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President had to do some very difficult things. Look, we came out of September 11th having to make a choice about how we were going to defend this country. Were we going to stay with a strategy that essentially considered terrorism a law enforcement problem, or were we going to go to war against them? And in some quarters, it wasn’t popular to talk in the terms and act in the manner in which we – at recognizing that we were at war with these people. And yes, we had to do some very tough things.

But you know, I think I’ve found over the years, particularly in these most recent years, that much of that rancor is gone. We have outstanding relations with our European allies now. When I go to a NATO meeting, it is about the incredible fact that NATO is fighting together in Afghanistan. Yes, we’d like to see more contribution here. Yes, there are national caveats there that are constraining. But imagine NATO fighting in Afghanistan as its core mission.

When I go to Europe, I no longer see any difference in the view that a stable and secure Iraq is in everybody’s interest, and that an Iraq that is democratic and in which Saddam Hussein, that brutal monster that caused three wars in the region, including dragging us in twice, that used – who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, that an Iraq that is democratic and friendly to the West is better for the Middle East. I don’t see much disagreement about that.

I see no disagreement that Iran has to be prevented from getting a nuclear weapon. And on the Middle East, I’ve never seen greater harmony behind the Annapolis process as the basis on which a two-state solution will eventually come into being.

And so whatever we went through in the difficult days of 2003, 2004 it would be a mistake to think that we have problematic relations with our allies. We simply don’t. We may not agree on everything, but the transatlantic relationship is in very, very good shape. And you can even say that more so for our core relations in places like Japan and South Korea and India and, indeed, China.

Tell me, please: Do these people ever stop lying?
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Quote of the Week — Scarborough on Iraq


When did Joe Scarborough turn against the war? I’d ask when he went crazy, but that was years ago. His freak-out earlier this week would be entertaining, except that it was pathetic.

All I’m saying here is if they want us to leave earlier, we will gladly leave earlier. And you know what? Just because I say Maliki will be killed in fifteen minutes doesn’t mean I care whether he gets killed or not. I don’t.

Shows you what this war is worth to its former advocates, eh?

A tip of the hat to the Doonesbury Town Hall for pointing out that gem.

Some ado about … well, nothing


Something about this Danziger cartoon pinged my liberal radar, and when I asked some associates about it, one of them immediately picked up on the point. But I decided to leave it alone in that sense. After all, Danziger is a bright mind and a gifted cartoonist.

Jeff Danziger, June 30, 2008

Jeff Danziger, June 30, 2008

Nonetheless, a question still nags at me. Five points to anyone who can spot the issue, and another five (and much gratitude) to anyone who can explain the point to me. I suppose I could write Mr. Danziger and ask, but it’s more fun this way. What am I missing?

The Bush success


There is something to be said for the obvious, although we can be sure there is somewhere an economist, politician, or pundit willing to explain why the prescription suggested by Michael T. Klare, writing for the Toronto Star would not be a particularly effective palliative for the spiraling costs of oil:

… the Bush administration’s greatest contribution to rising oil prices is its steady stream of threats to attack Iran, if it does not back down on the nuclear issue. The Iranians have made it plain that they would retaliate by attempting to block the flow of Gulf oil and otherwise cause turmoil in the energy market. Most analysts assume, therefore, that an encounter will produce a global oil shortage and prices well over $200 per barrel. It is not surprising, then, that every threat by Bush/Cheney (or their counterparts in Israel) has triggered a sharp rise in prices. This is where speculators enter the picture. Believing that a U.S.-Iranian clash is at least 50 per cent likely, some investors are buying futures in oil at $140, $150 or more per barrel, thinking they’ll make a killing if there’s an attack and prices zoom past $200.

It follows, then, that while the hike in prices is due largely to ever-increasing demand chasing insufficiently expanding supply, the Bush administration’s energy policies have greatly intensified the problem. By seeking to preserve an oil-based energy system at any cost, and by adding to the “fear factor” in international speculation through its bungled invasion of Iraq and bellicose statements on Iran, it has made a bad problem much worse ….

…. And if this administration truly wanted to spare Americans further pain at the pump, there is one thing it could do that would have an immediate effect: declare that military force is not an acceptable option in the struggle with Iran. Such a declaration would take the wind out of the sails of speculators and set the course for a drop in prices.

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Um, what?


In the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the (in)accuracy of the Bush administration’s pitch for war in Iraq, the media has seized the opportunity to rail against an administration that has bobbed and ducked and weaved its way through a disastrous war that, as many suspected, didn’t have to be. On that note, while the end of Saddam Hussein’s reign is a difficult outcome to argue against—indeed, it may be the only bright spot about the war—it still seems hard to use that fact to justify the war. There are plenty of cruel dictators around the world to knock off pedestals, but we do not pursue them. The Bush administration had to be dragged into the Liberian conflict. Robert Mugabe, as of this date, still holds power in Zimbabwe. And certainly the Burmese junta is a gross detriment to the people of that beleaguered nation. Just to name a few.

But I digress. Sort of. The editorial board of The New York Times sounded off yesterday:

It took just a few months after the United States’ invasion of Iraq for the world to find out that Saddam Hussein had long abandoned his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs. He was not training terrorists or colluding with Al Qaeda. The only real threat he posed was to his own countrymen ….

Nobody disputes that the late dictator was a nefarious figure, but among our reasons for not going all the way to Baghdad in 1991—aside from Vice-President Cheney’s 1994 eerily-prophetic explanation that it would have been a disaster—was that this was not the United States’ role. Liberating Kuwait was within the traditional purview of our military endeavors, but deposing Saddam Hussein was beyond the pale. The Iraqi Bush Adventure represents a potential paradigm shift, one that many hope is quashed by the next administration.

What is unsettling, though, about the Times editorial is its conclusion, which strains to give the president even the thinnest veneer of innocence and redemption:

We cannot say with certainty whether Mr. Bush lied about Iraq. But when the president withholds vital information from the public — or leads them to believe things that he knows are not true — to justify the invasion of another country, that is bad enough.

Now, perhaps I am simply being naîve and falling back to the lessons of childhood, but the act of withholding information in order to affect a decision, or the act of leading people to believe what one knows is not true … how is this not lying?