Cave Dwellers: More Democratic Deceit on War and Torture

The Washington Post reports that Congressional Democrats are preparing to sign off on a spending bill that will, once again, pour tens of billions of dollars into the ongoing war crime in Iraq. The exact figure is not yet known, because Bush's willing executioners among both parties have rigged up a complicated and deliberately deceitful process to shield the true nature of their craven kowtowing to the bloodstained, filth-encrusted White House autocrat.

(For more on the autocratic, lawless nature of the Bush Regime, see Jonathan Schwarz, Marcy Wheeler, and Scott Horton, and this as well.)

Here's how the scam will work. First, House Democrats will offer up an initial lowball figure -- "only" $30 billion or so -- and claim, falsely, that the funds are intended for the war in Afghanistan and other Pentagon projects, even though "all sides in the deal recognize [that the money] could be shifted to fund the Iraq war," as the Post reports.

Then, the Democrat's so-called leader in the Senate, Harry "Shaky Knees" Reid, will "allow Republicans to increase that amount to avert a filibuster of the spending bill in the Senate." At that point, with the bill now swollen to, say, $70 billion or so for the Iraq war crime (and this is short-term, stop-gap spending, mind you), it will go back to the House, whose "leaders" will then accept the "compromise" reached in the Senate, and send the bill to the murderous, sadistic wretch in the Oval Office.

And that, boys and girls, is the way that the Potomac Empire operates: wilful deceit in the service of undeniable evil.

[For more on the long-term, bipartisan nature of this system, see the indispensable Arthur Silber here.]

However, there could be one possible glitch in the plan. It seems that the Democrats have asked for $11 billion in domestic spending to be included in the deal. It is thought that some Republicans -- and the White House -- will balk at throwing any more coins at the rabble they rule with such cynicism and contempt. Yet even this begged sop represents a cave-in by the Democrats. The Post reports that Shaky Knees last month "signaled that the Democrats were willing to halve their initial request of $22 billion in additional domestic spending, setting 'boundaries for the current debate in which $11 billion serves as the new ceiling." In other words, Reid gave away half the game before the negotiations even started.

On GOP aide quoted by the Post called this move "a bargaining mistake" by Reid. But it is highly doubtful that this was a "mistake" of any kind. It was instead just another instance of the long-running system of deception that allows each side to strike poses before its partisan base, while working feverishly behind the scenes to serve its true masters: the corporate, militarist and financial elites. In this round of the game, Reid and the Democrats posture as champions of the middle class and the poor, playing to the old New Deal base, while the Republicans get to prance around in their threadbare "anti-Big Guvmint" robes. The reality, of course, is that the welfare of the common people has declined precipitously over the past few decades, while government has grown by leaps and bounds -- no matter which party is ostensibly in power.

Thus the final "negotiations" between these cynical factions will see a further cut in the domestic spending option, while the funding for the rapine in Iraq will sail through. There is one other possibility: Bush might refuse to sign the bill if any new domestic spending whatsoever is included. In that case, the outcome is equally certain: the Democrats will once again "cave" -- i.e., do right by their true masters -- and the war crime will go on as before. The Democrats are not going to do anything to stop this crime -- because they are part of it. They are not going to do anything to bring the perpetrators to justice -- because they are deeply complicit in every death engendered by the war as well.

UPDATE: Just as I was finishing up the piece above, fresh confirmation came -- via the Post again -- of the knowing collusion of the Democratic leadership in the worst crimes of the Bush Administration. In this case, it is the foul torture regimen personally instituted by George W. Bush and his top minions, including physical abuses used by Nazi Germany in its torture chambers and psychological torments devised by the KGB and North Korea.

As the Post reports, top members of Congress -- a bipartisan group including Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi -- were given a full description of the Bush-Cheney torture program in September 2002. Some 30 other private briefings with Democratic and Republican leaders followed. In these sessions, the legislators were fully informed on the nature of the tortures, including waterboarding -- a heinous technique for which German and Japanese officials were hanged after World War II.

During Pelosi's 2002 visit, it seems that the Congressional leaders questioned only one aspect of the torture program:

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.

These new revelations are an outgrowth of the recent discovery that the CIA destroyed direct evidence of their "intense interrogation" of the mentally unbalanced, low-level al Qaeda factotum, Abu Zubaydah. (For more on the Zubaydah case, see the Horton story noted above.) This criminal obstruction of justice is so glaring and indefensible that the Bush Administration is obviously trying to muddy the waters by leaking word of the briefings to Democratic leaders. "We're all in on it," the Bushists are signaling; "we all knew about it -- so it's no big deal. If the Dems want to say we're dirty, they're dirty too."

This is a classic Karl Rove tactic.  (Oh, you think he's gone, do you, no longer pulling any strings for the White House?) You spread the muck around, instill a sense of general disgust with politics among the electorate ("A plague on both their houses!"), which drives away the majority of voters, leaving a clearer field for your rabid rightwing base.

It also plays to the corporate media's lazy tropes. "Hey look, the Dems were in on this thing, it had bipartisan backing all the way. So if anybody on that side wants to criticize it now, it's just partisan posturing." This serves the media's need to reduce every aspect of public life and policy to "the usual Beltway bickering."

Finally the leak is also a warning shot to the Democrats: "If we go down because of this, you're going down too -- in fact, the whole damn system, the great golden goose, the endless supply of pork and graft that's made us all rich and powerful, could go down as well."

And of course, all of this is true. The Democrats are in on it too, deeply complicit in the torture and war atrocities. There is much hypocrisy in their very belated, very timid, very limited -- and deliberately ineffectual -- criticisms of waterboarding, aggressive war, presidential dictatorship, etc. And it is certainly true that the whole political system has become steeped in evil: dependent on war, dependent on corruption, dependent on deceit, and lawless to an astonishing degree. If Bush and his gang really were brought to the full measure of justice for their crimes -- and if the full extent of these crimes were to be exposed clearly and copiously -- then the system might indeed collapse, unable any longer to keep up the deliberate lies -- and the deep-seated self-deceptions -- that have allowed it to destroy so many innocent lives, for so many years, in so many countries...including our own.

But you know and I know that this is not going to happen. As with the outrageously cynical "enabling act" for the Iraq war crime noted above, here too with these new revelations about destruction of evidence and Democratic knowledge of torture, we will see the usual striking of ritual poses, while the game -- the deep, dark, dirty, sickening game -- goes on.

UPDATE II: As usual, Arthur Silber is already on the case, but I didn't see his piece on the torture story until now. He  lays out well the history that makes this latest revelation of bipartisan partnership in torture less than "news," and makes an eloquent call for a response that we have touched on occasionally here and elsewhere: non-recognition of any authority or legitimacy of the evildoers who rule over us, and their partners. Go read the whole piece, but I'll leave you with Silber's conclusion:

I do not want to be misunderstood on this point, so let me state it as plainly as I can. The time is long since past for every minimally decent American to take a stand: either you are on the side of civilization and humanity, and the irreplaceable, supreme value of an individual human life -- or you are on the side of evil, brutality, torture, sadism, genocidal war, and endless death. The Democrats and the Republicans both stand for Empire, and for the endless horrors already inflicted -- and the endless horrors that still lie in our future....

At this terrible moment in history, we must call things by their proper names. Let the world know where you stand: for life, and the possibility of joy and happiness -- or for death, and cruelty, barbarism and the repetition of horrors that the monsters among us insist on reviving when given the opportunity.

If you choose to support evil and to embody evil yourself, I suggest you follow the vile example of the current administration: do so without apology, and brazenly revel in the evil you choose to inflict on the world. It is far more contemptible -- and, to speak personally, it is sickening beyond my capacity to describe accurately , in significant part because of the complex psychological dishonesties that are required -- to enable evil, while claiming you represent the "moral" and "practical" choice. These are the justifications used by those who made possible the cruelest and most unspeakably horrifying regimes in history, as Mayer's witness and many others attest.

Withdraw your support entirely from those who perpetrate and make excuses for evil. If the refusal to support such people were widespread enough, we still might have a chance. I regard it as the very slightest of chances, one that will almost certainly be destroyed by another significant terrorist attack in the United States -- but it is the only one we have.