Lately there has been a minor imbroglio in the blogosphere between progressive stalwart Roy Edroso and Salon.com columnist Glenn Greenwald. The former took umbrage at the latter's comparison of the foreign policy positions of Barack Obama and Ron Paul. I won't bore you with the meat of the matter, but I would like to focus momentarily on Edroso's umbrage, which is so unfortunately emblematic of the progressosphere at large.
In sum, Edroso's "eyes filled with blood, he said -- from outrage and insult, presumably -- at Greenwald's description of what any supporter for Barack Obama is actually supporting. To wit:
Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) ...
This, it seems to me, is the most basic statement of unequivocal, undeniable fact imaginable. It is simply true that if you support the continuance of Barack Obama in power, this is what you support. I have been pointing this out from various angles here for years; Arthur Silber was pointing out exactly what supporting Obama meant even before the candidate of hope and change was elected. (See this, for example, from 2007.) There is nothing new in Greenwald's recitation of the blunt, plain, unvarnished facts.
Yet confronting this reality -- the actual reality of what supporting Barack Obama and his policies means -- caused Edroso's progressive eyes to "fill with blood." All he could muster in answer was an ironic jibe at Greenwald for acting like a pantomime villain -- "Jesus, Glenn, why not add 'Mwah hah hah' ... while you're at it?" -- for simply stating the mundane truth.
This is painful. This is watching someone who is obviously of good heart twist and contort themselves to avoid the truth that they are supporting mass murder. Mass murder. The reality of children being torn to shred by drone bombs at the order of a Democratic president is no less evil than children shredded by Republican neo-cons or libertarian extremists -- or by the worst kind of psychopathic child-murderer stalking some city street somewhere. There is no moral difference in the evil of these acts. Yet Edroso, blinded by the partisan blood in his eyes, casts about this way and that trying desperately, desperately, not to see the truth in front of him.
Over at another avatar of the progressosphere, Hullabaloo, David Atkins likewise casts scorn on those who might actually refuse to take part in the electoral process of a murderous empire "because of drones" or some silly nonsense like that. What a casual shrug -- abandon Obama "because of drones"? Some little something like "drones"? Some little something like an industrial killing machine operating in dozens of countries around the world? What is that -- a few hundred eviscerated, obliterated, gutted, beheaded children -- to the impossible scenario of, say, Ron Paul becoming president of the United States and immediately enacting his entire extremist libertarian agenda across the entirety of the United States government? (For yes, it is just this ludicrous nightmare scenario that seems to petrify our progresso-stalwartians. They are far, far more concerned with these fantasies than the absolutely bedrock reality of innocent people being murdered, day after day after day after day, by the industrial killing machine captained so enthusiastically by Barack Obama.)
So many millions upon millions of pointless words spent on the "horse race" of the presidential election -- which will be decided solely on the basis of which two corporate bagmen spend the money of their masters most effectively -- and all of them nothing more than witless blather raising blood in the eyes of good people, to keep them from seeing the reality of the evil being done in their names, by the very "progressive leaders" they champion.
It's already the new year here, but probably not where most of this blog's small remnant of readers are residing. So here are some "echoes from the future" to you folks still back in 2011. I hope you -- and all of us -- have a good year in 2012. As long as our sister, Life, is still with us, we'll keep plowing on, I reckon.
(And if you have any spare coinage to keep the plow going here, it would be much appreciated. The tip jar is empty at the moment. However, as always, be sure to first give to any and all who need it more -- such as Arthur Silber, who depends solely on his blog to survive amidst much pain.)
Meanwhile, here's a little reprise of a Pasternakian echo: "My sister, Life, is calling .... "
I had much to say about the recent terror bombings in Baghdad, which were framed almost universally in the American media as the result of the withdrawal of the steadying, beneficent hand of the U.S. military. For example, the New York Times spoke of "a country reeling from political and sectarian turmoil that erupted after the departure of the American military."
It is hard to fathom the level of moral blindness -- not to mention the wilful ignorance -- required to write such a statement. To pretend to oneself, much less the rest of the world, that political and sectarian strife has only now "erupted" in Iraq, out of the blue, or more likely, due to the inherent savagery of those poor primitives we liberated -- think what a pathetic, self-deluded wretch you would have to be to hold such an belief. Think what it must be like to lose so much of your humanity and to have your intellect so stunted and diminished. Yet this is the viewpoint of the overwhelming majority of the American political and media elite. No causal connection is made between the unprovoked invasion by U.S. forces and the "eruption" of violence and political chaos in the conquered, broken, blood-soaked land.
So yes, there is much to say about the continuing obscenity of the American war crime in Iraq, and its most recent manifestation in the eviscerated bodies on Baghdad's streets. But I think in this instance, I should put my voice aside and let an actual Iraqi speak of the situation and its implications and causes. Sami Ramadani writes powerfully of the hell that has been unleashed in his hometown. From the Guardian:
Baghdad, the city of my childhood, is again being terrorised by cowardly attacks aimed at spilling the blood of as many workers, students, shoppers and bystanders as possible. As I write, the facts are becoming clearer: the hundreds of murdered and injured men, women and children are Shia, Sunni, Christian, Arab, Kurd, Turkuman – a cross-section of the mosaic of peoples who have inhabited Mesopotamia for more than 1,000 years.
So, who is killing the innocent in Baghdad today, and why?
In the rush to provide an explanation for the nihilistic violence, the same old simplistic mantra is trotted out. Thursday's co-ordinated, simultaneous attacks are invariably described by the media as sectarian. Few pause to ask why a "sectarian" attack would be aimed at all sects and ethnicities equally. Only a handful raise the possibility that these attacks are not sectarian in motive, or a reflection of sectarian hatred on the streets, but are instead designed to create sectarian entrenchment and animosity, and ignite street conflict.
Similarly, analysts are quick to conclude that both the power struggle within the political elite, and the explosions are the result of the withdrawal of US troops. They portray the US forces as the good Samaritan who prematurely left the scene. Too few examine the legacy of the occupiers' poisonous presence at the heart of Iraqi society for nearly nine years, or ask why the US has built the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad, staffed by 15,000 personnel and spies.
Today's bitter power struggle can be traced back to the measured 2003 decisions made by Paul Bremer . Bremer, a Bush "civilian" appointed to rule Iraq, continued the military occupation under a different guise. Faced with massive popular opposition and armed resistance to the US-led invasion, the US recognised in 2003 that the occupation of Iraq could not continue without a prominent Iraqi component, so Bremer formed the Iraqi governing council while retaining control of all levers of power.
The mix of the 25-member council was carefully calibrated, with quotas to reflect Iraq's sectarian and ethnic makeup. That sectarian formula was to be mirrored in all Bremer's appointments. Far from preventing sectarianism, it introduced it to all the political and military institutions created by the occupation. .....
Such is the anger at the occupation that many Iraqis think the US was behind Thursday's attack. This belief is dismissed as conspiratorial, but it is widely held. There is a reason for this. Apart from the horrific violence committed directly by the occupation forces and Pentagon-contracted mercenaries, the US also created Iraqi secret militia, and smuggled tens of thousands of weapons and tons of explosives into Iraq through private firms in Bosnia .... Indiscriminate killings and terrorist attacks were a permanent feature of the US-led occupation, and to many ordinary Iraqis, Thursday's bloodshed is just more of the same.
Similarly, ordinary Iraqis see their current rulers, who arrived with the occupation, as self-seeking, corrupt politicians who use religious and ethnic differences to perpetuate sectarianism as a means of creating power bases ...
The truth of what happened and is happening in Iraq is well-documented. The illegal invasion based on knowing and deliberate lies; the active fomenting of sectarian militias by the occupation forces; the use of death squads by the occupiers and their local allies; the widespread indiscriminate killing of Iraqi civilians by the occupiers and the local security forces they armed, paid and trained; the world-historical levels of looting and corruption on the part of the occupiers' war profiteers and their local appointees -- all of this and much more of the story of the suffering, anguish and degradation inflicted on the Iraqis by the invaders has been plainly evident for years. I have written about it on this site and elsewhere since the beginning, drawing almost entirely on mainstream sources of information, easily accessible to any ordinary citizen.
It requires no specialist knowledge, no insider connections, no secret sources to know and see the horrendous reality that the Americans and their accomplices have created in Iraq. As we noted here the other day, all that it requires is a willful turning away from reality into the maniacal hallucination of fear-ridden righteousness that has swallowed the American mind: a hysterical dream-world where the giving-over to evil bears no fruit, has no consequences, can always be absolved, repaired, reversed. But time's arrow flies in only one direction: the past cannot be undone, and the poison we have served to others -- and poured into our own veins -- will eat through the walls of the hallucination and stain the future deep with horror.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if love comes to you or not, or if doesn’t come to you in the form or with the force you may have wanted.
All that matters is that love exists somewhere in the world, and that we strive to make a world where this astonishing fact — which alone gives meaning to life, and is itself immortal — can flourish in all of its manifestations.
Illustration: Music, 1894, George James Frampton; wooden model for a silver relief. Ashmolean Museum. Personal photo. The letters.
Apologies for the duplicate posts, and for the fact that in trying to fix it, I seem to have eliminated the copy that had comments on it. We may possibly be having some hack attacks, but it's being looked into, and we crave your patience. Thanks.
In March 2003, the United States of America launched an entirely unprovoked act of military aggression against a nation which had not attacked it and posed no threat to it. This act led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. It drove millions more from their homes, and plunged the entire conquered nation into suffering, fear, hatred and deprivation.
This is the reality of what actually happened in Iraq: aggression, slaughter, atrocity, ruin. It is the only reality; there is no other. And it was done deliberately, knowingly, willingly. Indeed, the bipartisan American power structure spent more than $1 trillion to make it happen. It is a record of unspeakable savagery, an abomination, an outpouring of the most profound and filthy moral evil.
Line up the bodies of the children, the thousands of children -- the infants, the toddlers, the schoolkids -- whose bodies were torn to pieces, burned alive or riddled with bullets during the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. Line them up in the desert sand, walk past them, mile after mile, all those twisted corpses, those scraps of torn flesh and seeping viscera, those blank faces, those staring eyes fixed forever on nothingness.
This is the reality of what happened in Iraq; there is no other reality.
These children -- these thousands of children -- are dead, and will always be dead, as a direct result of the unprovoked act of military aggression launched and sustained by the American power structure. Killing these children, creating and maintaining the conditions that led to the slaughter of these children, was precisely what the armed forces of the United States were doing in Iraq. Without the invasion, without the occupation, without the 1.5 million members of the American volunteer army who surrendered their moral agency to "just follow orders" and carry out their leaders' agenda of aggression, those children would not have died -- would not have been torn, eviscerated, shot, burned and destroyed.
This is the reality of what happened in Iraq; you cannot make it otherwise. It has already happened; it always will have happened. You cannot undo it.
But you can, of course, ignore it. This is the path chosen by the overwhelming majority of Americans, and by the entirety of the bipartisan elite. This involves a pathological degree of disassociation from reality. What is plainly there -- the evil, the depravity, the guilt -- cannot be accepted, and so it is converted into its opposite: goodness, triumph, righteousness. The moral structures of the psyche are eaten away by this malignant dynamic, as are the mind's powers of perception and judgment. Thus depravity and evil come to seem more and more normal; it becomes more and more difficult to focus on what is really in front of you, to perceive, judge and care about the actual consequences of what you've done or what is being done in your name. Unmoored from reality, you become lost in a savage nihilism that cloaks its unsifted rage and fear and chaos in the most threadbare pieties. And thus you drift deeper and deeper into evil and meaninglessness, singing hosannas to yourself as you go.
And so Barack Obama, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the self-proclaimed inheritor of the mantle of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, went to North Carolina this week to declare the act of aggression in Iraq "an extraordinary achievement." He lauded the soldiers gathered before him for their "commitment to fulfil your mission": the mission of carrying out an unprovoked war of aggression and imposing a society-destroying occupation that led directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. These activities -- "everything that American troops have done in Iraq" -- led to "this moment of success," he proclaimed.
He spoke of suffering, he spoke of sacrifice, he spoke of loss and enduring pain -- but only for the Americans involved in the unprovoked war of aggression, and their families. He did not say a single word -- not one -- about the thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Iraqis killed by this "fulfilled mission," this "extraordinary achievement," this" success." These human beings -- these sons and daughters, fathers, mothers, kinfolk, lovers, friends -- cannot be acknowledged. They cannot be perceived. It must be as if they had never existed. It must be as if they are not dead now.
The divorce from reality here is beyond description. It is only the all-pervasiveness of the disassociation that obscures its utter and obvious insanity. There is something intensely primitive and infantile in the reductive, navel-gazing, self-blinding monomania of the American psyche today. Think of the ancient Greeks, who constructed their psyches and their worldview around an epic poem, the Iliad, that depicted their enemies, the Trojans, with remarkable sympathy, understanding and insight -- while depicting their own leaders as a band of shallow, squabbling, murderous fools. Here was a moral sophistication, a cold-eyed grasp of reality -- and a level of empathy for one's fellow human beings -- far beyond the capacity of modern American society, and infinitely beyond the reach of the murderous fools who seek to lead it.
The Iraq War has not ended. Not for the dead, not for their survivors, not for the displaced, the maimed, the lost, the suffering, not for all of us who live in the degraded, destabilised, impoverished world it has spawned, and not for the future generations who will live with the ever-widening, ever-deepening consequences of this irrevocable evil.
The U.S. presidential campaign is now in full swing. (In truth, it never actually ends; the savage grasping and grappling among damaged souls seeking their brief season of domination and death-dealing goes on daily without respite.) In the months to come, we will be subjected to an ever-growing, ever-roaring flood of rhetoric about the unique, unquestionable, divinely ordained goodness of America. (And how the "other side" would destroy or demean this precious moral specialness.)
This rhetoric will come both from the radical, society-shaking extremists laughingly called "conservatives" in our fun-house political system, and from the reactionary defenders of elite wealth and murderous militarism laughingly known as "progressives." (And, of course, from the well-fed, milky mannered, comfortably numb burghers known as "centrists.")
All Americans are marianated in this mindset from birth, and it is reinforced in them, every day, by the most powerful and pervasive media machinery in history, by enormous societal pressure, and by the dead heavy weight of tradition. Even the most hardened cynics might feel the stirrings of atavastic response to these siren songs woven into the fabric of the American psyche.
In such cases, I recommend a reading of the following two articles. They will help remind you of the reality being cloaked by the psyche-stirring, button-pushing bullshit of the grasping wretches seeking power.
First, a remarkable piece in the London Review of Books, detailing the personal testimony of a child -- a child -- sold into years of captivity and torture at the hands of the proud, always-to-be-honored defenders of American values. It's the story of Mohammed el Gorani, a Saudi-born teenager from Chad, whose black skin made him a special target for his captors in the gulag hellholes of Kandahar and Guantanamo.
Blocked from acquiring professional training or higher education by the virulent prejudice in America's stalwart ally, at age 14 el Gorani to Pakistan to learn computer skills and English. Two months into his course, he was grabbed by Pakistani security goons and bundled off to their American masters, eager for warm bodies to fill the new gulag:
They took me to a prison, and they started questioning me about al-Qaida and the Talibans. I had never heard those words. ‘What are you talking about?’ I said. ‘Listen, Americans are going to interrogate you. Just say you’re from al-Qaida, you went with al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and they’ll send you home with some money.’ ... One Pakistani officer was a good guy. He said: ‘The Pakistani government just want to sell you to the Americans.’ ... The Pakistanis took away our chains and gave us handcuffs ‘made in the USA’. I told the other detainees: ‘Look, we’re going to the US!’ I thought the Americans would understand that the Pakistanis had cheated them, and send me back to Saudi.
... When they took off our masks, we were at an airport, with big helicopters. Americans shouted: ‘You’re under arrest, UNDER CUSTODY OF THE US ARMY! DON’T TALK, DON’T MOVE OR WE’LL SHOOT YOU!’ An interpreter was translating into Arabic. Then they started beating us – I couldn’t see with what but something hard. People were bleeding and crying. We had almost passed out when they put us in a helicopter.
We landed at another airstrip. It was night. Americans shouted: ‘Terrorists, criminals, we’re going to kill you!’ Two soldiers took me by my arms and started running. My legs were dragging on the ground. They were laughing, telling me: ‘Fucking nigger!’ I didn’t know what that meant, I learned it later. ... There was an Egyptian (I recognised his Arabic) wearing a US uniform. He started by asking me: ‘When was the last time you saw Osama bin Laden?’ ‘Who?’ He took me by my shirt collar and they beat me again. ...
One day they started moving prisoners again. ‘You guys are going to a place where there is no sun, no moon, no freedom, and you’re going to live there for ever,’ the guards told us, and laughed. ... In the beginning there were interrogations every night. They tortured me with electricity, mostly on the toes. The nails of my big toes fell off. Sometimes they hung you up like a chicken and hit your back. Sometimes they chained you, with your head on the ground. You couldn’t move for 16 or 17 hours. You peed on yourself.’
... Sometimes they showed you the ugly face: torturing, torturing without asking questions. Sometimes I said, ‘Yes, whatever you ask, I’ll say yes,’ because I just wanted torture to stop. But the next day, I said: ‘No, I said yes yesterday because of torture.’ My first or second interrogator said to me: ‘Mohammed, I know you’re innocent but I’m doing my job. I have children to feed. I don’t want to lose my job.’
‘This is no job,’ I said, ‘this is criminal. Sooner or later you’re going to pay for this. Even in afterlife.’
‘I’m a machine – I ask you the questions they told me to ask, I bring them your answers. Whatever they are, I don’t care.’
Mohammed el Gorani spent almost eight years in Guantanamo. His captors knew very early on that he was an innocent child, not a terrorist. The one piece of "evidence" they showed him was a paper "proving" he had been involved with al Qaeda in London -- in 1993, when he had been a six-year-old boy cleaning car windshields in Saudi Arabia. But what did that matter? His captors were "machines": they were just following orders, just doing their jobs -- just like every factotum of every brutal system in history.
Oh, but those are the bad old days, some might say. (Despite the fact that the Guantanamo gulag is still operating, alongside other similar facilities -- known and unknown -- around the world.) Today, we're told, we are lucky to be ruled by a kinder, wiser, more humane leader. Sure, he's not perfect -- who is? And OK, maybe, in the end, he's the lesser of two evils. But certainly any serious, savvy person knows there is a profound, qualitative difference between Barack Obama and his predecessor -- and those who would supplant him. Right?
For those whose partisan atavism -- or nostalgia -- might be stirred by such arguments, I urge you to read this piercing and powerful essay by Arthur Silber. It is one of the best summations of the moral horror that permeates our political system -- and the wretched grasper now in charge of it -- that I've ever seen. Here are a few excerpts, but don't cheat yourself: go read the entire piece:
“Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al-Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement,” the president fired back at an impromptu news conference at the White House.
“Or whoever’s left out there,” he added. “Ask them about that.”
Watch the video at the link provided above. It's instructive, particularly Obama's expression when he adds, "Or whoever's left out there." He speaks of murder, yet the words are breezy and casual: this is a murderer so used to killing that he talks of his past and future victims interchangeably, and in terms of approximation. Just "whoever's left out there." He wants to be sure you know he'll order all of them killed in time. His face is expressionless, the eyes dead. This is a man without a soul in any healthy, positive sense. He murders -- and he's proud of it.
More than a million innocent Iraqis were murdered as the result of the United States' criminal war of aggression on that country. Obama has heralded America's "success" in Iraq as "an extraordinary achievement."
The continuing murders in Pakistan and Afghanistan are so numerous and so regular that they barely merit notice for more than a few days, at least as far as the United States government and most Americans are concerned. Over the recent Thanksgiving weekend, the United States government murdered at least 25 Pakistanis .... On the same weekend: "Six children were among seven civilians killed in a NATO airstrike in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Thursday." The story has already fallen into the well of forgetfulness. It must be the case that incidents like this occur at least once a day given the number of military operations ordered by the Murderer-in-Chief and carried out by those who follow his orders. ...
These are only a few of the stories we know about, and only from a very brief period of time. Countless other murders take place all over the world, and we can only gather the dim outlines of what is occurring. This is not to mention numerous lesser acts of cruelty and violence, many of which will alter lives in searing ways, for all the desolate years to follow.
... Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that U.S. Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year, U.S. Special Operations Command [SOCOM] spokesman Colonel Tim Nye told me, that number will likely reach 120. "We do a lot of traveling -- a lot more than Afghanistan or Iraq," he said recently. This global presence -- in about 60% of the world's nations and far larger than previously acknowledged -- provides striking new evidence of a rising clandestine Pentagon power elite waging a secret war in all corners of the world.
...In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans. Once "special" for being small, lean, outsider outfits, today they are special for their power, access, influence, and aura.
No minimally decent human being would choose to have anything whatsoever to do with a government which systematically engages in acts of this kind. This is true of anyone who is part of the national governing apparatus, or wishes to be. It is most especially true of anyone who wishes to become president.
... [A] reverence for life demands that we see the Death State exactly for what it is -- and walk away to the fullest extent we can. That is not the course Barack Obama chose. He wanted to be, he now is the Murderer-in-Chief. He is proud of his achievement.
Silber concludes with a look back to a post he wrote five years ago -- a piece even more true today, and one which shows the horrific continuity between the "bad old days" and our enlightened, peace-laureled progressive era:
If you have ever wondered how a serial murderer -- a murderer who is sane and fully aware of the acts he has committed -- can remain steadfastly convinced of his own moral superiority and show not even the slightest glimmer of remorse, you should not wonder any longer.
The United States government is such a murderer. It conducts its murders in full view of the entire world. It even boasts of them. Our government, and all our leading commentators, still maintain that the end justifies the means -- and that even the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocents is of no moral consequence, provided a sufficient number of people can delude themselves into believing the final result is a "success."
...We can appeal all we want to "American exceptionalism," but any "exceptionalism" that remains ours is that of a mass murderer without a soul, and without a conscience. ... It is useless to appeal to any "American" sense of morality: we have none. It does not matter how immense the pile of corpses grows: we will not surrender or even question our delusion that we are right, and that nothing we do can be profoundly, unforgivably wrong.
Now what's that little baby doing Dressing up in banker's clothes? -- Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings
Many people have commented on the Congressional vote to codify the authoritarian powers asserted by George W. Bush and Barack Obama, i.e., the arbitrary, unchallengeable power to declare anyone on earth -- including American citizens -- an "enemy of the state" and incarcerate them, indefinitely, outside of due process, in military custody.
There is, at this writing, an outside chance that Barack Obama might possibly veto this "enabling decree" -- but only on the grounds that to accept Congressional approval of these tyrannical powers might encroach upon the presidential autocrat's authority to do whatever he or she damn well pleases to anyone he or she wants to destroy. But in any case and every case, the bipartisan political ruling class is united in its steadfast determination to eliminate any last vestige of constitutional liberty or rule of law in the United States.
And whatever the outcome of this particular bill, the reality will remain the same: the President of the United States will continue to claim -- and exercise -- absolute arbitrary power over the life and liberty of every person on earth. As we've said here before, not even Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin at their most megalomaniacal ever dreamed of asserting the kind of universal power now asserted by American presidents and the lickspittlish lackeys in the United States Congress.
There is, alas, no "news" in this. I wrote my first "If the Republic Had Not Died a Long Time Ago" piece several years ago. And Arthur Silber was one of the first (and one of the very few) to point out that the election of then-candidate Barack Obama would only bring the retrenchment, expansion -- and codification -- of George W. Bush's worst constitutional depredations. So it has proven, over and over and over.
But as the Congressional vote shows, one shouldn't fetishize Obama (or Bush, as I was often guilty of doing in the past) as some kind of unique locus for the authoritarianism that is now, beyond all doubt, the essence and practice of the "American way" in the modern world. Both Bush and now Obama have, in many ways, only exemplified and made manifest the zeitgeist of the ruling elite. This is what they believe: the Constitution is a dead letter. The Republic is a dead letter. Might makes right. Mammon is God. Liberty is inconvenient. And any human being who does not belong to the elite or serve it with dog-like devotion is a piece of shit who can be abused, neglected, discarded or eliminated without the slightest shame or consequence. This is the mindset of our elites and their servitors.
But I want to say one further thing. Every one of these elites, every one of these bowing, scraping, enabling courtiers, is also a individual human being, born with the same inestimable worth and capacity for the same astonishing feats of love and comity that all individuals have in potentia. But they have given themselves over to systems and mindsets that are implacably inhuman. They are all in the process of self-murdering their own souls. It's a horrible, sickening sight. And although I condemn their crimes and tainted minds with all the fury and outrage and scorn they deserve, I take no pleasure in this rage. I am heartsick, truly, at every soul lost to the machines -- the War Machine, the Money Machine, the Power Machine -- that rule our world.
But nu, what can you do? That's the way the cornbread crumbles; that's the way the whole thing ends.
On Wednesday -- the day before Britain's unions launched the largest strike the country has seen in almost 90 years -- the UK's coalition government finally removed its mask of 'moderation' and showed its true, ravenous face. The government's economic honcho, George Osborne -- a young, smirking, smarmy upper class twit who makes George Bush look like Will Rogers -- announced yet another round of savage cuts that will batter and cripple the lives of the poor, the vulnerable, the young, the sick, and ordinary working people.
It is all part of a relentless program of "austerity" that is ostensibly designed to "cut the deficit" but is actually a ruthless, draconian -- and very deliberate -- attempt to radically remake society for the benefit of the wealthy few. (And considering how elitist British society has always been, this is ideological extremism at it most fanatic and frothing.)
But it's important to remember that this is not just a Conservative government. It is a full and formal coalition with the Liberal Democrats -- precisely the kind of "moderate centrists" and "serious, savvy progressives" so highly praised by the American commentariat. The LibDems are, in essence and practice, "Blue America": the goodhearted liberal folks who know "the perfect is the enemy of the good" and are willing "to work within the system," making the "tough choices" and sausage-grinding compromises necessary to mitigate the system's worst elements and maybe, just maybe, make things a little better.
But here is the result of all this serious savviness on behalf of progressive ideals: the LibDems are now helping implement the most regressive policies that Britain has seen since the Victorian era. They are presiding -- happily, even giddily -- over the wanton ravaging of a society already brought low by the brutal, bipartisan religious extremists -- blind, fanatic worshippers of Mammon -- who have held sway in Britain, America and Europe for more than 30 years. The LibDems are Obama: socially liberal, fiscally conservative, willing to sacrifice the wellbeing of millions of innocent people to save a thuggish elite from facing the slightest consequence of their own criminal greed and stupidity.
Still, today's strike is a hopeful sign -- a one-day "Occupy Everything" movement that is clearly just the beginning of a long, fierce pushback against the Mammonists. Even so, things are going to get much darker as the extremists fight with equal fierceness to preserve their feudal privileges. Polly Toynbee details the impact of the latest barrage from Osborne and his savvy, progressive enablers:
Class war, generation war, war against women, war between the regions: George Osborne's autumn statement blatantly declares itself for the few against the many. Gloves are off and gauntlets down, and the nasty party bares its teeth. …
Exposed was the extent of pain for no gain, exactly as Keynesian economists predicted, a textbook case. Things are "proving harder than anyone envisaged", says Cameron. But precisely this was envisaged by Nobel-winning economists. Extreme austerity is causing £100bn extra borrowing, not less, while everything else shrinks – most incomes (the poorest most of all), employment, order books and exports. …
What was missing from his list? Not one penny more was taken from the top 10% of earners. Every hit fell upon those with less not more. Fat plums ripe for the plucking stayed on the tree as the poorest bore 16% of the brunt of new cuts and the richest only 3%, according to the Resolution Foundation. … But not a word passed Osborne's lips on tax avoidance and evasion .. while some £25 billion is evaded and £70 billion avoided. In a time of national emergency, Osborne had no breath of rebuke about the responsibility of the rich not to dodge taxes, no threat to curb the culture of avoidance. Despite the High Pay Commission report on out-of-control boardroom pay – which even the Institute of Directors has called "unsustainable" – the chancellor said nothing. How adamantly he ruled out the Tobin tax on financial transactions, called for by those dangerous lefties Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.
Instead came the great attack on public sector employees on the eve of the biggest strike in memory. This was a declaration of open class war – and war on the pay of women, 73% of the public workforce. After a three-year freeze, public pay rises are pegged at 1% for two years, whatever the inflation rate. That means this government will take at least 16% from their incomes overall. …
But the direct assault on the poor is almost beyond belief. Watch how the big, powerful charities on Tuesday expressed uncharacteristic outrage. Along with the Children's Society, Save the Children is fiercer than I can ever recall, calling this "dire news for the poorest families – both in and out of work"; "A major blow", says 4Children; while Barnardo's calls it "a desperate state of affairs when the government's own analysis shows that a further 100,000 children will be pushed into poverty as a result of tax and benefits changes announced today".
That 100,000 is added to the 300,000 that the Institute for Fiscal Studies already expected to join the numbers of poor children from Osborne's previous cuts. ….
100,000 children crushed with a single stroke of a pen! That's class war with a vengeance. Not nearly as many children as our Anglo-American elite have killed outright in, say, Iraq, of course -- but still, pretty good work for one day. And the little twit says there will be at least "six more years" of austerity to come before his sacrifices to Mammon -- sorry, I mean his deficit reduction plan -- is complete.