Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Impunity leads to further silence

Yet this administration defies the truth that comes forth every day; it continues to flaunt its will before the world as it demands acquiescence to its arrogant policy of pre-emptive strike based on its determination of what nation might threaten the United States' control of atomic weapons, military superiority, and economic Capitalistic dominance across the globe. That arrogance breeds contempt for other nations and other people. That arrogance propels a sense of superiority that gives license to control, even to gain that control by torture. That arrogance gives rise to an intransigent, deeply embedded racism that finds fault with others who attempt to thwart its dominance. That arrogance has pitted America's perceived acceptance of torture as acceptable acts of an innocuous kind, as explained away by the Republicans, against the conscience of the world's communities that find it barbaric and contradictory of the very values Bush claims to bring to the world.
It's the American people that are maligned; it's our values that are desecrated; it's our nation that has been placed under this horrific pall by an administration willing to subvert its most cherished ideals. But now truth has boiled to the surface, evidence accumulates daily, the people stir: "Wisdom cries aloud in the streets; in the market place she lifts her voice."

The above is from William A. Cook's "Words Without Meaning" (CounterPunch).

It's an important article. (And an intelligent one.) We're at a place where we should be forcing issues and questions. That didn't happen in 2004's presidential campaign.

Cook walks through you the reactions to John Conyers and Dick Durbin's truth telling and the violent reaction to both.

Cook argues we need to be making the most of this moment to press the issues that aren't going to be raised on their own.

Which recalls the points that Naomi Klein made in "Kerry and the Gift of Impunity:"

Impunity--the perception of being outside the law--has long been the hallmark of the Bush regime. What is alarming is that it appears to have deepened since the election, ushering in what can best be described as an orgy of impunity. In Iraq, US forces and their Iraqi surrogates are assaulting civilian targets and openly attacking doctors, clerics and journalists who have dared to count the bodies. At home, impunity has been made official policy with Bush's nomination of Alberto Gonzales--the man who personally advised the President in his infamous "torture memo" that the Geneva Conventions are "obsolete"--as Attorney General.
This kind of defiance cannot simply be explained by Bush's win. There has to be something in how he won, in how the election was fought, that gave this Administration the distinct impression that it had been handed a "get out of the Geneva Conventions free" card. That's because the Administration was handed precisely such a gift--by John Kerry.
In the name of "electability," the Kerry campaign gave Bush five months on the campaign trail without ever facing serious questions about violations of international law. Fearing he would be seen as soft on terror and disloyal to US troops, Kerry stayed scandalously silent about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. When it became clear that fury would rain down on Falluja as soon as the polls closed, Kerry never spoke out against the plan, or against the illegal bombings of civilian areas that took place throughout the campaign. Even after The Lancet published its landmark study estimating that 100,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the invasion and occupation, Kerry repeated his outrageous (and frankly racist) claim that Americans "have borne 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq." His unmistakable message: Iraqi deaths don't count. By buying the highly questionable logic that Americans are incapable of caring about anyone's lives but their own, the Kerry campaign and its supporters became complicit in the dehumanization of Iraqis, reinforcing the idea that some lives are insufficiently important to risk losing votes over. And it is this morally bankrupt logic, more than the election of any single candidate, that allows these crimes to continue unchecked.

Is this how 2006 will play out? Is this the landscape we're stuck in? Or are we going to ask the hard questions and tackle the real issues?

Elaine has an incredible entry that we'll repost here after this goes up. Are we going to continue to repeat the mistakes of the Kerry campaign or are we going to expect more from people running for office?

Are we going to demand that we're treated as adults and offered serious discussions or are we just going to accept bumper stickers, jingoism and easy applause lines?

Ignoring the realities of what we've done (rendition, torture, etc.) won't make them go away. Pretending Falluja has been "improved" or unharmed by our policies won't change the reality of the slaughter that went on or the police-state conditions that continue.

There are tough conversations that we need to have because they go to the heart of what kind of a country we are, what kind of a people and what sort of government will represent us.

We aren't having those conversations as a national dialogue. We won't until we drop the knee jerk "answer" that we can "win" by being just like the other side with slight modifications. Whether you accept the results of the 2004 election or not, the fact that we were left without a moral or ethic to stand on shouldn't be surprising. As Naomi Klein has pointed out numerous times, in numerous forums, torture wasn't an issue. We could have the Bully Boy in the Oval Office right now (as we do) but we could have a strong discussion on torture if the issue had been raised. It wasn't.

"Vote for me because I've seen war" isn't an platform, isn't an answer especially when the candidate pushing that cred has no answers. Fine tuning isn't an answer when so much is at stake.

Even with Bully Boy in office, we'd be better off as a people if the campaign of 2004 had been some real issues and asked us to consider, seriously, what had gone on in the last four years and what direction we were headed. The Kerry campaign could have led on that. Win or lose, they could have made inroads. But it was a "safe" campaign and as the tide has turned regarding America's opinion of the invasion/occupation's value, it would be great if we had some real issues (whether they were mocked by Fox "News," et al or not) that were put to us.

"John Kerry reporting for duty" is not a platform. When CODEPINK tried to address the elephant in the room, they were escorted out of the hall (during the Democratic convention). We didn't want to look "weak" on terror.

Instead of challenging events and decisions, the campaign wanted to say "I'd do the same but I'd do it smarter." Never was the issue raised of whether or not the planning (such as it was) was appropriate.

We'll point out these mistakes in planning and strategy and we'll look strong was the conclusion of the campaign. The right pushes jingoism and our response is to attempt to our imitation of it?
That's not an alternative.

The car's run out of gas. Everyone in the car's looking at Bully Boy behind the wheel. John Kerry's saying, "I would've stopped at the gas station five miles back." Good for you but should we have headed down this road in the first place?

All the fads and crazes won't change the fact that to a large number of people that argument will come off as coulda', woulda', shoulda'. Offering a patch, a quick fix, isn't dealing with the issues that people are hungry for. We need to demand more. Not just from our press, but from our politicians and would be politicians.

At a time when "we were lied into war" isn't a shocking notion (thanks to the Downing Street Memos and all the people -- elected officials and citizens -- who raised the issue repeatedly) the idea that candidates should be questioning the invasion itself shouldn't be controversial. When people are ready to say we were taken down the wrong road, candidates need to be able to provide something more than "I would've stopped to refuel five miles back."

We're not hearing that and we won't until we demand it. Democracy doesn't begin and end with the voting in an election or with supporting a candidate. (A point Laura Flanders makes repeatedly and has a great statement on that which I'm unfortunately forgetting right now.)

Short term measures to run an easy election don't improve the state of our nation. Nor do they put any pressure on our officials to do more than quick fixes and easy lip service.

Before we start handicapping the next races based on "electability" we need to think about what candidates are standing for. "I'll do the same thing but I'll do it smarter" keeps us on the same road. It doesn't raise the issue of whether we should have gone down it in the first place.

As is usually the case, the people are ahead of the politicians. And when we're considering whether or not to support someone, we need to ask what they're standing for. Not what their Oprah friendly narrative represents. Not whether or not there's some great reel footage to be shown.

What's happening in Iraq now? From "Bush's Exit Plan: Fomenting Civil War in Iraq?" (Democracy Now!):

AMY GOODMAN: Pushing a civil war?
ARUN GUPTA: Well, I think that if you look at the situation in Iraq, there are indications that this is what the Bush administration may be attempting, because the whole occupation has been a disaster from the beginning. The disbanding of the army and the security forces, the failure of reconstruction effectively alienated the Sunni Arab population. And then, since then, what we have seen, such as like the blatant theft of Iraq's oil money, the use of various militias has increased the sectarian conflict.
Now, at the beginning of the year, few people considered a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites a possibility. There has been a lot of speculation all along that between Sunnis and Turkmen and the Kurds, that it was a much greater possibility because the Kurds run their own state.
But over the last six to nine months, the political process has intensified. The sectarianism in Iraq, rather than bringing the country together, the elections that were held in January solidified the sectarian lines. That was because the U.S. pushed the strategy that parties should run on slates, that they should cobble together these large groupings. And because the elections were held in this atmosphere of intense violence, very few parties could actually campaign in the open in much of the country. So, what that meant was that most Iraqis who participated in the election voted their ethnicity, such that the Shiite slate, the United Iraqi Alliance, and the Kurdish slate walked away with most of the votes.

There are serious issues to be raised and they won't become part of the national dialogue if we're posturing and trying to prove our "bonafides" on national security by accepting as valid actions that should never have been taken.

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