May 20, 2003
Liberals vs. Conservatives? It's the Corruption, Stupid
by Maureen Farrell
Following the recent terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, George Bush issued his standard no-nonsense, nonsensical declaration. "[T]he United States will find the killers and they will learn the meaning of American justice. . . Just ask the Taliban," he said.
Never mind that the Saudis, like the Taliban, are also accused of harboring and financing terrorists http://tinyurl.com/bztk or that Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and the anthrax killer are as elusive as Iraq's fabled arsenal. And didn't George get the memo about Al Qaeda and the Taliban regrouping in Afghanistan? http://tinyurl.com/c2gx No matter. Now that we've started down this perpetual war path, there's no need to fume over mushroom cloud propaganda. So what if we just fought a war for fictitious reasons and our national treasury is being looted like an Iraqi nuclear site? http://tinyurl.com/bgc0 And, though the masterminds behind the 9/11 atrocities have yet to "learn the meaning of American justice," George Bush is still trying to get to the bottom of it all http://tinyurl.com/bp12. <Insert eye-roll here>
As sad and frustrating as this is, duped citizens continue to make this an issue of "liberals versus conservatives," while missing the larger point. Attacks on George Bush are not attacks on America and this game of "which team are you on?" is just plain stupid. We live in an age of chronic dissembling http://tinyurl.com/1v3w and fear-driven jingoism, fueled by desperate attempts to sweep uncomfortable truths beneath the star-spangled carpet. There is something deeply and fundamentally wrong -- something corrosive to our core.
Think that's just hyperbole? A case of Henny Penny on crack? Though admittedly biased, George Bush's sizable "scorecard of evil" http://tinyurl.com/byvi reveals that "we the people" are not his No. 1 priority. Since signing his first executive order restricting public access to presidential records http://tinyurl.com/byvo, George Bush has lied to the public and international community http://tinyurl.com/c2ii, while repeatedly thwarting the September 11 investigation. Though some journalists have taken heat for asking certain questions http://tinyurl.com/c1qs, with victims' families speaking out, http://tinyurl.com/bosl, http://tinyurl.com/bost and James Baker's law firm representing the Saudis against 9/11 families, http://tinyurl.com/by9d, concerns of government incompetence and malfeasance are not solely the province of the tin foil hat crowd. http://tinyurl.com/41e0
Also troubling are government officials' war profiteering ties http://tinyurl.com/bu0e, Halliburton's $7 billion no-bid contracts http://tinyurl.com/bzrj and Carlyle connections http://tinyurl.com/bfdz. As Dan Briody, author of THE IRON TRIANGLE: Inside the Secret World of The Carlyle Group, recently put it: "The best way to explain the Carlyle Group is to use a euphemism that Dwight Eisenhower employed back in the 1960s, when he was leaving office. He warned the country of something called the military/industrial complex and that is probably the best way to describe what the Carlyle Group does." (Eisenhower also warned that "The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist" and that "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes"-- as is the case today http://tinyurl.com/c0p7).
Explaining how former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci's membership in the Carlyle Group strengthened the iron triangle between politics, industry and defense, Briody exposed an ethical kink rarely covered in the mainstream press. "George Bush Sr. is working for this company that is the 11th largest defense contractor in the country at the same time his son is in office waging war," Briody said, later adding, "It is clearly a conflict of interest. And conflicts of interest lead to potential corruption." http://tinyurl.com/bzs8 http://tinyurl.com/9bmu
And if that doesn't convince you something is amiss, how about contrasting our noble beginnings to where we stand today? Thomas Jefferson's vision for our nation is imbued with John Locke's interpretation of government of, by and for the people. "Great mistakes in the ruling part, will be borne by the people without mutiny or murmur," Locke wrote. "But if a long train of abuses. . . . all tending the same way, make the design visible to the people . . . it is not to be wondered that they should then rouse themselves, and endeavor to put the rule into such hands which may secure to them the end for which government was at first erected." And so it goes, as Jefferson wrote, that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
While Locke informed Jefferson's views, today, theorists cite a variety of political philosophies at work -- all of them favoring the ruling class over the people they supposedly serve. William Pfaff, for example, examines Leo Strauss' role in shaping Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and other hawks' views. Strauss, Pfaff explains, felt that citizens need to be deceived about political realities, while an elite few guard the truth. "The ostensibly hidden truth is that expediency works; there is no certain God to punish wrongdoing; and virtue is unattainable by most people. Machiavelli was right. There is a natural hierarchy of humans, and rulers must restrict free inquiry and exploit the mediocrity and vice of ordinary people so as to keep society in order." http://tinyurl.com/bx04
Dr. Martha Nussbaum, Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago Law School, on the other hand, cites Thomas Hobbes' influence -- and points to the Bush administration's callous scorn of long held moral standards and human rights concerns. Embracing a tact that is "deeply alien to America's founding traditions," the Bush administration, she contends, is "casting the United States as the Hobbesian sovereign needed to bring order to an amoral realm." http://tinyurl.com/bybu
Some equate such musings with paranoia, as if there were never a time in American history when vigilant citizens needed to decipher actual agendas through a misleading mist of stated policy. They use words like "cabal" and "conspiracy theory" and say concerns about the neo-conservative's influence http://tinyurl.com/c0vf are based on anti-Semitism -- failing to acknowledge that when the Wolfowitz Doctrine was leaked to the New York Times in 1992 http://tinyurl.com/c0px, people weren't leery because of Wolfowitz's ethnicity, but because his Strangelovian plan for American dominance and aggression doesn't mesh with American values.
"The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of American power has been. . . ambivalent," Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote. "The public supported America's engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor." Wolfowitz and other members of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) understand this, too. "The process of transformation," they wrote, of their vision for Pax Americana "is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event-like a new Pearl Harbor." They got what they needed.
But considering that Wolfowitz's decree is more than a decade old, America's amoral spiral can't be blamed entirely on September 11. PNAC's "Rebuilding America's Defenses" http://tinyurl.com/7onk called for preemptive serial wars, unilateral aggression and the dismissal of the UN even before the 2000 election, while The National Security Strategy of the United States of America http://tinyurl.com/bxwf merely reiterated foregone conclusions.
As America asserts her unilateral supremacy, our reputation suffers. "I believe, as a Jefferson scholar who's worked at this for fifteen years," Thomas Jefferson Radio Hour's Clay Jenkinson recently said, "if Jefferson could see what's going on now, he'd be appalled by what the United States is doing." Jon Stewart recently joked that Air Force One now has a bumper sticker that reads "How's My Diplomacy? Dial 1-800-Kiss-My-A**" and former UN weapons inspection chief Richard Butler succinctly described America's new arrogance this way: "I've talked to senior members of the Bush Administration," he said "and if [people] are asking "Well, why are they behaving this way?" Well, one can say they're just plainly selfish or this is the consequence of September 11 and so on. Not really. It's this -- this administration has a view of the special character of the United States, the singular and exclusive character that is new. I've talked to them about it and they make this plain. They say, "We are the sole super power, we're therefore the exceptional country, we're outside of international law. Others have to obey the law and obey the rules, but we don't." I mean, I'm not making that up. If they were sitting here tonight, Mark, the people I've talked with would readily agree. They'd say "Yeah, that's right, that's who we are. We are the exceptional country and we don't have to obey the law because we're different." . . . . And I ask you to recognize what happens when the most powerful country, the same as the most powerful people within a domestic society, consider themselves to be above the law. . . ." http://tinyurl.com/bx02
As this attitude extends to America's right to use tactical nuclear weapons and wage war simply for show, its inherent danger becomes obvious to anyone outside of Stepford. This past January, Bob Novak stunned Capital Gang panel members when he said weapons of mass destruction weren't the real reason for war in Iraq. Bush administration officials, he said, wanted "a war as a manifestation of U.S. power in the world and as a sign that the United States is capable of changing the balance of power and the political map of the Middle East." When Mark Shields accused Novak of a putting forth a "pretty serious charge," Novak responded that a senior Bush administration official asked, "Well, if we don't hit in Iraq, where are we going to hit?" http://tinyurl.com/c0ft. In April, ABC News reported that "To build its case for war with Iraq, the Bush administration argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but some officials now privately acknowledge the White House had another reason for war -- a global show of American power and democracy." http://tinyurl.com/c0gh
Citing "a deep moral sadness about the current conduct of the United States, as our leadership shows contempt for [a] vision of a multilateral world," Martha Nussbaum explained that, "Moral norms do not cease to exist because current leaders do not believe in them." As the government turns its back on international law, the Geneva Convention http://tinyurl.com/c0n0 and our Bill of Rights http://tinyurl.com/c0lt, it's time to take stock in who we are.
Even though jaded citizens think 2000 election tampering http://tinyurl.com/c1i7 was just politics as usual and believe this administration's lies about Saddam's imminent threat were defendable, those who view Bush's Machiavellian tactics as a means to an end are often the first to champion plans for democratizing the Middle East (also based upon fables, it seems. http://tinyurl.com/bxc3). Democracy, however, depends upon the consent, not deception, of the governed. And is democracy, whether here or in the Mideast, truly possible if those deceiving the public obtain power through questionable means?
"[M]oral norms are not docile, submissive things." Nussbaum asserts. "They do not quit the scene when people treat them with contempt. Instead, they call us to outrage and protest." Bush apologists might begin by asking themselves how they would feel if the September 11 attacks happened on Clinton's watch. What if he had taken a month-long vacation in the midst of several warnings? http://tinyurl.com/c1ik, http://tinyurl.com/c1j3 Even if they are inclined to say "hindsight is 20/20" -- how upset might they be if Clinton won the White House after his cronies shaved voter rolls? Or if his father and family friends profited from wars he waged? Or if he attempted to block investigations into the worst terrorist attack on American soil http://tinyurl.com/bv8d? Would they be ok with a Clinton appointee saying, as Condoleeza Rice did, that nobody imagined terrorists using planes as weapons -- even though the CIA, as this item from the Memory Hole shows, was practicing for such an event on September 11, 2001? http://tinyurl.com/c1j7
folks have to see that this is far more serious than blue dresses,
cigars and failed land deals. "Bush protected
himself and his friends." Jim Ridgeway wrote. "What he
left uncovered was the rest of us." http://tinyurl.com/c1iw Anyone
who can cut through the layers of propaganda http://tinyurl.com/278c and
step outside their fear, might finally get a fuller picture of how
the Bush administration operates http://tinyurl.com/ab7e.
Perhaps then they might see that dissidents are not anti-American
-- or even
partisan -- but are concerned about corruption, incompetence, and
our children's future. No matter how Rush Limbaugh or others spin
it, it's never been a matter of hating America. It's a matter of
loving "We the People" -- liberals and conservatives alike.
Maureen Farrell is a writer and media consultant who specializes in helping other writers get television and radio exposure.
© Copyright 2003, Maureen Farrell
otherwise noted, all original