Again and again, in the year now ending, the American people have been told by their leaders that strategies based on a new "repugnant philosophy" are required if the nation is to survive the challenge facing it. Forbidden incendiary weapons must be used in urban settings. Prisoners of war must be deprived of Geneva protections. Aggressive interrogations of enemies must approach torture. Commitments to provide US combat forces with adequate protective gear must be forsworn. Extrajudicial kidnapping of bad people must be justified. Allies must be pressured into joining secret networks of detention camps.
Human rights standards must be jettisoned. Traditional obligations to the United Nations must be ignored. Treaties that limit action can be cast aside. Distinctions between foreign and domestic espionage must be left behind, with US citizens subject to unmonitored surveillance by military agencies. Public libraries must be regarded as government peepholes. The lawyer-client privilege must no longer be regarded as sacrosanct. The press must be recruited into the project of information management. Dissent must be labeled as treason. ...
Where is the shame in Washington today? How does Donald Rumsfeld not blush in the presence of the soldiers he so routinely betrays? How does Dick Cheney maintain that straight face, treating core values as a joke? The recasting of the nation's moral meaning -- a blatant embrace of ends-justify-the-means -- is happening in plain daylight. No shadows here.
Every time the Bush administration is caught in one of its repugnant purposes (Thank God, again this year, for Seymour Hersh), the White House declares its intention to stay the course. Torture? Wiretapping? Kidnapping? Deceit? The president's eyes widen: Trust me, he says with a twisted smile. Then he leans closer to display a snarling defiance. The combination reduces his critics to sputters.
Perhaps Bush's savviest achievement has been to make the public think that Rumsfeld and Cheney are the dark geniuses behind the administration's malevolence. If Bush is taken as too shallow to have a fascist ideology; as too weak to stick with hard policies that undermine democracy; as a religious nutcase whose apocalyptic fantasies don't matter; as a man, in sum, the average citizen can regard as slightly less than average -- then what he is pulling off will not be called by its proper name until it is too late. 2005? Oh yes, that was the year of the coup.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Year Of The Coup
James Carroll has written one of the more clear-eyed assessments of the current regime in the mainstream media (though I would strongly assert that the year of the coup was not 2005, but 2000).