Going, Going…

Ex-Vice President Cheney is busy working on a book of memoirs. It’s working title is If I Did It.

Ex-President Bush is also working on a ghostwritten book to be called Of Course The Bastard Did It, But I Didn’t Know.

And so there appears to be some discord between the former partners in crime. Cheney was apparently livid at the former boss’ refusal to grant a pardon to convicted and commuted aide Scooter Libby, but with his recent veiled threats and verbose criticism of the naming of a special prosecutor to investigate CIA torture, it’s possible he’s less worried about Ol’ Scooter than Ol’ Shooter.

And he may have reason. While after the Abu Ghraib scandal people seemed content to go after a few truly worthy bottom of the barrel rotten apples, many people believed the furious Administration spin that the rot stopped ‘way down there. They addressed the issue by banning digital cameras from torture sites.

Now we know that torture was meticulously planned and ordained right out of the White House by Cheney, Ashcroft (who at one point asked why they were even discussing such things) Rumsfeld, Rice, the DOJ torture lawyers Yoo and Bybee, and others. Including Bush. So how can you prosecute Lyndie while giving a nod and a wink to Condi? Aren’t those who issue criminal orders as culpable (if not more so) than those who blindly carry them out?

The ‘just following orders’ defense so soundly rejected at Nuremburg (at the cost of some lives) has now made a comeback amongst CIA, military and mercenary torture underlings with a strange new corollary for the perps at the top: ‘We were just giving orders’. How far can credulity stretch before the concept of justice in the USA stands on its head and dies once and for all?

The financial scandal that emanated from Wall Street and which continues to embroil the whole world received, for better or worse, genuine if panicked attempts to intervene and prevent complete economic degeneration and catastrophe, something which could still happen, and may even be likely. One could argue whether some of the same predatory crocodiles who caused the problem should have been put in charge of ‘fixing’ it, but that’s recent history now. The point is that the self-inflicted threat to the world economy was at least taken semi-seriously.

More abstract and less conspicuous than the financial abyss into which America may still be heading, is an even worse danger, worse because it is what inspired and allowed the former: America’s political and moral degeneracy. It is the greatest evil, because it permits and enables all that follows. And on this front there seems to be no equivalent of the financial fixers, panicked as they may have been, or the equivalent of the trillions of dollars dumped into the system to try to avert disaster. Obama fiddles as America burns.

America is experiencing an unprecedented moral disaster that is by far Mr. Obama’s greatest challenge, of which he seems oblivious. Money is important, but so is the rule of law, and that is based on ethics. Ignore that, and governance eventually becomes impossible. Chaos ensues. Violent anarchy prevails. And not only empires crumble, but nations fracture also. At huge cost in human suffering.

America smugly calls itself a (mostly) Christian nation even as it wages imperialistic invasions that are illegal by all human standards, international or domestic. It tortures people, even innocent people, even children, even to death and upwards of sixty percent of its citizens find no fault. The ex-Vice President, whose Administration destroyed evidence and then moved mountains to block and then strangle a proper investigation of 9/11, points to the latter as a justification for more torture, more illegal kidnapping, more murder. More military. More war. More madness. No apologies, just that permanent self-satisfied sneer. Contempt.

With more than a million dead in Iraq and millions more maimed and displaced, Americans, to the limited extent they think about it at all, wrap themselves in the red, white and blue illusion that they are spreading freedom and democracy, not terrorism and random death on a massive scale. Torture. Murder. Madness. Not a dream. American nightmare.

In Afghanistan the same myth may be comforting, but is as dishonest. America is supporting some of the most sickeningly savage warlords, druglords and is turning a blind eye to an ever burgeoning opium and heroin trade, from which the CIA always ends up with a healthy cut.

And in Pakistan it has been made clear many times that the US has no more regard for innocent civilian life than it does in the other two hopeless countries, made so in the name of citizens who are as amorally indifferent as their leadership. America loves to hate, but mostly it just doesn’t give a damn.

If this American ethical meltdown is allowed to continue it will simply not survive long as a nation, let alone an empire.

And when there is nothing left to ‘look forward’ to, maybe then Mr. Obama will look back in nostalgia for what might easily have been, and with regret that his actions could never speak louder than his grand but illusory, empty words. If the Obama Administration continues down the muddy low road navigated by the previous one, it will be as worthy of the contempt of history that the former one made inevitable. Perhaps even more so, because it began with such promise, and promises.

John S. Hatch is a Vancouver writer and filmmaker. Read other articles by John.

2 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. balkas b b said on September 12th, 2009 at 12:31pm #

    That’s cosa nostra in action. The imperialistic cosa nostra gang appears worse than ever only because it has more money than ever to spend on arms and soldiers.
    However, the cosa nostra of the biker, street, mafia, country or empire gangs never change their basic traits.
    tactics may vary but not the goal.

    Meanwhile, the cosa mia people are split asunder into hundreds of orgs and movements. They are further split into pious and impious people.
    It’s so bad, twelve people cld rule the entire empire. tnx

  2. David said on September 13th, 2009 at 9:20am #

    Mr. Hatch:

    Thank you for this excellent article, an ode to what could have been.

    Sometimes I wonder how many people in the US have given up hope and, with full knowledge of our country’s history, find themselves wishing for its end.

    Much of the rest of the world is already looking past the soon-to-be former giant shopping mall that is our country. The economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China have already left us in the dust. The Chinese have quietly been buying gold as a hedge against the collapse of US treasuries and are dumping those securities.

    Soon, perhaps we will see a mass exodus of billionaires to points elsewhere. Then might be the opportunity that we need to reform and rebuild this country.