Wednesday, June 18, 2008

All governments lie, but Bush and Co. have shredded democracy

If there was ever any doubt about it, we now have conclusive evidence that our government has been lying to us through its teeth almost constantly. Although the Bush administration has turned lying into an art form (it's virtually the only thing they do with any efficiency) they by no means invented the practice. As I.F. Stone warned us:
All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.
Although I doubt that hashish is still the drug of choice in the White House (or the halls of Congress), I have been wondering for some time what the presidential Bush and the vice-presidential Dick have been smoking, it would be nice to know, it must be really good stuff. Government mendacity doesn't even seem to be the attribute of one political party. Democrat Lyndon Johnson used the fictitious Tonkin Bay incident much the same way Bush used the Weapons of Mass Destruction - to provide false pretenses for sending our young women and men to die.

It seems fortuitous that former Bush press secretary Scott McLellan's What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception detailing the lies used to sell the invasion of Iraq and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report which told the same story surfaced within a week of each other. But they clearly reinforce each other. It's important to note here that the Senate report finally surfaced after five years of Republican cover up to protect their president and his cohorts. (In case you were wondering in whose interest your senators and representatives were working.) In an editorial (June 6) The New York Times said:
It has taken five years to finally come to a reckoning over how much the Bush administration knowingly twisted and hyped intelligence to justify that invasion. On Thursday — after years of Republican stonewalling — a report by the Senate Intelligence Committee gave us as good a set of answers as we’re likely to get.

The report shows clearly that President Bush should have known that important claims he made about Iraq did not conform with intelligence reports. In other cases, he could have learned the truth if he had asked better questions or encouraged more honest answers.
This is almost exactly what McClellan tells us. Except he tends to let Bush off the hook and blames the rest of the administration and the enabling media.

As important as all this is and we knew it all before last week, I think what's really important is how these lies that "all governments tell" destroy the very foundations of democracy. The basic building block of any truly democratic society is trust. If we can't trust each other and those we elect to act in the common interest how can the system work? Bush and company lied (about the most crucial decision any government can make) and his Congressional groupies (on both sides of the aisle) swore to it. Over 4,000 young American women and men and many more thousands of Iraqis paid the supreme penalty because Bush and his acolytes lied. Democracy simply can't work under those conditions.

As far as I can determine Bush clone John McSame has not yet responded to the Senate report. But it's fairly clear, from other things he has said, that he would follow in his master's footsteps.

So what can we do?

Well - as Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) has said - impeachment would be a real first step.

But the same people who thought impeachment was an appropriate response to a president getting blow jobs in the Oval Office, don't seem to think lying to send thousands to their death in Iraq or incompetence in the face of Katrina are impeachable offenses. Well let's put it in terms they might understand - it would serve as a deterrent to the next government thinking about lying.

But what we have to do is take back our government and re-birth our democracy. That's going to be a tough job. We have to undo about 30 years of right-wing plundering of our political system.

With all due respect to our own neo-con snake oil sellers, there is something even more ominous abroad in the land: the huge military machine that we have created in the post-World War II period. When the Cold War came to an end there was a period of time (albeit brief) when an alternative to permanent war was possible. Then along came 9/11 and the Global War on Terror (GWT). Remember that in the past when a nation decided to go to war, even when we decided to enter WWII, it had to be mobilized on to a war footing. Now we have an enormous war machine waiting to be put to use. Like any technology once its in place we are more likely to use it. There are a number of complex issues that flow from this. According to Robert Scheer:
...after mandated programs are funded, the military consumes roughly six out of ten dollars. As a consequence, increases in domestic spending must be funded by cutbacks in military spending. That is the most honest way to judge the opportunity cost of the military dollar, as in, two unneeded submarines versus health insurance for 4 million kids.

There is, however, a greater cost to having a huge permanent military: the vitality of our democracy. As we saw in the run-up to the Iraq War, the fearmongers who seek an expanded military are not above using their enormous lobbying power to influence the debate. The public will not support the military unless it feels its activities are connected with a real threat, so the military and its suppliers and other allies have to exaggerate that threat. Such is the risk of "the total influence--economic, political, even spiritual" of the military-industrial complex, which Eisenhower warned is 'felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the federal government.' It is a built-in and well-financed constituency that stresses the military option over the diplomatic one, that exaggerates the strength of the enemy rather than realistically appraises it and that desperately finds new wars to be fought.

What is going on in our name is irrational, costly and dangerous, but there are powerful vested interests that want to keep it that way. Those interests remain so strong that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain has called for cutting a military budget that is the largest since World War II. But without such cuts all the campaign promises about funding domestic programs, from education to healthcare, are an obvious fraud.
So, in addition to the thousands of lives - both American and Iraqi - lost and the more than a million displaced Iraqis, the costs of feeding the bloated (and often irrelevant to the current challenges)war machine has enormous domestic consequences. So the lies that led us into an invasion and occupation that denies the essence of who we are also undermines our ability to fulfill our needs at home. At some point it has to stop. And only we can stop it by taking back our democracy and electing people who can be trusted to act in our interests. Keep this in mind the next time the Republicans go on about raising taxes to finance new domestic programs. There is an alternative.


Anonymous said...

Right on! I've thought for some time Bush should be impeached, and Cheney along with him. I object, however, to the use of pet names like "Bushies" -- it makes them sound too human, too small and cute. I applaud your passion and keeness of thought.

Contested Terrain said...

OK. I changed it to "Bush and Co."

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly agree with your sentiments! However, no matter how hyperbolic, I doubt they smoke anything... they are too sanctimonious.

Right on, man!

Contested Terrain said...

Re: hyperbolic

I get your point about their sanctimony, but how else can you explain the fantasies woven over the last eight years? It was, of course, meant in the same way I.F. Stone meant it.
Thanks for your comment.