The President of the United States has openly, proudly admitted that he approved the use of interrogation methods that are by every measure -- including the measure of United States law -- criminal acts of torture. It is one of the most brazen and scandalous confessions of wrongdoing ever uttered by an American leader -- and it has had no impact whatsoever. No scandal, no outcry, no protest, no prosecution.
This pattern has recurred over and over throughout the Bush Administration. Bush and his minions commit crimes and atrocities in secret; they move heaven and earth to conceal their filthy deeds; they squirm and squeal like panicked rats when their some small portion of their evil comes to light; they belch forth a relentless series of self-contradictory lies to cover up, obfuscate or explain away the crimes; and when at last their malefactions can no longer be denied, they trot out the president himself to say: "Yeah, we did it; so what?" And then....nothing happens.
And now nothing is happening again. It is an astounding phenomenon. Bush is the most widely despised president in modern times. The war he launched on false pretenses against Iraq is deeply unpopular, and is plainly bankrupting the country. His economic policies have plunged millions into ruin, want and insecurity. The opposition political party controls the Congress -- a bastion they could have used as a bully pulpit to rally the public and as a battering ram to bring down an openly criminal, shamelessly unconstitutional, dangerous, illegitimate regime. And yet....nothing happens.
There has never been a condition of such deep, virtually catatonic civic paralysis in American history -- and few such instances in world history. There will be no good issue from all of this. No saving grace in the last act, no life-enhancing "lessons learned," no character growth in the story arc, no deus ex machina, no redemption. There will only be -- at best, in the very best-case scenario imaginable -- a long, slow agonizing slog through the ruins, a hard, interminable labor of waste disposal and reclamation, in a much-diminished world.
And yet the sleepwalking goes on. For not only is Bush never chastened or hobbled by revelations that ordinarily would topple even the strongest government in any nation with even a tincture of democracy -- he and his cronies simply move on from each exposed outrage to even greater crimes. And that is what is happening today. Even as Bush was telling ABC News about his approval of the White House torture meetings -- where the nation's most august figures of state watched CIA men act out torture techniques for them -- he and his minions were also bolting the last rivets onto their latest war machine: the engine of murder and destruction they have prepared for Iran.
The same process of deception and fearmongering that led to the Iraq invasion is being played out again. And once again, the Establishment press is playing an indispensible role in formenting a new act of mass murder. Once again, the media mandarins are shoveling horseshit directly from the White House down the gullets of the American people.
Last week, the Bush Regime used the Establishment house organs, the Washington Post and the New York Times, to announce that Iran is now the main U.S. enemy in Iraq. Both reports were laden with the usual unchallenged, unfiltered, unquestioned spin from the usual unnamed "senior U.S. officials" about Iran's "malign influence" in arming, training and directing deadly Shiite militia attacks against U.S. forces.
For two years now, Bush and his accomplicies have been methodically laying the groundwork for another specious casus belli ("Iran killing American troops!); manipulating the ever-eager-to-be-manipulated corporate media and Congress into swallowing every shift in the propaganda line; conducting their training for bomb runs on Iran (including scenarios for "tactical" nuclear attacks); moving attack fleets into the Persian Gulf and elsewhere within easy striking distance of Iran, building outposts on the Iranian border; running covert ops inside Iran (with the assistance of a terrorist cult once used as enforcers by Saddam Hussein). Now, with the aid of stories like those above, they are "rolling out the product," getting the "Iran is the Enemy" story front and center, no longer building it from the edges but making it the propaganda focus for the final act of Bush's bloodsoaked Grand Guignol.
One could write yards of exegesis on these articles, unpacking the outright lies, the skewed, misinformed -- and misinforming -- "analysis," the innumerable false assumptions built on old lies swallowed long before: "lies that no longer know they are lies, because they are the children and grandchildren of lies." This kind of exercise has great value, of course -- if only to demontrate, to ourselves and to future generations, that not everyone was willing to gobble down horseshit at the order of killers and torturers, and their simpering courtiers. [For an excellent example, see Juan Cole's takedown of the lies of the scribes and courtiers here: Iran Supported al-Maliki Against Militias.]
But ultimately, on the ground, it will not change a thing. The sharpest truth, shouted like a trumpet blast, will not wake the sleepwalkers now. Nothing has pierced the shadows and fog so far, nothing has roused their moral sense, their legal sense, their political sense; nothing has stirred them to take action against the torture, the secret prisons, the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, the ludicrous farce and deadly tyranny of the "Unitary Executive" cult -- and the never-ending act of mass murder and rape that is the war in Iraq. Will they stir now to stop another war crime in Iran?
No, it's obvious now that we must drink this bitter cup to the dregs. The sleepwalkers have encompassed us all in their nightmare. And how terrible, how terrible will be the awakening.
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This story was published on April 14, 2008.