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09.19 Shell and Exxon's secret 1980s climate change warnings [that capitalists suppressed this for continuing profit is the most unforgivable crime ever]Trump administration rolls back methane pollution rule despite harmful health impacts [continuing in the tradition of stupid capitalism at all costs]
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09.18 Racist rioting in Chemnitz has reopened Germany’s east-west split [We are all mixed-race after 10,000 generations. Helping suffering people makes us feel good, so become their friends instead.]
Death of the Republic, Part CLXVIII
Monday, 1 June 2009
What kind of country passes a "Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009"? Why, a cheap, corrupt, third-rate junta state, which has elevated war and militarism into its supreme value, its "ultimate concern," its divinity -- that's what kind of country.
Glenn Greenwald, among others, is enraged at Barack Obama's eager embrace of the latest disgorgement of third-rate juntaism to belch forth from the hallowed halls of the U.S. Congress: the "Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act of 2009," sponsored by those ever-stalwart champions of liberty, Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman. As Greenwald describes it:
What kind of country passes such a law? Why, a cheap, corrupt, third-rate junta state, which has elevated war and militarism into its supreme value, its "ultimate concern," its divinity -- that's what kind of country. What other kind of country did you think was skulking there between Mexico and Canada these days?
But the perniciousness of the act doesn't lie merely in its immediate goal -- suppressing war crimes evidence to protect the Terror War machinery that Obama has inherited and is expanding. After all, Obama has been working overtime from the beginning to suppress war crimes evidence against his predecessor, whom he treats more and more as a revered elder, not the despised leader of a discredited faction. No, it is, as they say, the principle of the thing: the enshrinement in law of the notion that anything that could be construed as "harmful" to American troops and operatives abroad -- or even the sad sacks back home -- can be suppressed by the government.
Adopting the principle of potential "endangerment" as a justification for government repression is not just an open door to tyranny -- it kicks the door down and brings the rest of the front wall crashing with it. But of course, that edifice crumbled a long time ago. The only thing remotely surprising about this latest Banana Republic Act is that is so blatant in its gutless abandonment of even the slightest pretense that the United States is anything other than a militarist empire. And yet so many people -- including Greenwald at times -- continue to praise the new imperial manager whenever he makes a "good decision" or implements a "good policy" -- presumably with the idea that you can tame or train the president by rewarding him for good deeds and sternly admonishing him when he does wrong.
But almost every leader in history has made some "good decisions" or implemented some "good policies" in one respect or another, even in the worst regimes. For example, both the Nazis and the Stalinists provided unprecedented programs of recreation and self-improvement for ordinary, long-denigrated, long-ignored workers. Hitler designed and promoted one of the world's most efficient and affordable cars, which after the war provided millions of ordinary people with new freedom and mobility. Soviet communism brought literacy, electricity, education and modernity to millions of people mired in a brutal, brutish existence. Saddam Hussein's Iraq did much the same.
It is very easy to pick through the record of any leader in any system and find things worthy of praise. But when the system itself is pernicious, when by its very nature it produces terrible evils on a vast scale -- as, for example, a militarist empire is bound to do -- then such praise, however piecemeal, hedged or nuanced, becomes a kind of unwitting support, or justification, or legitimization of the system.
And the system we are dealing with here is not a constitutional republic -- one gone awry, perhaps, but still a basically sound system that can be put to rights with the proper behavior training of its leaders. No; what we have here is a militarist empire: devoted to war, driven by war and by the constant exercise and growth of authoritarian power that every state of war (and state at war) produces. It seems to me that the best reaction to such a system is the one offered by Thoreau, and quoted many times here before:
The Graham-Lieberman War Crimes Shielding Act is just one more disgrace in a long train. Or as we said here in February 2008, when -- with Barack Obama's help -- the Democratic-controlled Senate voted to uphold Bush's illegal domestic spying program and immunize the corporations that helped carry it out: If the Republic Had not Died Long Ago, This Would Indeed Be the Death of the Republic:
Chris Floyd has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years, working in the United States, Great Britain and Russia for various newspapers, magazines, the U.S. government and Oxford University. Floyd co-founded the blog Empire Burlesque, and is also chief editor of Atlantic Free Press. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This column is republished here with the permission of the author.
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This story was published on June 2, 2009.
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