Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely
One frequent criticism of my articles for Pravda.Ru evolves from my propensity to reference my past articles in more recent ones. Some attribute this proclivity to vanity, laziness or some other ulterior motive.
The truth, however, is not as complicated or self-serving. I simply want to remind readers that there were some, like myself, who recognized the corruption, venality, hypocrisy and mendacity of George W. Bush and his minions long before his dictatorship's popularity fell to what some have described as “record lows.” So, as a way of review, this article will revisit some axioms discussed in previous articles, and examine how they continue to be relevant today.
Before progressing to this review, however, readers should be advised that it required no gift of prophecy to recognize the evils of the Bush dictatorship, only a knowledge of history, an understanding of human nature, and an acknowledgement that evil has an uncanny ability to triumph over good. Unfortunately, these elements are often obscured in a culture dominated by a corrupt corporate-controlled media more obsessed with sensationalism and superficiality than truth.
The first axiom states: Cowardice is a political virtue
One of the most odious lessons of the Iraqi war is that the level of one's jingoistic “bravery” and bellicosity is inversely proportionate to the prospect of one being personally placed into combat situations. The build-up and early days of this war saw politicians, entertainers, and pundits, who never served in combat themselves, hawking (and continuing to hawk) the invasion of Iraq from the safety of office buildings, and recording or television studios, even as America's youth continued to die.
Ironically it is usually the members of America's “God, guns, and guts” crowd who are often the most susceptible to the machinations and hypocrisy of these warmongering cowards. For example, when the opportunity arose to serve their country in the military, two darlings of America's right-wing, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, conspicuously failed to do so. Limbaugh avoided serving in Vietnam because of an alleged “cyst” on his posterior, while O'Reilly, when asked if he would be willing to sacrifice the lives of his children in the Iraqi war, proclaimed that he would be willing to sacrifice himself. Yet, while the Iraqi war drags on and American casualties mount, O'Reilly appears on television night after night, not from the battlefield, but from the safety of the so-called Fox “News” Network, secure in the knowledge that America's all-volunteer military will never call him to serve, and that his age would likely preclude him from induction even if the military draft is reinstated. How easy it is to be brave when one knows his/her alleged bravery will never be tested!
But perhaps the one genre where patriotism and warmongering are the most openly exploited is the country music genre. In fact the country trio known as The Dixie Chicks essentially became pariahs in the country music world after criticizing the Bush dictatorship's build-up to the Iraqi war.
Yet has anybody who supports the country music industry ever dared to ask why many of its performers, who fatten their bank accounts singing about “God and country,” have never served in the military themselves? Or, perhaps more importantly, have they ever asked how many impoverished young men and women, inspired by these “patriotic” and jingoistic songs, have marched off to die in unjust wars, while the source of their inspiration remains safely ensconced at home, performing at award shows, sporting events, and/or doing television commercials.
Still, there is no greater coward than a political coward, because they have the power to demand of others what they do not demand of themselves.
After the funeral of civil rights pioneer and Detroit native Rosa Parks, Michigan's governor Jennifer Granholm sanctimoniously gazed towards the heavens while eulogizing Parks and her struggle for racial justice. Yet this was the same Granholm who, in what Chicago Tribune reporter Eric Zorn labeled a “profile in cowardice,” refused to pardon an African-American man named Maurice Carter, who spent almost his entire adult life in Michigan prisons for a crime that evidence strongly suggested he did not commit. Only after Carter fell ill from a liver ailment, exacerbated by the lack of decent medical care in prison, did Granholm grant him a “medical commutation.” By then it was too late. Carter died three months after his release.
Then there is Virginia's governor Mark Warner, who has persistently refused to permit the DNA testing that could potentially exonerate Roger Coleman, a man who was executed for a crime he insisted he did not commit. Although Virginia now has a new governor-elect, Tim Kaine, who personally opposes the death-penalty, it will be interesting to see if he will have the integrity and courage that his predecessor so woefully lacks.
Of course, no discussion about cowardice would be complete without mentioning the two United States Senators from the State of Mississippi, Trent Lott and Thad Cochran. Both of these men refused to support a Congressional resolution apologizing for the United States government's failure to ever pass anti-lynching legislation, even though they represent a state that, between 1882 and 1968, led the nation in lynchings.
Given his background, the nonparticipation of Lott was expected. But what was particularly disturbing was the hypocrisy of Cochran, who argued that his lack of support was founded upon the belief that since “[he] was not culpable,” he was “[n]ot in the business of apologizing for what someone else did or didn't do.” Yet, as Washington Post columnist William Raspberry pointed out, Cochran had no problem supporting bills that apologized for America's treatment of Native-Americans, and for the internment of Japanese-Americans in California during World War II.
But perhaps the biggest irony in the political arena emanates from regions of the country that allegedly favor “patriotism” and “bravery,” yet choose as their political representatives some of the biggest cowards in the United States.
The State of Texas, for example, saddled (no pun intended) America with Tom Delay and George W. Bush. Delay, a Congressperson from Texas (and subject of a current criminal indictment) explained his avoidance of combat service during the Vietnam War by stating, “So many minority youths had volunteered that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like myself.” During the same era, America's preeminent coward, George W. Bush, who now “bravely” challenges Iraqi insurgents to “bring it on” from the safety of the White House, avoided combat duty by using his family's wealth and connections to perform some nebulous “National Guard” duties in the United States.
Also, as I discussed in previous articles, perhaps the most cogent example of Bush's cowardly sadism and bloodlust occurred when he was governor of Texas, the execution capital of the United States. Despite witnessing governors of other states declaring moratoriums on capital punishment because of fundamental flaws in America's so-called criminal “justice” system, Bush permitted over one-hundred and fifty executions during his tenure in office, then boasted that “No innocent person had been executed under [his] watch.” The hypocrisy of this braggadocio was evidenced by Bush's routine denial of DNA tests that could have potentially exonerated some death-row inmates prior to their executions. After all, Bush knew that, in Texas, evidence in capital punishment cases was immediately destroyed after an execution, making posthumous DNA testing impossible, and thus making it impossible to ever prove that a wrongful execution had occurred.
Yet, despite these practices, evidence now suggests that an innocent man named Ruben Cantu was executed in Texas in 1993. Although this state-sponsored murder occurred prior to Bush's governorship, it graphically illustrates the corruption, fallibility and injustice of the Texas death-machine Bush so fanatically embraced. It also makes one wonder how many of those executed under his so-called “watch” were innocent as well.
Another state that enjoys a reputation for “wild-west” ruggedness is Wyoming. Yet this state launched the career of perhaps the vilest coward of all: Dick Cheney. Cheney, currently second-in-command in the Bush dictatorship, and former Congressional representative from Wyoming, obtained FIVE deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam. Yet when questioned about his avoidance of military service, Cheney gutlessly replied that he had “other priorities.” Yet I'm certain that most, if not all, of those men and women who fought and died in Vietnam had “other priorities” too.
Of course Cheney has no aversion to killing. His Supreme Court “buddy” and commensurate coward, the ethically-challenged Antonin Scalia, are notable for their duck-hunting excursions. After all, it's easy to be “courageous” when your target cannot shoot back.
But perhaps the most glaring example of cowardice recently occurred when the United States House of Representatives rejected, by a vote of 403-3, a nonbinding resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
I have always believed that, in the grand scale of justice, a murderer is not simply a person who unjustifiably kills a fellow human being or who orders another to do so. A murderer is also a person who has the power and authority to prevent a murder, yet fails to do so. Whether it's a governor who refuses to pardon an innocent man or who lacks the integrity to seek the truth through DNA testing, or whether it's a vote to keep American troops mired in an illegal war designed to enrich the cronies of the Bush dictatorship, the grim reality is that the blood of Maurice Carter, Roger Coleman, Ruben Cantu and the next American soldier or Iraqi civilian to die is on the hands of those politicians who had the power to prevent their deaths or clear their names, yet refused to use it.
Axiom Number Two: History is a pendulum of overreaction and regret
Nowhere is this more evident than in the declining popularity of George W. Bush. Just a few short years ago, Bush was being deified by the myopic masses in America, and there was a sycophantic acceptance of the lies he used to hawk the Iraqi war. Pro-war rallies were front-page news, anti-war rallies were ignored, and those who recognized the deceit and corruption of the Bush dictatorship were censored and denounced as “unpatriotic.”
Now even some so-called “hawks” are beginningto question the motives behind the Iraqi war, some media outlets are apologizing for their failure to effectively question the arguments for going to war, anti-war rallies are attracting numbers not seen since the Vietnam era, and the Bush dictatorship's attempts to discredit those who refused to accept its lies are now being exposed via grand jury investigations and criminal indictments.
Unfortunately, as is usually the case, the pendulum has swung far too late. Over two thousand Americans, and thousands of Iraqi civilians, have died in an illegal war. On the domestic front, the American populace remained relatively mute while the Bush dictatorship stole not one, but two, elections, aided by corrupt election officials, including Bush's brother, and an equally corrupt Supreme Court.
There is a saying that those who do not learn from their mistakes are destined to repeat them. While that certainly is true, it is equally true that those who are oblivious to past mistakes are destined to let demagogues repeat them. The tragic reality is that sometime during the next generation, perhaps sooner, another mendacious and undeserving opportunist will illegally steal the Presidency, and America will be led into another unjust war. And the majority of Americans will just as predictably “rally around the flag,” never asking, until it is too late, why the war was waged in the first place.
The wisdom of the third axiom belongs to Lord Acton: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely
In previous Pravda articles I discussed the past activities of two of the largest criminal organizations in the world: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The FBI, during its infamous, and illegal, COINTELPRO operation (that undermined the Bill of Rights from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s), conducted illegal break-ins, committed libel and slander, suborned perjury, and instigated violence and murder in an effort to “neutralize” members of radical, and predominantly left-wing, political movements. Although two FBI agents were eventually convicted of violating the civil rights of anti-war protesters, both were pardoned by then-President Ronald Reagan. Ironically one of those convicted and pardoned was W. Mark Feld, recently exposed as the informant “Deep Throat,” whose covert cooperation with two Washington Post reporters helped reveal the Nixon administration's cover-up of an illegal break-in at the Watergate Hotel.
The CIA's history is equally, if not more, sordid, from its conspiring with organized crime figures to assassinate foreign leaders, to its propping up of corrupt dictatorships, including the one that elevated Saddam Hussein to power, to its “low-intensity warfare,” conducted both directly and by proxy, that littered the world, particularly in Central and South America, with the bodies of those murdered for their political beliefs.
When the criminality of these agencies came to light during the Church Committee hearings of the 1970s, many restraints were placed upon their authority. But the attacks of September 11th, 2001 restored almost unbridled power to these agencies via the so-called “Patriot Act.” Predictably the abuses have returned as well.
Which brings me to my fourth axiom: Under the Bush dictatorship America has become everything it claims to abhor
In reality, the FBI and CIA were not created to defend and uphold the Constitution, nor to protect and expand freedom, democracy and human rights. They were designed to promote and export the greed, corruption and inequities of the capitalist system to third-world countries, by funding and arming puppet governments, who, in return, would exploit their impoverished citizenry to ensure a continuing supply of cheap labor and resources for multi-national corporations.
Now, under the pretext of fighting “terror,” the CIA and other agencies, according to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union, are often torturing detainees to death in a archipelago of secret prisons throughout Europe. In response, the CIA, according to the Associated Press, is asking for a criminal investigation, not of the allegations of abuse in secret prisons, but to discover who “leaked” the information about the existence of these prisons. Apparently even government-sponsored criminals find it difficult to perpetrate their evil in the glaring light of day.
The FBI is also up to its old tricks. A Washington Post report revealed that the FBI's use of its secret-surveillance powers has resulted in numerous violations of administrative safeguards, prompting some in the United States Congress to express concern about how the Bureau might be abusing these powers to investigate the private lives of ordinary people.
This brings me to my final axiom: Although people praise goodness with their words, they reward evil with their deeds; therefore those who attain power are usually the least deserving of it.
In previous Pravda articles I explained that evil has two forms: recognizable and seductive. Almost everyone, save perhaps the evildoers and those who profit from their misdeeds, is repulsed by recognizable evil. Seductive evil, however (the type personified by the Bush dictatorship) uses religion and/or “morality” to deceive people into thinking theyare supporting good, when they are actually supporting evil.
When future historians examine the legacy of the Bush dictatorship, they will discover a time of death and destruction throughout the world, from disasters both natural and humanly created: The attacks of September 11th, 2001, that permitted the Bush dictatorship to decimate the Bill of Rights and America's already precarious “check-and-balance” system; Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, which exposed the ineptness of the Bush dictatorship; The Tsunami that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths; The floods in the Northeastern United States; The deadly tornados in Indiana; Hurricane Wilma in Florida; The devastating earthquake in Pakistan; and, of course, the Iraqi war.
There are some Bush apologists who argue that his dictatorship cannot be held responsible for these occurrences, particularly those that resulted from “natural” phenomena. But others have argued that Bush's environmental policies created or contributed to the conditions that spawned these destructive acts of nature, and that his failure to strengthen the levees surrounding the City of New Orleans amplified Katrina's devastating impact.
But what is it we actually call “nature?” Is it some random convergence of wind, rain and/or plate tectonics? Or are these so-called “natural catastrophes” the earth's attempts to purge itself from the evil that is consuming it. Unfortunately, since nature is no respecter of men, the evildoers rarely suffer its wrath. Instead it is the innocent who suffer.
In fact, Bush's mother openly demonstrated the callousness of this evil by proclaiming in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that many of those forced to stay in the Houston Astrodome after losing their homes and possessions, “were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."
So is it any wonder that Rap Artist Kanye West felt compelled to observe that “George Bush doesn't care about black people?” After all, not only did African-Americans make up a large percentage of those who suffered from Hurricane Katrina, they also make up a large percentage of the military who are now serving and dying in Bush's illegal war. The veil has been lifted from the American dichotomy, and the world can finally see the poor suffering in the streets and dying in Iraq, while Bush, Cheney and their corporate “fat cats” get rich from lucrative “rebuilding” contracts and inflated energy prices.
Several years ago the renowned folk-singer Bob Dylan wrote a song entitled “A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.” The evil of the Bush dictatorship has caused this rain to start. The question is, “Will it ever stop?”
David R. Hoffman
Legal Editor of Pravda