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Feb 03 2009

Not letting bygones be bygones

In two earlier posts (here and here), I spoke about some of the ways that political chameleons adjust their views when the environment changes so that they can continue to be in the corridors of power.

Another tactic of political chameleons is to try to get others to forget their role as cheerleaders of disastrous past wars by suggesting that it is a waste of time to re-examine the past, that we should not investigate those who led the country into an illegal and immoral war, and that we should not expose those who ordered the torture of detainees.

Glenn Greenwald points to the tactic of self-servingly suggesting, as the ‘liberal’ Princeton academic and Iraq-war advocate Anne-Marie Slaughter does, that we are wasting time by apportioning blame for the Iraq debacle and should instead focus on what should be done in the future.

This attempt at enforcing amnesia on the rest of us helps them to shake off their pro-war history. As Greenwald says:

This plea that we all just forget about the unpleasant past — stop trying to figure out who was responsible for the Iraq War — has become the principal self-defense weapon of the pro-war political establishment. That’s their only hope for evading responsibility for what they’ve done.

But why would we, and why should we, just ignore the question of who spawned this disaster? In trying to determine what to do now, isn’t it rather important to know whose judgment and knowledge can be trusted and whose should be considered worthless? From the perspective of their own-self interest, the demand by war advocates like Slaughter and McCain that everyone forget about what they said and did in the past is understandable — it’s natural to hope that one’s own wretched and destructive conduct would be forgotten — but for the country, doing that would be completely irrational.

In another post Greenwald recounts all the excuses now being trotted out by the Iraq war’s ardent supporters and brings the focus right back to where it truly belongs, on the fundamental moral issue of the justness of the wars. The chameleons want to avoid discussing this question at all costs because on this issue they cannot escape blame. They want to shift the discussion to tactics and management.

More strikingly, not a single one of them appears to have learned the real lesson worth learning from the whole disaster: The U.S. should not — and has no right to — invade, bomb and occupy other nations that haven’t attacked or even threatened to attack us. None of them say: “Wars that aren’t directly in response to an actual or imminent attack shouldn’t be commenced because doing so leads to the deaths of hundreds of thousands or millions of human beings for no justifiable reason.” Not even the most regretful war advocate seems to have reached that conclusion.

As long as the root premises of our endless war-fighting remain firmly in place, there will be many more Iraqs, “justified” by similar or only marginally different objectives. We need to invade to remove a Bad Government, or stop a civil religious or ethnic war, or prevent mistreatment by other ruling factions of their citizens, etc. etc. — as though we possess the ability and are blessed with sufficiently magnanimous, selfless political leaders to accomplish any of those lofty goals with military invasions of other countries.

We have to be grateful for real analysts like Glenn Greenwald who holds all these chameleons accountable by keeping track of what they have said in the past. As he says:

Pretending to be a war opponent notwithstanding one’s support for the war seems to be a trend today (though not only today). And it is amazing, though it should not be, how easily manipulated the media is by this tactic.

Attention: journalists and news producers: they have these new things now called “computers” that record what people say and write and keep all of that stored. So if someone claims to be a “war critic” or “war opponent,” you can actually look and find out whether that is true.

Good advice as always from Greenwald, which is why his blog on Salon is a must read. But don’t hold your breath that the mainstream media will take his advice. Remember that those journalists schmooze and socialize with the same people they are supposed to be covering. Holding them accountable for their past words and actions would result in the journalists (oh, the horror!) losing their ‘access’ to these people or (oh, the even greater horror!) not being invited to their parties.

The pro-war/pro-business one party state depends for its continuance on the ability to make people forget the past so that when the ‘enemy’ (i.e., whichever hapless country the war party decides should next be invaded) switches from Eastasia to Oceania, we can be made to believe that Oceania is an imminent danger to us or the world and that we have always been at war with it. In the incestuous world of politicians and media and analysts, all have a vested interest in maintaining their ability to rewrite history to suit their needs. Nowadays they do it in ways that exceeds George Orwell’s wildest imaginings.

The defense against this is to remember the actual history and the roles that people played in it and hold them accountable.

POST SCRIPT: Sleazy Tom Daschle

Former Democratic Senate majority leader-turned-lobbyist Tom Daschle was nominated by Barack Obama to head the Department of Health and Human Services and be the administration point man for health care reform. Anyone who follows politics fairly closely knows that Daschle epitomizes the corruption of Congress and politics in America, switching smoothly between Congress and working for the very firms that lobby Congress. This article reveals the extent to which he is indebted to the health and drug industries.

As Matt Taibbi writes: “Out of all the bought-off Washington whores who could have been given this job, Daschle is the best one. His fake reform will go the farthest in its approximation of actual action than the fake reform of any other possible whore-candidate.”

Glenn Greenwald also weighs in about how Daschle and his wife are neck-deep in the muck of the Washington lobbying culture.

His choice was an indication that Obama is planning to implement some bogus health care ‘reform’ package that would preserve the huge profits of the medical-health insurance-drug industries, while throwing some crumbs to the uninsured.

It is revealing of the world these people live in that Daschle’s explanation as to why he did not report the taxable three-year long gift of a chauffeur-driven limousine was that he had got so used to having such a service that he did not realize it was unusual. He presumably thought that everyone was given a free limousine to be driven around.

But, as usual, the fuss over his taxes is being used to distract attention from the real problem, which is the corrupt and incestuous relationship between politicians and business. Daschle’s choice is a good example of how the pro-war/pro-business one party state operates.

I hope his tax problem scuttles Daschle’s nomination but I don’t expect a much better replacement. Obama has revealed where he stands on health care reform and it is not good.

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