Sunday, February 05, 2006

What does it take for impeachment?

"Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies," the song says. But there's nothing sweet or little about the numerous lies that were told in an attempt to justify our actions in Iraq. As horrified as I am about the actions of the administration, I confess to be even a bit more horrified at society's complacency as our constitution is shredded, heinous acts are done in the quest for oil, and "reporters" have become mere "repeaters" of official pronouncements. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and the Adamses must be reeling in their graves, wondering what we did with their beautiful dream for America.

When did things go so wrong? I'd argue that a clear demarcation point started in 1963, when a President faced down his own government, not once, but three times, refusing to take the actions of empire, opting instead for actions supporting the notion of peaceful coexistence.

In 1961, when President John Kennedy had only been a few months in office, he allowed the CIA and the Joint Chiefs to pressure him into supporting the disastrous plot that became known as the Bay of Pigs. The New York Times had learned of the plot and journalist Tad Szulc wrote it up, but Kennedy begged the Times to tone down the story, to remove the taint of American involvement. When things went radically wrong, Kennedy would later tell Times editor Turner Catledge that he wished the Times had printed the whole story, because then he would not have been able to make such a grievous error.

The plan as presented to Kennedy involved landing a bunch of anti-Castro Cubans onshore at a beach in Cuba, but Castro was alerted in advance to the plans and cut off their route to Havana, isolating the invaders and making mincemeat of them. What the CIA and JCs figured was that, faced with certain defeat, Kennedy would authorize air strikes launched from Miami and from nearby naval ships. In other words, they thought they could pressure Kennedy into a fullscale war against Cuba, but he refused.

In 1962, the CIA and JC's pressured JFK again, this time over the missiles in Cuba. This was their invitation to invade, they argued. Now, anything goes because Castro is putting nuclear weapons in place. Again, Kennedy resisted going to war, and played a strategic game with the Soviets, saving the world from what seemed certain nuclear destruction.

In 1963, Kennedy resisted the efforts of the Joint Chiefs to broaden the conflict in Vietnam. He created a plan for full troop withdrawal by 1965. But by the end of 1963, Kennedy was dead, and the Vietnam conflict spiraled into a horrible engagement that would last over ten more years.

Contrast that with what we have in office today. We have a President who came to power because of Supreme Court decision. He brought with him into office people who, unlike Kennedy, wanted nothing more than an American Empire, indeed, an American Century, as they called it. Their report lamented:

the process of transformation, even if it brings evolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.
Miraculously--for those who believe in miracles--a new Pearl Harbor materialized in the form of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center Towers. Warnings of an imminent attack proliferated. Even a cab driver knew something bad was about to happen:
Ameen showed up in a livery cab sent to take me to a morning appointment in Manhattan. He started talking as soon as I got in the backseat, bragging about a movie star and a director he had driven around town the previous weekend.

We were nearly halfway over the Brooklyn Bridge when he changed the subject.

As we crossed the river, on a bright sunny day very much like the day that awaited us two months in the future, he said, "You know, I am leaving the country and going home to Egypt sometime in late August or September. I have gotten e-mails from people I know saying that Osama bin Laden has planned big terrorist attacks for New York and Washington for that time. It will not be safe here then."
You have to know if an Egyptian Cab driver was getting emails about a big terrorist attack planned for New York and Washington, the NSA was certainly listening in. According to a CBS report from March, 2000:
Everywhere in the world, every day, people's phone calls, emails and faxes are monitored by Echelon, a secret government surveillance network. No, it's not fiction straight out of George Orwell's 1984. It's reality, says former spy Mike Frost in an interview broadcast on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Feb. 27.
Clearly, if a Cab driver knew something was in the air, the government, whose technology far exceeds that of the Cabbie, should have been able to prevent the attacks had they wanted to.

As a side note, a lot of people I talk to just aren't bothered by the fact that the government is listening to their every communication. "I'm not a terrorist, so I have nothing to fear," they say. But is that true? Not really, according to Frost. The CBS report noted:
As an example of those innocent people, Frost cites a woman whose name and telephone number went into the Echelon database as a possible terrorist because she told a friend on the phone that her son had "bombed" in a school play. "The computer spit that conversation out. The analystwas not too sure what the conversation was referring to, so, erring on the side of caution, he listed that lady," Frost recalls.
Senator Ted Kennedy was surprised to find himself listed on the "no-fly" list at airports in 2004. It took him and his staff three weeks to get off the list, because "T. Kennedy" was an alias used by an alleged terrorist. We should all be very afraid when innocent people start being detained and denied everyday privileges because of some unfortunate connection.

But back to the big lies that have accompanied this administration. Hitler once said, the bigger the lie, the more the people will believe it, because while most people will tell small lies, few will tell egregiously huge whoppers. Bush and his team know this, and exploit this sensibility. Most people simply don't want to believe their government would lie to them about something as serious as Weapons of Mass Destruction. But we now know that not only did they lie to us about what they knew (see the Downing Street Memo), they were willing to manufacture evidence to get what they wanted. Over the weekend, a major story broke about the Bush and Blair administrations' willingness to stage a false event in order to garner support for an invasion of Iraq. According to the UK's Independent story of 2/3/06:
George Bush considered provoking a war with Saddam Hussein's regime by flying a United States spyplane over Iraq bearing UN colours, enticing the Iraqis to take a shot at it, according to a leaked memo of a meeting between the US President and Tony Blair.
Again, the contrast with what might have been, and what is, could not be more dramatic. Similar hair-brained schemes were concocted by the Joint Chiefs under President Kennedy under the name "Operation Northwoods." These included a plan to create a fake airplane crash, complete with funerals for the fake passengers, and to blame the incident on Cuba as an excuse to invade. But where Kennedy refused to take any of these actions, resisting enormous pressure in the process. Contrast that with George Bush, who himself spoke the big lie that the Iraqis were harboring WMD.

How is it that impeachment proceedings have not yet begun?

A man lied about having sex with a more-than-willing subordinate, and he is instantly called before Congress. But a different man lies to the public about something that has cost over 2000 American lives and over 30,000 Iraqi lives, a man who says I can tap Americans by circumventing the law because I'm the Commander in Chief, a man who, as John Dean--who should know--says, is the first President to confess to an impeachable offense, remains blythely ensconced in the White House.

Where is the moral outrage now?

Since when is Monica's dress so much more important than our own best and brightest, the American soldiers we have sent to fight a resource war for oil?

Since when do the Republicans get to decide that extramarital sex is an impeachable offense but going to war under false pretenses is not?

Why aren't Americans calling and writing their Senators and Congresspeople every day, demanding that the President be held accountable to the laws of the land?

Are we outrage fatigued? That's no excuse. I'm tired. A lot of good people are tired. But to allow a President to flagrantly break the law, and to have no accountability, truly marks the end of this republic, something so dear that young men and woman have been willing for over 200 years to die for it. What is wrong with US, that we let the press let the President off the hook? I know most people are working many more hours a week this year than in years past. We watch more TV, we eat more junk food, and as a consequence, we're getting more obese. But it's not the physical obesity that worries me. It's the mental obesity we're showing. We've allowed ourselves to be stuffed with junk food for the mind. We feed ourselves on American Idol, and Monday Night Football, as our democracy hangs by a fragile shard.

The truth is a lean, tough, flavorless cut. But it's what we most need to be healthy as a society again. Superbowl's over. Time to get back to the work of preserving and protecting Democracy at home before we dare try to export it abroad.


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