In a recent article for the Miami Herald, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Leonard Pitts discussed two “still-classified” government memos that not only revealed how the United States government, under George W. Bush, authorized and engaged in the use of torture, but also how Bush himself blatantly lied to the American people about this reality.
The memos, written in 2003 and 2004, were designed to alleviate the concerns of then-CIA director George Tenet that agents might be criminally prosecuted for torturing “high value” terrorism suspects. Yet two years later, George W. Bush was telling the American people, “The United States does not torture. It’s against our laws and it’s against our values. I have not authorized it—and I will not authorize it.”
Pitts made two other compelling points in this article. The first was that the corporate-controlled media largely ignored the revelations in these memos, a development that, while disturbing, is certainly not surprising given the plethora of so-called “news” channels that favor sensationalism and superficiality over substance.
Pitts’s second, and salient, point was how the American people have become so brainwashed after the events of September 11, 2001 that they no longer seem to be disturbed by their government’s mendacity, use of torture, warrantless surveillance, denial of legal due process, or prolonged imprisonment of suspects without charge or trial.
The tragedy is this denial of due process has become so transparent that attorneys once assigned to prosecute alleged terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay have resigned in protest, condemning military tribunals as little more than kangaroo courts where defense lawyers are routinely denied access to evidence that could assist them in refuting the charges leveled against Guantanamo’s detainees.
Even when this misconduct causes charges to be dropped against alleged terrorism suspects, the result is simply more corruption and machinations. This was clearly in evidence when charges were recently dismissed against five Guantanamo detainees. Instead of being released, these detainees were simply thrust into more prolonged detention and legal limbo while prosecuting attorneys (who obviously lack the integrity of their protesting colleagues) debate whether or not they should “reinstate” the charges.
Even more disturbing than the evils perpetrated by the Bush dictatorship is the willingness of the American people to accept, and even condone, them, even if it means, as Pitts said, “Swallowing lies like candy.” It truly makes one wonder whether George W. Bush and his minions have made Americans more evil, or whether the Bush dictatorship simply reflects an evil that has always existed in America’s shadows, but now no longer fears the light of day.
The tragic reality is that liars have the advantage in American society, and perhaps in societies throughout the world. People who are honest in their dealings with others tend to assume that others will be honest in return; therefore they are more receptive to lies.
Also, as Adolph Hitler pointed out in his “great lie theory,” political leaders have a greater advantage when it comes to telling lies. A “common” person calling for war by deceitfully arguing that a country is producing “weapons of mass destruction,” would probably be dismissed as paranoid. But place that same lie in the hands of a president, and it is readily believed.
The reason lies, and the liars who tell them, have become endemic in American society is because there are rarely any repercussions for telling lies, and in many instances lying can be downright profitable.
George W. Bush had (and has) no compunction about lying to the American people because his entire life has been one huge lie. He owes his wealth and education, not to any intelligence or business acumen, but to the preferential treatment he received through family connections, yet he has the audacity to condemn affirmative action policies as “preferential treatment.” He makes jingoistic speeches and tells Iraqi insurgents to “bring it on” from the safety of the White House, yet again relied on family connections to avoid serving in Vietnam. Both of his so-called “elections” to the presidency were outright lies, manipulated by unlawful purges of prospective voters, corrupt election officials, and unethical Supreme Court “justices” like Antonin Scalia, who wanted to ensure that his “hunting buddy” Dick Cheney was elevated to the vice-presidency.
This is why Bush did not hesitate to lie about Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction,” Saddam Hussein’s alleged “links” to Al-Qaeda, or the CIA’s use of torture.
How has Bush been “punished” for the lies that have undermined democracy, cost thousands of innocent lives, caused immense suffering, and diminished America’s moral standing in the eyes of the world? For eight years he has been leader of what is arguably the most powerful nation on earth, never facing criminal charges or impeachment. Yet only a few years ago lying about a sexual relationship was somehow an impeachable offense.
Still, evil begats evil, and even though Bush has not been punished, America has been. If one honestly examines Bush’s legacy (or as I labeled it in previous Pravda.Ru articles, his “liegacy”) it is obvious that nothing good has come from Bush’s illegal occupation of the White House.
During this eight-year span there were two fraudulent elections—in 2000 and 2004; the worst terrorist attacks on American soil in United States history occurred, and questions still remain about the Bush dictatorship’s prior knowledge of—and some say complicity in—these attacks; the Bush dictatorship cynically exploited the public’s fear and anger over these attacks to illegally invade Iraq; Billions of dollars of taxpayer money is being spent every month to perpetuate the illegal occupation of Iraq; the Iraqi government is operating at a surplus, while America’s national debt has spun out of control; natural disasters—like the destruction of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina—happened during Bush’s “watch,” and his response was inept at best; fuel prices hit record highs while oil companies made record profits; global warming is driving animals to extinction, yet Dick Cheney, to appease the oil industry, endeavored to manipulate and censor scientific testimony regarding this growing environmental catastrophe; thousands of workers are losing their livelihoods as businesses close, downsize or “outsource” jobs; depression (innocuously termed “recession”) is gripping the world; financial institutions, who incessantly argued they could be more profitable without government regulation, now approach the government, hat in hand, for billions of dollars in bailout money; and many of the very “conservatives,” who oppose welfare for the economically disadvantaged, are avidly embracing welfare for executives who make millions of dollars in salaries, bonuses and incentives while their corporations drift into bankruptcy.
Ironically, in America people who tell the truth are the ones who are vilified. A recent example involved Congressman John Lewis, who was vociferously condemned by Republican presidential candidate John McCain for comparing the tactics of the McCain campaign to those of former segregationist governor and politician George Wallace. Lewis pointed out that even though Wallace never engaged in any acts of violence, his rhetoric certainly encouraged others to do so.
But was Lewis really so wrong? Historians tend to agree that George Wallace was a political opportunist who would do and say anything to win, even if it meant appealing to the worst in human nature. Isn’t this what McCain, and his running mate Sarah Palin, were doing with loaded phrases proclaiming their opponent Barack Obama “is not one of us?” Didn’t such phrases inspire many of their supporters to shout “terrorist,” “kill him,” or “off with his head?”
If anybody believes that John McCain will not continue the Bush policy of lying, warmongering and making the rich richer, then they certainly have missed the oddest accusation that McCain has leveled against Obama: that Obama should be condemned for wanting to “spread the wealth around.” In keeping with this theme, McCain and Palin have even tried to resurrect the spirit of the “socialist” bogeyman to attack Obama’s economic policies.
But, according to many economists, ninety-six percent of the wealth is held by only four percent of the population. In such a milieu, it seems strange that a presidential candidate would believe his opposition to “spreading the wealth” would somehow appeal to the masses.
It would be even more ironic if this strategy actually worked. But it would not be surprising. American history has shown that with the right blend of prejudice, fear and uncertainty, Americans have frequently “cut off their noses to spite their faces.”
Of course, McCain attempted to rationalize his remark by contending that the creation of “new wealth” is more economically beneficial than redistributing wealth already created.
But where will the overwhelming majority of this “newly created wealth” go? Right into the hands of the wealthiest four percent, because “trickle down” economics is really “trickle across” economics.
Of course “trickle down” theorists will say “Not so!” They will argue that when the rich acquire more wealth, they will be more inclined to invest that wealth, which in turn will lead to the creation of more jobs.
What these theorists neglect to mention is where this wealth will be invested, and where these jobs will be created. How much of it will be deposited in overseas bank accounts exempt from American tax laws, how much will go into building and maintaining factories in third-world countries where workers labor for pennies in dangerous and environmentally hazardous conditions; how much will go into the paychecks of foreign workers whose jobs were created because American jobs were “outsourced.”
In several previous Pravda.Ru articles I endorsed the axiom that evil is the principal motivating force in the world. But I also stated that the benefits one reaps from doing evil are constrained by one’s own mortality—hence the old adage, “You can’t take it with you.”
I also expressed the belief that evildoers will ultimately have to pay for their deeds, while the good, who often spend their entire lives toiling in obscurity and poverty, will eventually receive their reward. This is the foundation for most of the world’s religions, and a just and balanced universe demands nothing less.
But I must admit that at times I’ve begun to wonder whether these contentions are little more than rationalizations or naïve optimism on my part, to avoid the thought that there really is no justice, that honesty is for the foolish, and that wealth and power far too often go to those who not only do evil, but who awaken evil in others.
Perhaps the upcoming presidential election will justify or refute my suspicions. America currently has an evil, ignorant president and an evil, warmongering vice-president. A McCain/Palin victory would simply reverse these roles, giving America an evil, warmongering president and an evil, ignorant vice-president.
Can the world stand four more years of that?
David R. Hoffman,
Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru