Monday, June 16, 2008

TURNING TABLES

BY PHILIP J CUNNINGHAM

On June 9, 2008, Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich stood up on the floor of the US Congress to read 35 Articles of Impeachment against President George W. Bush.

Given House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's clout and the correspondingly muted reaction from fellow lawmakers, --Pelosi has made it repeatedly clear impeachment is "not on the table" —it might appear that Kucinich stands alone.

Would that it were not so, for America’s inability to come to terms with its own wrongdoing continues to disappoint a dispirited world.

The US was once widely admired for its democratic spirit, expressed not so much in word as in deed. The US was once a beacon of freedom, not in the junk-food sense of the "Freedom Fries" served up under reigning president George W. Bush, but by quiet example, offering refuge and amnesty to people from the world over.

The example of the American Revolution, the Bill of Rights and a far-sighted Constitution have been a source of inspiration to oppressed peoples at home and abroad for over two centuries.

What happened?

Incessant and inhuman warring abroad has led to creeping fascism and a dimunition of human rights at home. Contemptuous disregard for national sovereignty, habeas corpus, old-fashioned decency, and just about anything that gets in the way of the commander in chief is threatening to destroy the values enshrined by the US Constitution.

Some of the problems are systemic, but exacerbated by individual megalomania and greed A dysfunctional military-industrial complex, uncannily predicted by President Dwight D. Eisenhower back in the 1950's, has become a sordid reality today thanks to Bush/Cheney administration’s patronage of Halliburton and other war-profiteers who coolly rake in profits from a cruel and unnecessary war.

Other problems stem from idealism itself, wrecks along the bumpy and pot-holed road paved with good intentions. Bombing or otherwise coercing people to be free and democratic makes a mockery of idealism.

Is it too late to impeach? It won't be easy, it will distract from the "feel-good" politics of hope that the Democratic Party strategists want to employ in the upcoming election, but America, as a whole, has not earned its feel-good moment yet.

For America is stuck in a deadend war whose architects and executors are as unapologetic as hardened criminals. Bush has lowered the bar of law so low he acts as if the law applies only to the little guys, human rights only to foreign adversaries.

That John McCain is a hawk is a given, he basically promises more of the same, though he could break with Bush to salvage his candidacy.

But why has Democratic nominee Barack Obama grown so much more hawkish when he didn’t start out that way?

Who’s doing the advising in the Obama camp when the arguably most charming politician to come along in a generation makes slavish promises to Israeli hardliners that he can't possibly keep, while issuing a veiled threat to go to war with Iran, parroting the belligerent "all options are on the table" talk of Bush Jr?

Perhaps it has something to do with wanting to be taken seriously, it also reflects the nature of advice given. The mainstream media, for example, always has time for hawks like Henry Kissinger, and even retired generals reading from script, but dismisses as frivolous Congressional peace advocates such as Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.

Timidity and tunnel vision are expected of serious presidential advisors too. As former Obama advisor Samantha Powers and former mentor Reverend Wright learned the hard way, speaking candidly results in not being taken seriously.

UCLA political scientist Richard Baum, formerly a China factotum in the administration of George Bush Sr, made a show of quitting as advisor to Hillary Clinton over remarks she made last month about possibly boycotting the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. His dissent was a rare kerfuffle for a would-be presidential advisor. But where was his outrage about Hillary’s support for the war in Iraq and her far more egregious fear-mongering on Iran? Not within purview?

The compartmentalization of subordinates is useful to diffuse responsibility and avoid tough moral questions, especially as “serious” candidates are pressed to show a cold-hearted willingness to kill foreigners in the name of American ideals.

Democratic Party kingmaker Nancy Pelosi set the rules of engagement, loyally echoed by both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during their long battle for party supremacy; impeachment is off the table, invasion of Iran is on.

This formula needs to be reversed, the tables turned.

The US must turn its angry, interventionist gaze within, the revolution to re-establish the values that Americans claim as a birthright must begin at home. To begin to heal, to achieve closure, let alone hope for atonement, war criminals must be taken to task for a gratuitous war.

Before Guantanamo prison is closed down forever, perhaps the men who justified torture as policy would like to spend a bit of time familiarizing themselves with the facility from the inside, orange jumpsuits optional.

To make amends, the US has to demonstrate that no one is above the law, especially those with the power to put fellow citizens in harm’s way.

Granting amnesty to the powerful while ruthlessly imprisoning the poor –America has more people behind bars than any other country— establishes a precedent bad for human rights everywhere.

If the unwarranted invasion of sovereign nations is to be kept on the table while fixing faults at home is not, then America's precipitous and rocky detour from the democratic road will reach a point of no return.

pc