October 14, 2007

Bush and our own complicity

Columnist Frank Rich suggests that we can no longer simply blame this on Bush. Yes, he has lied and tortured, but we have allowed it. And every new revelation that he and Cheney approved torture, or ignored intelligence, or are pushing for expanding the war leads not to public outrage, but to a further yawn as Americans look for a new OJ story or naked pictures of Britney Spears. We find out that our torture manual was written by the Gestapo and the KGB, and shrug.
Call me cynical, but when Laura Bush spoke up last week about the human rights atrocities in Burma, it seemed less an act of selfless humanitarianism than another administration maneuver to change the subject from its own abuses.

As Mrs. Bush spoke, two women, both Armenian Christians, were gunned down in Baghdad by contractors underwritten by American taxpayers. On this matter, the White House has been silent. That incident followed the Sept. 16 massacre in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, where 17 Iraqis were killed by security forces from Blackwater USA, which had already been implicated in nearly 200 other shooting incidents since 2005. There has been no accountability. The State Department, Blackwater’s sugar daddy for most of its billion dollars in contracts, won’t even share its investigative findings with the United States military and the Iraqi government, both of which have deemed the killings criminal.

Rich notes that the American public was fooled into this war by a clever and fear induced campaign that played on our shock of 9-11. He contends that our checks failed--that the press and Congress failed to speak. But now, with all that we know, the American public are as culpable as anyone. Time to hold them accountable for everything from how our troops have been ill-equipped to the free fire zone established for our mercenaries in country, to our continued use of torture techniques. (You didn't think that Bush was telling the truth when he said "we don't torture" did you?)

Sure, the plan was a good one--as far as deluding and deceiving the public.
It was always the White House’s plan to coax us into a blissful ignorance about the war. Part of this was achieved with the usual Bush-Cheney secretiveness, from the torture memos to the prohibition of photos of military coffins. But the administration also invited our passive complicity by requiring no shared sacrifice. A country that knows there’s no such thing as a free lunch was all too easily persuaded there could be a free war.

Instead of taxing us for Iraq, the White House bought us off with tax cuts. Instead of mobilizing the needed troops, it kept a draft off the table by quietly purchasing its auxiliary army of contractors to finesse the overstretched military’s holes. With the war’s entire weight falling on a small voluntary force, amounting to less than 1 percent of the population, the rest of us were free to look the other way at whatever went down in Iraq.
That may be the phrase that describes America during the Bush war--"They looked the other way." For the first time in our history, our President endorses and defends the torture of other human beings, while saying with a straight smirk that "we don't torture." The American public seems to have forgotten not only the horrors of Nazi Germany, but the more recent knowledge of what the Soviet Union and China did/does to prisoners. I will resent this President for many things, but turning us into our enemies has to be high on the list.
Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those “good Germans” who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war’s last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country’s good name.

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