Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dick in a Wringer

The lead story in today's paper is "Obama, Cheney clash on terror". And no, it doesn't mean that one is "pro" and the other is "con". But wait! Don't pass this headline by without considering its significance. What it's saying is that the president of the United States is having a feud with the former _vice_ president of the United States -- whose party was deservedly crushed in the last election, and who, at this point, is the boss of precisely squat -- over foreign policy, past and present. This, as far as I know, is unprecedented... a former vice president, whose party is in disgrace, having a public feud with a sitting president -- and not being completely ignored? This demands further study.

So what are the issues behind this so-called "clash"? Well, one is the use of "enhanced" interrogation techniques, kind of like the kind they use in Chicago, so I wonder why Obama is pretending to be so scandalized. Another is the case of the prison at Guantanamo -- also known as a Geneva Convention-free zone. (No one has yet managed to untangle the "controlling legal authority" when it comes to a prison on property that the U.S. is occupying in a country that we don't even have diplomatic relations with.) And aggravating the issue is a mutiny by Senate Democrats on the issue of transferring the prisoners to locations in the U.S. (Apparently they saw "The Shawshank Redemption" one too many times.)

So what is the Dickster's point? On Guantanamo, it's that a decision to "bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come." Danger to whom, and by what means, I'd like to know? Are we going to see a bunch of rag-headed Willie Hortons scattering across the Fruited Plain? If anything has been a "cause for great danger and regret" it's the Bush/Cheney foreign policy debacles and the accompanying Patriot Act.

On interrogation, the Dickster falls back on -- believe it or not -- "moral value(s) held dear by the American people". This is the uber-cynic talking, folks. And again, what "moral values" did the invasion of Iraq manifest?

In both cases, it's all about "justice and national security" -- you know, that same "justice" and "national security" that were severely damaged by our exertions in Afghanistan and Iraq that Cheney played a key role in initiating and sustaining -- and by "martial law lite" on the domestic front. So what we're seeing here is, basically, the rantings and ravings of... a lunatic? Well, not really. Lunatics at least have the quality of idealism, even if it is a bit distorted. Is he stupid, or insane? Negatory. What he is is, basically, trying to cover his flabby pink ass. And how does this work? If he can -- or so he thinks -- convince enough people that the policies he conjured up were, in fact, justifiable and legal (or at least not blatantly illegal) he can keep himself out of jail.

Far-fetched? Possibly. But the "paranoid style in American politics" was the M.O. of the Bush administration throughout its catastropic run. I think the Dickster is genuinely running scared. He has whiffed the scent of the unwashed bodies of the up-in-arms peasantry at the portcullis... he has seen the burning torches by night, and heard the clang of pitchforks by day. And unlike the classic defense, "I was only following orders", which actually seems to work now and then, no one has ever gotten off the hook by saying, "I was only giving orders". The buck really does stop at the Naval Observatory (and its underground bunker) -- and scapegoating a bunch of lawyers for rubber-stamping procedures that were, undoubtely, already in place just isn't going to cut it.

Now, of course, the left wing of the Democratic Party has been waiting for Obama to bring out the long knives ever since the inauguration -- not realizing, as I've said before, that both Cheney and Obama are equally creatures of The Regime, and that The Regime gets to say who gets to investigate whom, or put whom on trial or in jail. And so far, we have seen a remarkably forgiving attitude on the part of Obama & Co. "Mistakes were made" -- but really, nothing that would, for example, keep you from welcoming the other guy into your golf foursome. And yet, despite everyone's best efforts, the waters continue to rise around Cheney's rowboat, and he just makes things worse by standing up, shouting, and waving his arms. Sooner or later the powers that be might just decide that he has to go; he's just making too much of a racket about all the wrong things. But in the meantime, it's all making for very entertaining viewing.

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