Part 1 of a Series
by Bill Strickland
BC Editorial Board
We have dealt with the politics of slavery and we have dealt with the politics of segregation. We have struggled against the politics of disenfranchisement and, led by Malcolm’s deconstructing critique, the politics of racism. But the politics of the Bush administration and today’s Republican Right represent a new and unprecedented ideological politics that disdains reality, alienates world opinion, ignores—and contributes to—global disaster and seems indifferent to the possibility of inciting a humanity-ending nuclear war. So who and what are we dealing with. . . really? And what kind of new politics should black people mount to challenge—and overcome—this Rabid Right?The New Unaccountable and Immoral Politics
Like the Klingon cloaking device in the Star Trek series that could make Klingons invisible, one of the fundamental barriers to an objective analysis of American history and politics is the self-congratulatory myth of American Goodness. Search though one may, there is no Evil in American history. America’s motives are always pure and noble. When bad things happen, it is always inadvertent, or a minor blemish on an otherwise unblemished record. Thus slavery, to give one example, is never contextualized. It is never pointed out in the national narrative that in 1861, when the Civil War broke out, the four million American slaves residing on American soil constituted the greatest slaveholding empire in the history of the world. Nor is America’s political integrity questioned when it is also pointed out that the 19th century American military did not break one or two or ten treaties made with Native Americans but nearly every single one. It is thus consistent with a long-standing tradition of obscurantism for George Bush to dismiss as “not credible” the recent medical study that the number of civilian casualties sustained to date in the Iraq war is approximately six hundred thousand. Instead Bush claimed that his figure, obtained from the Iraqi government and the American military, was only thirty-six thousand. (In a way though, the admission was itself an improvement over the original policy of not counting civilian casualties at all and consigning them, instead, to the non-human category of “collateral damage.”) But once this embarrassing statistic became public, the allegedly independent Iraqi government, emulating Bush’s favorite tactics of secrecy and suppression of evidence, ordered their medical authorities to stop making available the monthly figures on the number of civilians killed and wounded. Like the coffins our media is forbidden to show, unpalatable reality is to be avoided at all costs.
This callous disrespect for the life of “the Other” surfaced again in the now infamous Abu Ghraib prison photos and the story of detainee abuse and torture first reported by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker magazine. Confronted with the scandal, Bush insisted that it was only the acts “of a few bad apples” [and] that “we do not torture.” But last October the ACLU’s analysis of Defense Department data told a quite different story: that more than one hundred detainees had died while being held in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan; that at least twenty-one of those deaths appeared to have been homicides; that more than four hundred investigations of detainee abuse had been conducted by the military itself, and that more than two hundred military personnel had been court-martialed and reprimanded for improper conduct. “The “few bad apples” was, in fact, official policy.
We have since learned, of course, that the United States is holding some fourteen thousand persons in prisons around the world.
Nor do we yet have the full story of Abu Ghraib since some of the photos—which the Republicans showed only to their own members in a closed door Congressional session from which Democrats were barred—are photos of rapes and murders. These more damning pictures have yet to be released--despite a court order issued more than a year ago(!)--because the government alleges that their release “could damage the U.S. image [and] make matters worse.” So what do we make of an America where Truth is the new enemy and none of the real architects of the torture policy are held accountable? Only Janis Karpinski, the female National Guard general who had been head of Abu Ghraib was called on the carpet and demoted to colonel. None of the career generals in command in Iraq nor Vice-President Cheney, Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, nor Attorney General Alberto Gonzales whose staff formulated the pseudo-legal justification for ignoring the Human Rights provisions of the Geneva Convention were chastised in any way. Indeed, three weeks after the Senate, in early October of 2005, voted 90 to 9 to “ban the use of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of any detainee held by the government”, Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss met with Senator John McCain to press him to exempt the CIA from the torture ban. Their response to the disclosure of potentially criminally liable acts answers one of our earlier questions about whom we are dealing with. We are dealing with people who are not penitent, exhibit no remorse for their wrongdoing, seek all possible means to persevere in their nefarious plots and, when found out, blame others for their misdeeds. They also have a more sinister side—and a more sinister constituency—than anything ever before seen in American politics. . . .
The Coming of Caesar. . .
In 2001, when the Bush administration first took office, then Secretary of State Colin Powell, his Deputy Richard Armitage and their State Department analysts, dubbed the neo-con plan of Wolfowitz-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Perle et al. for “democratizing the Middle East” and building a Pax Americana which would “dominate the globe” the scheme of “right-wing crazies.” Yet that is precisely the course the Bushites have pursued: indifferently transgressing the rights of individuals and nations; shredding the Constitution; suppressing dissent and turning America, as Tom Hamburger and Peter Wallsten write in their new book, into a One Party Country.
It ought to be a source of great apprehension that without any serious debate or alarm, the Republicans—aided by an obsequious media and a fainthearted Democratic Party opposition--have succeeded in gaining control of every branch of government, can look forward to a five vote majority on the Supreme Court for years to come and don’t necessarily have to worry about cases even being sent up to the High Court since they also have a majority on eleven of the thirteen appeals courts. But even that advantage seems not to have quenched their thirst for absolute power since Attorney General Gonzales in a speech this month at Georgetown University advised federal judges to exercise “a proper sense of judicial humility” and not interfere in the foreign policy and military decisions of the White House. . . that they—and presumably all of us—abandon the fiction of a federal system of checks and balances and pay homage to what has really taken place: the coronation of the new Imperial President.
“I am the Decider. . . [Der Fuhrer?}. . . I make the decisions.”
--George W. Bush
To be continued. . . The Black Case for Impeachment
BC Board Member William L. (Bill) Strickland is a founding member of the independent black think tank in Atlanta,the Institute of the Black World (IBW),currently teaches political science in the W.E.B.DuBois Dept of AfroAmerican Studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
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