Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ruth Marcus at Bitburg

The Washington Post continues to smear itself with feces, somewhat in the manner of the terminally insane -- witness the latest from Ruth Marcus, wherein she reminisces, on the occasion of Mark Felts' death about her heady days as cub hack:

I happened, as a young reporter, to cover some of the Felt and Miller trial and remember feeling torn about the case -- revolted by their actions but sorry at some level for the actors.

In the current unspooling, I unexpectedly find myself more in the camp of Reagan than Nields. I understand -- I even share -- Nields's anger over the insult to the rule of law. Yet I'm coming to the conclusion that what's most crucial here is ensuring that these mistakes are not repeated. In the end, that may be more important than punishing those who acted wrongly in pursuit of what they thought was right.

Having covered "some" of the trial she feels qualified to tell us that Ron Reagan's pardon of the F.B.I. Agents Miller and Felt, for breaking the laws they were sworn to uphold was, on balance, a good thing. This is so because, as Saint Ronnie put it:

The men's convictions "grew out of their good-faith belief that their actions were necessary to preserve the security interests of our country....The record demonstrates that they acted not with criminal intent, but in the belief that they had grants of authority reaching to the highest levels of government."

Some would find it immoderate to point out that precisely the same could be said of Eichmann and countless other executioners, with respect to their atrocities. (Perhaps that's what caused Reagan to genuflect before the SS dead at Bitburg.) Still, it is undeniable that many, perhaps most, war criminals convince themselves that they act in the best interests of their noble Volk. Moreover, in the case of Eichmann, his actions were, under German law, legal. Perhaps Marcus would have wished Eichmann pardoned as well, so as to move on to (somehow) preventing similar "mistakes," without the unpleasant divisiveness of prosecuting the powerful or well connected. As Glenn Greenwald points out, Robert Jackson, a prosecutor who actually had to deal with such criminals at the Nuremberg trials, felt quite differently; said he:

The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power . . . .

A number of other points are raised by Marcus' breathtaking, and all-too-typical stupidity. First, to hazard a little psychology: Marcus confesses to, lo those many years ago, having felt real sympathy with the lawbreakers whom she saw on trial. Well, welcome to the world of trials, Ruth. All but the most sociopathic feel a bit of pity and terror when they see criminals brought low at the bar and come to undertand how very humanly the msicreants came to that sorry pass. Thankfully, in some cases, the judges and prosecutors are able to steel themselves against such feelings and actually deter further predations. Curiously, I don't recall Marcus arguing forgiveness for the hundreds of thousands doing hard time for petty drug violations. Maybe that's because she didn't go to those trials, or because, DC's drug-defendants being often non-white, her heart just doesn't go out the same way to them.

Note too, how Marcus' reminiscence marks her as one of the most "in" of DC's Kool-Kids, veteran of three decades' reporting and creating the conventional wisdom from inside the Beltway. No wonder she feels a ripple in the force whenever a pin-striper is threatened with justice. In this Ruth Marcus reminds me of so many here in Washington, partly desperate to believe, but also smug in the sense that the troubles beyond the Beltway will never reach in. Here in recession-proof, prosecution-proof DC, the real estate market will not crash, and the paychecks will always keep coming. As the ledgers of the world float now in crimson ink, Washingtonians seem a bit like the courtiers in Poe's Masque of the Red Death:

The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."

As many people have pointed out, our complete failure to hold Republican lawbreakers, since Nixon, accountable for their crimes, has simply emboldened them to more and greater lawbreaking, to the point where the Bush/Cheney debacle far more resembles a resembles a crime spree than an administration, per se. So it is at least unclear how another free pass is going to help prevent crimes by the next scumbag Karl Rove puts into office. Of course, the plague of these crimes will not bother the courtiers here either, so what do Marcus and her ilk care?

I remember when Felt was pardoned by Reagan, and how, even young as I was, and naive, that I despaired at the news, because I understood that it meant more impunity for right-wing scumbags, another triumph of those who hated people like me, mostly harmless longhairs who'd been against the war and the whole disastrous, racist, grafting, reactionary agenda. But we were and are, as Atrios says, the Dirty Fucking Hippies, and nothing the Kark Roves and Ruth Marcuses of the world agree on more, than the subhumanity of such, and government's need to stick then in the eye any way possible, legal or otherwise.

Finally, a little thought experiment: does Marcus, or anyone, imagine for one second that Reagan would have pardoned Mark Felt had he known he was Deep Throat. Never. These are the people who put the good of the Party above the good of absolutely everything else, above country, above truth, above principle of any sort -- Über Alles! -- except, of course, themselves.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Now Throw the Book at Him

Fawn Williams of Faux News (and NPR) thinks the Iraqis are "ingrates" because they don't appreciate the countless dead, millions exiled, and horrific destruction over there. Which again goes to show, the only thing scummier than a Brownshirt is a black Brownshirt (see Clarence, Colin, Condi and Ken Blackwell). Also, it goes to show, along with Cokie Roberts, why right-thinking people shouldn't give a nickel to NPR.

But Fawn is just one of the many millions who can't handle the truth about the whole Iraq war: that it was basically a smoke-screen for the incompetence and criminality of the whole Bush Junta, finally sold to poor, dim Dubya by Karl Rove, who realised that they had no chance for a second term without the war. The American people need to be reminded (to see that footage again) how gleeful this gang was on the eve of way, how they acted like fratties on a panty raid, not like leaders sending men to kill and die.

Yglesias puts it brilliantly:

The harsh reality is that this was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it’s seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world — including but by no means limited to the Arab world. But it’s impolitic to point this out in the United States, and it’s clear that even a president-elect who had the wisdom not to be suckered in by the War Fever of 2002 has no intention of really acting to marginalize the bad actors. Which, I think, makes sense for his political objectives. But if Americans want to play a constructive role in world affairs, it’s vitally important for us to get in touch with the reality of what the past eight years of US foreign policy have been and how they’re seen and understood by people who aren’t stirred by the shibboleths of American patriotism.

Unless these people are in some way held accountable their crimes will be repeated and exacerbated very soon.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dearly Departing

So the Tribune papers are going down the tubes, and the Post, Times and Wall Street Journal are all hemorrhaging money, and we are supposed to lament these facts. But maybe if they had actually reported on the GOP crime spree that has been hollowing out the economy for about 40 years, or on Bush's well-known criminally incompetent unfitness for office, Karl Rove's treasons (or for that matter, Nixon's, Reagan's and Poppy Bush's) maybe people would still find newspapers interesting and relevant, a necessary part of the the nation's vital discourse. As is, who cares if they disappear entirely? They only provided the illusion of news anyway, an illusion we're probably better off without.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Lazy, Stupid, Pseudo-Tough

Scott Horton reports that a group of retired officers is urging prosecution for the Bush torture team, and of course that's exactly right, not that I expect Obama to go along with that. I predict that he will violate his oath roundlyto support the lasw and Constitution, in the name of "healing." His heroic support of his potential 60th Senator down in Georgia, and the brave way he stood up to Lieberman and the telecoms make this a pretty easy call.

In any case, Admiral John Huston has it exactly right when he opines that torture is the practice of the "lazy, stupid and pseudo-tough."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dream Team

Bush is having his ass licked by Charlie Gibson, Rove by Matt Lauer, Tony Blair was on my teevee this morning pointedly not being asked about the Downing Street Memos and even the Cheney's got puff treatment from the post over the holiday weekend (something about how they spruced up the Naval Observatory with Dick's collection of human ears and torture devices). The corporate media treat these people as if they were basically decent people who made some wrong calls in tough times -- hey let's let bygone be bygones.

In fact of course, if these people are not evil then evil has no meaning. They're done more harm to the country than Al Quaeda, the Medellin Cartel, and the Mafia combined and squared, and yet the douchebags of the small box can't seem to keep that in their pretty little heads, they're just so tickled to be in the Presences.

If their were justice all these monsters and their sycophants would have gotten the Mussolini treatment, simulcast on all channnels -- with a quiz afterward to determine voter eligibility. We are become a shitty little country, I'm afraid. And Obama won't be able to do much much about it.