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.


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