On Bush, the Dems, Jon Stewart, Hunter Thompson, Bill Moyers, and King (not Don)

Are the Democrats going to offer an alternative plan to get us out of Iraq? Or are they going to wait for the Republicans to do it their way, reap the political dividends, and leave the Democrats sniping outside the palace gate?
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Murder is a crime. Uunless it is done...by a poooollliiicceeeman. Or an ariissssstoocrat -- Joe Strummer

Bush 2. How depressing, corrupt, unlawful and tragically absurd the administration's world view actually is...how low the moral bar has been lowered...and (though I know I'm capable of intellectually lazy notions of collective guilt) how complicit our silence as citizens is...Nixon, a true fiend, looks like a paragon of virtue next to the criminally incompetent robber barons now raiding the present and future. But where are the Dems? American foreign policy is in chaos. We are now left in the surreal position of having to condemn American-sponsored torture as official policy while a deranged President Bush orders his staff to attend ethics briefings -- a "refresher course" -- from the White House counsel. The very idea of America is in chaos and this chaos has created a vacuum. One question for any Democrat: Who will have the balls to get us out of Iraq? If the Democrats don't step up and fill this vacuum, the Republicans will. They will take us out of Iraq. And then the Democrats will be left holding the bag -- first as the enablers who let the Republicans take us into an unnecessary and immoral war, and then as the whipping boys who stood by while the Republicans kept justifying what was clearly an unnecessary and immoral war. They were so worried about positioning themselves as hawks, not being seen as soft on terror and war, that they lost the capacity for outrage when the person responsible for a legal memo that denied the validity of the Geneva Conventions was appointed Attorney General. And it was downhill from there.

The Republicans, especially leading up to the 2006 elections, with the Bush administration crumbling, KNOW they have to find a way out of Iraq. So they will basically find a way to declare victory and do something that looks like a withdrawal, and the Democrats will be left as passive bystanders -- because they don't have the courage to suggest that people who lied to get us into war should not only not be in office, they should be in prison.

Last Tuesday, Harry Reid demonstrated wonderful signs of life. The question now is, are they going to build on this, or is it going to be an isolated episode that doesn't lead to a fundamental shift? Will enough Democrats now be willing to admit that voting to authorize the war was a mistake? Whether they were genuinely misled, they bought into it, or they were too cowardly to vote for what they believed was true, it was a mistake. Will they now have the courage to say, "This was wrong, and that we need to get our brave troops out of Iraq now."Are the Democrats going to offer an alternative plan to get us out of Iraq? Are they going to fill this vacuum created by the chaos in Iraq and a scandal-plagued administration in tatters, or are they going to wait for the Republicans to do it their way, reap the political diviedends, and leave the Democrats sniping outside the palace gate?

All this makes me think of Jon Stewart, and the tricky position he finds himself in...I love the man. He is the most important media watchdog right now. As Bill Moyers said "If Mark Twain were back today, he'd be at Comedy Central."

But I hope we're not putting too much pressure on Mr. Stewart. There should be a lot more like him, but right now he's all we've got. He's the vanguard. And therefore when Republicans, who were the ones who led us into this war, and the ones whom he's so rightly skewering every night, sit across the table from him -- there is some kind of unspoken message being given that they are not part of the problem, that they can wink and laugh with Jon and the things he is making fun of. That they are not them, when in fact, they are...
And they are getting a free pass to sit next to someone who speaks truth to power. They get reflected hipness just by sitting across the table from him, and the irony is that they share a laugh over the same things that he rails against. As an example, look at the jokey appearances by Bill Kristol, or David Frum. These are not dutiful soldiers standing by their president (which would be bad enough), these are the intellectual architects of the the invasion. Bill Kristol, the editor of the neocon house organ The Weekly Standard, came on and could barely keep a straight face when he said that Bush was a good president. And as anyone knows, reflected hipness on these types of men is a truly ugly thing. I would suggest each Republican must face a press conference, or a gauntlet perhaps, of Daily Show correspondents...or at least Lewis Black.

Yes, there is a difference between the McCain/Hagel Repubs and the neo-con/White House Iraq Group lunatics. But it's also good to remember: no matter what he does from here on out, McCain stood by the president, a man (and his machine) who smeared him viciously on the 2000 campaign trail, and then, at the GOP convention four years later, campaigned for him when we were well on to this disastrous course. And thinking men -- of which McCain is surely one -- knew the neo-cons were exploiting 9/11 for their hideous misadventure in Iraq, and knew this was an administration that would not allow photos of the dead. Etc. etc. etc. Every man who stood by Bush should be forced to answer for it. The problem isn't with Jon Stewart, who's a hero. The problem is that he's the only one (with ratings at least; none of the right-wing heavyweights are going on the Al Franken show, are they?). And we are pouring too much concrete under his pedestal. But I must admit that he's far too polite to the architects and enablers of the tragic last five years. If I hear one more asshole say, "The issue isn't whether I would send my own children to Iraq, this is an all-voluntary army...National security is at stake... There are monsters in this world." Well, thanks for telling us that -- and for lying about the war and profiting from it. And trying to privatize Iraq so corporate interests could have a free-market laboratory without all those pesky questions about "who owns what" and "who gets a piece of the action." (See Naomi Klein's excellent Baghdad Year Zero.) This is indeed a league of bastards -- these men are human scum. There were many who would have given their life to fight al-Qaeda. Many parents would have sent their children on that cause. It is the issue...of course that is the issue... Here's an American thought: Arab life has as much intrinsic value as American life. We are SUPPOSED to be better than the horrible regimes we must fight (not choose to fight). Due process is a fundamental tenet of civilization. The law is supposed to be better than us.We have veered so badly away from sanity that re-reading an Eisenhower speech or two puts him to the left of Howard Dean. I miss Hunter S. Thompson. We need him -- but he isn't gone...

"We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world -- a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just Whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us. No redeeming social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or we'll kill you."Well, shit on that dumbness, George W. Bush does not speak for me or my son or my mother or my friends or the people I respect in this world. We didn't vote for these cheap, greedy little killers who speak for America today -- and we will not vote for them again in 2002. Or 2004. Or ever. "Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who among us can be happy and proud of having all this innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid rich kids like George Bush? "They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are the racists and hate mongers among us -- they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis. "And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them."

I always thought he was too loose with the Nazi analogy, but I always got his point: if you're on the dying end of this madness, they might as well be monsters. It is interesting to remember what Churchill said:

"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."

I guess the exception is when and if Dick Cheney thinks we have a good reason to torture and deny due process. If these men are not impeached and thrown in jail, we truly are approaching the end of days. Thank God Bill Moyers is still around. Here he offers a very good and very compelling cry from the heart of a citizen who finds himself deeply disturbed, but unbowed by this wave of collective insanity. He is one of the best we have left. My own parents had deep faith, they saw the earth as a gift from God. They took Christ seriously -- the gospel, his words and acts -- and thought it their Christian duty to speak out against the desecration of God's great gifts: life, earth, freedom, and civilization. Nowhere could they find any endorsements of "wars of choice." Jesus was a radical to be sure, but in an opposite way from the war mongers and profiteers who use his name today. I can't get past "thou shalt not kill" and look at this carnage and see any rational way one could say these men follow Jesus Christ. Alas, the money lenders have well and truly invaded the temple. So Moyers:

"One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts."

To read the rest of this remarkable speech, go here.

And, finally, Dr King: "A time comes when silence is betrayal. Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak out with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak."

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