Thursday, October 25, 2007

who's in control here?

Last Thursday on Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman was talking with Michael Ratner from the Center for Constitutional Rights, an organization that is suing Blackwater for the September 16 killings in Baghdad. They also represent Guantanamo prisoners, and Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen that our government, if you hadn't heard, abducted, interrogated, tortured, and imprisoned for nearly a year…by mistake…perhaps because they thought they had Bill Maher?

About 31 minutes into the podcast, Goodman presented a clip of George W. Bush from April 2006 that particularly caught my attention (bracket comments are mine):

AMY GOODMAN: In April of last year, President Bush spoke at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. After his talk, he took questions from students at the school.

STUDENT: My question is in regards to private military contractors. The Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to these contractors in Iraq. I asked your Secretary of Defense a couple of months ago what law governs their actions. Mr. Rumsfeld --

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I was going to ask him. Go ahead. [He gets a big laugh from the audience, and the student, taken aback, breaks into nervous laughter that takes her several seconds to control.] Help.

STUDENT: I was hoping your answer might be a little more specific. [Bush shrugs.] Mr. Rumsfeld answered that Iraq has its own domestic laws, which he assumed applied to those private military contractors. However, Iraq is clearly not currently capable of enforcing its laws, much less against -- you know, over our American military contractors. I would submit to you that in this case, this is one case that privatization is not a solution. And, Mr. President, how do you propose to bring private military contractors under a system of law?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, I appreciate that very much. I wasn't kidding. [Bush gets more laughs, and giggles sheepishly as he continues to make light of his own ignorance, with mannerisms reminiscent of Johnny Carson.] I was going to -- I pick up the phone and say, Mr. Secretary, I’ve got an interesting question. This is what delegation -- I don't mean to be dodging the question, although it’s kind of convenient in this case, but never -- I really will. I’m going to call the secretary and say you brought up a very valid question, and what are we doing about it? It’s -- that’s how I work.

Decide for yourself whether Bush is actually dumb, or is just pretending. “You want to weep for America when you see that, ” Michael Ratner remarked, and in fact, I was beginning to do just that, quite literally. Actual tears welled up as his flip joking comments brought to mind all the people hurt, maimed, and displaced─all the unthinkable things that have befallen tens of thousands─ because of a President who lacks the humanity to bother himself with important facts that affect human lives.

Tears welled, but I didn’t actually cry because, like so many Americans, I've become numb to the atrocities that have become commonplace as a result of the unchecked War on Terror. Let's not dwell on secret prisons, torture, the convenient disregard of habeas corpus, and the suspension of judicial and Congressional oversight.

It's been reported that Bush, by his own admission, frequently cries at night. I really don't know what to think of this. I don't see it in the body language of this self-proclaimed compassionate conservative.

So many of the violations of the Bush Administration are done openly because it has a wild card called the War on Terror. When clear abuses of power are confronted with challenges in the courts, they always have the same response: these cases can't go through because it would reveal national secrets and threaten national security.

The national secret that they're guarding most tenaciously is the very fact of their rampant misconduct, and the assaults on the Constitution and the cherished principles and ideals of the United States of America. I believe the quaint but relevant phrase for what they're protecting is Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The stench of mendacity, the arrogance of authority, the audacity of unchecked power pervades our society. It's remarkable that more people aren't marching in the streets, demanding action from Congress, demanding responsible reporting from the major media outlets. How much farther must things go before our outrage finds a natural outlet through effective protests and meaningful action? Will it be too late by then?

The brainwashing machine chugs along. We don't like the idea of starting a war in Iran, but the rotten winds of war are rapidly picking up speed anyway, and reasonable thinking people, all too familiar with the smell, roll their eyes, and say, "That idiot Bush and his puppetmaster Cheney are up to their old tricks again."

Maybe people comfort themselves with the fact that the end of the Bush-Cheney term is in sight. But, how many more U.S. soldiers and Iraqis need to die in the meantime, and how many Iranis must now face the same peril from yet another unprovoked assault?

Well, they could have the knowledge to build a “nucular” bomb, and that's good enough, says our blithe president. This program would create a new front for aggression, violence, atrocity, and the squandering of billions of more dollars, which will of course continue into the next president's administration. Can we stop it, or are we powerless?

As so often happens when I think about the policies of George W. Bush, I have wandered from the specific topic, which, in this case, was Blackwater.

On Tuesday Condoleezza Rice ordered tougher oversight of private guards in Iraq, including tighter rules on the use of force. She also ordered sensitivity training. Now, there's a concept. Blatant disregard for human life is out, boys! I'm waiting to hear what she has to say about accountability and bringing to justice those contractors guilty of war crimes.

I wonder about that young student at Johns Hopkins University. Who was she? She was bright enough to realize this was an important issue way back in April of 2006, even while the President was blissfully and willfully oblivious. She asked an intelligent question, was disarmed at first by a Presidential wisecrack, but then recovered to deliver a cogent follow-up. As Amy Goodman remarked, "It might be a lesson to some reporters on how to ask a question."

    What I was listening to while writing this blog entry:

  • Faux Pas─M’Bilia Bel─Bameli Soy
  • Hallelujah─k.d. lang─Hymns Of The 49th Parallel
  • Without Your Love─Billie Holiday & Her Orchestra─Ken Burns Jazz: The Story of American Music
  • Never Say Never─Romeo Void
  • And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine─Ella Fitzgerald─Ella Fitzgerald: The War Years (1941 - 1947)
  • Devil’s Lullaby─Slaid Cleaves─On the Air: KUSP’s Live Music Sessions
  • Joseph Haydn: Schlaf In Deiner Engen Kammer─Victoria De Los Angeles, soprano; Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Gerald Moore, piano─The Fabulous Victoria De Los Angeles
  • "Louis Collins"─Mississippi John Hurt
  • Weiss: Suite Nr.21 in g minor: La Babilieuse en Menuet─Konrad Junghänel, lute─Sylvius Leopold Weiss: Ouverture & Suites
  • Celia─Bud Powell, piano; Ray Brown, bass; Max Roach, drums─Bud Powell: Modern Jazz Archive, Disc 1: Tempus Fugit


kystorms said...

wow, what a awesome read your blog was. I am so glad I came across your photos in flickr today.
I always seek out any bloggers from the SC area, as its my home and I miss it so much. I found myself being drawn into your thoughts, thank you very much for writing such a great post.

Puzzled said...

Thank you for the kind comments. I'm still trying to find my way in blogdom, but your words are very encouraging.