Monday, January 19, 2009

Georgie, We'll Hardly Miss You

In the couple of months between Election and Inauguration Days we were treated to reviews and tweaking of what has been referred to as "the Bush Legacy". The main problem with that phrase is that we no more want Dubya's legacy than we want Dubya himself.

We've heard the utterly meaningless mantras of "I've made the hard decisions" and "history will decide" and "protected America" repeated in the typically Republican magical thinking that insists that repeating a nonsense phrase enough times makes it so. Bush apologists have trotted out people who, largely with straight faces, claim that Dubya is "intelligent", a "nice man", "pleasant" and "engaged".

My parents' generation knew such propaganda for what it truly is: "The Big Lie". "The Big Lie" was the shorthand applied to Nazi and Soviet propaganda that painted monsters like Hitler and Stalin as benign patriots and benefactors to the world at large when in fact they were dangerous, totalitarian, psychopathic dictators. Dubya and his Svengalis, Poppy Bush and Dick Cheney, may not sink to the level of monstrousness of Hitler or Stalin or Mao. They may not even sink to the slightly less appalling level of Pol Pot, Idi Amin or Slobodan Milosovic but that doesn't mean that they are not denizens of some level of the same hellish pit that houses those refutations of the term "humanity".

I began writing this as the inaugural ceremonies for Barak Obama were under way. The pomp and circumstance of that day are now a bright, warm memory. Now that the presidency of George W. Bush is well and truly over we can say with some certainty that it was a presidency begun in fraud, pursued through crime and lies and concluded in unmitigated disaster for the United States and the whole world. Dubya has descended into an occasional run to a convention of congenial oil men sufficiently foolish, fascist or clueless to pay for a few inept words from him and a bit of glad handing. He's traveled as far as the plains of western Canada being careful not to venture into any country that might arrest him for his many and manifest war crimes. Cheney too emerges once or twice a month from the evil darkness that he carries within himself to croak warnings that restoration of the U. S. Constitution is an lure for terrorist attacks on Americans. However, Cheney's demeanor of hatred makes one wonder if his friends at Halliburton and the "re-branded" Blackwater are not arranging for the attack he predicts as inevitable.

Obama and his Administration have repeatedly and strongly expressed the desire to put the last eight years behind them even as they root about in the back-up of sewage that the Bush Administration left in its wake. In a pragmatic sense they are correct. Once the neo-cons turned the American ship of state into a Titanic, courts martial for the captain, designers, navigator and engineers would only get in the way of evacuating the ship and saving as many as possible. In the larger scheme of American politics, both parties understand that the vengeful Republicans would bide their time and hone their skills at hiding their criminal acts until they could again destroy a Democratic president out of sheer revenge for Nixon's impeachment and exposure of the Iran-Contra Affair as they did with the noisome prosecutorial misconduct known as "Whitewater". Never mind that the Republican wrong doing was criminal at best, traitorous at worst while the Democratic wrong doing amounts to some raunchy heterosexual diddling.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, to his credit, has proposed investigating the criminality of the executive branch from January 20, 2001 through January 19, 2009 but his proposed investigation is limited and entirely toothless. I have come reluctantly to believe that we need a full exposure of the criminal acts of the Bush Administration regardless of the distraction it might be. What has decided me on this point is the repeated croakings of Dick Cheney.

Cheney's allegations that Obama's policy of treating prisoners lawfully poses a threat to America needs to be challenged. We desperately need a wide declassification of documents to debunk the canard that the Bush Administration's disregard for human and civil rights, Constitutional and International Law and treaties did anything but make America and Americans less safe, less secure and more vulnerable.

I understand that I should "be careful what I wish for." The possibility that even one of those tortured in secret, foreign prisons may have provided some pertinent and useful intelligence could blow the whole process up in the Democrats' faces and make credible the Republicans who have so effectively discredited themselves. Still, I am confident enough that all the illegal, draconian acts of the Bush Administration were completely ineffectual that I'm willing to risk it. After all, would they have been so excessively secretive about the information they received if the least little mote of it had been of value? You might pose that question to Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson. The only way they can claim that their descent into fascism was justified is by the absence of results remaining a secret.

Also, we hardly need worry that the demagogues like Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rash Lamebrain and Ann will come up with a rational critique of the policy. They are already off the deep end, flailing about in search of some epithet that will arrest the attention of and re-mobilize the lazy and thoughtless who filled out their core audience of knuckle-walking idiots.

No, we need an investigation, out in public. We need evidence of malfeasance and misfeasance and names, not just of the prime movers but of the quiet, minor bureaucrats insinuated into the government. We need the dismissals and resignations that root out the Monica Goodlings, Kyle Sampsons, the graduates of the "Law Schools" of Regent and Liberty Universities, the Bob Jones-ites and similar pseudo-scholars and shyster lawyers. In short, we need the kind of purge that the neo-fascists worked from 1946 through 1956 through HUAC and Joe McCarthy only this time for actual cause.

But then, we're Democrats and Liberals and unlikely to be so effective or decisive. Yet were we to act outside our nature this once we might finally, actually know the real Georgie, Dickie and their appalling attempt to destroy our nation. We might even go a long way to avoiding a repeat in the foreseeable future.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Reinhard Heydrich and Josef Goebbles, Israelis

Today the Israelis and Hamas have entered an uneasy truce in the Gaza Strip with an Israeli invasion force inside Gaza allegedly to keep the peace. In fact, the Israelis are there for no such purpose. Rockets from Gaza are simply the excuse for continuing Israeli genocide against the Palestinian population but let's put that aside for a moment to consider a couple of points relative to the most recent three weeks of murderous Israeli attacks on Palestinians.

Let me first address the myth that opposing Israeli government policy and being anti-Semetic are the same thing. That farago is the same crap dealt out by the Bush Administration when they have claimed that opposition to their odious policies is un-patriotic and "gives aid and comfort to the terrorists." It is manifest nonsense. Personally, I support the existence of a nation of Israel living in peace with its neighbors. It is because I support Israel that I oppose Israeli government policies toward the Palestinians. Israel's governments, in a nearly unbroken line for the past 62 years have engaged in policies that seal its doom rather than promote its survival.

Israel, from its inception in 1947, has engaged in ethnic cleansing and genocide to displace and/or kill the indiginous Palestinian population in the name of a mythological grant by a non-existant god to the probably mythical Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Even Israeli scholars have demonstrated that much of the official history of the founding of Israel is, like most founding histories, largely myth covering a much more noisome reality. Palestinians did not voluntarily surrender their homes because of their bias toward Jews. They were forced out of their homes and into "ghettos" more than passingly reminiscent of the Warsaw Ghetto by an ethnic cleansing that makes the acts of Slobodan Milosovic and Radovan Karadzic look amateurish by comparison.

Israel owes its existence to a deft and even sometimes justified application of both lies and guilt. Almost all of us who are not Jews bear some guilt for the anti-Semitism that had its hellish apotheosis in the Holocaust. I would be lying to myself if I said that that guilt does not inform my support for Israel. My father and paternal grandmother were casually and at the same time vehemently anti-Semetic, an aspect of their characters that I despise even as I loved them for their other qualities. Yet it is this very guilt that I feel that has been outrageously exploited by Israel. Successive Israeli governments and Israel boosters have used that guilt to equate anti-Semitism and opposition to Israeli policies, stifling reasonable debate on Israeli government actions and policies.

The sibling of that exploitation of guilt is the farago that Israel is the weak, beset and persecuted orphan of the Middle East. That may have been true in 1947-48. It may well have been true through 1956 and even a bit later. It has been utter nonsense since 1967. Jews have been persecuted world-wide for centuries but that does not mean that Israel has not become the persecutor of Palestinians over the last 40 years. While there is certainly bitter irony in that fact, those are most definitely not mutually exclusive notions.

Israel is and has been, largely with unquestioning American support, the dominant power and even the bully of the Middle East since 1967, the Yom Kippur War not withstanding. It is a nuclear power. Its military dominates its competing and fragmented neighbors. Israel is not persecuted. It is not in danger of being wiped from the map yet the constant selling and reselling of the notion of Jews as a defenseless, persecuted minority has colored all discourse about Israel making that discouse irrational and, frequently, impossible. The Jewish people have been and often are a persecuted minority even today but Israel is not so simply by extension.

Nor is Israel a democracy in any sense intelligible to Americans. An enourmous portion of the population that falls within any version of the borders of Israel is prevented from voting in Israeli elections. There are persistent efforts within Israel to disenfranchise Palestinians, even those who support Israel as a nation. Israel is regularly referred to as "the Jewish state" without any thought to the parallels that exist in that very phrase to the 1994 attempt to turn Rwanda into "the Hutu state" or the on-going efforts to turn Tibet into a "Chinese state". In fact the very use of the word "state" is Orwellian. When not calling Israel aptly "the Jewish state", we regularly refer to Israel as "the state of Israel." Is there another nation on earth referred to in that construction? We do not refer to "the state of France" or "the state of Ukraine." We do, however, refer to "the state of Connecticut" and "the state of Idaho". Words have power to direct our conversations and the construction "the state of Israel" reinforces the idea of an intimate connection between the United States and Israel that does not really exist. The disconnect between the propaganda that would have Americans see Israel as a part of our own nation and reality is made manifest when we recall the bombing of the USS Liberty or the spying of Jonathan Pollard. America may have an interest in an Israel that lives in peace with its neighbors but we have no interest whatever in supporting at murderous Israeli government and its currently dysfunctional attitude toward its American benefactor.

Now to deal with the title of this entry.

Reinhard Heydrich was the odious, murderous Nazi Gestapo chief who chaired the Wannsee Conference that set the Nazi agenda for the extermination of the Jews, Roma, homosexuals and other "decadent" people that fell under the Nazi hobnail boot heel. He was assassinated in Prague in 1942 though the world would have been a far better place if he'd been killed in 1912 or 1922. Among the many horrific punishments that Heydrich pioneered were the the Nacht und Nebel (Night and Fog) Decree adopted by the George W. Bush Administration in it's alleged "War On Terror" and the murder of an escalating number of civilians for each Nazi killed by resistance fighters. The even more horrible Reichs Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbles, "honored" Heydrich's policy by decreeing that 150 Jews would die to requite the "terrorism" that resulted in Heydrich's death. Goebbles also had the Czech town of Lidice wiped out in the memorial Operation Reinhard.

In December, 2008, Israel, having lost 4 citizens to Qassam rockets fired from Gaza attacked the population of Gaza and killed, by the time of today's truce, about 1,100 Palestinians. Please forgive me if I see an Israeli adoption of the Heydrich and Goebbels policies in this current attack on Gaza. A lot of people will, no doubt, express deep indignation at a comparison of Israeli government actions to the actions of a pair of notorious anti-Semites. Go ahead, express your indignation. All the indignation in the world does not make the comparison any less apt. Indignation is not an argument against the manifest similarity of Israeli government and Nazi policies. In fact, I am indignant that any Israeli government should adopt any policies that so much at hint at a comparison with Nazi policies. And, further, I would equate indignant Israeli government apologists denying that obvious parallel with Holocaust deniers. Even as I love my own country while hating the criminals and frauds of the Bush Administration or love my late father and babci while hating their anti-Semitism it is past time for those who love Israel to hate its wrongs to the Palestinian population.

For Israel to disingenuously claim that it did nothing to provoke Hamas even as it blockaded Gaza for years and forced disease, darkness and starvation on the population of the Gaza Strip is as obscene as murdering Polish soldiers and dressing them in Nazi uniforms to justify the 1939 invasion of Poland or doctoring the evidence of an Iraqi weapons program to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Shelling and bombing United Nations schools and aid warehouses or Red Crescent hospitals is as much a war crime as hacking up defenseless Tutsis seeking sanctuary in a church.

My four grandsons, my oldest daughter and beloved son-in-law are Jews. So are, at the risk of cliche, friends to whom I owe much and love more as were teachers who gave me the tools to think independently and deeply. I hope for the survival and well-being of all the good people of Israel. Yet I have the same hope for all the good people of Gaza and the other Palestinian lands. I do not see those hopes as mutually exclusive. And simultaneously, I damn the current Israeli government and power hungry fanatics like Bebe Netanyahu. I would hope further that all those, Jew and gentile, Palestinian and Israeli, Islamist and unbeliever alike would share that hope and condemn, not Israel, but Israeli government policies.