Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Over on Salon again, Glenn Greenwald opens up to me an entirely new vista, and a dark one. “The motivation for blocking investigations into Bush lawbreaking”

Up til now I had pretty much been concentrating on the conceptual affinities (not to say complicities) between the Democrats with their National Nanny State and the Republicans with their National Security State. The Democrats in their do-whatever-it-takes teeth-gritting to keep ‘the women’s vote’ and be thought of as ‘sensitive’ and ‘enlightened’, and the Republicans in their do-whatever-it-takes chest-thumping to ‘be patriotic’ and ‘keep people safe’ … neither of them have any use for The People, that stubbornly unpredictable variable that could obstruct whatever stampede whichever Party wants to start in the service of its ‘ultimate emergencies’ and its goals.

Thus one of the intermediate goals of both Parties has been to neutralize that stubborn variable by distracting It or corrupting Its ability to operate properly or to intimidate It with surveillance and registries and all the other weaponry that the ultra modern nation-state can deploy in order to get its way.

In any case, neither Party is conceptually hospitable to or even genuinely respectful of ‘The People’ as envisioned by the Framers and by Lincoln (all of whom, I suspect, are already considered ‘quaint’ in the inner cocktail parties of the Democratic as well as the Republican Parties). Consequently, civil liberties are not really safe with either Party. For the moment, We’re back to the third and almost final line of defense: the Third Branch, the Judiciary. If that goes, then as the Marines say: ‘everybody’s a rifleman’ so cooks, clerks, musicians, and the IT nerds will be expected to go into the field; it will remain for The People to save their own game. Then indeed will the school-days drone of the Gettysburg words bethump Us: “It is for us, the living, rather, to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us …” Will the generations of our era be able to wage such a struggle for the soul and the structure of the Republic?

So far so bad.

Now Glenn Greenwald adds an ominous new angle. The explanation for the recent Democratic Congressional give-aways in re telecom immunity (and, I think, going all the way back to the infamous Military Commissions Act and its precedent-setting ex-post-facto legalization of illegal and even treacherous behavior on the part of military and civilian government officials in the matter of torture) is not only a matter of abstract conceptions and Party – you should pardon the expression – philosophy.

No. It’s that the Democrats have been as treacherous as the Republicans and have been so deeply complicit in all this illegality that by this point, they themselves will be in danger of prosecution. Not only for war-crimes, but for the violation of established and applicable American laws. (The S.S., as so often, had a pithy description for this kind of relationship: “Blutbund”, the blood-bond: i.e., I’ve killed whom I’ve been told to kill and you know it, you’ve killed whom you were told to kill and I know it – let’s do lunch! Ach! Zoze verr ze happy times!)

This is one of those problems you get in catastrophic situations. Not only the obvious initial problem is causing grief, but then secondary problems take on a life and stature of their own. As in a monster California brush-fire, where the very speed with which the flames engorge on brush and homes means that good-sized chunks of burning but not fully-consumed material are sucked up in the fire’s increasing air currents, then carried forward in the smoke plume driven by the wind that is pushing the fire itself along, until they eventually fall out of the stream and drop out of the sky into perfectly untouched areas farther ahead, and thereby start fires of their own, sometimes worse than the first one.

Sort of: “and thus the last condition will be worse than the first”, as Scripture saith, about letting one devil set up permanent shop and then that one goes and invites all its in-laws and ‘respected colleagues’ and you get … the Beltway. We, brethren and sistern, are in a heepa trubble: We got a house full of devils and no God to call on, and the angels all overseas smitin' the unbelievers, obedient to Our word. Lordy. It’s enough to make a grown man take up organized religion … but what do ‘men’ know?

Of all the obstructions to pulling back from an ill-chosen course of action, and their name is legion, perhaps the most powerfully insidious is the opposition – however hidden in the shadows – of folks theoretically on your own side who have betrayed their trust and stand to be exposed if the truth comes out. Thus, in addition to all the conceptual reasons why neither Party is particularly hospitable to truth, there is the very pragmatic reason that the perpetrators of treachery will do whatever it takes to avoid exposure and prosecution. Like vampires caught between your holy-water and a broad shaft of sunlight, they will harrumph, snarl, bray, cry, smile, wheedle, cajole, whine, recite the pledge of allegiance, and warn you that a leering sex-offender is right behind you planning unspeakable things. I hope it is not news to you when I suggest that you must stay focused, advance steadily, shpritz your holy-water resolutely, and wait for the barbecue to finish.

And of course when they are not only on your own side but are also possessed of the resources available – under the table as well as on it – to incumbent Congresspersons, well then … We got Us a convoy … to hell.

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