The Justice Deficit

by PIERRE TRISTAM

My wife and I were getting ready to watch a spaghetti western Friday evening (specifically, Sergio Leone’s "My Name Is Nobody," the Henry Fonda-Terence Hill masterpiece from 1973). A last check of the headlines suggested that something at least equally entertaining was happening at that moment in Congress. We turned to C-Span. Sure enough, the House of Representatives, a spaghetti debating club on its best days (congressmen’s rhetoric being generally thin, their motives stringy and their intellect al dente), had gone smack down. The name-calling was flying. The lies were dueling. The shame was sticking to everyone. Why? Because one of their most respected conservative members had suggested that it was time to redeploy America’s collective head out of Iraq’s sands.

John P. Murtha is barely a Democrat. Elected to the House in 1974 in a conservative district held by Republicans going back to 1936, he’s a Republican’s Democrat — farther to the right on many issues, including abortion, flag-desecration and the death penalty, than moderate Republicans. Republican presidents going back to Ronald Reagan have used him to sway Democrats their way. So, when he speaks, he’s like John Houseman in the old E.F. Hutton commercials: The House listens.

Last week, Murtha pulled a Fulbright — as in William Fulbright, the Arkansas Democrat of the 1950s and ’60s whose book, the "Arrogance of Power," had been partly inspired by another president deceiving him into voting in favor of a war resolution on false pretenses: "Many Senators who accepted the Gulf of Tonkin resolution without question might well not have done so," he wrote, "had they foreseen that it would subsequently be interpreted as a sweeping Congressional endorsement for the conduct of a large-scale war in Asia." It is beginning to dawn on a few members of Congress, three years too late, that they, too, were deceived into endorsing the Iraqi crusade, although the deception was self-inflicted. It was no mystery even in 2003 that the Bush administration was a kitchen-cabinet full of half-baked chefs glazing facts, cooking books, icing doubters and boiling dissenters alive. Yet Congress chose to swallow the administration’s words like some factoid from Mount Sina! i: Thou Shalt Not Question.

In an epic 6,500-word story on Sunday, the Los Angeles Times described the extent to which the CIA based its entire "proof" that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons on a low-level engineer who’d graduated last in his class, been fired from his government job in Baghdad in 1995, drove a taxi, was accused of a sex crime, escaped to Germany in 1999 and fabricated his way to all-expenses-paid asylum by pretending to have seen bio-weapons operations firsthand — all lies the German secret service, the United Nations and some of the CIA’s own analysts discredited before the war. But then-CIA director George Tenet wasn’t interested in conveying the internal debates to the president, nor was the president, who wanted his war, interested in hearing them. And Congress didn’t ask questions when handed the gruel the Bush administration called evidence.

Embarrassing? No. Lawmakers getting caught smoking crack in a Vegas whorehouse is embarrassing. Lawmakers endorsing a counterfeit war that has killed almost 2,100 American soldiers and more than 30,000 Iraqis, that will soon have cost more than the entirety of the Vietnam War, that has no end in sight and that keeps being defended, by most of those very lawmakers, as a battle protecting American freedom and birthing Iraqi democracy (the two biggest lies of this poison-ridden war) — those things aren’t embarrassing; they’re criminal. Yet, the most revolting aspect of Friday evening’s display in Congress was both parties’ wrangle over saving face or piling on the white-man’s-burden chauvinism. And passing on the bill to the public.

The Iraq war has cost $250 billion, so far. It’s costing us $6 billion a month in military spending alone. The budget deficit is running at more than $300 billion. On the same day that representatives called war-doubters "cowards" looking to "cut and run," here’s what the same House gave America by means of a Thanksgiving turkey, in the name of that war: a $746 million cut in food stamps and tighter eligibility rules for families and immigrants; a $4.9 billion cut in child support enforcement programs; an $8.9 billion cut in Medicaid, the health-care program for children and the poor, including rules that will make it more difficult for the elderly to qualify for nursing home coverage; and a $14 billion cut in student aid programs. That’s over the next five years. On top of that, the House approved a two-year extension of a lavish tax cut for stock market investors. Then it went on vacation. Speaking of cutting and running.

This is what passes for democracy. This is what we’re exporting. No wonder no one is buying. America’s justice-deficit is now its grossest domestic product.

PIERRE TRISTAM is a News-Journal editorial writer and author of Candide’s Notebooks . Reach him at ptristam@att.net.








 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire