FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

"The System Worked"

by TOM STEPHENS

“The system worked.”

–Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, regarding the attempted Christmas 2009 bombing on an airplane landing in Detroit

The system worked. After an oppressively narrow and empty 2000 election campaign, George W. Bush the Younger stole the US presidency, although he failed to win the majority of votes. The campaign seemed to turn on the vital issues of Vice President Al Gore’s debate mannerisms and the orange tinge of his makeup. Election chicanery, faux news lies, and thuggery in Florida were approved by a particularly unprincipled 5-4 US Supreme Court decision. We knew this meant trouble. Like lambs being led to slaughter, we had no idea how deep. Bush and his evil puppet master Dick Cheney began to act like they’d actually won the election and had a mandate. They eschewed any moderation or compromise, in favor of ideological extremism and tax cuts for the rich. We started sliding into a nightmare decade. The system ratified abuses of illegitimate power.

The system worked. Eight months into the Cheney/Bush administration’s watch, eleven men with box cutters, pilot training and a bold plan hijacked our future and liberty. The US reacted clumsily, plunging the world into war, first in Afghanistan and two years later inexplicably in Iraq. Both these unwinnable aggressions based on lies continue today, seven years later, bankrupting the nation, hollowing out democracy and (in a rare bit of good news) undermining the US empire. US military families suffer the monstrous human consequences of multiple deployments to illegal occupations of foreign lands. Repeatedly doing the same basic things as before in Korea and Vietnam, expecting that somehow things will end up differently this time, displays systematic insanity. The system empowered warmongers, and enriched war profiteers.

The system worked. The 2001 collapse of Enron triggered a continually intensifying class war, culminating in trillions of tax dollars and credits supporting the very Wall Street banksters who crashed the economy. Homeless people and foreclosed, vacant houses proliferate throughout our cities, and poverty invaded even the sacred, middle class suburbs. Giant US auto companies were bailed out, and their workers were thrown out, while efforts to save the planet by converting industrial production to the future green economy languished. A continuing series of corporate scandals expose the ethical and legal rot at the heart of the economy. The system lavishly rewarded financial fraudsters, and savagely crushed working people’s dreams.

The system worked. It did a heckuva job in the wake of 2005 Tropical Storm and Societal Failure Katrina,[1] graphically exposing the consequences of massive inequality, racism and private profit-oriented “security” policies, after a long-predicted natural disaster. The system left the Gulf Coast’s poor people to drown, and then richly rewarded disaster capitalist “recovery” contractors for coming in afterwards to grab their land.

The system worked. A black man and a white woman stepped forward as the corporate-selected leading candidates in the 2008 quadrennial election extravaganza, occurring amid deep, intense and profound social crisis. Obama’s eventual victory reasserted the corporate domination of the so-called Democratic Leadership Council. Clinton, Gates, Summers, Geithner & Co. were appointed as safe hands for the same imperial, military and economic policies that drove the collapse in the first place. The system worked to perpetuate its own power and injustices, and to kill hopes for change.

The system worked. At our last best hope to prevent climatic/ecological catastrophe threatening the whole basis and web of life on Earth in Copenhagen 2009, our so-called (corporate state) leaders looked directly at the ghastly consequences, clearly heard what has to be done to prevent – or at least mitigate – them, and decided not to do so. The system proved unsustainable, unjust, and suicidal.

The system worked. With blinding speed and amid roaring nonsense over “death panels” and “socialism,” it converted health care reform into corporate welfare for insurance and drug companies. Health care options available to everyone – everyone – in other industrialized countries – all other industrialized countries – exotic choices like being able to afford seeing a doctor, will remain unavailable to tens of millions in the US, in an epic economic recession, while we are legally required to buy inferior insurance policies, all in the guise of “reform.” The system is apparently on the verge of destroying our physical, economic, social and emotional health, in order to boost corporate profits.

The system worked. Whenever people denounced the scams of the corporate state, Wall Street, and its political puppets in Washington, or even tried to educate ourselves about the real world instead of the corporate echo chamber, the backlash against such organized, principled and militant social movements – often even among self-proclaimed leading “liberals” – fiercely maintained “THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE,” like a hideous zombie Margaret Thatcher on steroids. The system excluded any and all real alternatives, and defeated all meaningful solutions for working people.

In a democratic society, what “the system” is, how it “works,” and most importantly whom it works for and whom it injures, would all be the subjects of open, robust, informed and effective public political debates. Our public debate was more constrained. We got the wit and wisdom of Joe the Plumber, and the threat of President Caribou Barbie if we didn’t pull the lever for Obama. Staggering under the weight of the military- and prison-industrial complexes, we choose between either trying to cut through the ten thousand tons of bullshit smothering our lives and communities, or groveling in the latest corporate entertainment crap as an attempt to avoid facing these overwhelming realities.

It’s worth considering for a moment why savvy politico Janet Napolitano made such an obviously untrue statement – indeed, it was almost unbelievably moronic under the circumstances. The explanation is pretty simple. A top government bureaucrat like the Secretary of “Homeland Security” needs to believe, or at least to claim, that “the system worked,” no matter what the facts. One implication of this is that they lie to us routinely, all the time. Duh. This widely accepted fact sheds considerable light on the real meaning of the phrase “the system worked.” It works like this: The dominant institutions and powers of our society, aka “the system,” perpetuate their own power and wealth, and they either fool or coerce us into not fighting back or changing things to improve our condition; i.e., they “work.” Simple, really. Deadly, but effective.

The consequences of these institutional dynamics after the last ten years strain human comprehension and the resilience of all life. New York Times Op-Ed writer Frank Rich recently observed that “We keep being fooled by leaders in all sectors of American life, over and over. A decade that began with the “reality” television craze exemplified by “American Idol” and “Survivor” — both blissfully devoid of any reality whatsoever — spiraled into a wholesale flight from truth. … after a decade in which two true national catastrophes, a wasteful war and a near-ruinous financial collapse, were both in part byproducts of the ease with which our leaders bamboozled us, we can’t so easily move on.”[2]

Similarly, Hofstra University political science professor David Michael Green surveyed the last ten years and concluded that:

“Short of the 1860s or 1930s, this was perhaps the most disastrous decade in American history, and it deserves a good goddamed label to celebrate that fine achievement. … If there was one bright spot, it was the seeming recognition by the American public that the full glory of regressive politics was a fairly horrifying prospect to behold, once stripped by a sufficient dose of reality immersion to reveal the truth behind the marketing slogans. Americans seemed to finally come to their senses just a bit, and decide that the thirteenth century was best left in the history books, after all.
But then along came Barack Obama to provide the fitting end to it all. Crushing any sense of possible recovery or redemption (and even his own presidency) on the altar of perpetual obedience to corporate predation, he has now made the decade complete in every way. Not only has he abandoned any meaningful solutions for the multiple crises he inherited, he has absolved by silence the folks who produced those very catastrophes. No, strike that. He has more than absolved them, he has revivified them.
If there is any bright spot in the whole affair, it is that conditions are fertile for potentially big change in this country. But, then, this is America, a place where a corporate milquetoast like Harry Reid defines the supposed left, and is considered some sort of Bolshevik revolutionary. Or worse, I should say that it is an increasingly desperate, collapsing empire America, where the chances that such big change could be really ugly are lots higher than not.”[3]

We’re between the rock and the hard place. In spite of the risks, it’s time to change – indeed completely overturn and junk – a system that works for the fat cats and the power brokers, while it abuses you and me and billions of ordinary people. In the mean time, thanks to Ms. Napolitano for timely and publicly providing the awful 2000 -09 decade with a fitting moniker: The Decade that the System Worked.

TOM STEPHENS is a lawyer in Detroit. He can be reached at: jail4banksters@yahoo.com

Notes.

[1] Paul Street coined the phrase.

[2] “Tiger Woods, Person of the Year” 12/20/09

[3] “Well, That Sure Sucked: Good Riddance to the Devil’s Decade

 

Tom Stephens is a coordinator of the communications working group of Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management (D-REM).  Their web site is at: http://d-rem.org

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail