Today’s New York Times (Feb. 21) features an article on White House strategy for pushing through John Brennan’s appointment as CIA Director, with a photograph of him standing alongside an admiring Diane Feinstein, aka Madame Apologist for CIA-JSOC Paramilitary Operations, a truly dynamic duo, symbolizing the Executive-Congressional consensus on permanent war through means which makes the garden-variety war criminal’s hair stand on edge. America, under Obama, has no precedent in this nation’s past; sure, the Bush II-Cheney arrogance and purposeful criminality.
But we expect that. This time is different, the liberalization of moral turpitude, not only in foreign-military policies, but also from top to bottom, demonstrating, hopefully even to the obtuse, the charitable, the few authentic liberals and progressives mired in an earlier time-warp, that all policy is interconnected: failure on climate change and murdering children from the skies via an armed drone go together, one not possible without the other.
Worshipping on the altar of deregulation, so that bankers and hedge fund operators can score illegitimate gains in the millions if not billions (while the bottom one-third to one-half in America know want, insecurity, and distress) is also to worship—hardly missing a step—on the altar of militarism, so that CIA can enjoy wider latitude in covert actions, Special Ops can bask in presidential prestige as America’s answer to Third World death squads, and the poisons of militarization spread throughout the culture itself.
Mental divestiture from the fakery of Democratic politics-as-usual is the first step to moral sanity. I began writing for CounterPunch with recalling Melville’s deeply disturbing short story, “Bartleby the Scrivener, the Story of Wall Street,” because then it already appeared clear that Obama, a cardboard creation of market fundamentalism and prowar doctrine and practice, had played treacherously with well-meaning American sympathies for socioeconomic decencies.
Now, even more, he has stepped out of the cardboard to become a fullblown menace in his own right, synthesizing the powers of his creators to put capitalism to the test of its own inner spirit: wealth inequality, a government wedded to the private sector at the expense of the public interest, and the criminalization of all dissenting views. At this point, he appears to be succeeding admirably, with a narcotized public still shouting hosannas of praise, and John Brennan, the proud face of an America that can act with impunity at home and abroad on behalf of its most affluent, more familiarly known in an earlier day as the ruling class (although I would settle for C. Wright Mills’s “Power Elite”).
But to rub salt in the wounds of the affronted, this is not the work of nefarious, imbecilic Republicans, but the straightforward, consciously-realized policy-framework of the Democrats. Bartleby, faced with the selfish corruption of a society that hemmed in its people with the walls of alienation (yes, Melville was brilliant, a century ahead of his time in identifying the moral questions Americans have ever since shoved under the rug), simply and eloquently responded to every entreaty to be sucked in, “I prefer not to.”
Today the Bartlebys of this world would be rolled over by the vast construction machinery, the mammoth bulldozers, designed to eliminate the unwanted, to be removed to make way for the hundred-percenters, the patriots, the noble warriors keeping down distant enemies, and .. who knows when, to be turned on those at home.
Obama has a thirst for command, after first placating the military and intelligence communities to the extent of proving his admiration for them—one increasingly reciprocated by those communities. Each decision, portrayed as pragmatic, altogether necessary compromise to get through anything, actually constitutes a consecutive record of achievement in the wrong direction—the further fascisization of the social structure, from a growing concentration of wealth and its corollary, widening differentials of income, status, and power, to the open sesame of capital accumulation fully assisted by not compliant but actively sympathetic government.
I am not one to offer solutions, which, in any case, seem presently under the radar or off the charts. But it would be good to hark back to Bartleby’s “I prefer not to,” as evidence of washing our hands of pseudoliberalism (never really much to begin with, at least after 1945), spitting in the eye of our would-be democrats, saying, we see through you, your wars, your pollution, your contempt for the poor, your prostitution to wealth, your betrayal of the people. And maybe, through the power of example, the negation of political murder, ruthlessness, me-too billionaireism, others will pick up the tune, and someday an awakened people will come into the sun as their earned and proper destiny.
[Here follows my New York Times Comment (Feb. 21) on the article about White House strategy for Brennan’s confirmation. The absolute rejection of Obama:]
The Feinstein-Brennan photo says it all–how cozy Democrats themselves have come to the table of war crimes, repression, torture, and bow at the waist of their leader, The Assassination President, asking only for a fig leaf to cover their treachery, i.e., the publication of legal memos to justify Obama’s barbaric program of political murder, as though these memos, even assuming their existence, could somehow prove exonerative. Eric Holder meet John Yoo; the OLC is rotten to the core. The so-called “leak” to NBC was a contrived act to make Brennan’s appearance before Senate Intelligence go more smoothly.
Why even try to reason with Obama supporters, they have abdicated all moral responsibility for a bloodthirsty president and administration, whose Terror Tuesdays are a Mardi Gras celebration of death and the prowess of America’s paramilitary operations. International law has been flushed down the toilet. The killing of noncombatants (defined by Obama via specious criteria as combatants), women, children, funeral attendees, first responders, is a deliberated and heinous act intended for the sole purpose of cowing a people into submission–the Obama variant of GENOCIDE.
Progressives of today have become the apologists for fascism. Period. The litmus test of any humane, democratic standard, is the absolute rejection of Obama and his administration. Lesser-evil arguments are a means to accommodate ourselves to EVIL itself.
Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University.