FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Word of the Day: Capitulation

by

It was another tepid Tuesday save for a few run-of-the-mill moral capitulations in Washington. They are perhaps notable in that they express the degree to which our government is beholden to a degraded and contemptible pursuit of power—unaccountable to its citizens, unrepentant to its victims, and blind to its own amorality. The protagonists in our 24-hour tale include two veterans of the Hill, once promising voices, now more like the exoskeletons of a fled cicada, still clinging to the tree of state.

We Trust You, Mr. Clapper

One can never quite get enough of Congressional abdications. Thankfully, they occur on a regular basis. This week, the Senate intelligence committee attempted to quietly amend the Intelligence Authorization Act, its annual bill sanctioning intelligence operations for the current year. Chairwoman Diane Feinstein and others tiptoed into the Senate and delicately removed from the snoozing bill the clause requiring the White House to disclose the exact number of combatants or noncombatants slaughtered by drones during the preceding year. It seemed a simple and, one would think, necessary clause in any Intelligence Authorization Act requiring even the slightest accountability from those it purports to oversee. And this from Diane Feinstein, a Senator who argued for a ban on  assault weapons and once introduced a resolution to end the Authorization of Military Force (AUMF) act that has wildly inflated the powers of the executive. Sadly, despite having been empowered to deliver a Democratic voice to intelligence matters, she has become a vocal and sometimes inane advocate of surveillance, from the FISA courts to the NSA (although she did throw a bit of a fit when she found the CIA had “hacked” her computer).

Evidently, Feinstein and the “Honorable” Saxby Chambliss were deeply swayed by this piece of boilerplate drivel from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Functioning like a preprogrammed automaton, Clapper played the “national security” card in his missive, claiming that revealing how many unnamed individuals were slain would compromise our ability to “protect intelligence sources and methods.” Clapper also claimed such revelations would only be meaningful in “context.” He didn’t bother to say what context he had in mind, but perhaps he meant the multiple violations of international law that each drone strike incurs when it fires in a sovereign country on uncharged and untried citizens inexplicably labeled “combatants.” As many of the slain have been traveling along country roads, attending wedding parties, or simply moving about their neighborhood, it’s hard to know how the labels were arrived at. Nor is it clear why these unbefitting monikers are used to replace the actual names of the dead. Not only can we not know the numbers of robot-slain innocents; we can’t know their real names either. To do either might awaken the rabble, with dire consequences for the ruling elite.

In any event, the Senate intelligence committee performed its duly assigned duty as servile lapdog of the White House and its metastasizing intelligence services. In a publicized photo, Feinstein is shown shaking Clapper’s hand. Clapper gives the Senator a cunning look, as though happily confirming her complicity in their deal with the devil. No doubt these two elitist beltway insiders believe they are shielding their constituents from knowledge far too profound for their delicate ears. In any event, we’d do well to recall retired General Tommy Franks’ memorable phrasing: “We don’t do body counts.”

A Hasty Apology for Telling the Truth

Not to be outdone, the executive branch weighed in as well, with another freshly minted gaffe from Secretary of State John Kerry who, in a pique of frustration at the stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks, shrilly noted that Israel risked becoming “an apartheid state” by continuing to stonewall negotiations. Once his wayward words were published, the much-esteemed doyen beat a hasty retreat. It’s another sad chapter in the downward spiral of Kerry. One can hardly conjure any longer the shaggy haired man of principle who testified before the Fulbright Hearings in 1971 to protest the Vietnam War. Nor can one picture the same antiwar activist who hurled his military medals onto the steps of the Capitol. Ironically, it was that principled activism that launched Kerry into the public consciousness. Decades later he was thought to be a judicious liberal Senator from New England. But by the time he ran for president in 2004, he had shape-shifted into a full-fledged beltway insider, donning hunting jackets to burnish his image as a man of the people, rehashing his swift boat battles, and posturing as a sensible alternative to the unhinged folly of George W. Bush. Kerry’s turn as Secretary of State showed how far he’d drifted from the antiwar credo he’d espoused on returning from Vietnam. He fronted a farcical attempt by the White House to implicate the Syrian government in chemical attacks on a Damascus suburb. He played the fear-mongering alarmist in negotiations with Iran, despite the latter’s efforts to conciliate a frothing American administration intent on demonizing and disarming both Iran and its economy. Then he strutted into the abyss of Israel-Palestine rehearsing the same smug and senseless tripe of every Secretary of State in recent memory, claiming a two-state solution as his top priority, and subsequently producing a stillborn set of negotiations as negligible for their outcome as for the sincerity of their mediator.

Now Kerry, having slipped into a rare moment of clarity and called Israel a borderline apartheid state, has been reduced to groveling before his AIPAC masters. He uttered this reversal yesterday, “First, Israel is a vibrant democracy and I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one.” Of course, there’s nothing less like apartheid than Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, including their sequestration in Gaza and virtual Bantustans in the West Bank, the closure of their right to East Jerusalem, and their access to essential resources throughout Gaza. Second-class citizens will hardly do as a label for Israeli Arabs any longer. Kerry denies this now, having descended back into his dogmatic slumber.

On both fronts, the morality of the day dictates a sycophantic submission to political power—whether the desperate policies of a White House vitiated by corporate dollars, or the influence wielded by the Israeli lobby and its stranglehold over the pivot point of American foreign policy. Feinstein, Kerry, and the like have traded their progressive credentials for the imprimatur of the state, the creature comforts of elitism, and footnote status in the state-sanctioned history of the realm. They now project a profile of leaders profoundly corrupted by power. How artful, underhanded, and full of guile they now seem. And how perfectly normal.

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry. He lives and works in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

 

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

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!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
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