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:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
Charles R. Larson
A Review of Mary Roach’s “Grunt”
David Yearsley
Stuck in Houston on the Cusp of the Apocalypse
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail