Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

"The System Worked"

“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

 

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgive
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail