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February 18, 2008

What Do We Stand For?


by Paul Craig Roberts

Americans traditionally thought of their country as a "city upon a hill," a "light unto the world." Today only the deluded think that. Polls show that the rest of the world regards the U.S. and Israel as the two greatest threats to peace.

This is not surprising. In the words of Arthur Silber:

"The Bush administration has announced to the world, and to all Americans, that this is what the United States now stands for: a vicious determination to dominate the world, criminal, genocidal wars of aggression, torture, and an increasingly brutal and brutalizing authoritarian state at home. That is what we stand for."

Addressing his fellow Americans, Silber asks the paramount question: "why do you support" these horrors?

His question goes to the heart of the matter. Do we Americans have any honor, any humanity, any integrity, any awareness of the crimes our government is committing in our name? Do we have a moral conscience?

How can a moral conscience be reconciled with our continuing to tolerate our government which has invaded two countries on the basis of lies and deception, destroyed their civilian infrastructures and murdered hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children?

The killing and occupation continue even though we now know that the invasions were based on lies and fabricated "evidence." The entire world knows this. Yet Americans continue to act as if the gratuitous invasions, the gratuitous killing, and the gratuitous destruction are justified. There is no end of it in sight.

If Americans have any honor, how can they betray their Founding Fathers, who gave them liberty, by tolerating a government that claims immunity to law and the Constitution and is erecting a police state in their midst?

Answers to these questions vary. Some reply that a fearful and deceived American public seeks safety from terrorists in government power.

Others answer that a majority of Americans finally understand the evil that Bush has set loose and tried to stop him by voting out the Republicans in November 2006 and putting the Democrats in control of Congress – all to no effect – and are now demoralized as neither party gives a hoot for public opinion or has a moral conscience.

The people ask over and over, "What can we do?"

Very little when the institutions put in place to protect the people from tyranny fail. In the U.S., the institutions have failed across the board.

The freedom and independence of the watchdog press was destroyed by the media concentration that was permitted by the Clinton administration and Congress. Americans who rely on traditional print and TV media simply have no idea what is afoot.

Political competition failed when the opposition party became a "me-too" party. The Democrats even confirmed as attorney general Michael Mukasey, an authoritarian who refuses to condemn torture and whose rulings as a federal judge undermined habeas corpus. Such a person is now the highest law enforcement officer in the United States.

The judicial system failed when federal judges ruled that "state secrets" and "national security" are more important than government accountability and the rule of law.

The separation of powers failed when Congress acquiesced to the executive branch's claims of primary power and independence from statutory law and the Constitution.

It failed again when the Democrats refused to impeach Bush and Cheney, the two greatest criminals in American political history.

Without the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, America can never recover. The precedents for unaccountable government established by the Bush administration are too great, their damage too lasting. Without impeachment, America will continue to sink into dictatorship in which criticism of the government and appeals to the Constitution are criminalized. We are closer to executive rule than many people know.

Silber reminds us that America once had leaders, such as Speaker of the House Thomas B. Reed and Sen. Robert M. LaFollette Sr., who valued the principles upon which America was based more than they valued their political careers. Perhaps Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich are of this ilk, but America has fallen so low that people who stand on principle today are marginalized. They cannot become speaker of the House or a leader in the Senate.

Today Congress is almost as superfluous as the Roman Senate under the caesars. On Feb. 13 the U.S. Senate barely passed a bill banning torture, and the White House promptly announced that President Bush would veto it. Torture is now the American way. The U.S. Senate was only able to muster 51 votes against torture, an indication that almost a majority of U.S. senators support torture.

Bush says that his administration does not torture. So why veto a bill prohibiting torture? Bush seems proud to present America to the world as a torturer.

After years of lying to Americans and the rest of the world that Guantanamo prison contained 774 of "the world's most dangerous terrorists," the Bush regime is bringing six of its victims to trial. The vast majority of the 774 detainees have been quietly released. The U.S. government stole years of life from hundreds of ordinary people who had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and were captured by warlords and sold to the stupid Americans as "terrorists." Needing terrorists to keep the farce going, the U.S. government dropped leaflets in Afghanistan offering $25,000 a head for "terrorists." Kidnappings ensued until the U.S. government had purchased enough "terrorists" to validate the "terrorist threat."

The six that the U.S. is bringing to "trial" include two child soldiers for the Taliban and a car-pool driver who allegedly drove bin Laden.

The Taliban did not attack the U.S. The child soldiers were fighting in an Afghan civil war. The U.S. attacked the Taliban. How does that make Taliban soldiers terrorists who should be locked up and abused in Gitmo and brought before a kangaroo military tribunal? If a terrorist hires a driver or a taxi, does that make the driver a terrorist? What about the pilots of the airliners who brought the alleged 9/11 terrorists to the U.S.? Are they guilty, too?

The Gitmo trials are show trials. Their only purpose is to create the precedent that the executive branch can ignore the U.S. court system and try people in the same manner that innocent people were tried in Stalinist Russia and Gestapo Germany. If the Bush regime had any real evidence against the Gitmo detainees, it would have no need for its kangaroo military tribunal.

If any more proof is needed that Bush has no case against any of the Gitmo detainees, the following AP report, Feb. 14, 2008, should suffice: "The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to limit judges' authority to scrutinize evidence against detainees at Guantanamo Bay."

The reason Bush doesn't want judges to see the evidence is that there is no evidence except a few confessions obtained by torture. In the American system of justice, confession obtained by torture is self-incrimination and is impermissible evidence under the U.S. Constitution.

Andy Worthington's book, The Guantanamo Files, and his online articles make it perfectly clear that the "dangerous terrorists" claim of the Bush administration is just another hoax perpetrated on the inattentive American public.

Recently the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity issued a report that documents the fact that Bush administration officials made 935 false statements about Iraq to the American people in order to deceive them into going along with Bush's invasion. In recent testimony before Congress, Bush's secretary of state and former national security adviser, Condi Rice, was asked by Rep. Robert Wexler about the 56 false statements she made.

Rice replied: "[I] take my integrity very seriously, and I did not at any time make a statement that I knew to be false." Rice blamed "the intelligence assessments" which "were wrong."

Another Rice lie, like those mushroom clouds that were going to go up over American cities if we didn't invade Iraq. The weapon inspectors told the Bush administration that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, as Scott Ritter has reminded us over and over. Every knowledgeable person in the country knew there were no weapons. As the leaked Downing Street memo confirms, the head of British intelligence told the UK cabinet that the Bush administration had already decided to invade Iraq and was making up the intelligence to justify the invasion.

But let's assume that Rice was fooled by faulty intelligence. If she had any integrity she would have resigned. In the days when American government officials had integrity, they would have resigned in shame from such a disastrous war and terrible destruction based on their mistake. But Condi Rice, like all the Bush (and Clinton) operatives, is too full of American self-righteousness and ambition to have any remorse about her mistake. Condi can still look herself in the mirror despite one million Iraqis dying from her mistake and several million more being homeless refugees, just as Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, can still look herself in the mirror despite sharing responsibility for 500,000 dead Iraqi children.

There is no one in the Bush administration with enough integrity to resign. It is a government devoid of truth, morality, decency, and honor. The Bush administration is a blight upon America and upon the world.


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    Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

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