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Unmentionable Things in U.S. Politics [View All]

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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-17-07 10:06 PM
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Unmentionable Things in U.S. Politics
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There are numerous things that absolutely cannot be mentioned by American politicians because they are . well, embarrassing to our country. Mere mention of these things brings down the wrath of conservative pundits and moderates as well, and even some who consider themselves to be liberal or progressive. The wrath is likely to be so intense that few U.S. politicians dare mention these things because of the risk of being booted out of office or worse. Three such things are: 1. the stealing of a U.S. presidential election; 2. referring to American military or covert actions as immoral, rather than merely as misguided; and, 3. imputing bad intentions, rather than mere incompetence, onto a U.S. president.


Stealing of a presidential election

Speaking of glitches, irregularities, or inaccuracies in our national elections has finally reached the level of acceptability among our corporate news media and national politicians. But speaking about outright fraud is much less acceptable, and talk of the stealing of a national election is not acceptable at all. There is a fair amount of talk today about how our elections can be hacked, as if hacking can be conducted only by rogue outsiders. The idea of a voting machine company conspiring with politicians to steal an election by writing the code right into the software (which we are not allowed to see because it is proprietary) that dictates how our votes will be electronically counted is considered too ridiculous to even mention.

A perfect example of this is provided by Greg Gumbel in his otherwise excellent book, Steal this Vote, which denies even the possibility that the 2004 presidential election was stolen despite a great amount of evidence to support that contention, and despite detailed and excellent discussion by Gumbel himself on how todays electronic voting machines can be and have been used to steal elections below the office of the presidency. Gumbels reasons for his conclusion are patently ridiculous. He begins his proof against the stealing of the 2004 election by saying:

Indeed, it became fashionable to see Diebold as the spearhead of some dark conspiracy in which corporate America and the Republican Party had joined forces to undermine democracy and achieve a total lock on the levers of power. But the scenario was almost certainly overblown

You can read the whole discussion here (See the parts on The put down of conspiracy theorists and on Specific references to the 2004 Presidential election). What Gumbel basically said is that the 2004 election could not have possibly been stolen because: 1) The problem with electronic voting machines was not the political allegiance of the voting companies (even though they all had ties to the Republican Party), but rather the reliability of their product; 2) Only corporate titans can steal elections; 3) Bushs margin of victory was comfortable enough to prevent litigation (even though there was indeed litigation); 4) The Kerry won crowd just wanted to believe that the Speaker of the Florida House had consulted a software expert on how to rig DRE machines (simply because the said software expert testified under oath to Congress that that is indeed what happened); 5) 100,000 votes cant be created out of thin air; 6) A recount was requested (though the recount was characterized by almost universal refusal to follow Ohios recount rules, and two election workers were convicted of rigging the recount); and, 7) Kerry did well in some areas of the state.

Ok, I wont attempt to argue against that kind of logic.


The immorality of U.S. military and covert actions

The United States has overthrown numerous democratically elected governments through military or covert action, for no morally defensible reason other than that the U.S. government claimed (usually in the absence of credible evidence) that the Communists might gain control of the country if we didnt step in.

The Vietnam War was conducted by three U.S. presidents for the purpose of supporting a U.S. puppet regime against the wishes of the vast majority of the countrys people, after halted the occurrence of elections that would have united the country; during the 1980s the Reagan administration supported the attempted violent overthrow of the Nicaraguan government, despite the fact that Congress passed laws to disallow such meddling; and in 2003 George W. Bush invaded a country that posed no threat to us, while falsely claiming that we did so because that countrys non-existent weapons of mass destruction posed a vital threat to us.

Each of these wars was immoral and in a civilized world would be classified as war crimes under the category of aggressive war, meaning an illegal war according to international law. The people of each of these countries suffered immensely, many millions died, and in each case much or most of the population hated us for what we did.

Yet there is very little talk in this country about the basic immorality of our roles in these wars. Politicians may refer to them as mistakes, even as egregious mistakes, but referring to them as immoral is considered politically suicidal.

This can be seen in Congresss reaction to these illegal wars. Richard Nixon, though he secretly and illegally expanded the Vietnam War into Cambodia and Laos and then lied about it to Congress and to the American people, was not impeached for doing that. Articles of impeachment against him were approved by the House Judiciary Committee for a number of lesser crimes, including spying on the American people, obstruction of justice, and refusing to comply with Congressional subpoenas, but not for conducting and lying about an illegal war.

Nor did our Congress do anything to hold Reagan accountable for his illegal war, even after it passed a law against it and Reagan continued it in secret.

Similarly, the evidence that George W. Bush based his invasion of Iraq on evidence of mass destruction that he knew to be false is overwhelming. On September 7, 2002, Bush claimed that a new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report stated Iraq was 6 months away from developing a nuclear weapon though no such report existed; later that same month the Institute for Science and International Security released a report calling the aluminum tube intelligence (that Bush alleged proved that Iraq was making atomic weapons) ambiguous and warning that U.S. nuclear experts who dissent from the Administrations position are expected to remain silent; and to top it all off, on March 7, 2003, just a few days before Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, the IAEA reported We have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq. George Bush and Dick Cheney had to have known all of this. Yet they uttered not a word of it to Congress or the American people as they tried to sell their war, as George Bush repeated his pack of lies in his January 28, 2003 State of the Union speech.

Yet Congress avoids calling for impeachment or even making any statement that suggests that George Bushs Iraq War is immoral. They call it a great mistake, and they call George Bush incompetent for the way he has conducted the war. But the idea that the war is fundamentally immoral is off the table.


Imputing bad intentions to a U.S. president

The fact that bad intentions cannot be imputed to a U.S. president can be seen in the absolute refusal of Congress to even consider the possibility that the 9-11 attacks on our country were planned and carried out by or purposely ignored by the Bush administration, despite a good deal of evidence to suggest that they were. It is not so much the fact that the 9-11 Commission has a different opinion on this than I do that I find so disconcerting. Rather, it is the fact that it is quite obvious that their investigation didnt even consider the possibility.

Ron Suskind, in his book, The One Percent Doctrine Deep Inside Americas Pursuit of its Enemies Since 9/11, discusses the known fact that George Bush totally disregarded actual evidence in making his case for war in Iraq:

For a President to have so little taste for such a product (CIA produced evidence against Iraq having weapons of mass destruction) was a startling occurrence Many of the governments leading analysts and experts best and brightest professionals became convinced there was little point in even sending reports up the chain But dissenters were easy marks for White House counter-attack. Yet is was crucial to the White House that this portrait of the improvisational, faith-based presidency never expand to the central high-intensity areas like the war on terror, or the Iraq War For a President to be so divorced from the actual policy apparatus in those matters could cause a panic, and a precipitous drop in public confidence

Yet even Suskind, for all his exposing of Bush and Cheneys actions, draws back from actually impugning their motives. He notes that Bush runs a faith based presidency and is divorced from the actual policy apparatus, yet nowhere in his book is there the slightest suggestion that Bushs refusal to consider CIA evidence that contradicted his views was purposeful and based on his determination to invade a country that he knew posed no risk to us.

Well Ron, thats a bunch of crap, and you know it. Things like that dont just happen by accident or from incompetence. You are quite aware that George Bush intended to invade Iraq from day one of his presidency, as you yourself documented it. Do you honestly believe that he would have disregarded evidence that supported the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?


Exceptions to the rule

Yet, it is heartening to know that exceptions do exist: One lone U.S. Senator, Barbara Boxer, and about 30 House members, actually objected to the results of the 2004 presidential election and they were duly lambasted for it by a pack of bombastic Republican Congresspersons; Dennis Kucinich courageously asserted that the main purpose of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to steal their natural resources and he was duly lambasted for it; Senator Richard Durbin courageously compared our treatment of prisoners in George Bushs War on Terror to the way that notorious and brutal regimes of the past treated their political prisoners and he was duly lambasted for it; Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney dared to severely question George Bushs handling of the 9-11 attacks and she lost her house seat twice because of that; Keith Olbermann has on numerous occasions provided scathing commentary of the actions of George Bush and Dick Cheney, which do indeed impugn their motives; and John Edwards is regularly lambasted for his courageous efforts to publicize the embarrassing problem of poverty in our country.


An analogy The Confederate States of America

I believe that there are two fundamental issues that underlie the taboos against the admission of bad things relating to our nation. One is that the admission of terrible things such as those I discussed above can disrupt the status quo. We are all taught from an early age that the United States is the best country in the world in almost every way imaginable. The emergence of facts that suggest otherwise can threaten the status quo by causing people to rethink much of what they have been taught. Once people better learn to recognize problems with their country they may want to remedy those problems. And that can be very threatening to people, particularly for those who reap undeserved benefits from our current system.

The other issue that underlies our taboos is the aversion that people have to admitting to their faults or by extension their aversion to admitting to the faults of their country. Many of the descendents of the old Confederacy undoubtedly fall into that category. One reason that slavery was so vigorously defended in the ante-bellum South, aside from its economic benefits, was that people naturally did not want to admit that the system that underlay their economic prosperity was morally wrong. So they concocted elaborate myths that suggested that slaves were subhuman and that slavery actually benefited the slaves. That being the case, who could say that slavery was morally wrong?

Those myths are still very much alive today, for the same reasons, having been passed down through the generations. As explained by James Loewen in Lies Across America What our Historic Sites Get Wrong, the southern landscape of the United States even today is filled with monuments and historical markers that celebrate and glorify the old Confederacy, with hardly a mention of the Union side of the Civil War, except in a very pejorative context. Worse yet, those monuments and historical markers do much to twist the facts, hide embarrassing events, and justify the cause that the Confederacy fought for. Loewen gives many examples. Here is just one:

Historic markers in Tennessee honor Nathan Bedford Forrest above any other person in the state, with a statue, an obelisk, and 32 historical markers more than the three former U.S. Presidents from Tennessee combined, and more than any other person in any state in our country. Yet, as Loewen explains:

In so doing, the landscape honors one of the most vicious racists in U.S. history. Forrest had been a slave trader before the Civil War and sold people brought in illegally from Africa half a century after Congress supposedly ended that trade in 1808. During the war, he presided over massacres of surrendered black troops After the war he hired black convict labor, the closest thing to slave labor, for his cotton plantation near Memphis.

In choosing to honor such a man above all others, the authorities in Tennessee essentially are honoring and justifying the slave trade, slavery itself, war crimes, and the terror used to subjugate the Black race for several decades following the Civil War.


Politicians against historians The attack on National Standards for United States History

Perhaps the best example of how politicians reject truth in favor of the status quo was the U.S. Senates rejection, in 1995, of the proposed National Standards for United States History, by a vote of 99-1 (The one vote against the resolution was cast because the Senator felt that the resolution wasnt strong enough.)

Creation of the standards
The standards were produced by a policy-setting body called the National Council for History Standards (NCHS), consisting of the presidents of nine major organizations and twenty-two other nationally recognized administrators, historians, and teachers, and two taskforces of teachers in World and United States history, with substantial input from thirty-one national organizations. The document was created through an unprecedented process of open debate, multiple reviews, and the active participation of the largest organizations of history educators in the nation.

In November 1994, NCHS released its document, which was meant to provide purely voluntary guidelines for national curricula in history for grades 5-12. As explained by Gary Nash, who led the effort, these standards were meant to have one thing in common: to provide students with a more comprehensive, challenging, and thought-provoking education in the nation's public schools. Their signature features were said to include a new framework for critical thinking and active learning and repeated references to primary documents that would allow students to read and hear authentic voices from the past.

Controversy over the standards
Critics focused largely on two main issues: Multiculturalism and so-called political correctness. As an example, here is one article which derogatorily refers to the multi-cultis who it is claimed wrote the document to advance their politically correct and radically left point of view. Lynn Cheney aggressively criticized the document as containing multicultural excess, a grim and gloomy portrayal of American history, a politicized history, and a disparaging of the West. Other major critics of the document included Newt Gingrich and Republican presidential candidates Pat Buchanan and Bob Dole. Dole blamed the document on the embarrassed to be American crowd of intellectual elites. With regard to the criticisms of grimness and gloominess, Nash has this to say:

To be sure, it is not possible to recover the history of women, African Americans, religious minorities, Native Americans, laboring Americans, Latino Americans, and Asian Americans without addressing issues of conflict, exploitation, and the compromising of the national ideals set forth by the Revolutionary generation To this extent, the standards counseled a less self-congratulatory history of the United States and a less triumphalist Western Civilization orientation toward world history

Reduced to its core, the controversy thus turned on how history can be used to train up the nation's youth. Almost all of the critics of the history standards argued that young Americans would be better served if they study the history presented before the 1960s, when allegedly liberal and radical historians "politicized" the discipline and abandoned an "objective" history in favor of pursuing their personal political agendas.

Nash then discusses the historians point of view:

On the other side of the cultural divide stands a large majority of historians. For many generations, even when the profession was a guild of white Protestant males of the upper class, historians have never regarded themselves as anti-patriots because they revise history or examine sordid chapters of it. Indeed, they expose and critique the past in order to improve American society and to protect dearly won gains This is not a new argument. Historians have periodically been at sword's point with vociferous segments of the public, especially those of deeply conservative bent.

In any event, this whole issue certainly does demonstrate a major difference between historians and American politicians. But of course we all know that historians are just a bunch of intellectual elites :sarcasm:, as madfloridian explained in a recent post.


The consequences of making the truth unmentionable

When stolen presidential elections are unmentionable, the impetus to do something to prevent elections from being stolen is diminished; when a nation fails to admit to its immoral wars, the likelihood that U.S. presidents will continue to push us into those wars, in the absence of substantial resistance, is increased; and as long as it is taboo to attribute impure motives to our presidents or other top powerful leaders, the necessity of removing them from office will seldom seem to be urgent.

But I guess thats the whole point.
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