DANSE MACABRE: AN APOLOGY TO DEMOCRATS
By Chris Floyd
August 5, 2007
I would like to apologize to the leaders of the Democratic Party for implying in my previous post that they are political cowards. I confess that I was carried away, rhetorically, in the heat of the moment, and was completely mistaken in ascribing their actions on the recent warrantless wiretapping bill to "spineless acquiescence" to the Bush Administration's authoritarian proclivities.
As one of Empire Burlesque's readers pointed out, that phrase was inconsistent with the rest of the piece, for it implied that the Democratic élite were actually opposed to the essence of Bush's authoritarian/corporatist/militarist agenda, and were somehow acting against their will in surrendering to Bush time and again during the past six years. As the reader noted, drawing on Arthur Silber's analysis (more on this below), the Democrats "are not spineless or weak. Nobody pushes them to do what they don't want (no matter how much the Digbys would like to explain away their actions that way). They're completely corrupt and fully, volitionally complicit." The reader also pointed me to a comment they'd left on Glenn Greenwald's takedown of the vote: "It doesn't take any courage to do what you want to do. Just the opposite. They WANT all these things, but can hardly reveal that to their often sincere but easy-to-dupe followers, so they hide behind the 'we were threatened, Bush made us do it, we're spineless, and we don't want to look weak,' meme. They cop a plea to the lesser charge but the truth is, tragically, far more dark."
I think that's exactly right. They cop to cowardice to cover up complicity. As I said in the previous post, the Democratic élite are spawned by the same corrupt system that produces the Republican leadership. They serve, essentially, the same interests. Because no human organization is a complete monolith, there are of course differences in emphasis, different approaches to policy, different constituencies to be served (or snowed) etc. between the two parties. And it may well be, as Noam Chomsky noted before the 2004 election, that even minute mitigations in the operation of vast power structures can translate into real benefits for many ordinary people, simply due to the scale on which such structures operate. For example, it is almost certain that no Democratic administration would have cut off aid to women's health clinics around the world as the Bush Administration has done -- a heinous act that has resulted in death and suffering for untold thousands of the world's most vulnerable people. That is no small thing.
But the fact that one mafia boss gives groceries to Grandma while another one steals her blind and leaves her out on the street doesn't change the fact that both bosses are part of the same criminal system, operating on the same principles of violence, extortion, arbitrary rule, and lawlessness.
Similarly, if someone other than Stalin had gained ascendancy in the Soviet Union, it is likely that millions of lives would have been spared -- but millions of others still would have been caught up in the maw of the state machine, because the system itself was based on violence, repression, and lawlessness -- all in the name of "preserving the Revolution," a phrase which served the same function for the Kremlin as "national security" does for the American elite, or the "higher law" of God does for religious extremists of every stripe.
Beyond the nuances -- which, again, are not always negligible in their practical effects -- there are no essential differences between the two major parties as they are now constituted. They are, as Gore Vidal noted decades ago, two wings of one party: the Property Party, the Money Power Party, the Empire Party, the Permanent War for Endless Profit Party, call it what you will. Together, the two wings of this party have set in motion monstrous processes of corruption and military aggression of such scale and reach and overwhelming danger that they increasingly dwarf whatever small differences might exist between Democratic and Republican élites. The Bush Regime is the pus-filled imposthume that shows that the long-running sickness of the system is now at the crisis; and the Democratic complicity in the Bushists' violence, extortion, lawlessness and repression shows that we can expect very little in mitigation if the Dem wing temporarily reoccupies the White House on behalf of the Money Power Party. (Witness the truly moronic -- and truly sinister -- "debate" now raging among Democratic "leaders" on the need to threaten any nation in the world, including U.S. allies, with a nuclear strike if they don't jump to Washington's tune on the "War on Terror.")
In short (as Gogol used to say, after spinning out a single sentence for two or three pages), it is wrong to imply that the Democratic leaders are acting out of cowardice in their capitulations to the Bush Regime. They are, in fact, acting out of deep conviction, and the earnest desire to serve their true constituents -- the Money Power -- with fidelity and honor. They are dancing with the one what brung 'em.
But as usual, Arthur Silber has dealt far more rigorously and eloquently with this theme. Not content with the masterful analysis linked to above, he has now added two more pieces on the Democrats' connivance with war and tyranny.
First, he savages the excuses given by "moderate" Democrats like ex-Reagan apparatchik Jim Webb for supporting the new warrantless wiretapping law. Noting that Webb's justification for his approval were the "intelligence reports" he'd seen and the bill's backing by other big-shot Dems with "extensive experience on intelligence matters," Silber lets rip: "You might think that individuals elected to national office would know that intelligence and 'secret information' is almost always incorrect. You would be wrong.
"You might think that our political leaders would know at least a smattering of history, and would be aware that appeals to intelligence are almost always used to justify otherwise indefensible actions. Again, you would be wrong.
"You might understandably think that, after the calamitous, incomprehensibly destructive disasters of the last six years, Washington politicians would evince just a touch of reluctance when asked to take action on the basis of 'what the intelligence shows' -- especially when that action involves the obliteration of the rights and protections contained in the Fourth Amendment. Tragically, you would be wrong still one more time.
"Without exception, in the past, in the present, and unto the future forevermore, all a government official needs to do is offer appeals, suitably limned with panic and desperation, to 'the threat of international terrorism' and 'the urgent demands of national security,' and almost everyone in Washington will rush to tear up the Constitution on national television.
"I just love the additional appeal to 'extensive experience on intelligence matters . . .' I mean, that's worked out so well.
"You get what you ask for, and what you deserve: a government of idiots, by idiots, and for idiots."
Be sure to read the whole piece to get the full force of Silber's demolition job. He then moves swiftly to yet another outrage, which has been almost totally overlooked: the Democrats' eager support for the record Pentagon budget, a $40 billion increase over current levels which the Dems ushered through the pipeline at breakneck speed so they could all blow the joint and take a long break. (Yes, precisely the same kind of long, do-nothing recess that these same Congressmen are denouncing the Iraqi Parliament for taking.) As Silber notes, leading "anti-war" Dems like John Murtha and Nancy Pelosi larded the bill with "earmark" pork for their local patrons, while Murtha obligingly dropped amendments to close the concentration camp at Gitmo and properly train and equip soldiers before sending them off to kill and die in Babylon. Seems Big Ole John didn't want to make "partisan" waves -- especially with so much hometown pork on the line, and that jumbo beach towel calling his name.
Silber quotes Robert Higgs on the deeper reality underlying these "sell-outs" and "deadlocks" in the Beltway: "As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent 'failed' policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.
"When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars."
Then Silber closes with some some harsh home truths (or Homeland truths): "Endless war, an increasingly oppressive surveillance state, the evisceration of individual freedom and civil liberties, and ongoing chaos and destruction are all what they want.
"None of this is an 'error,' or a 'mistake in judgment,' or 'good intentions' gone awry. This is what they want.
"Never, ever forget it."