August 21, 2007

War, Corporatism and Torture Forever, or: Hillary the Awful

A few years ago, when I was young and beautiful and still had a few illusions to burn, I might have believed that people who recoiled in horror at the Bush administration's systematic and comprehensive use of torture (or at least said they did) would similarly reject a candidate of the party with which they identify, if that candidate also supported "'some lawful authority' [for the president] to use torture or other 'severe' interrogation methods." Those particular illusions are now reduced to ash, and I realize that most of the self-proclaimed liberals and progressives will fall dutifully in line for Hillary Clinton, who appears more likely by the day to be the Democratic presidential candidate.

All of which is odd and curious, in the manner of an especially disturbing psychology experiment. I assume most of these same people are rightfully sickened and disgusted by the torture and murder of dogs -- but propose to do the same and worse to human beings in an utterly fictitious ticking bomb scenario, all to ensure the expansion of the increasingly All-Powerful State, which will regularly indulge in sadism and cruelty for their own sake just to remind you how All-Powerful it is, and they'll make you president of the world's only superpower. Well, at least it's an ethos. [*]

Support of State torture is a foundational issue concerning the possibility of civilization itself, if that term is to have any meaning. Endorsement of State torture renders the continuation of civilization impossible, if one is capable of raising one's eyes beyond the horizon of the next election. It is not legitimate or even decent to weigh other competing factors and vote for the "lesser evil." When evil is so basic and so pervasive, it must be rejected. Thus, for instance, if the "choice" is between Clinton and Giuliani or Romney, the only honorable and civilized choice is to vote for neither, or to vote for a third party candidate who has not rejected civilization altogether. Of course, if the goal is simply to get a member of one's tribe into the White House, such principled concerns will not arise, since those concerns did not exist in the first instance.

While we're at it, let's increase the cognitive dissonance a bit more. For example:
Clinton said she wanted to restore America's image abroad.

"People have to root for America," she said. "They have to want to be on our side."
Translation: when I engage in wars of choice and bomb and murder people who don't threaten us, I'll make sure everyone is convinced we're actually killing Bad People, whether we are or not. Bush forgot the PR; I won't.

And let's remember Clinton's paeans to unilateral, offensive American military action. If Bush doesn't attack Iran first -- don't worry, he almost certainly will, with most Democrats cheering him on with regard to the critical points -- Clinton will do the job.

Furthermore, Clinton cannot and will not give up the following detestable kind of commentary:
In Iraq, she said, the government must take responsibility for itself and its people.

"I do not think the Iraqis are ready to do what they have to do for themselves yet," she said. "I think it is unacceptable for our troops to be caught in the crossfire of a sectarian civil war while the Iraqi government is on vacation."
As I have discussed, this kind of racism has a long and despicable history in American politics, and in American warmaking. In terms of the basic perspective, there is no daylight between comments of this kind and remarks from over a century ago about "our little brown brothers." She should be deeply ashamed -- and she should be shunned. But such racism is so engrained in our national discussion that almost no one even notices it.

Well, it's an ethos.

I would have thought that Bill Kristol's approving observation that Clinton "is becoming the responsible Democrat who could become commander in chief in a post-9/11 world" would cause serious second thoughts, or I would have thought that if those illusions hadn't been incinerated. And now comes Bruce Bartlett with similar commentary, in a column entitled, "Hillary: the right's choice?" Bartlett writes:
Sen. Clinton is rapidly becoming not merely acceptable to many right-wingers but possibly even their candidate of choice.

Listen to Kathryn Lopez, editor of National Review Online, who was blogging live during the AFL-CIO Democratic debate Tuesday in Chicago: "In response to more than a few answers tonight -- on Iraq, on China -- I've said, 'She sounds reasonable.'"


Her boss, National Review Editor Rich Lowry, also has had strangely respectful thoughts lately about Clinton. In a July 27 column, he expressed genuine admiration for her political skill, especially in managing to placate the left wing of the Democratic Party on Iraq without repudiating her vote for the war nor making herself patently unacceptable as a potential commander in chief. It was "brilliant politics," Lowry conceded.
Oh frabjous day, when all points on the American Imperium's spectrum of opinion can unite! Here you had been worried that the twentieth century's hundred years of unfathomably destructive war represented only glories of the past, never to be recaptured. Fear not!

Bartlett also observes:
On economics, Clinton seemed likely to be a rerun of her husband's administration: fiscally conservative, free-trade-oriented, pragmatic. She confirmed my conclusion in a May 29 speech on economic policy. In it, Clinton said, "There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets." That's about as good as any conservative can hope for from a Democrat.

Clinton's voting record also shows that she is far from the most liberal member of the Senate. According to the National Journal, she ranked 32nd last year, with a rating of 70.2 (100 being perfectly liberal). Obama, by contrast, was significantly more liberal, with a rating of 86.
We see why Bartlett concludes by noting that a Hillary Clinton presidency "is something [conservatives] can live with." When Clinton says "free markets," what she means is markets rigged and controlled by the State on behalf of the ruling elites and the corporate interests they serve. The elites know they have nothing to fear from Clinton; to the contrary, she is one of them, and their interests are hers.

But Clinton is a progressive! Historically at least, she's got that right. Honestly, though, what a revoltin' development.

The diminishment of women and curtailment of their rights are terrible, deep-seated historic wrongs -- but is this a desirable or even sane method of correcting them?

What the hell. War, the destructive and oppressive corporatist-authoritarian state, and torture. Cool. An ethos, and all that.