January 16, 2009

Heartwarming Praise for Obama -- From a Monster

In many essays, I have documented the specific ways in which Barack Obama is the perfect embodiment of the corporatist-authoritarian-militarist system that is inevitably destroying the United States, as it lays waste to much of the world. If you're interested in following the argument, you can start here and here, and follow the numerous links.

Charles Krauthammer is one of the most deeply dishonest, and profoundly inhumane and indecent, of those individuals who regularly offer commentary in the mainstream press. In my series, "On Torture," I devoted one entire, lengthy entry to an analysis of Krauthammer's purported "defense" of torture: "A Monster's Confession, and the Choice to be Human."

Here are two key excerpts:
As Krauthammer will shortly tell us, we are "morally compelled" to embrace measures that we know to represent and embody "monstrous evil." To translate this into plainer language: we are morally compelled to act in ways we know to be immoral -- and not simply immoral, but monstrously evil. Morality, according to Krauthammer, thus necessitates its own destruction. If the subject were not so horrifying, I would consider it ironic in the extreme that Krauthammer and hawks like him dare to accuse our enemies of being nihilists: to destroy the very concept of morality, and to do so in the name of saving it, is indeed a monstrous accomplishment that not even our worst enemies would have thought to attempt. The shrewder of our enemies might have realized that the worst among us would accomplish that particular destruction all on their own. But Krauthammer insists that "we must" cross this particular Rubicon -- but that "we need rules." The "rules" will save us. Every slaughtering dictator in history has said the same.
This is the same justification that every cowardly, bloodthirsty murderer has always used: "You have left me no choice but to be a monster. Because I am helpless to resist what I know to be evil, I am still moral. I still uphold the values of civilization."

A word that is stronger and more damning that "evil" is needed to convey the nature of this kind of argument. Krauthammer seeks to make us all monsters, and to make us all accept that we must be monsters: "We must all be prepared to torture." And even worse: we are "morally compelled" to be monsters.

The confession is undeniable. Be absolutely sure to grasp what it is: Krauthammer thus confesses that he is already a monster, but he does not want you to condemn him for it. To the contrary, he wants you to become a monster too, to accept that you were "compelled" do so in the name of morality itself, all so that you will fear judgment in the same manner, and for the same reason.

Thus, these monsters seek to reduce every one of us to their level -- to make all of us sadistic brutes, who inflict pain for the sake of pain, and who continue to maintain that they are "morally compelled" to do so, that they are upholding civilization in so acting, and that they had no choice in the matter.

But it is all a lie. It is the single worst lie any human being can ever tell. We always have a choice. The choice is what makes us human. That is where the essence of our humanity lies -- and where the possibility for true nobility of action and spirit resides.

It is also where the capacity for evil lies.
You will find much more on these themes in the entire series, and particularly in the final two installments, here and here.

Not so by the way: I've seen a lot of recent commentary about torture, including discussions of the "ticking bomb" scenario. I discussed that scenario -- which is a particularly awful lie from beginning to end -- in detail in, "Lies in the Service of Evil." That same essay offers an overview of my major arguments about torture, and why it is a uniquely monstrous evil.

With this as background, I point you to Krauthammer's latest column. In other circumstances, praise for Obama from this particular monster would hardly be noteworthy. If Krauthammer were peddling lies in his usual manner, I would ignore it altogether. Unfortunately, indeed tragically for all of us, Krauthammer happens to be horrifically accurate here:
Except for Richard Nixon, no president since Harry Truman has left office more unloved than George W. Bush. Truman's rehabilitation took decades. Bush's will come sooner. Indeed, it has already begun. The chief revisionist? Barack Obama.

Vindication is being expressed not in words but in deeds -- the tacit endorsement conveyed by the Obama continuity-we-can-believe-in transition. It's not just the retention of such key figures as Defense Secretary Bob Gates or Treasury Secretary nominee Timothy Geithner, who, as president of the New York Fed, has been instrumental in guiding the Bush financial rescue over the past year. It's the continuity of policy.

It is the repeated pledge to conduct a withdrawal from Iraq that does not destabilize its new democracy and that, as Vice President-elect Joe Biden said just this week in Baghdad, adheres to the Bush-negotiated status-of-forces agreement that envisions a U.S. withdrawal over three years, not the 16-month timetable on which Obama campaigned.

It is the great care Obama is taking in not preemptively abandoning the anti-terror infrastructure that the Bush administration leaves behind. While still a candidate, Obama voted for the expanded presidential wiretapping (FISA) powers that Bush had fervently pursued. And while Obama opposes waterboarding (already banned, by the way, by Bush's CIA in 2006), he declined George Stephanopoulos's invitation (on ABC's "This Week") to outlaw all interrogation not permitted by the Army Field Manual. Explained Obama: "Dick Cheney's advice was good, which is let's make sure we know everything that's being done," i.e., before throwing out methods simply because Obama campaigned against them.

Obama still disagrees with Cheney's view of the acceptability of some of these techniques. But citing as sage the advice offered by "the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history" (according to Joe Biden) -- advice paraphrased by Obama as "we shouldn't be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric" -- is a startlingly early sign of a newly respectful consideration of the Bush-Cheney legacy.
As I have just discussed in detail (again), there will be no prosecutions of the major war criminals in the Bush administration. If you still think there will be, you are a fool (or you are remarkably ignorant), a fool who has yet to grasp the operation of the corporatist-authoritarian-militarist system that is dedicated to the destruction of freedom, peace and the value of human life.

Later in the column, Krauthammer writes:
[This] is why Obama is consciously creating a gulf between what he now dismissively calls "campaign rhetoric" and the policy choices he must make as president. Accordingly, Newsweek -- Obama acolyte and scourge of everything Bush/Cheney -- has on the eve of the Democratic restoration miraculously discovered the arguments for warrantless wiretaps, enhanced interrogation and detention without trial. Indeed, Newsweek's neck-snapping cover declares, "Why Obama May Soon Find Virtue in Cheney's Vision of Power."
In this manner, the Establishment informs us that, in terms of every fundamental principle, it will be business as usual. All will essentially go on as before, another point I recently discussed.

And at the end of his article, Krauthammer says:
The very continuation by Democrats of Bush's policies will be grudging, if silent, acknowledgment of how much he got right.
From the monster's lips, to the ears of those liberals and progressives who will nonetheless expend untold energy and write countless articles and blog posts to defend the indefensible, to justify the unjustifiable, to attempt to eradicate the growing pools of blood that flood the world.

For certain people, no matter what Obama does, the refrain will be unchanging: "But he's Obama! He's a Democrat, and a progressive! He doesn't mean it (aggressive war, torture, pauperizing all "ordinary" Americans to keep the ruling class fat, rich and powerful, etc.)! If he could do what he really wants to do, everything would be great!"

Of course. I have no doubt that if Obama fails to alter any of the atrocities of recent years in any meaningful way -- which he will -- it will be because the alien Xorborg from Planet Blaquemayle has made him fail. After all, he'll only be president, with overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress.

But what is all that against the fearsome power of the Xorborg? Nothing, nothing at all.

Here you thought you had seen a lot of lying and horror in the last eight years. We all have, there can be no dispute about that. But oh, baby, you haven't seen anything yet. In certain ways, it's just beginning.