May 14, 2009

Once Again: Thanks, Bill. Deep Sigh.

Newer readers might be interested to learn that I wasn't always the cynical, bitter, angry, disintegrating-but-still-loud old buzzard that I am today. No, indeed. Once I was trusting, sweet, optimistic, lithe of body and spirit -- and very, very naive. I was a goddamned Shirley Temple. Well, an adult, male, very horny Shirley Temple. (Some things never change.) Then I met Bill Clinton. Not in person, but we definitely had a connection during the 1992 election, when I worked very hard for his campaign and donated a lot of money to help make sure he was the next president.

And, praise be, he was. Then he announced the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. At first, I offered all the "sophisticated" excuses for Clinton's cave-in on this issue, an issue of singular importance to me as an openly gay man. I didn't just recite all those excuses; I believed them. Fortunately for me, a wise friend educated me about some crucial aspects of politics, and of life. I came to understand how deeply wrong Clinton's approach was. I've written about that episode in some detail; here's a shorter version, and here's the longer one.

Still later on, and continuing into today and tomorrow, I've learned much, much more about the nature of our political system and what is required in order to succeed in it, especially on the national level. And in fact, I don't consider my views today to be cynical or bitter, although others are often quick to throw accusations of that kind in my direction (and that's when they're being kind and when they don't simply ignore me; ignoring me altogether seems to be the preferred response these days). I think my views now are realistic and informed, and I have written hundreds of essays to document my evidence and my reasons. I certainly am deeply angry about what goes on in our politics today. Given the fundamental corruption inherent in our corporatist-authoritarian-militarist system and, much more significantly, given the huge number of individuals that system brutalizes and murders abroad and at home, I don't understand how anyone can not be deeply angry.

So, given my education offered indirectly by Clinton, and since I've had Obama's number for well over two years now, the following story didn't surprise me in the least. I expected it:
The White House says it won't stop gays and lesbians from being dismissed from the military while the Obama administration works to repeal a decade-old policy banning openly gay people from serving in uniform.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that President Barack Obama does not plan to intervene in current cases against men and women who announce their homosexuality.

Gibbs says the president wants to do away with the "don't ask, don't tell" policy through legislation.

Gibbs says the policy does not serve the national interest and that Obama is working with lawmakers for what Gibbs calls a "durable legislative solution." He says a repeal of the policy requires "more than the snapping of one's fingers."
This is -- oh, dear, how might one phrase this -- a lie. I suppose Gibbs and the liar on whose behalf Gibbs himself lies might argue that this isn't technically a lie, but that is true only if one speaks in tautologies all the time: "You can't change the law without changing the law." Duh.

By such stratagems, Obama and Gibbs hope to prevent people from rightfully focusing on the fact that Obama certainly could stop the dismissals immediately, just as Obama could render the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy a dead-letter today:
Dan Choi, a West Point graduate and officer in the Army National Guard who is fluent in Arabic and who returned recently from Iraq, received notice today that the military is about to fire him. Why? Because he came out of the closet as a gay man on national television.

Some readers might think it unfair to blame Obama. After all, the president inherited the "don't ask, don't tell" law when he took office. As Commander-in-Chief, he has to follow the law. If the law says that the military must fire any service member who acknowledges being gay, that is not Obama's fault.

Or is it?

A new study, about to be published by a group of experts in military law, shows that President Obama does, in fact, have statutory, stroke-of-the-pen authority to suspend gay discharges. Obama could simply invoke his authority under federal law (10 U.S.C. ยง12305) to retain any member of the military he believes is essential to national security.

Or he could take advantage of a legal loophole. The "don't ask, don't tell" law requires the military to fire anyone found to be gay or lesbian. But there is nothing requiring the military to make such a finding. The president can order the military to stop investigating service members' sexuality.

An executive order would not get rid of the "don't ask, don't tell" law, but would take the critical step of suspending its implementation, hence rendering it effectively dead. Once people see gays and lesbians serving openly, legally and without problems, it will be much easier to get rid of the law at a later time.
You might think that a man who worked so hard to become President of the United States and thus to occupy an ultimate position of leadership actually wanted to lead. That would be a grave error. Notions of that kind deserve to be tossed on the dungy, stinking heap of discarded illusions.

And in my view, a fierce determination to become president reveals a psychology of a fundamentally different kind. I wrote about that issue during the last campaign:
Reflect for just a moment about what it is they want to win so desperately. Each of these three persons [McCain, Obama and Clinton] wants to be the most powerful ruler in the world. Given the nature of the weapons that will be at their disposal, they want to be the most powerful ruler in all of history, with the power to fundamentally transform human history and perhaps even to end it in significant part. Even if you believed that you acted righteously, with justice and truth on your side (let us set aside for the moment how one can believe that the power to murder millions of innocent people can ever be thought to be right or just, although I do not believe such considerations should ever be set aside), would you want power of that kind? If you would, I hope never to meet you. For any person who actively seeks the power of life and death over just one other human being, let alone millions of people, is deeply, irrevocably damaged in psychological terms. If we use the term "normal" to designate those goals and motives that can generally be described as supportive of individual life and happiness, no one who wants to be president of the United States is remotely close to normal. When you consider the years of relentless, soul-destroying ambition that are required to approach the office of president, together with the indefensible compromises, the endless lies, and the constant exercise of power over others in less extreme forms, anyone who deeply desires to be president verges on a constant state of insanity.

Yet one of these terrifyingly deranged people will, in fact, be the next president. Many Americans are excited, even thrilled, about the prospect, which tells you a rather important fact about most Americans, actually many important facts. I have numerous reasons for dreaming of a stateless world. There are others, but these are among the most critical of them.
I suppose I should add, for those who immediately get the vapors and retire to the philosophic fainting-couch mumbling about that "ridiculous Arthur" who doubtless imbibes numerous strange, wondrous chemicals and babbles about nonsensical fantasies such as a "stateless world," that I went on to write in the earlier piece:
As I regularly note, I am well aware that the state in its current form will not vanish, or perhaps even be significantly altered, in our lifetimes, and it may survive the next several hundred years. Nonetheless, a profoundly different vision of what is possible is necessary to grasp more fully the damaging, far too frequently deadly, reality which now enmeshes us.
That article has still more about the State, and you will find much more here, and in my latest series as well.

This is an indication of why I think that, while it is certainly true that anyone who rises to the national level in politics (with perhaps two or three exceptions), and especially anyone who manages to get elected to the presidency (with no exceptions), is a vicious, contemptible, lying son of a bitch, that he (or she) is a vicious, contemptible, lying son of a bitch is actually the least of what ought to concern us.

The greatest concern should be that all such individuals are immensely violent, near-psychotic murderers. I just reviewed in my mind all the presidents since the end of World War II, and I can't think of one who is not a war criminal, if we took that phrase with any degree of seriousness. By that, I mean that we invest that phrase with the meaning provided to it by the Nuremberg Principles. When we remember all the interventions, covert operations, brutalizing and murderous sanctions regimes (see this essay, too, including the excerpts from Stanley Kutler: "The sanctions and bombings of the 1990s are directly linked to Bush's determination to invade Iraq in 2003 and attempt to remake it--again, in our image."), together with the fully-armed military incursions and invasions, we see that all of those presidents, including most emphatically Obama today, calmly and deliberately ordered and continue to order the murder of people who could never even hope to harm the United States, often in huge numbers. Obama is poised to exceed even the abominable George W. Bush in that regard, an issue I will soon be examining in more detail -- and an issue very, very few people care to acknowledge.

Anyway, thanks again, Bill. You miserable bastard.