Pursuing a preventive – NOT preemptive – war against Iraq, in contravention of accepted principles of international law and a centuries-long just war tradition, was, in itself, a criminal act. To have done so on the basis of "cooked" intelligence on the threat posed to us by Saddam’s WMD and calculated misrepresentations about his connections with Al Qaeda was an egregious betrayal of public trust.
Bill Clinton was humiliated, investigated, and eventually impeached for having lied about his sexual indiscretions, despite their sheerly personal nature and his plaintive mea culpas, but where is the outrage and revulsion in Congress and in the polls over George Bush’s unapologetic persistence in a clearly demonstrated pattern of deception concerning the most momentous matters of state: the initiation and prosecution of war?
Where, indeed, is public outcry over this president’s shameless pandering to his big business sponsors and fellow millionaires? To his coddling of corporate criminals such as the CEO’s of Enron and WorldCom? To his conversion of $100 billion budget surpluses into $400 billion deficits? To his undermining of Social Security and Medicare with ill-conceived tax cuts? To his duplicity in promising to leave no child behind while strangling Head Start and other such programs? To his unconscionable assault on the environment as seen in his endorsement of mountain-top-removal coal mining and efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve to oil drilling? To his neocon crony advisers who are overseeing the transformation of our democratic republic into an oligarchic empire and are destroying the mechanisms for containing the nuclear arms race? To the arrogant unilateralism typified by our attempts to torpedo the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and the International Criminal Court? To the deliberate dismantling of rules and laws enacted to protect our civil liberties and our right to know, without which we cannot hold public officials accountable? To turning us from the most admired and respected nation on Earth into the most feared and resented?
This litany of outrages, alas, is far from exhaustive, but it suggests the magnitude of misguided and malevolent policies that have come to characterize the Bush Administration. Meanwhile, the absence of citizen, press, and congressional reaction bespeaks the "hard place" those of us who love our nation for its great ideals of liberty, equality, and the rule of law find ourselves in.
The Democratic Party’s servile solicitude to corporate lobbyists and its consequent abdication of its responsibilities to working Americans and to social justice have disoriented and dispirited many who would oppose the Bush Administration’s abuses, while consumerism and cynicism neutralize others by distracting them and making them feel that they can’t make a difference. The result is an emboldening of the neocon ideologues who control the White House to push their revolution further and faster, recognizing that the general public is too muddled by simplistic patriotism and the endless mystifications of the corporate-owned media to object in any concerted and effective way. This is, indeed, "a hard place" for all who love peace, freedom, and democracy, and until we acknowledge just how desperate and unprecedented this situation is – how dangerous and foreboding for our future – we will remain powerless to mobilize and organize ourselves to set a new course for our ship of state, one toward a more just, more peaceful, and more ecologically sustainable world.
Richard L. Clinton (Richard.Clinton@orst.edu) is a Professor of Political Science
at Oregon State University