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Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

I just watched RNC “mystery guest,” Clint Eastwood, deliver his curious speech, and wow…  It’s a bit of a stunner.  It’s not the maundering old man speech that some of the more glib headlines insinuated — something I had no interest in seeing, incidentally (I have about as much interest in ridiculing Clint Eastwood’s age as I do in mocking Chris Christie’s weight — who cares?).

What the speech is, however, is extraordinarily revealing of the 2012 Republican soul, particularly in that it was ultimately racist… albeit, subtly so.

For while explicitly racist sentiments are not permitted in our present political discourse, coded — and even entirely unconscious — racism has been enjoying its heyday in recent years, with such diverse proponents as Glenn “Barack Obama hates white people” Beck, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Dinesh D’Souza, Sarah Palin, and, yes, even Mitt “Nobody ever asked me for my birth certificate” Romney.  (And then there were all of those patently racist signs at the Tea Party rallies, variously depicting Obama as Hitler, The Joker, an African tribal witch doctor with a bone through his nose…)

These folks — and many, many others on the American right — can’t seem to accept Barack Obama’s American-ness, somehow…  Nearly four years after his election, they remain unconvinced.  What could their issue be?

Sometimes they try to make it seem as if there’s a policy difference in there somewhere, but that doesn’t wash.  In addition to quashing all of the world’s attempts to make Bush-era torturers accountable for their crimes, President Obama has adopted practically every right-wing argument and conservative policy going, making the Heritage Foundation’s positions of yesterday his today… and in the process making today’s Republicans seem an unreasonable party of hypocrites, deranged lunatics denouncing the same policies they championed just a few years ago (comparable, I suppose, to the hypocrisy of those on the left who denounced Bush’s terror wars and now condone — or even celebrate — the continuing butchery and ongoing assault on our civil liberties under Obama).

No, for these Republicans it always boils down to disliking/fearing/distrusting this president, whose very legitimacy many of them still dispute — despite his overwhelming election victory, relative popularity, and the release of his long-form birth certificate.

Conservative politicians and pundits who desire mainstream credibility generally refuse to articulate (at least on record) just why they so stridently oppose President Obama, offering only allusions to his otherness and the radical, un-American nature of his ideas and policies — with the loopy “European Socialist” refrain and the claims that Obama is somehow “soft on Muslim terrorism” both having emerged as politically acceptable, coded nods to the “heartland” folks who know deep down that Obama is not like us and doesn’t share our fundamental, American values.  These die-hard GOP loyalists also know in their precious little, fact-averse hearts that “secret-Muslim Obama” and “non-citizen Obama” would be accepted “facts” if it weren’t for “political correctness” and the “liberal media…”

In short, these Republicans are seriously delusional…

“Clint Eastwood has done a huuuge favor to us all.  Because the Republican Party’s irrationality — that they’ve worked so hard at the convention trying to conceal — was unleashed… Eastwood finally revealed the cognitive dissonance that is the beating heart and soul and fiction of this party: they’re so far gone, they’re hammering Obama for things that Bush did — and Romney is! — Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, 8/31/12

Indeed, the conservative case against Obama has never been a rational one.  It has always been a cynically partisan and dangerously divisive gambit, utterly dependent on incessantly othering “Barack HUSSEIN Obama” and transforming this moderate (by today’s standards), politically conciliatory technocrat into an apocalyptic figure of fear and dread — at least in the poisoned minds of the Republican faithful.

This demagogic ugliness has been the GOP’s tact toward Obama at least since the last Republican vice-presidential nominee went all “pit-bull/hockey mom” on his ass, repeatedly claiming (shamelessly, groundlessly) that Obama “pals around with terrorists.” And this othering of Obama continues to this very day, with Dinesh D’Souza’s race-baiting, election year GOP-propaganda film playing in theaters across the country as I type these words (conservative mainstay D’Souza posits that Obama is afflicted with deeply rooted “Kenyan, anti-colonialist” and “socialist” beliefs that he inherited from his father — through his genes, I suppose, as Obama hardly knew his father).

While The Daily Show episode I’ve cited emphasizes the Eastwood-exposed “irrationality” of the GOP’s case against this President, Jon Stewart declines (in his usual, genteel fashion) to MAKE IT PLAIN, so allow me: Today’s GOP is the party of white-male anger and thinly-disguised bigotry/sexism.

There, I said it (does anyone doubt it?).

The entire election strategy of today’s GOP is focused on two objectives: 1) galvanizing/mobilizing white, religiously-indoctrinated fear of the President; and 2) using recently passed voter I.D. laws — allegedly crafted to prevent (virtually nonexistent) voter fraud — to disenfranchise millions of legally registered American voters, the majority of whom are minorities. In short, it’s easy to understand why roughly three-quarters of polled Latinos and virtually all African-Americans say they will vote against the Republican Party’s candidate this fall… if they’re permitted to, that is.

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Finally, allow me to return to Clint Eastwood’s unfortunately racist speech, one last time.  (First, I should clarify that it brings me no pleasure to characterize Mr. Eastwood’s speech in this way.  The truth is, I’m predisposed to like Clint Eastwood; I’m a huge fan of the movies, and there’s no disputing that Mr. Eastwood’s contributions to film — and, by extension, American culture — have been considerable.  For what it’s worth, a couple of my favorite Clint Eastwood films are “Bronco Billy” and “Unforgiven” …I even have a soft spot in my heart — or possibly, head — for his silly movies with Clyde the Orangutan.  Oop oop.)

That said, Mr. Eastwood has been criticized over the course of his career — with at least some justification, I’d say — for the “fascism” and racial insensitivity (the defensive/ever-self-justifying bigotry) of characters like “Dirty Harry” Callahan… even though, at the end of the day, “Harry” (like good old Archie Bunker), is revealed to have a good heart and is basically fair-minded — after all, Hollywood couldn’t have an irredeemably racist/sexist/fascist cop protagonist as the hero of its films…

Actually, I saw Eastwood’s character in his recent film, “Gran Torino,” as something of a belated response, on the part of the famed actor/director, to his prominent, progressive, “Dirty Harry”-era critics.  Through this film, Eastwood (with an aged, “Dirty Harry” proxy) seems to acknowledge the offensive quality of his famous character’s flamboyant use of racial epithets — and sort of simultaneously defends and apologizes for his use of such language (all while chronicling his new character’s ability to confront/overcome his bigotry, forging strong ties with the neighboring Hmong family whom he initially sees as “gooks”).  It’s poignant, actually, and I respect this film and Eastwood’s performance in it.

Nonetheless, I think that some of the criticisms of the “Dirty Harry” films are valid.  Like the protagonist of many a 1970s revenge-fantasy film — featuring a white-male cop/suburbanite who’s had it up to here with the criminal-coddling system — Dirty Harry is an unmistakable avatar of white rage.  Like Charles Bronson in those dismal “Death Wish” movies, “Harry” thrilled predominantly white-male audiences by pointing his gun barrel right at the face of the Black Punk, his hand on the trigger, and snarling “Make my day.”

And that was EXACTLY the problem with Eastwood’s RNC speech: with practically every breath he uttered in the direction of the empty chair in which he’d rhetorically placed Barack Obama, Clint Eastwood was clearly addressing a Black Punk — an inferior — and that’s exactly how he treated (in absentia) the President of the United States.  Mr. Eastwood sat “the President” down for a good talking to, placing himself above Obama (who, in Eastwood’s imagination, was apparently fidgety, foul-mouthed, and petulant, like a kid enduring a stern, parental lecture).  Clint repeatedly had to admonish Invisible Obama for interrupting him, “It’s my turn!” (So sit down and shut up, essentially; it’s time to Take Our Country Back).  In truth, it was a jarringly disrespectful display, and the Republican delegates positively flipped for it; the more insulting Eastwood was, the more they roared with delight.  The Hollywood legend pretended more than once that the President was telling him to “shut up” and also, repeatedly, to go fuck himself (the full phrase unspoken, but the intent clear).  Now, doesn’t that sound just like Barack Obama?  (No, indeed, it does not.)

The speech culminated with an extraordinary, spontaneous, and critically revealing moment, the “Go ahead, make my day” moment that began with a shout from a rapturous delegate, inviting Eastwood to recreate that famous “Dirty Harry” scene, only substituting Mr. Invisible — aka President Obama — for that quivering, cowardly Black Punk in the movie.  After initially demurring, Eastwood decided to indulge this conventioneer.  Addressing “Mr. Obama,” asking him if he wanted to make his day, the American icon decided to turn it into a call-and-response affair:

“GO AHEAD,” Eastwood cued the audience, and they responded en masse, “MAKE MY DAY!!!” to the “Black Punk” who they clearly believe occupies the White House.

*          *          *

Since I think Jon Stewart pretty much hit the nail on the head, I’ll give him the last word on the RNC Clint Eastwood speech: “It hurt these Republicans bad, because this convention (like all conventions) is a scripted and focus-grouped fantasy, and the display of Eastwood’s ‘Gran Torino’ id was the very thing Republicans had constructed the entire week to suppress!

“It advanced our understanding…  There is a ‘President Obama’ that only Republicans can see” and this (radical/socialist/Kenyan/un-American/secret-Muslim) is “bent on our wholesale destruction.”

It would seem that some delusions (and cynical political tactics) reveal more about the deluded one than intended, and the GOP’s deluded chorus — with its reality-averse refrains all conjuring the black president’s scary otherness — reveals a Republican soul that is disturbingly, shamefully, and unmistakably… “Dirty.”

British Member of Parliament George Galloway’s overview of Syria (provided in the linked clip below) serves as a pretty good companion, I think, to my most recent post.  I realize that Galloway’s uncommon empathy with the Palestinians (and Arab/Middle Eastern victims of Western policy, generally) can be off-putting to some — especially when expressed as criticism of Israel — but I find his analysis of the Syria situation (and Middle Eastern affairs, generally) basically sound: apt, valid, rare, and vital.

The following YouTube clip begins with Galloway’s comments already in progress.  He’s recounting the dark predictions of anti-war people (like himself) about Libya, before NATO launched that war, and how those predictions turned out to be tragically prescient concerning the resulting balkanization of Libya and persecution of dark-skinned Africans by NATO’s allies in the war’s aftermath.

Addendum to Previous Blog: George Galloway on Syria

For those who are looking for an introduction to Mr. Galloway, I’ll include the following link to another YouTube clip, the duly famous George Galloway vs. Rupert Murdoch’s “Sky News” clip from summer of 2006, discussing the Israeli war on Lebanon with a British “news” anchor.  It should be noted that many of Galloway’s points are supported by the Israeli government’s official assessment of that war (the Winograd Report): a brutal war which, even from Tel Aviv’s perspective, was a debacle.

Addendum to Previous Blog: George Galloway on Syria

Okay, so Pope Benedict (Ratz), Dick Cheney, and Jerry Sandusky walk into a bar.  After a few drinks, a twinkle appears in the former Vice President’s eye and he says to Sandusky with a wink, “Say, why don’t we rape the hell out of Syria?”  When Sandusky and Cheney can’t stop guffawing and hooting, Benedict brings down his papal staff, BAM!  “Gentlemen, please! Do what you will, but keep it quiet — I’d hate to have to ask either of you to relocate under a cloud of secrecy.”  Wink!

Hilarious, no?

Well, imagine how funny today’s CIVIL WAR must be to Syria’s decades-old resistance, the diverse, Syria-based, peaceful dialogue-seeking National Coordination Committee (NCC)… which is actually the bitter nemesis of the freshly contrived U.S. favorite, the Syrian National Council (SNC), headed by assorted Syrian-Western émigrés — a Swede here, a Frenchwoman there — mostly based in Europe and Turkey.  This nominally Syrian organization (with scant few ties inside Syria when all this started) has been embraced by Western media, which has awarded the American neocon-advised rebels the status of “Syria’s main opposition group” or simply “the opposition.”  Thanks to the MSM’s skewed coverage, the SNC is the only opposition group most Americans ever hear of — or, more importantly, hear from, with their leaders’ unending calls for WAR, WAR, WAR: no dialogue, no compromise, and increased militarization, with an expanded role for NATO (all understandably terrifying prospects to most Syrians).

How did we arrive at this dismal point?

Syria’s established resistance began their chapter of the Arab Spring in early 2011, peacefully advocating for elections and seeking direct negotiations with the Assad regime.  And they were getting somewhere, too, winning a promise for multi-party elections in three months and a constitutional referendum that essentially ended one-party rule in Syria and limited any future president to two seven-year terms (this constitutional concession — denied the Egyptian revolution to this day — was dismissed out of hand by the inchoate SNC and the West, interested only in Bashar Assad’s head).

Then, in February of 2011, external elements (more sham “oppressed Syrian lesbians”?) tried to manufacture a Facebook/Twitter revolution (a la Iran in 2009), calling for a “Day of Rage” that, lacking grassroots support, ultimately failed to materialize.  The outsiders’ campaign was directed specifically at Sunnis and seemed to invite a bloody, sectarian civil war.  Syrians were decidedly not interested.

But the neocons don’t give up easily, not with the full weight of the American foreign policy establishment behind them (for their “ideology” and “deeply held convictions” make the MIC’s profits possible).  Over the last year, America and its allies have aggressively co-opted Syria’s peaceful revolution, relentlessly turning the country toward civil war with millions of dollars, covert military aid to various armed groups, and a slick, media-facilitated propaganda campaign that has all but ignored Syria’s organic Arab Spring in favor of war-clamoring, U.S. think tank-affiliated exiles (think Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress and Ayad Allawi and his Iraqi National Accord — these were the neocons’ primary “Iraqi” tools in 2002 — Londoners, really, their organizations not merely the pawns, but the inventions of Western intelligence agencies; those “Iraqis” were so eager to see Mesopotamia invaded by the power-promising neocons that they fed the Bushies every WMD lie they asked for — that’s love of country, for ya!).

Yes, we’ve been here before, and didn’t that work out great!  Hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis; thousands of killed and maimed Americans; America’s reputation, resources, and credibility devastated; war crimes to fuel decades of terrorism; looming climate catastrophe, water crisis, and crumbling infrastructure utterly neglected…

But wait, it gets even funnier.

With the exception of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (Sunni) — which, like al Qaeda’s current figurehead, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, has decided to support America’s push for regime change — Syria’s indigenous resistance (the NCC) has vehemently rejected the idea of foreign military intervention, including supposedly limited tactics such as arming/equipping the regime’s enemies and imposing a no-fly zone.  It is the SNC’s calls for these specific, American neocon-authored, militarist “solutions” that have prompted members of the actual Syrian resistance to refer to the SNC as “a Washington club” — as in a club that Washington’s warmongers will gladly use to beat Syria into an Iraq-like pulp.  (Already Syria has begun to resemble her fragmented, hyper-sectarian, war torn and utterly devastated neighbor, having gushed scores of thousands of refugees in recent weeks.)

But the U.S. media basically does not cover the pleas of the NCC, the Syrian resisters who’ve been jailed and persecuted for decades, and who worked and hoped for political reforms without all the blood and horror.  Like the CIA’s old partner-in-torture, Bashar Assad, we’ve marginalized Syria’s dissenters practically out of existence.  Near as I can tell, our media exists chiefly to serve the daft, war-fostering neocon narratives that still, after all their egregious failures, dominate our discourse with ignorance and lies.  Washington, too, as if completely unaware of the neocons’ appalling record over the last decade, continues to follow the precise neocon (PNAC) program that began with the Iraq War in 2003: 1) invade Iraq (no defenses, oil-rich, first to go); and 2) use the momentum created by the Iraq War “victory” (hah!) to unseat Assad in Damascus, isolating Iran; and, finally, 3) depose the regime in Tehran, yielding payback for 1979 and the ultimate prize: control over two of the world’s very largest proven reserves of light sweet crude.

This “Clean Break” approach to redrawing the map of the Middle East (the neocons’ dark fantasy, hatched in the late 1990s) is a sick, frankly racist, anachronistically (and in other ways) fucked dream of imperialism and world conquest — appallingly evil nonsense which supposedly died during the first administration of George W. Bush, back when the neocons were given enough rope to hang themselves and promptly did so (before a knight in liberal’s clothing rode in to rescue them… and their lousy, crusading agenda).

*          *          *

“Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House… ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians…”

— Seymour Hersh’s article “The Redirection” (The New Yorker, 3/5/07)

Okay, here’s another funny, funny joke (okay, not really): What kind of groups are among America’s primary allies in Syria and Lebanon, these days?  Did you say al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni militants whose suicide bombings and journalist-murdering, civilian-targeting tactics evoke those of ‘the terrorists’ — the jihadis who hate America and Israel at least as much as they hate Syria’s Alawite regime?”

No???  You didn’t say that, because the very thought of America partnering with al Qaeda in any way/shape/form is manifestly insane? Well, too bad (but thanks for playing), because that is the right answer after all, according to recent reports about America’s Syrian pals.  These are the kinds of surprising (some would say revolting) alliances that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh began to detail some five years ago in his essential article, “The Redirection,” which explained how George W. Bush — in the wake of an Iraq War that had inadvertently benefited Iran enormouslybegan supporting (through proxies, especially Riyadh) al Qaeda-affiliated Sunni militants in Lebanon and beyond.  (It’s called “strategery,” and Obama has run with it — like most everything he inherited from his moronic, language and humanity-butchering predecessor.)

And now, with the help of those Salafists and their ilk, America (directing our Saudi, Qatari, Lebanese, and Turkish partners) has brought to Syria the bloody civil war that the resistance never wanted, arming a sectarian/Sunni-dominated regime hit squad — populated by violent, significantly foreign, radical jihadis (think 1980s mujahedeen) — who in the past few months have repeatedly terrorized Syria’s capital and minority populations, especially Syria’s Christians (in one recent instance cleansing 80,000 Christians from the city of Homs, virtually overnight, with a series of raids; the Christian population of Qusair has had a similar experience, with most of their 10,000 residents fleeing the U.S.-backed sectarian rebels).

So where are Congress’s alleged “Christians” in the aftermath of these U.S. policy-initiated atrocities?  Where are they when the secretary-general of the U.N. reports that the rebels are using child soldiers?  Well, they’re right where they usually are: standing firmly in the corner of perpetual war, terrorism, suicide bombers, and the despotic, post-9/11 American way… only today a bunch of drone-loving Democrats stand with them, silent as Karl Rove responding to a Congressional subpoena.

Clearly, we are talking about a STRIKING lack of empathy…

Next: A Striking Lack of Empathy, Part IV: Stop Enabling the Recidivist Sandusky Neocons or Don the Miter of Shame!

I’ve just returned home after a week+ of (minor) injury and travel, so I’ve been doing a bit of catching up — and recuperating — of late.   As I’m still dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on the next installment of the current blog series (“A Striking Lack of Empathy”), focusing on Syria, I couldn’t help noticing some of what’s dominating the headlines now: Governor Romney’s selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate and the diplomatic dust-up between London and Quito over Ecuador’s sovereignty and Julian Assange’s freedom (the future of press freedom, if the authorities apply the law equally).

NEWS WELL DONE (a few recommendations):

HuffingtonPost’s Jason Linkins does a fine job of presenting an overview of the political career of the Ayn Rand disciple/denier who Mitt Romney just tapped to be his running mate: PAUL RYAN, the man with the Medicare-ending budget that virtually every sitting House Republican has voted for.

DemocracyNow! interviews JULIAN ASSANGE legal adviser Michael Ratner (of the Center for Constitutional Rights) about the extraordinary showdown between the U.K. and Ecuador over a man who has yet to be charged with a crime; an excellent companion piece to the preceding interview would be Glenn Greenwald’s recent article for Salon (one of his last, as he’s headed to The Guardian on Monday): “Secrecy Creep” explaining the Obama administration’s unprecedented war on honest government whistleblowers and the concomitant threat to the First Amendment.

— Finally, if you’re anticipating my next blog, focusing on America’s Syria policy and the current uprising, I found the following article by Institute for Policy Studies fellow, Phyllis Bennis, particularly insightful (up to her usual superb standard); and found very illuminating this article by The Guardian’s Charlie Skelton, laying out the U.S. role in funding and influencing the Syrian exiles who our media now quote exclusively, at the expense of Syria’s decades old, indigenous resistance (the people who began this uprising over a year ago and still reject the propagandists’ calls for foreign intervention).


[In another nod to The Daily Show, I recommend (especially to the Libor scandal dilettante/newbie) Jon Stewart’s excellent summary of the scandal, highlighting not only the banks’ manipulation of this uniquely important lending rate, but also their bilking of pension funds and local (municipal/county/state) governments through related investments: Part 1, “International Banking Conspiracy Actuality” (begin at 37 second mark); and Part 2, “Libor fallout”.]

And now, here’s my best shot at covering Libor and connecting it to my thesis on corrupt systems and empathy (or the “striking lack” thereof).

For those who are as yet unfamiliar with the Libor scandal, it involves the unprecedented rigging of what is essentially the prime institutional lending rate of the world — the London Interbank Offered Rate — by several of the world’s largest banks (sixteen of which are now under investigation related to this unfolding criminal conspiracy; one of which, England’s Barclays, has already been exposed and fined nearly half a billion dollars, and is presently cooperating with the U.K. and U.S. authorities as they proceed with their investigations).

As I understand it, the Libor scandal involves several years of international megabanks manipulating the world’s prime lending rate (affecting some $10 trillion in loans) in order to game (among other things) a $360 trillion derivatives market (representing roughly half of the total global market in derivatives, aka “financial WMDs”) linked to ten different currencies.

My source for this last point, pertaining to the derivatives market in currency-tied Libor rates, is highly esteemed economist/author Simon Johnson’s Baseline Scenario blog from earlier this month: “The Market Has Spoken, and It Is Rigged.” In the course of that blog, Johnson poses the increasingly unavoidable question, “Is the financial sector crooked at its core?” He concludes, in short, that it is: “Power corrupts, and financial market power has completely corrupted financial markets… completely destroying the legitimacy on which sensible financial intermediation needs to be based” (emphasis mine).

That’s a pretty devastating assessment coming from an awfully credible mainstream source, and Mr. Johnson is hardly alone.

*          *          *

During his mini-interview a couple of Thursdays ago on The Colbert Report (begin at the 8min., 30sec. mark), The New York Times’ David Leonhardt frankly observed: “We seem to have gone through a number of years in which not only did cheating become acceptable in a lot of parts of the financial system, but the regulators — the police — weren’t looking very closely.”

Mr. Leonhardt is obliquely referring to what’s known as “regulatory capture,” the situation that arises when an industry has grown so powerful that it basically dictates to its nominal policing entities the manner in which they should perform their oversight functions, effectively self-regulating (what could possibly go wrong?).  For a few excellent examples of “captured” (and tamed) regulators, see the SEC, FDA, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission — and then, of course, there’s the U.S. Treasury, taking the cake (that would be the $16 TRILLION taxpayer-financed “cake” that postponed, at least for a few years, the day the banksters would have to don their golden parachutes).

In his interview with Mr. Colbert, Leonhardt wryly scoffs at the notion of legal consequences for criminal elites: “I’ll believe bankers going to jail when I see bankers going to jail” (this, despite his assessment of “clearly illegal” behavior revealed in years of Libor manipulation).

*          *          *

And that’s the whole story in a nutshell, isn’t it? Elite impunity/immunity, on the one hand (no matter the scale or degree of the crime, or the recidivism of its perpetrator), and, on the other hand, obscenely generous patronage, including, but hardly limited to, socializing the oligarchs’ losses (heads, we win, tails, you lose “capitalism”) — all to serve a few recklessly criminal “job creators” (you know, the folks who just collapsed the world’s economy and are presently using the Euro and austerity to pillage and depress the economies of Western Europe).

My point is this: Far-reaching corruption disillusions and dispirits a society, draining it of hope. When people doubt the fundamental integrity of their institutions and see large-scale injustice and heinous crimes — massive fraud, torture, mass murder — not merely ignored but actually rewarded (repeatedly/constantly), they eventually grow cynical, with a diminished capacity for EMPATHY… without which, I don’t actually believe that human beings are worth much (however harsh that may sound, picture humanity without empathy, without compassion on any level, and I think you might agree).


And speaking of discounting the value of human beings, I suppose it’s time to turn this conversation to America’s attitude toward the Middle East…



Those are two of the questions that drove me to write this blog, because our foreign policy sentinels — our elected representatives, the press and media — are presently in Paterno/Ratzinger/Geithner mode: all too willing to clam up, personally profit, facilitate, and ignore the ongoing rape and criminality of the world they’re supposed to be monitoring and keeping honest.

…and that just leaves us, everyday Americans like YOU and ME, to reject the prevailing culture of apathy and corruption.

Which begs the question: How do YOU feel about America’s record in Iraq over the past couple of decades? Are you familiar with the basics of Iraq’s devastation as a result of America’s relentless (often criminal) predations over the years?  Consider the brutally cruel 1990s sanctions alone: studies suggest that between 500,000 and 880,000 Iraqi children under the age of five DIED during the Clinton years, as a direct result of those sanctions — and then there are the hundreds of thousands of likely other victims, including senior citizens and sick people, etc. — who also died as a result of the punitive sanctions demanded by the U.S. alone (seen as excessive by critics, denying Iraqis potable water rather than WMDs, simply in order to put pressure on the regime).

The more recent record, featuring an actual war, includes another several hundred thousand needlessly dead Iraqis very possibly over a million — the result of a premeditated frame-up concocted by unflappably greedy and self-righteous men (the neocons) who congratulated themselves on their noble intentions as they set out to violate the Nuremberg Charter and invade a nation of 27 million people on a pack of lies…

We know these things.  The record is clear: Bush and his cabal are among the worst war criminals in history… easily.

So it’s fair to ask: DO AMERICANS CARE ABOUT JUSTICE? As a result of our actions, Iraq’s children are dead; her society is fractured as never before (largely thanks to Sec. Rumsfeld’s use of sectarian death squads — “The Salvador Option” — in the earliest days of the war, which engendered a vicious retaliatory cycle); her infrastructure is destroyed; her wealth is being plundered by external enemies; Baghdad is dark and divided by blast walls and razor wire; and over 4.5 million Iraqis (nearly 20%) have been turned into refugees…  We should also consider the fact that Iraq had the highest literacy rate, best healthcare, and lowest infant mortality in the region, prior to the devastation unleashed by America’s wars and sanctions.

I find it remarkable that — even though the vast majority of Americans understand full well that the Bush administration knowingly LIED in order to justify the Iraq War — there has been no discussion (zero) in this country about making so much as an apology to Iraqis (the majority of whom have lost an immediate family member as a result of the war), let alone reparations.  If some other powerful nation had falsely accused our leaders of building weapons they weren’t building and falsely linked our leaders to some egregious terrorist attack in order to justify a war on America that ultimately killed 1 in 27 Americans, I think we would (justifiably) consider that nation’s actions MONSTROUSLY CRIMINAL.

But we do nothing.  America seems to feel that the Iraq War was an embarrassment, rather than a crime.  Nothing to see here, no looking back… Which is why we’re able to blithely repeat our most egregious mistakes, again and again… which brings us to SYRIA.

Next: A Striking Lack of Empathy, Part III: The NeoCons Keep Killing, Americans Keep Snoozing

Samantha Bee’s latest segment for The Daily Show — focusing on the Vatican’s recent condemnation of American nuns’ top priority (poverty relief, at the expense of politicking “social issues”) — serves as a nice addendum, I think, to my previous blog’s focus on the Church.

Of particular note is the featured ex-Mafioso’s description of how one must comport oneself in a hierarchical structure: “There’s a chain of command. It must be followed.  Period.”

The reformed mobster mentions another governing principle of the Mafia that cannot help but recall the Vatican’s (Archbishop/Cardinal/Pope Joseph Ratzinger’s) shielding of thousands of pedophile priests over the decades: “Keep your fuckin’ nose clean.  Mind ya’ business!” As Ms. Bee satirically observes, “he understands the code that the Vatican lives by.” (Ouch!)

But as I’ll explain in my next blog, this patently corrupt “code” is hardly restricted to priests and Pope Benedict (any more than it was limited to Paterno and Penn State)…

Next: A Striking Lack of Empathy, Part II: LIBOR, Iraq-Syria, and Us