If you wonder why America is in terminal decline, look no further than the lack of accountability.
Not for us, silly. Under the regime of neoliberal-flavored-austerity there’s extreme accountability. Fuck-up and you’ll be living in a van down-by-the-river.
No, I’m talking about America’s elite.
I touched on this lack of accountability in my last post, where Bush and his happy band of neocons, after destroying Iraq and murdering millions, never faced justice.
It was explained away and everyone moved on. The corporate media never raised a stink precisely because they’d been such fervent cheerleaders. If they did discuss it, pundits described the invasion of Iraq as an honest mistake with the US flubbing its noble efforts to introduce democracy to a indifferent population.
This account is bullshit.
As Rolling Stone’s gonzo journalist, Matt Taibbi says. “The invasion was no mistake, and nobody above the age of eight believed the WMD story. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. We all knew what was going on. Far from being an error, the war was a perfect expression of everything we stood for then, and still stand for now.”
Now, by all accounts, Bush has settled into a comfortable retirement and his second career as an artist. He recently appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show to promote his book of paintings.
Condoleezza Rice is a political science professor at Stanford, busy shaping tender young minds.
Ditto for torture rationalizer John Yoo, lecturing as a Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. Yoo, if you’ll recall, was one of the key formulators of the outrageous legal opinions that justified the Bush administration’s use of torture.
The most interesting member of the gang–Karl Rove–was something of the mastermind. After all, his moniker was Bush’s Brain. A famous exchange between journalist Ron Susskind and Rove summed up the attitude of the Bushies. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
While Rove was wrong about a great many things and indeed helped drive the US empire into a ditch he was absolutely prescient about elite impunity.
In fact, President Obama, after campaigning on bringing the perpetrators to justice, backtracked. In a later speech describing his lack of action he perfectly encapsulated elite impunity, citing what he called “a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards”.
I wish I could tell you that the Bush administration was an aberration. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the Bush administration that’s been allowed to skate.
After the Wall Street crash, the bankers that wrecked the economy and destroyed untold lives were bailed out and allowed to keep their bonuses rather than being arrested and jailed.
Once again Obama intervened and made absolutely sure that no one was held accountable. On 27 March 2009, Obama assembled the top executives of the bailed-out financial firms in a secret meeting at the White House and he assured them that he would cover their backs; he promised “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks”.
Do I detect a pattern?
It’s not just Obama.
Neither political party nor the press has had the temerity to ask a simple question about our never-ending War-on-Terror. Why has our vaunted military–the finest fighting force ever—been unable to win any of these conflicts? Does lack of success have something to do with our military brass failing upwards, transitioning from leadership to Lockheed/Martin or Raytheon?
What about our intelligence agencies in the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosures? It turns out that in the aftermath of 9/11, they authorized a sweeping surveillance program here in the homeland, capturing the phone conversations and emails of millions of Americans without our consent or knowledge. This disclosure was after senior intelligence officials and current liberal hero James Clapper openly lied to congress about the existence of the vast extralegal spy regime.
The upshot is that our elite have been able to make their crimes vanish from the legal, economic and moral process. Whatever crimes you commit, whether wars, invasions, torture, murder, fraud, theft–if you’re a member of the elite, you’re given a pass. To paraphrase Leona Helmsley, who famously described taxes as only for the little people. Crimes are only for the little people.
And, here we are.
The abandonment of the rule of law by our elite has been corrosive. In my opinion it was a huge contributing factor in the election of Donald Trump, who described the invasion of Iraq as a mistake.
Liberals take satisfaction that Trump is an aberration. He isn’t. He’s the logical outcome of elite impunity.
In the disastrous wake of Hurricane Katrina, Bush inadvertently exposed the curve that our elite are graded on when he told his FEMA director–“Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.“.