Friday, April 24, 2009

The Banana Republic of America

So, I haven't really been writing about politics lately, though I have been keeping abreast of it. And it's for a simple reason, I think, which is the torture debate, and my general sense that the people on my side just don't get whats going on.

It's not that I think torture is right, or that things like waterboarding and walling aren't torture. They are. It's not that I think that the last President's men and women are war criminals. They are. And in an ideal world they would stand trial for war crimes. But I don't think that Obama is wrong in wanting to "look forward."

Yes, it's intellectually incoherent. Not upholding the rule of law will have a deleterious effect on our system of justice. And however important Obama's agenda is to me and others, the impediments that prosecutions might place in front of it are no reason not to do the right thing.

It's just that I think that prosecutions might bee even more dangerous than not having them, because of the response that I forsee coming from them.

I remember reading an article years ago that made the basic argument that what happened to Clinton was payback for Nixon. Nixon is the only modern president, really the only president, period, who is unequivocally placed in the historical record as a criminal. And he was a Republican. There is just no correspnding stain to the Democrat's honor to equal what Nixon says about the Republican party, and impeaching Clinton was about trying to even that score. And though it didn't really work, the Republicans were obviously willing to that far, to get that dirty, in the name of settling a score that existed in their own heads.

So, what would happen if Obama tried the last administration for war crimes? What would that do? That has never happened before. Take a moment to think about how big a deal it would be to try a president for crimes. It's never happened before, and we have had some presidents who have done some bad things. Andrew Jackson was pretty much solely responsible for the Trail of Tears, and he's on the fucking twenty. To do so would be unprecedented, in a way, and the Republicans sense of agrievement would know no bounds.

And so there is no doubt in my mind that if Obama brought prosecutions against Bush, Cheney, or any of their underlings—just, righteous prsecutions—that the next Republican president wouldn't turn right around and start trying to find any excuse to bring charges up against Obama and various members of his adminstration. Holder. Clinton. Biden. Dawn Johnsen. Any joke of a reason they can find, they will take. I mean, can you imagine what Sarah Palin, that vindictive freak, would do, if she was our next president, and Obama had brougth charges against Bush officials? And given the precarious state of the economy, and the madness infesting the entire Republican party, that situation isn't as unimaginable as it should be.

And when the whole Banana Republic meme started up, I felt like, "I'm right." Some people think this is an absurd argument, after the Clinton impeachment, after the last eight years. And it is. But it isn't funny. Implicit in that line of (faulty) reasoning is a threat. "You want to play like that, ok, we'll play like that." It doesn't matter whether Obama is turning us into a Banana Republic or not, just that it gives them the excuse to start turning us into a Banana Republic. An excuse is all they need to become completely fascistic.

So while I think the prosecutiongs for the Bush administration is the "right thing to do," I don't know that I think Obama should do it, at least not any time soon. Because if the Democrats lose power in either branch of government anytime soon, America as we know it will quickly cease to exist. We will start to torture again. There will be endless surveillance of citizens and political opponents. People will start disppearing.

Given this argument only makes sense if you think the Republicans are evil. So if you don't think the major polical party that is arguing in favor of war crimes is evil, by all means continue pushing for investigations.

I value the rule of law. I think we should live in a system that is ruled by the law. But when one of the two major political parties doesn't actually beleive in the rule of law, I am not sure we can acutally have it. Writing that makes me feel ill.

God, I hate them so fucking much.

So maybe Obama is doing the right thing. Maybe he can has a plan. I don't know. And I don't know if following an ideal, in a particular case, is the right thing to do if following that ideal will lead to other's destroying it once and for all. I don't know if insisting on the ideal, no matter how noble, is the right thing to do with it will lead to the death of innocents. I don't know.