In last year’s New Year’s column, I wrote:
It is a hope that, if not yet fulfilled, is at least now well within sight: the indictment [.pdf] of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, signals a sea change in the political atmosphere in this country, one that has put the War Party on the defensive, albeit not yet thrown them into total retreat.
The gang that lied us into war is getting its comeuppance, and all I can say to that is: how sweet it is! Day after day, in the prelude to war with Iraq, they invented lies of exponentially increasing brazenness. They told us Saddam was an agent of al-Qaeda. They were certain that “weapons of mass destruction” were buried beneath Saddam’s many palaces, or hidden in an underground labyrinth beneath ancient Babylon. Saddam, they averred, had been behind the first attack on the World Trade Center, in 1993 and ranted that he was behind the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, too. They told us he had nukes, or was within a few months of acquiring them, and was readying a first strike against America. Deploying the key argument of the War Party, Condoleezza Rice infamously warned:
“The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
Today, the smoking gun we’re looking for is one connecting this administration to any number of crimes committed by public officials as they dragged us down the road to war. And the problem of uncertainty, which the Bush administration sought to solve by asking us to place our collective fate in their hands, is now hanging over the heads of Washington officialdom. It isn’t only Scooter Libby: his case is merely the dorsal fin of the whale, most of which is still lurking just beneath the surface.
How the tables have turned and all in a single year! A fleeting instant in the mind of History, the mere blink of an eye, can turn the fate of nations as long as it takes to file an indictment against one of the most powerful men in Washington.
“Bulldog” Fitzgerald has his jaws firmly clamped on a large and very tasty bone, and shows no signs of letting go. With Scooter already nailed, he is looking for more morsels torn from the flesh of Team Bush, starting with Karl Rove, the Republican Rasputin, whose counsels have until very recently kept the opposition in a state of panicky, cowardly retreat. Yet he has met, in Mr. Fitzgerald, an opponent who, far from running, has been the aggressor, relentlessly pursuing his target like a veritable Nemesis.
Such are the wages of hubris, a cardinal sin to the ancient Greeks, but the favored vice of the New Rome. What the last year has shown is that Washington, D.C., the epicenter of the new Imperial decadence, is bursting at the seams with corruption, like a corpse wriggling with maggots. In 2006, the whole unsightly spectacle will be exposed to the full light of day.
There are so many investigations currently roiling the political waters that keeping track of them is becoming an increasingly difficult task. Let’s see, there’s the Abramoff scandal, the Lincoln Group brouhaha, the Randy Cunningham affair, the FISA flap, Chalabi-gate, the Niger uranium investigation, “Phase II” of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of prewar intelligence, and, last but not least, the AIPAC espionage case, in which two high-ranking AIPAC lobbyists and a key Pentagon analyst are charged [.pdf] with passing vital U.S. secrets to top Israeli embassy officials.
Okay, so I’ve left some real stinkers out, but before you write reminding me that I haven’t mentioned the torture scandal, the renditions, the secret U.S.-run gulags in Eastern Europe, and any number of other outrages now coming to light relax. Sure, I remember all that stuff, but more important than merely listing these matters is looking at what they portend.
Once again, I make no predictions, because we must live with uncertainty: it is part perhaps the essence of the human condition. Unlike the U.S. government, I’m not asking my readers to take my word for anything in the spirit of blind faith or “patriotic” loyalty to some cause. Certainly I have no illusions about the ability of mortal beings to delude themselves into believing anything: in the end, we have only our hopes and our fears. Last year, I feared for the worst and hoped for the best. In both cases, I was not disappointed.
I have to say that, even in my most pessimistic moments, when my opinion of this administration was at its lowest, and my suspicion of their motives and methods was at its highest, not even then did I ever imagine the sheer scale of the corruption that had eaten away at the very vitals of our republic. Not even Imperial Rome, at its most decadent and depraved, exhibited the kind of voracious greed for money, for power, for glory that has infected our ruling elite like some airborne spore. The resulting plague of scandal descending on official Washington has the whole place on a permanent death-watch: who has fallen, and who is likely to fall next? The world capital of a burgeoning Empire is abuzz with rumors of a new wave of indictments.
We spent the greater part of 2005 anticipating the consequences of the Fitzgerald investigation, hoping that justice would finally be done. In the final months, it began to look very much like the War Party is in for more than a little payback and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch. If 2003 was the year of the liar, 2004 the year of the war criminal, and 2005 the year of justice no longer deferred, then 2006 holds out the promise of being the year of revelation, when the dark truth about how and why we were lied into war finally comes out in full view of the American public.
The thing about indictments is their succinctness: they are, ideally, models of briskly laconic and fact-oriented description, just-the-facts-please and no frills, only pure reportage. After the indictments, however, come the trials and that’s when we get to see the bare-bones indictments fleshed out, as the crimes of our rulers are painfully and publicly reconstructed in front of a jury and judged in the court of public opinion.
The War Party is furiously trying to spin all this as a gigantic conspiracy on the part of the “liberal” media to undermine a war effort that is really going splendidly and they are stepping on the accelerator in their efforts to gin up yet another war in the Middle East, escalating the rhetoric aimed at Iran and openly threatening Syria with “regime change.”
There are indications, too, that the neocons are simply becoming unhinged. Those “weapons of mass destruction” that somehow went missing in Iraq, are, you see, carefully hidden away in Damascus and/or Tehran. Or at least that’s the latest War Party line in the Bizarro World fantasy-land of the neoconservatives. Melanie Morgan, a San Francisco radio host and one of the chief movers behind Move America Forward, which is running TV ads in favor of the war, is “baffled that the White House no longer makes the case that Mr. Hussein had WMDs,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
Ms. Morgan has drunk so much of the neocon Kool-Aid that she can no longer distinguish ideological hallucinations from reality. Indeed, the partisans of this administration eschew vulgar empiricism and openly disdain the concept of objective reality. Reality? Who gives a sh*t? As one administration official put it:
“That’s not the way the world really works anymore. 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.”
This year, “history’s actors” are going to be put on trial while prosecutors and juries study what they have done. As the curtain rises on a new year, the whole history of their crimes stands to be revealed. There is a hush in the theater in the moment before the first act of this long-anticipated drama. If, by the end of it, the principals still believe they can create their own reality, they will likely get the chance to prove their point in prison where the experimental conditions for a flight into complete fantasy are optimal.
“We’re an empire now” but is the transition complete? Methinks that anonymous neocon spoke too soon, mistaking a wish for a fact a typical failing of the species, by the way. There is yet time to prevent the slide into imperial decadence. We have not yet slid all the way down the slippery slope that separates a “liberator” from a conqueror. The Libby indictment and all the other investigations, probes, and official inquiries into government misconduct stemming from the Iraq war are part of a general counter-attack by the forces of republicanism (small-r) against the partisans of empire. The American body politic, in its fundamentals, is still quite healthy: prosecutor Fitzgerald might be likened to a T-cell, defending against the onslaught of a microbial invasion. His tenacious example is mobilizing the other T-cells in the Justice Department, in the media, in and around government and official Washington in a last-ditch attempt to save our old Republic from the incursions of alien intruders, a small but well-placed cabal of warmongers and foreign agents. The AIDS-like infection of the neoconservative “persuasion,” which had rendered the body politic’s defenses inoperative, is being challenged by a promising but still experimental medicine, which exhibits the potential to not only wipe out these viral invaders, but also holds out the promise of a vaccine. After a year of revelation, in which the dirty secrets of the War Party are flushed out into the open, the disgust of the American people is likely to inoculate them against the fever of war hysteria for a long time to come.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I can’t measure to what extent Antiwar.com is directly responsible for this turnaround in public opinion, and won’t presume to take credit for it to any great degree: we do what we can, and it is never enough. As the story of how and why we were lied into war and by whom is chronicled in the court records of at least two if not three or four trials in the coming year, we will learn more about the tremendous resources available to these people. They may be a relatively small cabal, but the War Party has enormous financial and political reserves, and we can expect they will be fully utilized in an effort to fend off prison and reverse a growing antiwar trend in American public opinion. If the pathetic campaign of Ms. Morgan and her clueless crew is any indication, however, I don’t imagine they’ll have much success with the latter effort. My guess is that they’ll just “Move America Forward” into yet another war, perhaps with Syria, perhaps with Iran, maybe both. Anything to divert attention away from their own crimes.
In any case, as I’m tooting Antiwar.com’s horn while cautiously remaining appropriately modest, I want to thank all those who gave us their support in 2005, both moral and financial. While the Pentagon is paying neocon hacks to plant phony “news” stories in the Iraqi media, “reporting” that all is hunky-dory in “liberated” Iraq, we in striking contrast depend wholly on the voluntary generosity of our readers to counteract the professional liars and government propagandists (not all of them officially on the federal payroll) who churn out interventionist boilerplate 24/7. Without you, our loyal and supportive readers, Antiwar.com could not continue. Our gratitude is, for all practical purposes, boundless.
We can’t begin to match the material resources commanded by the War Party, with its countless think tanks, front groups, and major media outlets not to mention the resources of the U.S. government, which are fully utilized to sell this war, and future wars, to the American people. However, we don’t need equivalent resources to carry out this kind of asymmetrical information warfare, because the sheer power of truth in the age of the Internet is more than a match for even these masters of deception. As fast as they can be churned out, the elaborate fabrications concocted by the War Party are quickly dissected by a veritable army of bloggers, analysts, and Internet whiz kids: the great spectator sport of the computer age is watching government lies crumble before their relentless onslaught. This electronic blitz is swift and beautiful as a lightning bolt. That Antiwar.com is a major and growing conduit of this circuit of truth is a source of pride for us, but we aren’t forgetting that it’s you The Readers who make it all possible. If I can make a New Year’s resolution on behalf of the Antiwar.com staff that small but intrepid and very hardworking band it is to reiterate our continuing pledge to report the truth to the best of our understanding, without wearing ideological blinders and yet also without ever forgetting (not even for a moment) our commitment to a more peaceful and also a freer world.
Happy New Year to all and God bless Patrick J. Fitzgerald!