Friday, October 26, 2007

Giuliani, Thoreau, and Wisdom

Ranting with Thoreau. Subbing for the admirable Glenn Greenwald, blogger Chris Floyd takes off on a long rant about the need to sharpen resistance to the Bush administration. Floyd warms my academic's heart by introducing his lengthy post with a quote from Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience:"
How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it.
-- Henry David Thoreau

Unfortunately, Thoreau was wrong about just about everything and Chris Floyd is mistaken to take Thoreau as a role model for responding to the crimes of the Bush administration. Thoreau is certainly wrong concerning how to respond to the disgrace of being associated with the crimes of chattel slavery and the Mexican War. Thoreau endeavored to save himself from the disgrace of association with the Polk administration by committing symbolic crimes like refusing to pay his taxes--a crime that did nothing to stop slavery but did represent a severing of Thoreau's ties to the government.

That's much of what Floyd focuses on--urging the Democratic leadership to use impeachment and non-cooperation with the government as a vehicle to signal a refusal to be associated with the Bush administration's pre-emptive wars, refusal to abide by the rule of law, and crimes against humanity.
As I've noted elsewhere, Thoreau's answer should be taken up by every person in public life, beginning with the senators and representatives in Congress. There should be noncompliance, nonrecognition of this illegitimate authority, disassociation from taking part in its workings. No Bush appointees should be approved; indeed, they have already shown their unfitness for office by agreeing to work under the criminal regime in the first place. All legislation offered by the regime should be rejected outright; it is dishonorable to treat with a faction whose unprovoked, unnecessary "war of choice" in Iraq has now killed more Americans than were murdered on 9/11. The only "negotiation" acceptable with such bloodstained wretches is settling the terms of their exit from power.

For above all, impeachment should be moved to the top of the congressional agenda. It should be the overriding, all-consuming priority of the people's representatives. For this is the inescapable, stone-cold truth: nothing, absolutely nothing but impeachment, will stop the Bush-Cheney regime from carrying out its criminal agenda.

But we cannot escape the disgrace of the Bush administration any more than Thoreau could escape the disgrace of living in a slave society. When the invasion began, it had the consent of Congress and was supported by 70% of the population. Even those of us who opposed the invasion bear responsibility because of our inability to convince our fellow citizens that the invasion would be disastrous as well as wrong. Obviously, we war opponents don't bear the same level of responsibility as the Bush administration, the media, or the cowardly Democratic leadership, but we were part of the decision-making process as well. The shame of the awful death toll in Iraq, the crimes against humanity committed by the Bush administration, and the perversion of American government also rests on us.

And it's something that I've felt since the day of the invasion.

The Heir of Dick Cheney. At this point in time, the gestures of non-cooperation recommended by Chris Floyd and like-minded souls are wrong-headed are likely to convince voters that progressives are no more mature and responsible than the right-wing. Instead of eviscerating the Bush administration, such gestures are more likely to convince voters to vote for a Republican nominee like Rudy Giuliani. In other words, the Thoreau approach to the present crisis could result in at least four more years of what Floyd calls "the nation's death spiral into darkness, ruin and dishonor."

And Rudy Giuliani is the man for the job. He's just as bent on war with Iran and Syria as anybody in the Bush administration. Likewise, he's just as contemptuous of dissent, just as contemptuous of international law, just as contemptuous as Congress, and just as contemptuous of traditions of American government as Dick Cheney. If Dick Cheney is the dark presence standing at the shoulder of the president, Rudy Giuliani would be the dark presence sitting behind the president's desk. Of all the Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani would be the legitimate heir to the Bush administration because he would be the most like the most powerful person in the Bush administration--Dick Cheney.

What Little Honor We Can Have. The only positive thing that we as Americans can salvage from the Bush years is the first steps of an alternative path. We as progressives can get to that alternative if we demonstrate that we are wiser, more competent, and more determined than the conservatives holding office. Engaging is a series of high level, damn-the-consequences refusals of any cooperation with the Bush administration is not the way to convince anybody that we are so much better than our opponents. If anything, it would result in the opposite of what we want.

1 comment:

Todd Mayo said...

Thought provoking. Like it nor not, we must deal with the fringe-right until January 2009. Obstruction would be counterproductive. (I never cared for Thoreau either). You may remember that.

Anyway, over four years ago, on George W Bush devoted one-third of his State of the Union address to what he described as "a serious and mounting threat to our country" posed by Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. One week later, on February 5th, Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell assured and reassured the UN that Iraq was a clear and present danger.

It is also true that Iraq violated 16 UN resolutions by FAILING TO PROVE it had dismantled its WMD and continuing efforts to deceive UN inspectors.

But if 9/11 was a failure to connect the dots, it appears that the Intelligence Community, in the case of Iraq's WMD, connected the dots to the wrong conclusions.

If the intelligence had been better, I believe many policymakers, would have had a far clearer picture of the sketchiness of the sources on Iraq's WMD programs, and The Administration's lack of certainty about Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities.

If we had known the threat from Iraq was non-existent, more attention could have been paid to the threat from Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda. Instead, The White House diverted attention and resources to an unecessary war in Iraq in the midst of our hunt for the true perpetraters of September 11.

If we can hold on, Hillary can try to straighten out the whole mess.