Crimes With Victims

From Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

… unlike Eliot Spitzer, Dick Cheney — just like Berkeley Law Professor John Yoo; think tank scholar, author and former Georgetown School of Foreign Service Professor Doug Feith; Georgetown’s current Distinguished University Professor George Tenet, and so many others — isn’t going to be forced to endure any humiliation or remorse rituals whatsoever.  As Cheney is feted by network news anchors a year or two from now upon release of the book he plans to write, there will be no real objections that this monstrous war criminal and perverter of our constitutional framework is treated like some sort of retired royal dignitary.  Cheney is and will remain a symbol of profound seriousness, entitled to respect and endowed with permanent wisdom.

What’s most striking is not that we have zero intention of prosecuting the serious crimes committed by our leading establishment figures.  It’s that we don’t even recognize them as crimes — or even serious transgressions — at all.  To the contrary, we still demand that those who are culpable be treated as dignified, respectable, serious and inherently good leaders.  Real outrage is never generated by the crimes and outrages they have undertaken, but only when they are not given their proper respectful due as leading American elites.  Hence:

An Iraqi citizen throws his shoes at an American President who — all based on false pretenses — invaded, occupied and obliterated his country; set up prisons where his fellow citizens were encaged without trials and subjected to brutal treatment; slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and displaced millions more.  And the outrage is predominantly directed at the disrespect, irreverence and the “ingratitude” displayed by the shoe-thrower, not the murderous and inhumane acts of the dignified American leader. 

[…]

The reason the American political establishment tenaciously refuses to acknowledge the devastation and crimes that have been unleashed during the Bush era is obvious:  aside from the generalized belief that Americans are inherently good and thus incapable of meriting terms such as “aggressive wars” and “war criminals” no matter what they actually do (those phrases are applicable only to lesser foreigners), most of the establishment supported these crimes and the criminals who unleashed them.  We can therefore tolerate thinking about Bush officials and their bipartisan enablers as political and opinion leaders who (with the best of intentions) embraced what turned out to be some misguided policies, but not as people whose criminal acts led to death and suffering on an enormous scale and an almost complete degradation of whatever was still commendable about American political values.  

That’s the real benefit, the real cause, of these flamboyant and obsessive collective outrage sessions directed at petty offenders who do things like hire prostitutes, commit adultery, or engage in some sleazy though quite commonplace political corruption.  Those rituals enable those who participated in and cheered on real crimes to parade around as righteous defenders of the moral good without having to acknowledge the extremism, brutality and destruction they’ve supported …

Read the whole thing here

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