The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
Moral Baseness
Friday, September 15th, 2006
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?
In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, former Secretary of State Colin Powell writes "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism."  Since the committee was contemplating an administration proposal to repudiate the Geneva Conventions and legalize torture, Powell is understating the case.  His understatement extends well beyond the so-called fight against terrorism, for the world’s doubts about the moral basis of  the Bush administration became a conviction that it had none long ago.  If the citizens of the United States shake off their present torpor, they’ll inevitably come to the same conclusion.

The founders designed a government to serve the public interest, which is why we call our government employees public servants.  The preamble to the Constitution introduces a document composed to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”  To the extent that any nation can have a moral basis, those preambular injunctions express ours.  The Bush administration has violated the spirit and the substance of every one of them.

No system of justice worthy of the name would countenance denying prisoners in its charge the right to legal counsel, to a fair trial, to the very right to hear the charges and the evidence against them.  No system of justice worthy of the name would tolerate the physical and mental abuse of those under its supervision.  Yet that is the brand of justice dispensed by the Bush administration, congressional approval for which the president is now demanding.

Insuring domestic tranquility does not include allowing, through negligence and willful ignorance, the slaughter of thousands of citizens peacefully going about their business.  And yet Mr. Bush and his team studiously ignored the threat posed by Bin Ladin from the moment they took office.  Counter-terrorism czar and close Bin Ladin watcher Richard Clarke was demoted.  Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz, according to Clarke’s book,
Against All Enemies, said he was tired of always hearing about Bin Ladin.  In The One Percent Doctrine, Ron Suskind tells of the CIA briefer who, in August of ’01, presented the president with a memo specifying that Bin Ladin was determined to attack the U.S. with airplanes.  Mr. Bush’s reaction was to snarl “OK, now you’ve covered your ass.”  Ashcroft at the DOJ was preoccupied with porn, while National Security Advisor and cold warrior Rice was focused on imaginary Chinese missile attacks.

Providing for the common defense disallows the material weakening of our armed forces by throwing them into a foreign civil war in which they are targets for bloody-minded sectarian guerillas.  It does not permit the transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars from taxpayers to defense contractors with no resulting military benefits.  It forbids starting wars that are allowed to fail or languish in stalemate through lack of government support, planning, and will.  But this is what the Bush administration has done in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nowhere in their wildest imaginings did the founders conceive of the abandonment of a devastated American city as a way to promote the general welfare.  Nor the creation of a three-quarters of a trillion dollar giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry in the guise of a medical benefit.  Nor the enactment of fiscal and monetary policies designed to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the many.  Nor the raising of interest rates on student loans, the curtailing of benefits for veterans, and the signing away of valuable federal mineral royalties to the coal, oil, and mining industries.  In New Orleans, with the so-called prescription drug benefit, and in their policies on veterans affairs, education financing, and land use, that’s exactly what the Bush administration has done.

Although the technology didn’t exist at the time, it’s certain the founders would not have considered tapping citizens’ phones without warrants a means of securing the blessings of liberty.  But that of course is what the president and his administration are doing, possibly to me, or to you.

So perhaps Mr. Bush’s former spokesman, Ari Fleisher, was right when he said we all need to “watch what we say, watch what we do.”  That is the moral basis of this administration, along with torture, oubliettes, mindless and endless wars, and institutionalized corruption.  But we needn’t read beyond the Constitution’s preamble to know that this is not the morality the country was founded on.

©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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