In Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado the Lord High Executioner sings about the “little list” he is preparing of people who will not be missed when he finally gets around to fulfilling the requirements of his office. He includes “apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind,” indicating that the American frustration with the incompetence of its government is not unique, nor is it a recent phenomenon.
And though think tanks did not exist in Victorian England, I am certain Gilbert, the lyricist, would have included Sunday morning inside the Beltway talking head types if they had been around. Having recently experienced a Face the Nation that featured Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, I have my own little list of “society’s offenders” that I never want to see on television or in print again. Now that the United States has celebrated its 238th birthday it would be nice to think that in the new year our nation might be purged of some of the malignancies that have prevailed since 9/11, but, alas, I note in passing that President Barack Obama is preparing to repair our broken immigration system by executive fiat, just as he fixed healthcare, attacked Libya, and is now preparing to give half a billion dollars to the “good insurgents” in Syria to resist the ascendancy of the bad insurgents whom he and our friends in Saudi Arabia have been helping for the past two years. We the people will no doubt be subjected to a lot of lying and shuffling around as the process unfolds.
Leaving Obama aside as we are stuck with him as president until 2016 and also noting Chairman Mao’s observation that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, I would like to propose a modest list of individuals that I never want to see or hear from again. I am sure readers will have many additional candidates. I am not suggesting that anyone be turned over to the Lord High Executioner but many recent political and journalistic celebrities might best serve the nation if they move to a rural county, disconnect their telephones, and begin raising bird dogs or orchids to pass the time.
I would, of course, start with McCain and Graham, two gentlemen who never have enough of war even though the conflicts initiated by the United States since 2001 have turned out to be an unmitigated series of disasters and a money pit as well. Nor are we Americans safer, quite the contrary. They are backed up by the Cheneys, husband “I had other priorities” Vietnam draft avoider Dick, wife Lynne, and daughter Liz, who most recently have been cheerleading the military option to straighten things out in Iraq, having apparently forgotten that Dick and friends tried that once and it didn’t work.
And then there is the first family of interventionists the Kagans. Bob, Fred and Kimberly can always be relied on to explain why the country’s armed forces can be a force for real good positive change as long as peaceniks and defeatists don’t inhibit their ability to carry out and complete their mission, which is to control and regulate the entire world after it is remade in our own image. Kimberly heads the oddly named Institute for the Study of War, which maintains that we would all like wars a lot more if we just understood them better, or something like that. Bob Kagan, who is married to the redoubtable Victoria Nuland of “fuck the Europeans” fame, was recently beatified by a puff piece in the New York Times no less, so you know he’s the real thing. The Kagans, who collectively appear frequently on television and in the media, should be high up on anyone’s list if only because their love of war does not include any responsibility on their part to serve in the US military, which would have interfered with their higher education and their ability to fill important jobs at think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute. Also the rotund Robert and Frederick would have had trouble passing the physical.
Other names come immediately to mind for me – onetime Pentagon number two Paul Wolfowitz, former Bush UN Ambassador John Bolton, ex-CIA Director James Woolsey, Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, former Secretary of State Condi Rice, Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, and the leading compassionate conservative David Brooks at the New York Times. None of them would be missed.
All of the above might well be described as conservatives or even less charitably as Republican hacks and most of them were members of the cabal that produced the catastrophic Iraq War, but the progressives also include their share of humanist warmongers who would benefit from being disappeared. As Samantha Power and Susan Rice are part of the current administration I have to give them a pass but their predecessors Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger definitely deserve inclusion on the list.
And then there is the academic brigade, including the ubiquitous Noam Chomsky who can be relied upon to condemn the United States for its nationalism, capitalism, and imperialism. But Chomsky has a notable blind spot, frequently seeing Israel as a subset of US misbehavior rather than as an instigator of policies that are sui generis crimes against humanity. He has most recently opposed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement because he believes the Palestinian demand to return to former homes inside Israel has little international support and tactically speaking “is a virtual guarantee of failure.” Chomsky also opposes any sanctions against Israeli universities, noting that Harvard equally might be sanctioned for actions taken by the US government, and he also dismisses the South African analogy because American investment continues to flow into Israel, meaning that the country is not vulnerable to economic pressure. For Chomsky, Israel is always somehow different and action that would actually cause pain directed against its repression of the Palestinian people is invariably inappropriate.
And I suppose I should end up with the politically ambidextrous Dennis Ross, who has served both Democratic and Republican administrations as Israel’s lawyer. He should probably be at the top of my list for the damage he has done to the United States through his promotion of policies favoring Israel’s right wing governments, most particularly in turning a blind eye to Tel Aviv’s dramatic expansion of settlements on Arab land while Ross was the custodian of the alleged American interests in the region.
Ross talks the talk about two state solutions while knowing that he personally accommodated Israeli actions that have eliminated that option. In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post Ross outdoes himself in sheer hypocrisy while wrapping himself in faux-evenhanded chicanery. He notes that Israeli society “celebrates and cherishes its children,” surely implying that others do not, and gives credibility to two persistent misrepresentations made by the Israeli government. He claims, without any evidence, that Hamas was responsible for the killing of the three Jewish teenagers on the West Bank and completely ignores the likelihood that Benjamin Netanyahu is using the deaths as a pretext to destroy the current Palestinian unity government. Ross also cites the oft repeated canard that the Palestinians walked away from a viable peace offer made by Bill Clinton and Ehud Barack in 2000. Given his track record and propensities, it would be best not to have to listen to Dennis Ross any more. He will not be missed.
My somewhat light hearted attempt to identify some of the scoundrels who have plagued us for the past thirteen years conceals a darker truth. Washington pundits and pols pursuing their own agendas have done more damage to the United States and its people than 9/11 ever did and it might even be non-hyperbolic to suggest that someone like Josef Stalin pales in comparison. Their ideological baggage has steered America down the wrong road and wrecked its economy to such an extent that there may be no way back. To conclude where I started, President Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush have clearly learned that the old rules don’t apply anymore and have been able to do what they want, constitution be damned. Is there a connection between that realization on the part of the advocates of the Unitary Executive and the host of Washington and New York insiders clambering for more war and domestic policies that serve no purpose? You bet there is. And if they are gone, none of them will be missed.