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Slouching Away from 9/11

I don’t think historians will have any disagreement dating the long and painful death of America’s most cherished ideals from the events of September 11, 2001.

To be sure, America had experienced troubling eras many times before then, but it had always fought back. The nation’s more precipitous decline came after that event.

Nor do I think historians will blame America’s rapid moral decline on the handful of religious fanatics that shouted “god is great” as they crashed hijacked jets into the twin towers and Pentagon and murdered 3000 people. No, America’s heart-sickening fall from grace happened after that, in how it responded to the event by so easily abandoning every principle of enlightened governance that had made the country seem not just unique, but worth emulating.

Even in the wildest imaginings of Dick Cheney’s neocons, al Qaeda never possessed a tiny fraction of the power to challenge America militarily or economically. The idea that even a well organized and deranged band of murderous fanatics posed an existential threat to the most powerful nation on earth was always ludicrous. So when the nation unthinkingly responded to the 9/11 murders by foolishly declaring a “war on terror,” many Americans knew we were headed in the wrong direction.

It was reasonably predictable that a President with the maturity and judgment of a spoiled teen frat boy would lead the nation into revengeful but irrelevant responses. It was even more predictable that he and the arrogant faux warriors surrounding him would exploit the national shock by pulling out their list of “get evens” they’d always wanted to do if only they had the opportunity – and there it was, presented to them with no grownups in charge, no wise men or vigilant media asking “why are you doing this?” — and a shocked nation willing to trust that whatever their leaders did was meant to defend them from being murdered by fanatics.

The President’s men set out to get even for god knows what personal inadequacies, because they’d always wanted to. And they did it, as the quintessential journalist of the time bragged, because he and the child-men he listened to needed to say, “suck on this.” We were led by 12-year-old idiots.

What we, or at least I, didn’t see coming was how relentlessly, efficiently and remorselessly Dick Cheney and his morally depraved henchmen would pull America into the “dark side.” I would never have imagined how easily they conditioned the American soul to first tolerate and then defend a regime that committed felony after felony, including some of the most notorious war crimes perpetrated by military victors on their captives.

The media freely helped in this immoral conditioning. It was so thorough that David Broder, the Dean of America’s journalists, who had opposed holding accountable those responsible for crimes while they were in office, pronounced that it would be unseemly for the subsequent Administration to hold them accountable when they were out of office, thus completing the destruction of any principle of accountability for the highest officers in the land. That the man was not hounded from his Washington Post tells us how thoroughly corrupt the official media has become.

The rule of law was now undermined, along with major pillars of the American Constitutional framework — separation of powers, an accountable executive checked by Congress, limits on war powers, and restraints preventing the executive from suspending the most sacred rights against arbitrary government arrest and incarceration. Hundreds of years of legal tradition and precedent, much of it bought with blood, were now gone. Our Supreme Court can’t wait to overturn still more precedents.

What is left of America is hard to see, with the news dominated by mindless teabaggers, unchecked lying and town hall thugs. These are driven by gross stupidity and rage, encouraged by a cynical media and organized and directed by even more cynical interests willing to exploit the mob’s ignorance, racism and hatred. With the media complicit or incompetent, there is no way to stop these man-made wildfires other than to hope they burn out before they lead to armed insurrections.

There are daily calls for rebellion and threats to the President’s safety, and the thuggery now infects the Congress with only a hypocritical veneer of official restraint. Without principled, courageous leaders on all sides condemning the breakdown, the nation can easily descend further.

I’m 65. I’ve lived through McCarthyism, racism and race riots, the civil rights movements, Berkeley in the 60’s, Nixon and Watergate. I helped kill some people in Vietnam and called in Medevacs for others, for no reason I can account for, and I’ve watched the American addiction to imperial adventures drag us into one quagmire after another. I lived and worked through the rise and neglect of environmentalism, Carter’s energy wars and Reagan’s mindless wars against governance, science and rationality.

We managed to survive all that but paid a huge price; I’ve never seen America’s moral foundations crumble so quickly as they have in the last decade – and it’s not over.

We are in a dark period of decline, and I don’t know whether we can fight our way out. But I know, deep in my gut, that America is more profoundly sick than ever in my lifetime. It is seized with multiple cancers of unbridled greed, concentrated wealth, racism and fears, and governed by corrupt institutions that not only tolerate but facilitate hugely powerful interests in looting the nation’s wealth.

We remain willfully ignorant of how we got to this point, but we argue about innocuous presidential speeches telling kids to stay in school. America’s once hallowed press, most of it not worthy of its guaranteed freedoms, acts as though they’re watching the games at the Coliseum, and perhaps they are.

Today’s America is threatened by a mix of cynical opportunists and dangerously ignorant people who believe it’s rational to buy as much ammunition as they can for their semi-automatic weapons, because they wrongly believe a President who can’t rhetorically disarm his most disingenuous critics is about to seize their guns and destroy their country. They don’t understand it’s already gone, but it’s not one they ever understood.

Insanity is loose in the land, and here we sit trying to counter the craziness by writing blogs.

CommunityMy FDLSeminal

Slouching Away from 9/11

I don’t think historians will have any disagreement dating the long and painful death of America’s most cherished ideals from the events of September 11, 2001.

To be sure, America had experienced troubling eras many times before then, but it had always fought back. The nation’s more precipitous decline came after that event.

Nor do I think historians will blame America’s rapid moral decline on the handful of religious fanatics that shouted “god is great” as they crashed hijacked jets into the twin towers and Pentagon and murdered 3000 people. No, America’s heart-sickening fall from grace happened after that, in how it responded to the event by so easily abandoning every principle of enlightened governance that had made the country seem not just unique, but worth emulating.

Even in the wildest imaginings of Dick Cheney’s neocons, al Qaeda never possessed a tiny fraction of the power to challenge America militarily or economically. The idea that even a well organized and deranged band of murderous fanatics posed an existential threat to the most powerful nation on earth was always ludicrous. So when the nation unthinkingly responded to the 9/11 murders by foolishly declaring a “war on terror,” many Americans knew we were headed in the wrong direction.

It was entirely predictable that a President with the maturity and judgment of a spoiled teen frat boy would lead the nation into revengeful but irrelevant responses. It was even more predictable that he and the arrogant faux warriors surrounding him would exploit the national shock by pulling out their list of “get evens” they’d always wanted to do if only they had the opportunity – and there it was, presented to them with no grownups in charge, no wise men or vigilant media asking “why are you doing this?” — and a shocked nation willing to trust that whatever their leaders did was meant to keep them from being murdered by fanatics.

The President’s men set out to get even for god knows what personal inadequacies, because they’d always wanted to. And they did it, as the quintessential journalist of the time bragged, because he and the child-men he listened to needed to say, “suck on this.” We were led by 12-year-old idiots.

What we, or at least I, didn’t see coming was how relentlessly, efficiently and remorselessly Dick Cheney and his morally depraved henchmen would pull America into the “dark side.” I would never have imagined how easily they conditioned the American soul to first tolerate and then defend a regime that committed felony after felony, including some of the most notorious war crimes perpetrated by military victors on their captives.

The media freely helped in this immoral conditioning. It was so thorough that David Broder, the "Dean" of America’s journalists, who had opposed holding accountable those responsible for crimes while they were in office, pronounced that it would be unseemly for the subsequent Administration to hold them accountable after they were out of office, thus completing the destruction of any principle of accountability for the highest officers in the land. That the man was not hounded from his Washington Post tells us how thoroughly corrupt the official media has become.

The rule of law was now undermined, along with major pillars of the American Constitutional framework — separation of powers, an accountable executive checked by Congress, limits on war powers, and restraints preventing the executive from suspending the most sacred rights against arbitrary government arrest and incarceration. Hundreds of years of legal tradition and precedent, much of it bought with blood, were now gone. Even a Supreme Court whose majority can’t wait to overturn precedents choked on that.

What is left of America is hard to see from these ruins. The news is dominated by mindless teabaggers, unchecked and relentless lying and town hall thugs. The worst are driven by gross stupidity and rage, encouraged by a cynical media and organized and directed by even more cynical interests willing to exploit the mob’s ignorance, racism and hatred. With the official media complicit or incompetent, there is no way to stop these man-made wildfires other than to hope they burn out before they lead to armed insurrections.

There are daily calls for rebellion and threats to the President’s safety, and the thuggery now infects the Congress with only a hypocritical veneer of official restraint. Without principled, courageous leaders on all sides condemning the breakdown, the nation can easily descend further.

I’m 65. I’ve lived through McCarthyism, racism and race riots, the civil rights movements, Berkeley in the 60’s, three assassinations, Nixon and Watergate. I helped kill some people in Vietnam and called in Medevacs for others, for no reason I can account for, and I’ve watched the American addiction to imperial adventures drag us into one quagmire after another. I lived and worked through the rise and neglect of environmentalism, Carter’s hapless energy wars and Reagan’s mindless wars against governance, science and rationality. I’ve watched the zealots of the nation’s self-declared official religion become increasingly detached from reality and its humane commandments.

We managed to survive all that but paid a huge price; I’ve never seen America’s moral and legal foundations crumble as quickly as they have in the last decade.

We are in a dark period of decline, and I don’t know whether we can fight our way out. But I know, deep in my gut, that America is more profoundly sick than ever in my lifetime, perhaps since the Civil War that so many seem anxious to threaten. It is seized with multiple cancers of unbridled greed, concentrated wealth, racism and fears, and governed by corrupt institutions that not only tolerate but facilitate hugely powerful interests in looting the nation.

We remain willfully ignorant of how we got to this point, while we argue about innocuous presidential speeches telling kids to stay in school — they should be in the streets; it is their future being stolen. America’s once hallowed press, most of it not worthy of its guaranteed freedoms, acts as though they’re watching the games at the Coliseum, and perhaps they are.

Today’s America is threatened by cynical opportunists and dangerously ignorant people who believe it’s rational to buy as much ammunition as they can, because they wrongly believe a President who can’t rhetorically disarm his most disingenuous critics is about to seize their guns and destroy their country. They don’t understand it’s already gone, though it’s not one they ever understood.

Insanity is loose in the land, and here we sit trying to counter the craziness by writing blogs.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley