Clinton lost it because she was a symbol of everything wrong with the status quo.
What we have wrought serves nothing in the American interest
Bush’s legacy is going to last a very long time, and it is not a pretty one. Once Hussein was out of Iraq, only some kind of highly functional secular state was going to keep its Shi’ite majority from falling into Iran’s orbit. The war and occupation and dysfunctional political state have wrought something pretty much the opposite of a highly functional secular state: its Shi’ite majority, long oppressed by Saddam’s Ba’ath party, are now very big fans of democracy and its inherent powers granted to majorities against minorities.
Iranian-backed militias were among the most effective fighters against Al Qaeda: the army was just seen as a way to make money, sell gear, and steal from the treasury… not at all a real fighting force, as opposed to the Shi’ite militias, who formed to fight, drill to win, and have a focused mission of retaking Iraq and making it Shi’ite. The army is still trying to disentangle itself from its corruption while US advisors try to help them, but Iran’s religious soldiers are proven and making things happen on the ground.
The end result isn’t here yet, but you can see it: Iranian influence from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, by way of Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon. Once Saddam fell, this was about the only way it could’ve gone, and this is where we are: Sunni Saudi Arabia is embroiled in a regional competition with Shi’ite Iran and engaging that competition by starving Yemen with US weapons, meanwhile Iran is liberating Iraq.
It’s an all-too-predictable disaster that American hubris forged. It was repeated on a smaller scale in Libya, with none of the lessons learned there, either… the saving grace there being that there are no nearby regional powers strong enough to take advantage of the chaos, only ISIS living in the cracks of destruction.
There’s something about having all this money and gear to burn on weapons and war, seemingly totally divorced from the average American’s experience of war that makes us do astoundingly dumb things. My guess is that there’s often no significant blowback: the voters don’t care that much about endless war or domestic surveillance, the Treasury and Congress always seems to have more money for war, and everything awful is happening Over There (1M starving in Yemen as of today, and for all the noise and money about ISIS they’re operating out of pick up trucks).
Standing Rock is about sovereignty and the rule of law
It shouldn’t be happening but it IS.
Seriously. Melania Trump’s speech was a trial balloon to see if we’ve transcended satire. We have.
Her speech didn’t just contain a few paragraphs cribbed from Michelle Obama. It had a literal Rick Roll in it: It would be embarrassing but we’re past that point I guess.
My guess at this point is that the speechwriter laid a few landmines. On purpose. And no one will care, because why would we.
No one on national television will ever care about the real story of Benghazi.
Patricia Smith is a grieving woman, and is allowed her grief. And she’s angry over her loss and that’s understandable. I bear her no ill will; I wish her peace.
That said, let me identify the three major issues I see here whose absence illuminates the rot in American political discourse:
- No one wants to talk about whether or not we should have been in Benghazi in the first place. Following the entirely predictable (and predicted) collapse of Iraq and subsequent long-term disaster, the oligarchic Beltway consensus was that Libya’s teetering state should be tipped over. At no point has this rationale been significantly challenged by anyone in power. The entire intervention in Libya has – once again – led to a chaotic mess of what used to be a country, with spillover effects in the region, none of them good. We can’t forget Iraq, but Libya seems to have no trouble slipping into the memory hole of bad ideas, and the enablers that promoted it have never been held to account, largely because they’re all the same people and have no interest in mea culpas.
- Congress – and mostly Democrats due to political reasons – never significantly challenged the fact that the American intervention in Libya violated the War Powers Resolution. The Democrats, for reasons of party loyalty, never allowed Congress to proceed with a formal rebuke over Libyan intervention. The GOP made an attempt and it went nowhere. Ultimately, Congress rolled over because arguing about Libya is really arguing against killing people, an ugly past-time that is basically guaranteed to earn support from the majority of inhabitants in your district.
- The State Department and Hillary Clinton specifically declared to Congress that there was no need for their authorization, despite the War Powers Resolution. Not only was this against the Resolution, it also was against the limits set by the Department of Justice and a raft of precedent. Basically the Executive told the Legislature that it had no power, they’d be doing whatever they wanted anyway, and to trust them, and the Legislature ultimately went along with it. This isn’t a story of just Congress being useless, it’s also a story of the continued growth of presidential executive power in America.
Instead, what came of Benghazi? Endless reams of interviews and panels and inquiries, all to determine that the CIA was stirring up trouble in Benghazi, the Embassy was essentially undefended and overly reliant on local untrustworthy militias, that reinforcements were either going to come from the CIA who wanted to stay as undercover and unseen as possible or from Italy (too far to actually do anything in a combat situation where airfield access is unknown)… and oh yeah, some emails.
Benghazi was an undefended outpost of an imperial power that was put smack in the middle of its own stirred-up covert intelligence shenanigans, in order to attempt to stabilize a country that had been destabilized for bad reasons clear both before and after the interventions. Absolutely none of that has penetrated into the wider discourse in this country.
Clinton’s emails did. And it turns out that she carelessly shared classified material with people cleared to see them. And that’s dumb, but it didn’t murder anyone in Benghazi. It’s the kind of thing that gets a Navy officer two years probation and a $7,000 fine.
This poor woman is pissed off that Clinton said that a video caused the attack. It didn’t. That was at worst a lie, at best a mistake. The real reason the embassy was attacked was because it was a vulnerable American outpost in a volatile region, a truth that transcends the particulars, and that’s the reason why Ms Smith can’t get an answer. The answer is, “knowing everything we do about Iraq, which only reminded us of the obvious truths we knew before Iraq, we Americans collectively attacked a place, overthrew its despot, watched the region crumble, then put an embassy in the middle of it all and didn’t properly fund its defense”. And that answer indicts not just Clinton, but pretty much all of Washington.
None of that came up. None of that will come up. The hawks who clamor always for more war sneak by. The Congress that can’t do much other than grandstand sneaks by. A Presidential executive that will go to war when and how it wants to and will tell Congress to get stuffed sneaks by. The Pentagon’s budget, ever-ballooning, never auditable, grows and sneaks by. Instead, we’re treated to the parade of a grieving woman and told to hate Clinton. The Republicans should be ashamed; everyone involved in this should be.
The purpose of terror is to affect disproportionate change, to enlist emotions in recruiting unnecessary armies
The American political system is solving itself into a system with less internal conflict, paradoxically creating greater manifest conflict
It isn’t that people are less intelligent than before, it’s that we’ve slowly eroded the aristocracy that was supposed to protect us from ourselves: the electoral college is a non-sapient mechanism at this point, Senators are directly elected, and many judges are directly elected. The House was always intended as a playground for demagoguery and polemics, but now that the Senate and Presidency and judiciary are as well, there are no more arms-length gatekeepers. The parties that control the country have no incentive to make wise decisions, only popular ones… and then, only popular enough to win roughly 30% or so of the population, that portion that constitutes a majority of the voters.
Direct democracy has always been a bad idea, and in some case it’s because of a parallel issue that libertariaism has: you can’t expect the entire populace to be plugged-in dispassionate arbiters of social, political, l and legal issues, just like you can’t organize a society around everyone being good little capitalist marketeers.
The aristocracy of the Constitution – a republic, in that the aristocracy ostensibly is vulnerable to some popular rollover – was trying to thread the needle between mobocracy and oligarchy, and somehow both ends of the equation have managed to find and distill the worst elements of both.
What’s interesting about this is that the original system was supposed to be full of checks and balances, governmental factions existing in a creative tension, pulling against each other to tease out an optimized government. That’s a great idea, but in modern times that’s become just another system to solve. The system has been slowly eroding these impediments to efficiency – eroding the tensions, smoothing the process – but in doing so, they’re breaking the end result. The system wasn’t supposed to run smoothly, it was supposed to create good government. By emphasizing the smoother operation and selection of various governmental representatives, all it’s done is shift the tension from being between branches with differing methods and oversight to a tension between political parties, and in doing so the various branches of government are themselves existing within a tension, unable to present a united front for consideration by the other branches.
The creative tension between branches is now a destructive tension within branches. Congress can’t legislate. The President acts with increasing impunity, knowing the Executive can’t be stopped by a feckless Congress and inspired to act and fill the gap of Congress’s dysfunction. The judiciary is forced to resolve issues which ought to be resolved by legislation. It’s a decent lesson in systems maintenance: you’d best fix one thing when it starts to rattle, because that rattling is going to break two or three other things, which will break two or three other things.