Me, Too: Or Why the "Loyal Opposition" is Long on Loyalty, and Short on Opposition
Chomsky argues that, after atrocious events become too obvious to ignore, the media shifts into "damage control to ensure that public attention is diverted to overzealous patriots or to the personality defects of leaders who have strayed from our noble commitments, but not to the institutional factors that determine the persistent and substantive content of these commitments." [Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (Cambridge: South End Press, 1989) 19-20]
Or as Lenin's Tomb put it:
The liberal theodicy: how to account for evil, when the system is essentially benign?
Although Chomsky was writing in a different context, his observation also applies to responses to Bush's NSA spying by the "liberal media" and "liberal Democrats."
Sam Smith, editor of Progressive Review, has been taking hits from some angry liberal readers for drawing attention to the inconvenient fact that NSA domestic spying didn't start with Bush. It also doesn't help that some of the loudest cries of Democratic outrage come from the same people who backed Clinton's so-called "Counter-Terrorism" legislation of 1996 (surely as worthy of a "sic" as Bush's so-called "PATRIOT" Act). For those who don't know, a great deal of the most objectionable provisions of USA PATRIOT were originally proposed in the Clinton legislation. Although they've been on the federal jackboots' Christmas of most-wished-for police state goodies for years, Congress left them on the cutting room floor in 1996 because a domestic enemy wasn't quite as good as Al Qaeda for getting Americans to suspend their critical faculties. And some of the most frightening powers exercised by Bush don't come from USA PATRIOT at all, but from the Clinton-era legislation. For example, the Presidential power to seize the assets of any group he unilaterally proclaims a "terrorist organization," without due process of law--you can thank police state stooge Chuck Schumer, one of the most vociferous critics of Ashcroft and Gonzales, for that one. And didn't Gerrold Nadler back so-called anti-militia legislation that would have criminalized spreading "unwarranted conspiracy theories" about the federal government--essentially a revival of seditious libel?
Foreign empire, likewise, is very much a bipartisan project. Lest you forget, most of the stuff that we currently indentify with run-amok Republicanism was originally cobbled together by Democrats. The Bretton Woods agencies that currently serve as enforcers for neoliberalism. The UN Security Council, or modern-day Concert of Europe, that "idealistic" internationalist liberals like Kerry prefer to use as a fig leaf for U.S. bombers raining death from the sky. The Cold War national security state. The domestic garrison state, including (among other things) the Smith Act, the McCarran Internal Security Act, and COINTELPRO. The Green Berets and SOA, the overthrow of Diem and the Tonkin Gulf incident, the Suharto coup.... Establishment Democrats go out of their way to emphasize that, had they known what they know now, they wouldn't have rubber-stamped Bush's invasion of Iraq. Maybe not; but isn't blasting the shit out of Iraq in December 1998, and keeping the country under a murderous economic embargo for eight years, bad enough? The Lying Us Into War (TM) franchise came in pretty handy in Kossovo, didn't it? And just last year we saw a Democratic presidential nominee, who had been a leading supporter of Plan Colombia, accusing Bush of being "soft on Hugo Chavez."
I'm really sick of the "left" wing of the neoliberal corporate establishment giving us a slightly kindler and gentler version of the same imperialism and police statism. As Chomsky wrote somewhere else, there was probably a "liberal" wing of the Nazi Party that only wanted to kill half the Jews.