In what were surely delusional moments in the aftermath of surgery I thought perhaps things might have changed while I was rehabbing and out of touch with daily events. Of course I should have known better. What little I gleaned in the two weeks or so during that experience did not suggest things at home or abroad had improved or that the endless debates among presidential candidates or on the floor of Congress held any promise of better times ahead.
In fact since I’ve begun paying closer attention once again I have found greater cause for alarm than ever – – more reasons to be fearful that the country is being run by uninformed, ideological lunatics who spend more time confusing the American people than seeking solutions for complicated matters that do not conform to sloganeering. Every day, for example, the president finds a podium somewhere to speechify about World War III, Iran, Burma and, even Cuba, for heaven’s sake. Most remarkable about these rote utterances is that they are buttressed by a total lack of personal knowledge or understanding of the issues.
Worse still, the affairs of state have been turned over to military leaders; it is General Patraeus who defines our status in Iraq, and General Hayden is the head of the CIA. No longer is civilian leadership even a pretense in the conduct of US foreign affairs and intelligence except when the White House claims the title of Commander in Chief for political purposes. There is no solid policy formulation out of the executive branch, just a lot of bellicose talk about nuclear this and nuclear that. And diplomacy that does not attach to basic long-term goals other than US hegemony is a hopeless mix of mindless bromides.
The generals who appear before congressional committees and on TV talk shows sport so many medals and ribbons one wonders what exploits occasioned such copious displays and whether the medals get pinned on each day or remain on jackets for special occasions. In any case no amount of froth on uniforms can hide the lack of substantive intel these folks dish up. In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, Hayden answered questions with a decided twitch on the left side of his face suggesting that the presidential tic along with his arrogance and smug self-satisfaction are catching.
In the background and on the campaign trail Republican candidates and indeed some Democrats try to maintain an ‘I’m-tough-on-terrorism-and-religious-as-all-get-out’ posture. It is disturbing to realize that some voters will be distracted into supporting the makers of such claims. Although not a candidate, Representative Mike Pence, R, of Indiana made it clear in a recent interview that he believes the US should frame its Middle East policy according to what is best for Israel, relying on the Bible and his Christian faith for his opinions. People like Pence don’t seem to accept that others in the world are equally dogmatic but hold totally different beliefs. When our political leaders begin to sound like the rest of the world’s zealots it is clear we’ve gone wildly off-track.
And apparently in Alabama there is a move afoot to make Bible literacy a standard school subject. How scary is that? It isn’t as if the folks in Alabama were trying to promote understanding of all the world’s religions, rather they seem to be confining themselves to narrow definitions of acceptable belief systems, thus assuring that segments of the US population will continue to live in ignorance of what other peoples believe and how they live. It should not go un-remarked that there was plenty of religion in schools when the Ku Klux Klan flourished in the south and elsewhere. Religion in and of itself cannot guarantee morality or just pursuits; at its worst it may often camouflage bad behavior with moralistic jingoism.
Meanwhile administration apologists try to justify everything done in our country’s name, until forced to acknowledge obvious problems. It was only as a result of the outrage expressed by Prime Minister Maliki over civilian deaths at the hands of Blackwater Security Forces that the behavior of this huge military contingent is being scrutinized today, although its actions have been well-documented for years notably in a book on the subject and in an article in The Nation magazine. But perhaps the larger, over-riding question is why there are so many contractors in Iraq needing so much private security – – what are they doing and why is the American taxpayer footing the bill?
In general things are going along pretty much as they were before I lost touch. There’s Michele Malkin ranting about the need for “ethnic profiling” inquiries because Hillary Clinton may be receiving donations from Chinese laborers. Malkin, it may be recalled, has always supported the interning of Japanese-American citizens during World War II. At least she’s consistent. And of course there’s the Clarence Thomas memoir rehashing his bitterness about what he has referred to as a “high-tech lynching” during the vote to approve his nomination to the Supreme Court. Our first “equal-opportunity” juror refuses to accept that he was clearly not the best-qualified candidate for the court but that a Republican president was determined to appoint him because he was, well, black – – still he uses a highly-charged racial image to make a point. And Mitt Romney is still confusing Osamba with Obama unintentionally of course.
Hypocrisy is the order of the day, obfuscation its accompanying distraction – – nothing much new there. For the rest of us paying attention and continuing to pressure leaders for answers is more important than ever, especially since the folks in control work so hard at keeping us complacent and uninformed.

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