Selective Memory

It always bugs me when people in their desire to call someone a war criminal, to point out crimes against humanity, to pile on international statutes under which said person should be prosecuted, somehow fail to bring up the fact that said criminal is just another one in the long line of many who preceded him and probably will follow him in the future. I understand that this sad fact is not a justification for someone’s breaking laws and moral codes but at the same time what’s the point of plucking an evildoer from a lineup other than personal feeling of hatred.

For the record I don’t care what happens to George W. Bush, but my feeling is that there will not be any kind of investigation or charge against him, since there are other ex-presidents still alive who are just as guilty, and many of the “public servants” who signed off on the criminal policies and actions are still happily serving in the government. I am often disputed when I point out that America used torture, deceit, murder, bribes, blackmail and other means to achieve it’s geopolitical goals, and many times I hear “we are better than that”. I would argue that there isn’t a country in the world which inflicted more lasting damage both economical and humanitarian in the past 50 years than the United States. Many modern states are still struggling to overcome what a few CIA officers and a few million dollars did to them  in order to control their ideology or resources. These covert and overt actions happened under beloved presidents like Ike and JFK as well as under the hated ones like Nixon and G.W.Bush.

I am not a historian but I can copy,paste and link with the best of them, so I will write a post or two about history that somehow touched my life and maybe point out a few facts that your selective memory may have left behind.

Chile

Freedom to ChileI bet everyone who grew up in the USSR during the 1970’s knows about comrade Luis Corvalán – “the heroic leader” of the Chilean communist party (who lived in exile in Moscow) and Victor Jara – a brave patriot and a famous singer who was murdered by the bloody Pinochet’s Junta backed by the no-less-bloody military-industrial complex in the USA. I wrote before about the Soviet propaganda and how most people tuned it out, but in this case many years later I found out the the Soviets weren’t far from the truth – the United States financed and executed an operation to depose a democratically elected president Salvador Allende and created favorable conditions for the military coup. The ironic fact was that Chile was an established democracy since 1932 and the CIA had a lot of trouble influencing Chilean democratic politicians and military. After the coup the US kept members of junta on the payroll and continued to support the junta until the end.
“There is no doubt”, the agency (CIA) confessed in a statement to Congress after the cold war ended, “that some CIA contacts were actively engaged in committing and covering up serious human rights abuses.” Chief among them was Colonel Manuel Contreras, the head of the Chilean intelligence service under Pinochet. He became a paid CIA agent and met with senior CIA officials in Virginia two years after the coup, at a time when the agency reported that he was personally responsible for thousands of cases of murder and torture in Chile. Contreras distinguished himself with the singular act of terror: the 1976 assassination of Orlando Letelier , who had been Allende’s ambassador to the United States, and an American aide Ronni Moffitt. They were killed by a car bomb fourteen blocks from the white house. Contreras then blackmailed the United States by threatening to tell the world about his relationship with the CIA, and blocked his extradition and trial for the murder*.
United States’ actions in Chile were personally ordered and controlled by president Nixon and previously (in 1962) by president Kennedy. They resulted in 3,197  deaths or disappearances between September 1973 and March 1990 at the hands of state agents. Of these, 1,102 were classified as “disappearances” and 2,095 as deaths.   The American position was summarized by Henry Kissinger:

“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”

Incidentally there was some talk about charging Kissinger with crimes against the people of Chile but it looks like he will probably peacefully die here and will be given a state funeral when his time comes.

Once in a while my childhood memories about Chile come back: unbelievably, a sister-in-law of my childhood friend is now a top model and actress in Chile (I remember her when she was my daughter’s age); in a movie I recently watched “Blame it on Fidel” the parents of the main character become communists and active supporters of Allende in 1970’s France. My favorite quote from the movie is when the child who hears her parents talk about “group solidarity” and “sheep behavior” asks what’s the difference between the two. I still can’t answer that.

The movie also reminded me of the song El pueblo unido jamás será vencido which I often heard when I was a kid, I think it was even translated in Russian. It became an anthem of resistance in Chile and around the world.

*quoted from: “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA”

  • Doc

    Yes, M.V., without sufficient checks, man inherently behaves poorly.

    Yes, the Gulf of Tonkin was as big a lie as Bush’s continuing lies about WMD and other made up fairy tales in Iraq. But we can’t impeach or charge Kennedy – or Johnson and Nixon, for that matter – can we?

    The fact that Carter pardoned Nixon is, in my view, impeachable; however, the damned Constitution says otherwise. I’m sure if we looked hard enough the chances are that Carter signed off on something slightly more morally repellent than getting a woody when viewing naked women, but I’ll let you search for it…

    Yes, indeed, Reagan deserved to be and should have been impeached.

    Much more of his Cabinet should have also ended up in jail, and that’s saying something since at least half of them ended up doing time. No doubt about it, Reagan should have stood in a docket and faced the music. However, by the start of his second term he was already suffering the effects of early onset Alzheimer’s and no one had the political courage to punish him. If also didn’t hurt that he was perceived as “defeating” the USSR, a notion so risible as to be painful.

    “Poppy” Bush should have also done time, if for no other reason than being a poor “handler” of Manuel Noriega while he served in the CIA It was those inactions, misjudgments and mistakes that truly led to the Panama “war”, not Noriega’s ridiculous contentions that “a state of war” existed between his country and ours.

    (Which, given the Bush’s inbred OCD with ‘drugs, was and still is true, by the by.)

    And, when Clinton swept into office he was advised to take Poppy and his staff, many of whom were the same jackasses who escaped Reagan’s Iran-Contra mess.
    However, Clinton decided to expend his political capital on health care…

    Sheesh – don’t make me relive that…

    Clinton was impeached, if you recall, but not for sitting on his thumbs until several hundred thousand people died on his watch, but for a frickin’ blow job ( and if you wonder when politics slid so far downhill as to become a roving carnival that plays a week at Truman Corners shopping center, look no farther.)

    So, you are left with Bush and Cheney.

    Their crimes are many and obvious.

    It doesn’t matter a whit what people we can’t bring to justice did way back when; what matters is to make examples of the egregious offenders we have at hand. Immediately, and with the full force of the law.

    Why? So WE DON’T DO THIS SHIT AGAIN.

    Do we expect that if we charge and try B & C that all future President’s will behave angelically? Fuck, no. But we would expect that they follow our laws, knowing full well that they too could end up in a supermax: you have to start with someone.

    And, frankly, if one doesn’t try to seek justice, one is part of the problem.

    Apologists even more so.

  • I think you should start by putting the real story in the history books. This way no one on TV would be gushing about “camelot” – they could teach Bush a lesson or two on being crooks. until the record is straight there is no expectation that it won’t be repeated.

  • Doc

    lol

    you are one mulish dood, m.v.

    tell you what; since you’re a much older country (USSR/Russia), you start first. that way you’ll have at least one leg to stand on, argumentatively speaking.

    once you’ve redressed those lies and gotten to the 19th century, call me (i’ll open a facebook account and coninually update my phone number…for the next 40 years) and we’ll get started on our text books…

    p.s. – as an aside, if you take any show on television without a cowlick of salt, you’ve learned absolutely nothing living in this country…

    ; ‘ )

  • first of all, I live here and pay your salary, so I don’t care about russian textbooks. secondly I didn’t see a giant rush to turn in russian ex-leaders to international tribunals. yeltsin got a state funeral, gorby is still alive and well, even old soviet apparatchiks who handled afghanistan are still around. the most they ever did was kicking stalin’s corpse out of lenin’s tomb. you can see photos of people laying flowers at the tomb yesterday and lenin was a known butcher. also i don’t hear crap like “we are russians, we are better than that”, because they know they are not. lastly, i specifically talked about the last 50 years avoiding subjects of what you’ve done to indians,blacks and japanese.

  • AF

    “I would argue that there isn’t a country in the world which inflicted more lasting damage both economical and humanitarian in the past 50 years than the United States.”

    If you hate it so much…..????

    Seriously Misha.

    You don’t even vote.. and…you appear to be thriving here.. amongst all of us evildoers.

    The way you wrote this post was a little beneath you.

    • So, m.v., let me see if I can sum up your world view:

      Don’t vote, because it doesn’t matter, nothing changes.

      Don’t protest or make your voice heard, because it doesn’t matter, nothing changes.

      Don’t prosecute criminal behavior, because it doesn’t matter, nothing changes.

      Can you possibly be any more pessimistic and defeatist?

      Tell me, do you bother trying to teach your daughter right from wrong, or educate her, or give her the tools she will need to live a prooductive life? I can’t see why you would. After all, it doesn’t matter, nothing changes.

  • Wow Meesha, this entry contains quite a bit more rancor than your usual postings. I think that’s part of the reason why previous commentators have come after you so harshly….

    With that said, the U.S. has done some pretty foul stuff on a global scale, but then what country hasn’t? That’s not excusing it, but in reality if we started imprisoning people for that sort of thing, then the leaders of every country with a foreign policy would be locked up right now.

    And while I think it’s plausible that someone tries to bring Bush, Cheney et al up on war crimes, it’s a really, really bad idea.

    First of all, if it was the Democrats who did it, it would be vengeful and malicious partisan politics, even worse than the fiasco that was the Clinton impeachment (a shameful day for this country as it exposed the petty vindictiveness of the GOP).

    Secondly, it would be setting a dangerous precedent that would have lasting implications on the decisions of future presidents, effectively hamstringing their ability to run the country.

    In my opinion, Bush’s punishment will be the disastrous legacy he’s left. His bumbling and ineffective leadership style, his judgment errors in Iraq and abroad, his blatant disregard for the Constitution, and his repeated inability to cover any unsavory deeds committed on his watch (abu Ghraib, renditions, etc) are going to be the lasting impressions of the last 8 years.

    He’s rightfully mocked at every turn, except by those 20% brain-washed wing nuts who applaud his presidency, and that, more than anything else, should be punishment enough…

  • Actually it was Ford who pardoned Nixon, not Carter, and as big a fan as I am of “… Will Not Be Televised”, I do take exception to the phrase “damned Constitution”.

    Thank you, Meesha, for an educational blog post that will confound certain readers, the ones who come here looking for a Yakov Smirnoff-like validation of U. S. Cold War policy. Nobody in my generation learned of this in high school. A lot of people I know confuse Pinochet with Pinot Noir and turn a blind eye towards any and all malfeasance (atrocities) financed by American taxpayers.

  • Brian, I couldn’t have said it better, that’s why you are getting paid for writing and I am not. that was exactlty my point, you can’t selectively distribute justice without looking stupid.
    XO, as a matter of fact the only tools I can give my daughter are knowlege, an ability to see through bullshit and emotions and an ability to make independent decisions. outside of the big ones like don’t kill, right and wrong are relative and your right maybe my wrong, which in many cases it is. this doesn’t prevent us from drinking beer together, but does prevent us from voting the same way.
    AF, by no means I hate it here but I don’t think American people are superior or inferior to other people. every country has some skeletons in the recent history and if someone is talking about judging one person for his crimes he will be immediately faced with the fact that others are also implicated. as I pointed out, even Kissinger who is on record ordering action in Chile will probably die before getting his court date. one of the reasons as I see it is that his chronies are still alive and some are still in the government. if you purge anyone related to any crime from the government you won’t have anyone left,including obama who admittedly smoked pot which is still illegal around here.

  • I travel for JOOLS

    Nearly every one of my regular blog reads this week has been contentious. Must be something in the air.

    Obama will not allow Bush to be tried for war crimes and he is right. Bush doesn’t deserve it and there could be no good result for anyone.

    There were over 100 prisoner of war camps during the civil war. Atrocities were everywhere on both sides despite the leadership of men who to this day are revered, Grant, Lee and even Lincoln himself. Out of this nightmare only one person was tried for war crimes and executed, the head of the infamous Andersonville prison camp. There were equally horrible camps and atrocities on the other side such as at Elvira but politics and propaganda post-war were such that only the head of Andersonville was tried .

    War is always hell. Politics are always ugly and what’s legal and just under such circumstances is almost always subjective.

    Here’s some interesting reading for those interested in a little civil war prison history.

    http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v02/v02p137_Weber.html

  • Burrowowl

    I would argue that there isn’t a country in the world which inflicted more lasting damage both economical and humanitarian in the past 50 years than the United States.

    We’re #1! We’re #1! We’re #1!

    America! Fuck yeah!

    Individuals and groups, left unchecked, will eventually do just about anything they’re permitted to. I strongly suspect that having some legislators with some nuts would go a long way towards knocking the current and future presidents down a peg. Sadly, that isn’ the case. We don’t have a lot of profiles in courage in the halls of congress, and the party machinery encourages compliance as the primary virtue.

    It isn’t for Obama to roll back the bad decisions of past administrations and set a good example for those to follow, but rather for Pelosi and Reid (neither of whom are inclined to). People shouldn’t be afraid of the prospect of a presidential impeachment; it should as ordinary as the prospect of a presidential veto.

  • Doc

    wow; i missed a lot today by golfing!

    ; ‘ )

    @m.v. –
    by your argument (such as it is), no one at the federl leadership level should ever be impeached for anything. surely you seen the despair and never-ending downward spiral in that tortured logic? Bush and Cheney commited crims under US law; they should be charged with those crimes and have to defend themselves in a court of law. It’s that simple – NO man in this country should be above the law and now is a perfect time to poove that to the world.

    @ Leigh Ann –

    My apologies; both for the factual error and the misuse of a perfectly good swear. I was somewhat in a high dander when I wrote my original response this morning, hardly taking time to fact-check, much less proof.

    @Brian and I Travel for JOOLS –

    While prosecuting Bush/Cheney for war crimes is certainly feasible, I want to start with the crimes against the United States that mislead to the illegal Iraqi invasion and current occupation. That is certainly within the power of both COngress and/or the Justice Department.

    @Burrowowl –

    agreed: impeachment should an ordinary procedure. As should criminal prosecution where warranted.

  • Doc, I actually have no problem with impeachment, but youр chance of impeaching bush expired on Monday, so now we are back to war crimes. my point in typing all this was to show that 1. if you know that several people committed a crime you can’t just punish the ones you don’t like and let the other ones slide. 2. if you decide to go ahead with investigation you have to go all the way even if it leads to a current official or a sitting senator, i.e. anyone on senate intelligence committee, etc; or a former president. otherwise your purpose is just revenge and not an application of the law so you either have to call it what it is or let it go.

  • Doc

    Hell, son, why didn’t you just say so; I’m prepared- as they say – to go all the way, to prosecute every swinging Dick involved in the conspiracy to defraud Congress and the American public in the lead-up to the Iraqi invasion.

    Those crimes are stillprosecutable, as well as any/all other violations of USC regs and laws he and/or Cheney ordered on American soil during the prosecution of said illegal invasion.

    Pres. Obama has said he will turn the decision of whether or not to investigate BUsh/Cheney over to the Justice Department.

    Can’t tell you how many e-mails I’ve sent DoJ uring them to open an investigation. As well as how many more I intend to send.

    Add you voice; make a difference, you sour puss….

  • Aw, that’s okay Doc. I’ll bet I’m the only one here old enough to remember the day!

    🙂

    Plus, I agree with just about everything you said

  • Doc

    @Leigh Ann –

    “I’ll bet I’m the only one here old enough to remember the day!”

    hahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    I wish!

    I was in Greeece; it was just a few months after democracy had coem to the country.

    Course….that didn’t have effect whatsoever on its beaches and the old folk that would make ouzo in black cauldrons outside their houses…

    ; ‘ )

    And I’m pretty sure that if he wasn’t totally wrecked that day, X.O. would also remember where he was.

  • Doc – I was in Excelsior Springs and I was stoned. Is that redundant?

  • Midtown Miscreant

    I couldnt agree with you more. The comments especially the ones with the Love it or Leave it tone are a good example of selective recall. Bush and Cheney are but gnats compared to some of the atrocities committed by former presidents. How many innocents did Truman take out? 220,000 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he was praised for Japan surrendering. We are at the top of the dog pile, we got there by stepping on toes and crushing anyone who oppossed us. Not saying it’s right, it just is the way it is. We can’t and won’t ever prosecute our leaders for war crimes, if we were going to, we would have done it a long time ago. Not voting or calling bullshit on peoples cries for prosecuting Bush and Cheney has nothing to do with how much MV does or does not love this country, and it’s no reflection on his parenting. I’m not surprised people took cheap shots at him, sometimes thats the only answer for a solid argument and stating the facts. Good post MV.

  • I just followed the link, “doc” and your blog is absolutely the worst thing I have ever read.

    That’s 3 minutes I’ll never get back.

  • Doc

    @Doc’s Blog if HORRIBLE –

    Thanks!

    We had been laying awake nights worried precisely about your unique perceptions.

    Now we”ll be able to get some sleep.

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