Il y a quelque chose de pourri au royaume du Danemark. We’re currently experiencing the final montagnes russes of Bush World and I feel a very strong urge to laugh wildly and vomit at the same time. The public comportment of George Bush, Dick Cheney and sundry other neo-con American figures has begun to scare me quite badly. Things are happening that we really need to notice.
Dick Cheney has twice admitted in recent days that he was instrumental in authorising the American military to use torture techniques such as the infamous water-boarding in their interrogations of suspects (note – I hesitate to know what word to use in front of suspects – terrorist, insurgent, criminal – this stuff makes a difference and is very ill-defined, I am no lawyer and this is no joke). Water-boarding is a disgusting euphemism as is the wholly false definition of ‘simulated drowning’. It isn’t simulated at all. It’s actual fucking drowning. They just stop before you die. The Vice-President of the United States of America has almost casually confessed the he has committed crimes, crimes state, crimes federal and crimes international. On television, he did this.
American reaction, such as it is, has been one of stunned bewilderment. Some are suggesting that it might even be a public challenge to George Bush that he should grant pardons for Cheney and other senior figures (notably Donald Rumsfeld, the ex-Secretary of Defense) before leaving office. This would be despite the fact that such a move may be much more than technically illegal since it is by no means certain that an administration can in fact pardon itself or its officers in such a way – say what you like about the American system of jurisprudence, it is written down for all to see and in some detail. Indeed, you could almost say that Cheney’s admission was an intentional engagement with or even mockery of the complexity and finesse of the US legal/political paradigm.It comes after several weeks of public appearances by Bush were he seemed to be trying some embarrassingly obvious attempts at re-defining his own legacy by telling us what a sweet and emotional guy he was (including this truly disgusting and bizarre story in the Washington Times boasting of his private meetings with the families of killed and injured American soldiers – he had been much criticised for the public absence of such gestures http://washingtontimes.com/news/2008/dec/22/bush-cheney-comforted-troops-privately/). Bush has been nice about Obama. He has been jocose and ludique, every inch the satisfied, jocular and much-beloved patriarch. It is a rejection of the reality of his circumstances that few would hesitate to call actually psychotic.
This has been response to extraordinary recent revelations about the corruption and incompetence of the distribution of funds in the recent US bailout plan, more details on Haliburton’s profiteering in Iraq and a sharply negative public reaction to the vice-presidential candidacy of the diagnosably cretinous Sarah Palin. Cheney is deeply involved in most of these scandals. His employment by and investment in Haliburton, the American company that so egregiously profited from the distribution of American money in Iraq caused him not a nanosecond’s blush. His sterling defence of the recent US bailout plan was myopic and simply untruthful. Even the American right now concede that billions upon billions were given in fees to the financial institutions which had cause the problem – which one senior figure in a governmental regulatory body brilliantly described as ‘flying the plane and repairing it at the same time’. Bush is not saying mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa but the rhetoric has shifted down a gear. He still thinks he’s right but he’s now asking that we believe him. He’s telling us that he cries a lot.
This is simply not Cheney’s style. Cheney is a wall-kicking resister, a kind of vicious iconoclast. He doesn’t care if people hate him. I suspect he likes it when people hate him. It offers him some kind of proof of a bizarre rectitude. It is hard to exaggerate the importance of what he said and hard to over-emphasise how typical of him it is. He’s the rough-riding ranch hand who jumps rules like fences and whoops it up in the local saloon come nightfall.
But none of it comes close really to the fact that he admitted authorising torture.
The question is – will Sheriff Obama go get his man? It is almost politically impossible for a new President to commence his administration by instituting criminal investigations against the previous incumbents (Ford’s pardoning of Nixon in 1973 was widely praised in later years for avoiding just such a situation). But can Obama ignore the flaunting disgrace of a Vice-President gloatingly admitting having committed war crimes? What kind of stain would that leave over his first year in office? If he is troubled by the difficulties of a government criminalising the activity of one of its previous incarnations it is an ambivalence comfortably resolved by the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, by Congressional or Senatorial investigations. Can he truly have an excuse? And does this start another Obama stopwatch to add to the one I mentioned yesterday? It may need to better-made and need to come with at least a five-year guarantee.
Pour être honnête, I wanted to scribble down my anger, fear and revulsion in something like two hundred pithy words. I simply can’t. I could scream for days about this. And there is so much of it. There is so much in the eight years of BushWorld to fear and hate and almost disbelieve. The mixture of ignorance, cynicism, criminality and piratical corruption was almost unimaginable in 1999.
But what has this got to do with you, with me, with France? Well, for a start, these have been the Dark Ages (so much worse in English than a retour au Moyen Age – for these years have been truly dark for us all). Every flagrant criminal and undemocratic act of American foreign policy under these clowns has shifted the sands upon which all developed democracies rest. They have provoked a Manichean response in the Islamic world where no egregious anti-American rhetoric can now seem as foolish or exaggerated as it might have done ten years ago. We have all suffered in culpability and to varying degrees in shame, the French, the British, the fucking Australians even.
And secondly (and perhaps more pertinently on a French news website), what happens if Dick Cheney decides to take a restful holiday after the 20th of January? What if Dick decides on a jolly weekend in Paris or a couple of weeks in a secluded farmhouse in Provence? Would he be arrested? Seriously, what happens then? I don’t know much about the details of French law but I know that someone who has publicly declared himself guilty of war crimes is rather more arrestable, detainable or prosecutable than any old burglar or mugger on a foreign trip. In 1998 Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator and Olympic-standard torturer, was detained in the United Kingdom on a Spanish provisional arrest warrant on the principle of universal jurisdiction. It was certainly an enormously big deal and one of the rare moments when I felt pretty proud to belong to that funny little united kingdom.
If he comes, what will we do? If anyone needs a document signed or witnessed, I’m available.
Dans moins d’un mois, Barack Obama prêtera serment. (Tiens-toi tranquille, ô mon cœur intrépide !). Nous courrons presque fatalement à la déception. Et nous autres, authentiques fidèles d’Obama, devrons peut-être réviser nos sentiments rose bonbon. (Je rangerai mes écharpes et mes cendriers Obama, et cesserai de porter mes caleçons à son effigie). S’y attendre, est une preuve de maturité. Mais j’ai confiance, à la fin de son mandat, nous ne nous poserons pas avec angoisse la question de savoir si nous
devrions le faire arrêter.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HANUKKAH, FOLKS.