Two days before Christmas, the Associated Press wrote of Halliburton’s generous gift of $250 million to Nigerian officials, to bribe their government into dropping the criminal bribery charges against former Halliburton CEO and former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. Former President George G. W. Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker reportedly also made personal visits to Nigeria on Cheney’s behalf. The charges were dropped. The military-industrial-congressional-media complex is alive and metastasizing, still infecting legal systems at home and abroad. (1) It’s a safe bet that Cheney would have been found guilty. It’s also a safe bet that G. W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and others high in our political and military chains of command would be found guilty of crimes against humanity by juries in every country we can’t bribe. As Australian citizen Julian Assange and his Wikileaks are showing, our leaders have routinely lied to us, covering up even acts of murder – like the now-infamous Apache Helicopter machine-gun murders of those two Reuters journalists and thirteen unarmed Afghanistan civilians. The million-plus Iraqis and Afghans we have killed or wounded, plus the half million children in Iraq who died as a result of Bill Clinton’s sanctions in the 1990s, make us the most violent and murderous terrorists on the planet. We continue to help our government pull the wool over our eyes, because what our leaders are doing in our name is too vulgar to own. Through willful ignorance and denial, we claim that we are innocent. But it isn’t that easy. As Chris Hedges writes, “Innocence, as defined by law, makes us complicit with the crimes of the state. To do nothing, to be judged by the state as innocent, is to be guilty. It is to sanction, through passivity and obedience, the array of crimes carried out by the state.” (2) We have become the dog that did not bark in the night, muzzling the better angels of our nature. As citizens, it is our responsibility to make noise when our government crosses moral or legal lines that bring disgrace to our nation or to our humanity. Can it really be, that our leaders still pretend “terrorists” hate us because of our freedoms, even as they work to deny freedom of speech to an Australian citizen – and then, logically, to a half dozen of the world’s leading newspapers which also published the leaked documents? Some of our leaders and lawmakers have called for hunting Julian Assange down, imprisoning, torturing and murdering him! Our President has claimed the right of the Executive branch to arrest, imprison or execute anyone they deem a danger to our leaders’ ability to lie to anyone they choose. We have become the most greedy and evil force on earth; we have become the Portrait of Dorian Gray. Our American Empire is dying, as all empires do. But it is going out with monstrous brutality, greed and deceit. The hyenas of predatory capitalism have found that for a price, nearly everything is for sale, even our consciences and our souls. We offer excuses. It isn’t our fault, but the fault of the evil Republicans, the gutless and unprincipled Democrats, and a President who campaigned as a Democrat but rules as a Plutocrat. It’s the fault of our amoral corporations and greedy bankers and our mainstream media who have become corporate toadies. Then there’s that fear which has paralyzed those with jobs, those without jobs, and all of us who seem to have no power over those who kill, maim, lie and bribe in our name. Now that rude Australian and his Wikileaks are daring to show the world that our empire has no decent clothes. We didn’t want that closet opened, but we are, we still insist, innocent. But what happens when the pointing fingers finally point at us? If history is a guide, we may not be judged kindly. After the end of Germany’s twelve-year empire, historians distinguished between three kinds of Germans. The Nazis were the most evil. The “Nazi sympathizers” who actively supported the Nazis came next. The rest, the vast majority of German citizens, were called the “Good Germans.” But it was an ironic kind of “good.” It meant they didn’t actively commit the crimes against humanity, or openly support those who did. But they knew what was happening, yet remained silent and impotent. We should consider the guilt by association carried by Germans after 1945 as a preview of what could become our own penalties from historians. The WWII Germans, their children, and their children’s children are still not over it. When Peter Schneider emigrated from Germany to the U.S., he noticed that Americans had a good image of Germans – “good” in the ironic sense: “Almost all the images and stories on television draw on those 12 years when Germans perpetrated a crime, the monstrous uniqueness of which only idiots question.” Most Germans he knew here were trying to act as un-German as possible, as “… the German struggling with his past, the German who feels guilt, the German who shuns patriotism and rejects a unified Germany. This holds true as well for many, if not the majority, of young Germans at home.” But all these dances of denial were to no avail: “Some German intellectuals are calling and searching for a new national identity. But I’m afraid we cannot look for any lost or new identity. We have one and Auschwitz is part of it.” (3) And will be a demon in the soul of your community and identity for as long as you live. Like it or not, our American Empire is lurching into the past tense with guns ablazing, lies abounding, the programmed theft of our resources and assets for pennies on the dollar. It’s all about profit after all, not people. As the looting becomes more sophisticated and complete, some of our presumed allies are defecting, and our trading partners are laughing off our self-serving economic dictates, since all the world knows we’re a paper tiger – or to put it in Texan, we’re all hat, no cowboy. As it happened to the German people, historians will identify most of us as the people who seldom raised a voice or a finger while our soldiers and our political leaders invaded other nations at will, kidnapping and imprisoning their leaders (Noriega) or turning them over to the hangmen (Saddam Hussein). If their country had resources (like oil) or strategic position we wanted (Iraq, Afghanistan and, presumably, Iran), we slaughtered their people indiscriminately – over 90% of the people we’re killing are civilians. The rest – the Iraqi and Afghani soldiers and citizens willing to die for their country — are doing what we hope some of our own citizens would do to resist the violent armed robbery of our national resources and utilities. The good news – and there is some — is that there are more courageous people like Bradley Manning and Julian Assange among us. We can look forward to more photos, videos and documents showing us the embarrassing facts we would rather avoid. It’s human nature to avoid revelations this painful, and to remain in denial about them. But it’s also within our human nature to confront and oppose tyranny in all its forms. This is an opportunity for some ordinary citizens to show the world they’re made of tougher stuff, and that they have within them a core, a soul, that will not be silenced, will not be bribed, and will not quit. ENDNOTES: 1. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/nigeria-drops-halliburton-bribery-charges-2167608.html 2. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/happy_as_a_hangman_20101206/ 3. Peter Schneider, “For Germans, Guilt Isn’t Enough,” published as an op-ed in the New York Times, Thursday, December 5, 1996. Article originally appeared at FireDogLake.
Davidson Loehr is author of the book America, Fascism, and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher