March 21, 2016
Not so very long ago, Dick Cheney announced with his bare face hanging out that the vice president’s office was not part of the executive branch of the federal government. He coughed up this preposterous hairball because he didn’t want to give his official papers to the National Archive, as is required by several federal laws.
On that blissfully innocent June day in 2007, I believed that we as a nation had summited the Mount Everest of assholery, planted Cheney’s flag in a gritty crust of snow and watched as that bloody banner fluttered in the air-starved breeze.
This was the nadir, the final insult, the single silliest bark I’ve heard from a high public official since “If the president does it, it’s not illegal” and “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” It had to be, right? The vice president, who sits one missed heartbeat away from the big round room, isn’t part of the executive branch? Also, clouds aren’t part of the sky, water isn’t wet and bears don’t poop in the piney woods.
Such was my age of innocence. I believed with my whole heart that the arc of ridiculous had kissed the very ceiling of the sky. I was comprehensively wrong.
You may want to sit down for this one. Here be some foolishness of such raw and ponderous weight that it might cave in the solar system entirely. Ready? Here goes: There are currently two militias duking it out in Syria, in the shaved and shattered death zone between Aleppo, Marea and the Turkish border, and the US government is funding them both simultaneously.
The Knights of Righteousness (yeah, seriously, that’s their name) recently got their asses kicked up between their shoulder blades by the Syrian Democratic Forces, who at least have the decency to try not to sound like a band of Marvel Comics superheroes. Nothing new here on the surface; Syria is an abattoir the world will be dealing with for several generations to come.
No, here’s the fun part: The Knights of Righteousness (yeah, that really is what they call themselves) have been armed and funded by — wait for it — the Central Intelligence Agency. Their opponents, the Syrian Democratic Forces, have been armed and funded by the Pentagon. Ergo, based upon the most recent battle in Marea, the Defense Department went to war with the CIA half a world away.
Once upon a time, during the “good old days” of the Cold War, we fought proxy wars against the Soviet Union and their allies. Now, we fight proxy wars between various departments of our own federal government, using your tax dollars to buy the bullets and the bombs. Thunder has more sense. Newborn kittens are more clever. Stones at least have the wisdom to sit still.
This? This reeks of the most prolonged and expensive blunder in the modern history of the North American continent, and that’s one hell of a statement. Even after 25 years of war in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, we weren’t giving weapons to our people so they could shoot our people. After another 25 years of war in Iraq, that’s exactly where we are. The “news” media enjoys soft-shoeing this elaborate disaster as some kind of organic phenomenon, another chapter in the ongoing ersatz biopic of Us. vs. Them. The truth? They did this for money, and most of the bodies biting the dirt over there fall at the hands of American weapons we abandoned or sold outright because a small group of people you’ll never meet were handsomely paid for the privilege.
In the face of all this, of the lethal blowback that includes bombings in Brussels and Pakistan and again in Iraq, where is the rudder of our national discourse steering us? The New York Times tells the gruesome tale: “Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas traded insults on Easter Sunday morning over recent smears against their wives, while Mr. Trump ruled out creating internment camps for American Muslims and said he would study a proposal to allow delegates to bring guns to the Republican National Convention.”
Ow. My brain.
It was once wisely said that some people create their own storms and then get upset when it rains. That adequately describes US foreign policy and politics today, but for the plain fact that they are pleased and not at all dismayed by this current and ongoing turn of events. The rain, in this case, is cash by the bushel followed by fearful fodder fobbed off to frighten enough people so these “leaders” can inject themselves into elected office with the cold compliance of the media. It is a frictionless machine lubricated with innocent blood.
The CIA and the “Defense” Department are shooting at each other in Syria. Maybe they’ll wipe each other out, and the Pentagon along with the CIA’s George H.W. Bush headquarters can be transformed into affordable housing for all the people who have been subjected to the cruelty of this nation’s seemingly bottomless talent for self-destructive folly. That would be fitting indeed.
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William Rivers Pitt is Truthout’s senior editor and lead columnist. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know, The Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America’s Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.