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Monday, December 20, 2004

HONOR & IRONY 

By Jack Random


In a world gone mad, where fools are crowned king, we honor the dishonored and shower integrity with scorn.

We are living in an age when audacity, hypocrisy and obstinacy are elevated, through the miracle of media spin, to the highest honors while simple honesty, integrity and courage are qualities deserving only scorn and those who possess them must be brought down a rung on the ladder of prestige.

We have witnessed a dual assault on the characters of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and the chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.

Based on nothing more than conjecture, innuendo and connections so nebulous they invite comparison to Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, an American congressman calls for the head of Kofi Annan. When the congressman is joined by a chorus of neoconservative war criers and their media consorts, the motive comes into focus. At a time when it still mattered, the Secretary General spoke the words that virtually every member of the international community (including Tony Blair) knew and accepted but few dared speak: That the American invasion of Iraq was in violation of international law.

In the blood stained eyes of the White House and the neoconservatives who actually run the ship of state, that was an unforgivable crime. It had everything to do with blood for oil and absolutely nothing to do with oil for food. Like mafia thugs working an extortion sting, if they cannot get to you directly, they will get to your son. If they cannot build a substantial case, they will settle for dragging you through the mire.

They may yet have their way with world’s most prominent diplomat. They desperately need him to lend an air of legitimacy to the upcoming election in Iraq. If Annan withstands the latest round of pressure, he will secure his place in the annals of integrity.

By all accounts, the White House failed to uncover incriminating or even compromising evidence to encourage Inspector ElBaradei’s resignation. It is apparent that the inspector is as honorable as he appears. The question dutifully avoided by American media is: By what right and authority can the White House eavesdrop on the communications of a high-ranking United Nations official? If this is a measure of America’s regard for the United Nations, then perhaps the United Nations should seek a more gracious host.

The inspector’s real crime was being first in a long line of officials, diplomats and analysts to expose the blatant fallacies of Colin Powell’s Security Council charade. It does not matter that the facts have thoroughly vindicated the inspector. It does not matter that he was right and that it was his sworn duty to say so. He failed to play ball at the behest of the most powerful nation on earth and that is intolerable.

Against this backdrop, we were treated to a spectacle so absurd it threatened the mind with immediate arrest. Our president, in a display of unwavering mendacity, bestowed the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, on a conqueror, an emperor and a fall guy.

When General Tommy Franks (how many Tommy Boys can we stand?) took the podium at the Republican National Convention, he lowered the bar for military officers by becoming a blatant partisan. General Franks was the commander of a great army that disarmed its third rate opponent before it attacked. There is a story that his advance to Baghdad was so swift it foiled a CIA operation to loot the Iraqi treasury and plant convincing evidence of weapons of mass destruction (was that the “slam dunk” DCI George Tenet was counting on?) but that is of little consequence. General Franks stood up to a virtual consensus among military experts that the force was too small to secure and occupy Iraq. It does not matter that he was spectacularly wrong; he played ball with the White House and that is what garnered him the nation’s highest honor.

Paul Bremer, Washington’s man in Baghdad for thirteen memorably catastrophic months, played the part of the little emperor, replete with neocon suit and brown desert boots. He disbanded the Iraqi army, erected a sixteen-foot wall around the Green Zone, brought in Starbucks and McDonalds, and alienated every tribe, sect and party in Iraqi politics before taking the long ride home. What are the accomplishments of Emperor Bremer other than survival behind the concrete walls of America’s fortress in downtown Baghdad? Did he win the peace? Did he establish order? Did he capture the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people? Did he ease the tensions that threaten to rip the nation apart from within? No, if Paul Bremer had done nothing at all it would have been better than what he did; moreover, it could not have been worse. Nevertheless, the little emperor delivered the White House line with a straight face and for that he has cheapened the Medal of Freedom.

Former Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet: What more can be said that has not already been? In the buildup to war, those of us who observed with keen eyes were astounded at how frequently and forcefully the CIA spoke out against the administration’s Iraq policy. That is in fact why the agency was subsequently purged. It was George Tenet himself who debunked the Iraq-al Qaeda connection in defiance of neocon directives. It was Tenet who testified that an invasion of Iraq would only increase the likelihood of chemical weapons being employed against us. It was the CIA, under Tenet’s leadership, that cast doubt on the dubious claim of Iraqi nuclear weapons. George Tenet got it right but he yielded to White House pressures in the last hour, issuing the now infamous “slam dunk” statement and taking his appointed seat behind Colin Powell at the Security Council disgrace. The former DCI was honored for the act of selling out and, in so doing, betraying his country’s best interest for political expedience.

Is there no end to the credulity this nation is required to suffer under this administration?

We are asked to believe that our president is not the befuddled fool he so convincingly portrays. We are told that he is cagey like a fox. We are told that it was not so much Karl Rove but the Dubya, himself, who orchestrated the strategy for retaking the White House. He is not to be held accountable for the disaster in Iraq, for the decline of the dollar, for the mounting debt, for the exportation of the middle class, or for the massive fraud and disenfranchisement campaign in Ohio and elsewhere. No, he is only accountable for sticking to his guns, for arousing the righteous indignation of religious zealots, and for stubbornly clinging to policies that have consistently failed.

For that, and not for any greatness of character, policy, strategy or initiative, the president was accorded the “honor” of being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

Thus, we may conclude that audacity is without bounds and Orwell was far too modest in projecting his vision of a future world.

Jazz.

NOTE: FOR AN ARCHIVE OF JAZZMAN CHRONICLES SEE BUZZLE.COM.

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