by Richard Macintosh

June 7, 2004


"No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine." (1)

Hermann Broch, in his novel The Death of Vergil (sic), wrote about the cackling laughter of the street people and how this affected Vergil, who knew he was dying and had begun to question his life of service to his childhood friend, Octavian, who became Caesar Augustus. Beneath the gold and splendor of the Empire lay filth, death of the spirit and corruption:

"Your Caesar, I know about him!" Cackled a woman. "Filth is what they'll dole out . . . . filth is what Caesar is going to give us . . . . and filth is what your Caesar is, filth, that's what he is." (2)

Empires die from the inside out," as the old saying goes. Or perhaps another old copybook heading works: "A fish rots from the head first." Yes, perhaps, but empires rot when the people no longer believe in them. When a rotten head is perceived as a rotten head and laughed at: "Filth is what your Caesar is, filth, that's what he is!" the end is certain.

So, should we be surprised at the unfolding exposé of rot within our ruling class? I mean how many times can one expose lies and still have them believed by the people? There are those in Congress, such as Senator Inhofe (R. Oklahoma), who expressed outrage that some of the citizenry are outraged at the torture, perversion and murder exposed at Abu Ghraib Prison. (3) Perhaps the good senator is concerned that the common folk will follow the trail of lies, at last, and connect the dots. In this regard, the majority of Republican legislators say little, circle their wagons, and hope the scandal will blow by. Across the aisle, the spineless Democrats wait to see if it safe to criticize the Administration, and on what terms.

And what of our "Caesar," George Walker Bush. He can't think of making any mistakes at all, and in spite of the fact that the evidence used to justify an attack on Iraq was fabricated, and in spite of the continuing collapse of his policies, vows to stay the course. Now, there's a charlatan for you, or a fool. Take your choice.

Rot from the head first, indeed!

Bev Conover reminds us:

"George W. Bush, who as a child stuck firecrackers in frogs and watched them blow up and who as an adult gleefully mocked condemned killer Karla Faye Tucker for pleading for her life, doesn't grasp the horror of what he has done. He showed that Monday night when he stood before the cameras at the Army War College, which in itself was an act of utter disdain and hubris when that institution told him not to invade Iraq." (4)

But if the fish rots from the head first, the rest of the fish inevitably rots, too. Only a corrupt people and those dumbed-down by decades of easy money, consumerism and corporate propaganda could swallow the lies of the ruling class through its media outlets. One can rail at the obvious propaganda sources, such as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, but even The New York Times, the fabled "Gray Lady," is culpable. (5) Only people living in a fog of confusion could think of themselves as free and not blink as their rights are taken away. Whether the theft is done under the guise of a "war on terrorism," the "Patriot Act," or furtive back-door judicial appointments, doesn't really matter. Loss is loss, isn't it? Furthermore, many of the lumpen intelligencia -- those who sold out to the corporatists -- became angry at those of us who had the temerity to point out what was (and is) happening right under our noses. It seems easy for such fuzzy-minded people to believe the President's words about spreading democracy and freedom abroad, while our rights to the same are being trashed at home. Why is this? Because they desperately want to believe. There is an intellectual disconnect because these things could easily be seen by those who wanted to look.

But the same can be said about soldiers who are told that they are fighting for freedom, while they have little freedom themselves. The majority of them are young and heavily indoctrinated, yet they too have brains with which to think. They cannot be excused for following criminal orders any more than a soldier at any time in history, including -- especially including -- the Nazi Waffen SS. Wouldn't they have to remember that they are in the killing business: paid professional killers, people who kill and maim others under orders, destroy entire villages and engage in group punishment? (6)


Gratefully, there are still a few "mainline" journalists who had the courage to stand up at an important time. Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker magazine probably did more than anyone else to break the information control of the Bush clique. (7) Because of him, other writers and journalists found their courage. Now, if the Democrats could only do the same. Rather than waiting for them to do so, however, we need to do it ourselves.

Joe Bageant of the Online Journal said it well for us older folks:

". . . [T]here are still some of us old bastards around who have seen enough in our lifetimes to call things what they really are. And we are not about to end up as more liberal roadkill alongside this historical crossroad. We are ready to lend our bad backs and grumpy attitudes to the fight for the soul of this nation with which we are stuck. Like the country song says, 'My head hurts, my feet stink and I don't love Jesus.' So get out of my way and, Katy, bar the door! I for one am taking to the streets, joining every damned faggot, commie, tree hugging protest march that comes rattling down the pike. I don't care if these are the last days of the empire of the locust. I don't care if the entire jackal nation is at our very throats. Let whatever history remains record that some of us went down with a fight, and that perhaps a few of us indeed became 'sages with transfigured faces.'" (8)

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Notes and Resources

1.  Blum, William. Rogue State, Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine, 2001, p. 22. (Cited as the First Watergate Law of American Politics.)  (back)

2.  Broch, Hermann. The Death of Vergil (sic), Peter Smith Books, Gloucester, Mass, 1976, p. 113. The name, Vergil, sometimes appears as "Virgil." This was due to an error by monks in the fourteenth century who wanted to make a connection with the word, "virgin," in order to give Vergil an aura of piatas.  (back)

3.  Henry, Ed. CNN, May 12, 2004  (back)

4.  Conover, Bev. "Mad dogs and sick puppies," Online Journal, May 27, 2004.  (back)

5.  Krugman, Paul. "To Tell The Truth," The New York Times, May 28, 2004.  (back)

6.  Ferner, Mike. "Collective Penalties in Iraq," Counterpunch, May 29, 2004. On the night of December 16, 2003, a US Army unit surrounded a small town, Abu Siffa, arrested a "fugitive" they were looking for and took virtually every male away-including children. They then came back and destroyed the houses of the village so no one could live in them.  (back)

7.  Hersh, Seymour. "Torture at Abu Ghraib," The New Yorker, May 10, 2004; "Chain of Command," The New Yorker, May 17, 2004; "The Gray Zone," The New Yorker, May 24, 2004.  (back)

8.  Bageant, Joe. "Staring down the jackals," Online Journal, May 27, 2004. Note: The last line is from Vachel Lindsay's poem: Why I Voted The Socialist Ticket.  (back)



This is the sin against the Holy Ghost:
To speak of bloody power as right divine,
And call on God to guard each vile chief's house,
And for such chiefs turn men to wolves and swine:

To go forth killing in White Mercy's name,
Making the trenches stink with spattered brains,
Tearing the nerves and arteries apart,
Sowing with flesh the unreaped golden plains.

In any church's name, to sack fair towns,
And turn each home into a screaming sty,
To make the little children fugitive,
And have their mothers for a quick death cry,

This is the sin against the Holy Ghost:
This is the sin no purging can atone:
To send forth rapine in the name of Christ:
To set the face, and make the heart a stone.

—Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931)

America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Richard Macintosh on Swans (with bio).

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Published June 7, 2004
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