Monday, December 22, 2008

The Greatest Plunder Ever: a Story

They had planned and tried and failed, and planned and tried and failed, and lain in the weeds and planned and planned some more. Finally, the stars aligned, and by the slimmest of possible margins—one Supreme Court vote—they got in. Everybody assumed that after such a close election their feckless and indifferent Presidential candidate would become the compromiser he had promised to be. But their man in the White House, Dick Cheney, along with his brilliant staff of socioopaths, noting the liberal disarray after the corrupt Supreme Court decision, guided George W. Bush to take an uncompromising, highly ideological position that favored the massive looting that they had been waiting and hoping for.
Part of the looting plan had always been to foster a major war, which created unrivaled looting opportunities for many of them, the aerospace people, the defense contractors, the commodities manufacturers, the consultants and the like. The obvious target was Sadaam Hussein’s Iraq. Not everyone agreed, however, since the confinement tactics pursued by NATO seemed to be working. For months the decision hung in the balance. It was the crafty Cheney who found a solution. While Bush, bored with government and interested in physical conditioning, ignored his security staff and met with his foreign policy advisor only because he admired her good looks, Cheney pored over the intelligence reports. He, along with his pal the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, noticed increasing references to terrorists stealing airplanes and attacking US targets with them. But by isolating the experienced and savvy Secretary of State, Colin Powell, keeping the inexperienced and ineffectual National Security advisor Condeleeza Rice confused, ordering the silly Attorney General John Ashforth to keep the FBI out of it, and intimidating the hold-over CIA director George Tenet, they kept the intelligence buried. Then, sure enough, on September 11, 2001 their efforts paid off, and from that date forward the whole nation was primed for war.
It has been estimated that the war in Iraq will end up costing $4 trillion, and apart from expenditures on the salaries of the troops, virtually all of this money has gone to them or their cronies on a cost-plus basis. But that isn’t all! I have been describing the war first, because nothing else lends itself to such massive looting. But the group’s efforts on the domestic front have been both heroic and highly lucrative as well. They have received gifts of the nation’s natural resources, including national forest timber, grazing lands, mining rights, offshore drilling rights, and even reductions in the miniscule royalties that oil companies have to pay for those rights. They have enjoyed enormous tax reductions, reduced or terminated scrutiny of their tax returns, foreign shelters, and accounting tricks, forgivenesses of past fiscal crimes, and virtual complete freedom from regulation in every area, whether health and safety, food, mining, the financial markets, or labor relations. Then there are the actions in violation of the Constitution, and the tawdry efforts to justify them. The catalogue is so long that it becomes tedious to recite.
The result has been to bring the US to the edge of moral and financial bankruptcy. Never in history has any nation so quickly lost its honor among other nations and peoples. Never in history, short of being conquered in war, has a nation lost so much wealth. Can we recover? Will this evil gang of sociopaths be punished in any way?
These are, to some degree, mutually exclusive possibilities. The new President appears capable of using this crisis as an opportunity to do many essential things that would otherwise have proven difficult to do. Such actions promise to make a substantial fiscal recovery possible; more importantly, to restore the health of the society, which in the course of this evil empire has been severely challenged. But if the new administation becomes diverted by pursuing and bringing to justice this evil gang, the redemptive and transformative possibiities of this Presidency will have been wasted. To be sure, if criminal cases can be made, they should be. If the pursuit of these villains costs them their ill-gotten gains and their peace of mind, so much the better. But this matter cannot be a priority, at a time when crisis and opportunity in equal measure require our full attention and effort.

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