If You Fall Back, The Dicks Won't Catch You

« May 2005 »

Memo to Government-Trusters: YOU ARE DUMB.

I don't understand people who trust the government. And I don't mean in a Unabomber, woodsy compound, gun-hoarding kind of way. Just the people in it. I like government conceptually. I think government is important, because there's a lot of stuff that needs doing that won't get done if it's left up to the free market. But the people who run it? Come on.

Discarding ideology and party affiliation (I only sorta trusted Paul Wellstone, and only when I didn't think about DOMA too hard), and setting aside for the moment the issues of corruption and self-serving fuckery, the very nature and complexity of government, combined with humanity's innate tendency to cover its own ass, makes for a severe grain of salt shortage.

For example. I don't trust Dick Cheney. Even if he weren't an evil little troll of a man, I wouldn't trust him when he said, of Amnesty International accusing the US of human rights abuses: "Frankly, I was offended by it.". You know why? Because by the time you've been in the system, and played the game long enough to become vice fucking president, I don't care if you're Al Gore, Spiro Agnew, or Elbridge Gerry. It is physically, mentally, and emotionally impossible for you to be offended that easily.

This whole Gitmo/Ghraib/torture/abuse/etcetera bullshit requires people to trust their government to a degree not even remotely borne out by history, frankly. It starts right at the beginning.

Do you trust that all the "enemy combatants" detained by the US government are in fact enemy combatants who'd taken up arms against our country? Did you have that trust before or after they released dozens of them after years in prison because they didn't do anything? You have to trust them, because the system they've set up has virtually nothing in the way of transparency. They will not tell you what they are doing. They will not let you watch. They will not utilize the systems put in place to reassure us, falsely or otherwise, that at least a modicum of justice is present. Do you trust that they're doing this for good and just reasons? Do you trust that they can successfully police themselves?

General Richard Myers, another Dick, defended Gitmo against the Amnesty International meanies thusly: "The ICRC has been at Guantanamo since Day One." This is an excellent defense. The International Committee of the Red Cross monitors prisoner treatment, and isn't affiliated with government. All this defense needs to be absolutely perfect, in fact, is forgetting that we've been caught, and admitted to HIDING DOZENS OF DETAINEES FROM THE RED CROSS. Still trust the government? Hm.

This is the government that felt it had a need to examine the legal definition of "torture" and the extent to which the Geneva Convention actually applied to the people it was grabbing. But it's OK, 'cause they said they'd follow the rules whether they applied or not. Makes you wonder why they cared whether the rules applied if they were going to follow them anyway, unless, of course, you trust the government.

Another bit of odd behavior from people who are trustworthy - using shitty arguments to settle a point on the "sounds good" level rather than the "is actually right" level. Back to Cheney. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME:

For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously. Just in this administration, we've liberated 50 million people from the Taliban in Afghanistan and from Saddam Hussein in Iraq, two terribly repressive regimes that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of their own people." - See, the thing is, Cheney would like you to believe that these two things are somehow mutually exclusive. And it sounds good. But what it boils down to is "We overthrow brutal dictators, therefore we cannot possibly have violated anybody's human rights."

Cheney smartly limited America's great tyranny-fighting history to the 20th century, but our strong anti-dictator stance (which also assumes we've succesfully kicked the Taliban out of Afghanistan, but anyway.) didn't keep us from violating the rights of thousands of Japanese-Americans in World War II. Now, we all (well, except Michelle Malkin) look back and see that as a bad thing, but at the time, it was OK, because, well, people trusted the government.

It's especially stupid, considering that our whole system was set up by the Founding Fathers, who strike me as a bunch of cynical guys who didn't trust the government. That's why we have the abundance of checks and balances. Oversight. Transparency. The more people you have looking at a situation, the greater the odds one of them might have a fucking shred of principle left. It's not perfect, but anyone actively trying to circumvent that system really shouldn't be trusted, no matter how many times they ask you to.