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December 15, 2007

Murder On The Occident Express

Wondering who killed democracy in the United States? Wonder why no one is ever held accountable? Perhaps you should read Murder on the Orient Express, the famous mystery by Agatha Christie.

In it, the detective Hercule Poirot is taking a train from Istanbul. There are only fourteen other regular passengers. On the second night, one of them is murdered.

The evidence is perplexing: the victim has twelve stab wounds. But some seem to have come from a right-handed person, and some from someone left-handed. Some seem to have been delivered by someone very strong, and others by someone weak. Other clues each point to different suspects.

Hercule Poirot then gathers all the passengers together, along with an owner of the railroad line. He produces two theories:

#1 The victim was murdered by a stranger who somehow boarded the train and then escaped unnoticed.

#2 The victim was murdered by everyone. All the suspects stabbed him, and none knew who struck the killing blow.

Poirot says he'll let the owner decide which theory is most likely. There is a pause. The owner, because the victim was dislikable, says it must have been the stranger. And that's what he'll tell the police.

So: who cooked the intelligence on Iraq? Was it the Bush administration? Or Republicans? Or Democrats? Or Bill Clinton? Some of them were more guilty than others, but THEY ALL DID IT. And thus they were all happy to blame it on a stranger called "intelligence failure."

Likewise, who authorized torture? As we've learned recently about the briefings given to high-level congressional Democrats on waterboarding, THEY ALL DID.

Who let the catastrophic housing bubble inflate? THEY ALL DID.

Who gave away hundreds of billions to the richest people in America? THEY ALL DID.

In each case, the Democrats and Republicans are the suspects. There are a few honest voices, most very far from power, who act as Poirot. Here's Scott Ritter, speaking about Iraq in 2005:

You know, there's a lot of talk today in the Democratically controlled judiciary committee about going after the Bush Administration for crimes, for lying to Congress, and etc. And I'm all in favor of that, bring on the indictments, but don't stop at the Bush Administration. If you want to have a truly bipartisan indictment, you indict Madeleine Albright, you indict Sandy Berger, you indict every person on the Clinton Administration that committed the exact same crime that the Bush Administration has committed today.

And then there's the owner of the train: theoretically, at least, that's us. All the Poirots can do is tell us where the evidence leads. We can then decide to blame it all on the stranger, because it's easier. Certainly the suspects would prefer that. We can also try to blame a few of the passengers, in which case they'll start pulling out all the evidence pointing at the others.

But if we want to prevent more murders in the future, we'll blame them all. The one thing we won't do is wait around expecting some of the suspects to conduct an honest investigation. For obvious reasons, that will never happen.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at December 15, 2007 04:47 PM

Didn't Bil Kean do a "Family Circus" cartoon about this?

Posted by: darrelplant at December 15, 2007 05:22 PM

I've noted that you hold up Ritter as an exemplar.

Maybe I've misunderstrood him in toto, but I seem to recall his face on the telly back in the early and mid 90s fanning the flames of Saddam baiting, and providing cover for the sanctions.

Maybe I'm remembering it all wrong, but I'm thinking his rehabilitation came much later after some sort of falling out with UNMOVIC.

Anyone misremember similarly?

Posted by: Ted at December 15, 2007 05:44 PM

Yeah, let's have an election, and say - all together now: my fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Till the next one.

Posted by: abb1 at December 15, 2007 05:54 PM

Let's not forget about FISA. Funny that the Dems lead by Pelosi and Reid are pushing for retroactive immunity for the telcos.

Could be that they're just weak and spineless I guess.

Or it could be that they've been in on (and agreed to) the illegal wiretapping of virtually every American citizen.

Posted by: Dick's Cheney at December 15, 2007 06:56 PM

SOONER or laer WE ALL will agree we've been sold out. The question is how to get sold back in. IT STARTS WITH IMPEACHMENT. (1-202-225-0100)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 15, 2007 07:06 PM

"theoretically, at least, that's us..."

There's the rub. Was itever "us" in reality? If not, we have no precedent of what to aim for, do we? It always was an illusion. If it ever was us, how did we allow ourselves to be dipossessed?

Until we provide some fragments of answers, we dream on, blog on, vent on.

Posted by: donescobar at December 15, 2007 07:46 PM

We continue to let The Decider, Decide:

Bush, Dec 14, 2007 (report to Congress): I have directed the participation of U.S. Armed Forces in all of these operations pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.

Bush (Dec 14, 2007) told the Congress members he will deploy additional troops as required. “I will direct additional measures as necessary in the exercise of the U.S. right to self-defense and to protect U.S. citizens and interests,” he said.

The President has no "constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations"--his only constitutional roles are as chief executive and commander of the military. The Congress is responsible for "the common Defence".

US Constitution
Section 8 - Powers of Congress
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States . . .

Posted by: Don Bacon at December 15, 2007 08:39 PM

"Whose country is it anyway?"
is similar in structure to
"whose company is it anyway?"

elected representatives~~board of directors

Good governance is each case would seem to require information to be available to, and assimilated and acted on, by the "owners", responsiveness by the "representatives", and accountability of the "deciderers."

"We the people" are [metaphorically speaking] travelers in unfamiliar territory, trying to get to somewhere we think is out there, the long-dreamed-of Liberty-and-Justice-for-All-ville.

Bert & I is the name given to numerous collections of humor stories set in the "Down East" culture of traditional Maine. These stories were made famous and mostly written by the humorist storytelling team of Marshall Dodge (1935-1982) and Bob Bryan in the 1950s and 1960s, and in later years through retellings by Allen Wicken.

While many of the more prominent stories center around the title characters (Bert, and the narrator), others are stories of fabricated characters which communicate a quirkiness of rural New England and Maine culture. The stories are told in the traditional folksy New England storytelling vein, with a dry wit, of the sort generally considered as "humor," though not comedy in the common sense, akin to that of the (later) Lake Wobegon stories.

A number of well-worn sayings and rehashed jokes have their roots in Bert & I stories. One common phrase, sometimes said in a New England accent, "You can't get there from here" (or, with accent, approaching "You cahn't get theyah from heeah") was the punchline to the story Which Way to Millinocket?,/i>

[Wikipedia] Posted by: at December 15, 2007 09:51 PM

Mike, I don't know what to tell you.

Your comment thread idea to spam for impeachment always brought to mind Kurt Vonnegut's assessment of how effective the artists anti-war movement was during Vietnam, the effectiveness of a banana-cream pie dropped from a stepladder five feet high.

You are doing something so I don't want to hate on you, but you need to understand something. They can't impeach because they are in on it. The people you are appealing to can't call a trial because they are in on it. That's why impeachment is off the table no matter how many times you feel like calling them. They can't afford it, because they are co-conspirators. Are you getting how fucked we are?

I don't know what to do. If they move into Iran I'll sit in the street until they take me to jail and hope someone takes my place and that's all I can come up with.

Posted by: Ed Marshall at December 16, 2007 01:23 AM

As Eisenhower knew in 1961, but didn't say, because he was convinced that it was better to keep quiet about it(better for the country? better for himself and those close to him?) Congress is an integral part of the corruption. To get a Congress that will clean things up, you need a different Congress than the one we have now. Only a nation of citizens could elect such a Congress. What we have now is a collection of consumers, conformists, and cowards. It's going to be a long, long trip to Liberty-and-justice-for-all-ville, starting from where we are, and since just about everyone is wearing blindfolds (speaking metaphorically about the blindfolds, and about the trip, and about the destination) it seems likely we won't see any relevant forks in the road.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 16, 2007 10:04 AM

So from where we sit, the answer is: we must elect ourselves people.
I'm all for it, but what's the first step?

Posted by: donescobar at December 16, 2007 10:15 AM

Ed Marshall: Corruption lives in FEAR( fear of exposure,fear of some conquence) A LITTLE pressure can cause the CONSTANTLY FEARFUL to do anything, even if it is OPENLY against their own interest. When one attempts to break something, anything, one applies pressure to the weakest part, if possible. In the matter of Congress PELOSI IS THE WEAKEST POINT, drive the wedge THERE.
May I also point out, Ed, that Cheney IS on his way to the docket and there be NO stopping it.
So Ed, if YOU want to be a part of that then MAKE THAT CALL (1-202-225-0100), because if WE don't IMPEACH---YOU WILL be sitting in that street, and MAYBE someone will take your place when they are hauling US off.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 16, 2007 11:45 AM

An excellent question

So from where we sit, the answer is: we must elect ourselves people. I'm all for it, but what's the first step?

Posted by donescobar

Good question. How does one get a new people?

New people can be found in a literal sense - you might be able to go someplace more civilized, like Canada, or New Zealand - places where the conquest of the aborigines by the Europeans was a bit less total. If one remains in this land of the pilgrims' pride, land where one's fathers died, how does one get freedom to ring from every mountainside?

One can keep on blogging, and there may be some use to it

- not so much the "speaking truth to power" part, since it's a rare powerful person that can allow the truth to penetrate and change their behavior - it happens once in a while, but generally speaking self-interest is a lot louder than the inner "still, small voice"

- but the "speaking truth ABOUT power" may reach those who sort of have an idea that things have gone wrong somehow, but aren't exactly sure how it happened

- and who knows? at some time the voice crying in the wilderness may find a receptive ear - let us keep trying to love humanity, despite the fact that people are nasty, brutish, and short-sighted

may the Creative Forces of the Universe have mercy on our souls, if any

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at December 16, 2007 12:54 PM

IF ONE SPEAKS TRUTH to power then he is that "new person" as, apparently, NO ONE is speaking anything to this administration but money, corruption, and power.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 16, 2007 03:24 PM

The destruction of the CIA interrogation recordings is a great example of this. Pelosi, Rockefeller, Harmon, Daschle (or Reid), Graham and others knew of the recordings, knew of the court cases to which they were relevant and said nothing. There is no functional difference between not exposing the existence of the recordings and destroying them. After all, we wouldn't have known they knew if we didn't find out that they no longer existed. Or something equally at home in a theater of the absurd. And we expect Pelosi or Jay-Rock to impeach? Not bloody likely.

Posted by: drip at December 16, 2007 06:57 PM

I suspect it will take more than SPEAKING to power.
And, as mistah charley suggests, receptive ears are hard to find. We are too busy stuffing our mouths, and if you're the Goldman Sachs kind of boy or girl, our wallets.

Posted by: donescobar at December 16, 2007 07:02 PM

drip: WE must create a conditon where they can do NOTHING BUT IMPEACH. Make that call 1-202-225-0100.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 16, 2007 07:21 PM

While people keep sort of saying it, let's just say it. CIA. The criminal enterprise that has been murdering, blackmailing and otherwise deposing and disposing of politicians who threaten them and their masters, killed Democracy. Granted, it was the child of the ruling class post-WWII, brought forth to protect and acquire overseas interests, but part of that acquisition was where the real money is to be made.

I remember talking once to someone about why, if there was a conspiracy to kill JFK, that they'd do it in front of everyone. Because, he said, they wanted every politician to see. Maybe a lot of the jamokes can't put two and two together, but if you're smart enough to get elected you'll understand.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at December 16, 2007 10:29 PM

Bob in Pacifica; 60 years and PLENTY of Our Man Flint and James Bond movies, YET UNTIL NOW no major portions of the population say much of anything. Could have FORCED Congress to STOP PAYMENT for our favorite spy agency or even just said something, YET WE KEEP PAYING. Funny how when Georgie and Dick are in dutch over their CIA indescretion (TREASON) suddenly AMERICA HAS A CIA CONSCIENCE.

Posted by: at December 16, 2007 11:51 PM

Electing 'new people' doesn't help. People are weak, easily corruptible. Power corrupts. They have too much power.

Posted by: abb1 at December 17, 2007 07:26 AM

abb1: People are apathetic about government for the most part. Those in power will ALWAYS be subject to corruption as power DOES corrupt. OVERSIGHT IS THE ANSWER---We elect these people then walk away from them expecting them to do the job WE PAY them for and are surprized when WE see coruption down the road. VIGILANCE is the price of FREEDOM. OVERSIGHT is the way of CONTROL. THE TAXPAYER is the ONLY ONE who will not be corrupted by his money and his power. VIGILANT TAXPAYER= OVERSIGHT + CONTROL

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 17, 2007 12:26 PM

Oversight is an answer. I hate to say it, but shifting power from the federal level to the states and local communities seems like another reasonable approach.

Posted by: abb1 at December 18, 2007 03:45 AM

abb1: EXACTLY.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 18, 2007 11:14 AM

You had me at Hercule.

Posted by: blondie at December 18, 2007 02:54 PM