Friday, November 11, 2005

Reason's Re-Run Predators

We’re in the thick of November sweeps, when the television networks trot out their most original—and usually most unoriginally sex-addled, typically child-sex-centered—programming. (Tonight’s fare on NBC’s Dateline: “To Catch a Predator: Undercover cameras capture men trying to meet children,” following up of course on Dateline’s Nov. 4 piece on computer predators). But it’s rerun season in Washington: There’s a barn-full of French bashing going on, enough to make you think the United States was readying another invasion (Syria anyone?) and de Villepin was again standing in the way. There’s plenty of bashing to go around, to be sure. Jacques Chirac continues to pull a Bush-de-Katrina on the riots, barely appearing anywhere since the fires began. De Villepin and Sarkozy don’t want that luxury. They need the glow of publicity, even the glow of flames, to advance their presidential hopes in 2007. But both could just as convincingly contend for the FEMA Fumbler of the Year award.

There’s an Abu Ghraib sequel with the revelation of the CIA’s secret-prison “black sites” around the world, with a minor but nevertheless obscene twist: Congress, which never independently investigated the torture scandal and still has never accounted for the more than one hundred deaths in American custody in Iraqi and Afghan prisons, doesn’t want any kind of investigation of the prison sites. It wants an investigation of the leaker to the Washington Post (whose Dana Priest broke the story last week). The president, now pathologically codependent on deception and self-delusion (it may be the only thing between him and a renewed affair with Jim Beam), continues his carnival declarations of “we don’t torture” (but still need to torture lurkers if necessary, if not leakers) even as his vice president keeps gnarling around House and Senate offices, torturing legislators, unsuccessfully so far, into granting his torture exemption for CIA employees.

And of course there’s the “return” of Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi fraud on whose lies the Bush administration based so much of its faith in Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and on whose promise of rice and flowers Donald Rumsfeld did so much to convince the Pentagon not to send in more than a bare-bones invasion force. Chalabi was in Teheran earlier this week, meeting with the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who’s not yet finished clearing his throat of the bile he scudded at Israel a few weeks ago (Chalabi’s friend thinks Israel should be “wiped off the map”). But there was Chalabi this week, his hand still odorized with Mahmoud’s, shaking hands with Condoleezza Rice, our rising nebulae of cluelessness at the Department of State; with Dick Cheney, because the like-minded attract; with Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, who must like his old friends better than his new responsibilities. Now that the bones have been bared, literally and figuratively—in Chalabi’s closet-full of skeletons, in the US military’s growing mass grave of GI bones, in the skeletal remains of any hope for peace or purpose behind the American occupation—one might have reasonably believed in the administration’s capacity at least to pay lip service to lessons learned.

The reasonable: Talk about a circus animal on the loose in Washington, with an administration-full of predators after it. On camera, too. And the public loves it: Catch the bastard. Lynch the bastard. Eliminate the bastard. Americans want reason about as much as they want a sexual predator next door.