“Oh, it is excellent to have a Giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.”
Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, II:2
How does one simultaneously swagger and simper? Is it possible for someone to beat his chest even as his lip quivers in self-pity? Apparently so, given the evidence provided in Charles Krauthammer’s December 3 column.
Krauthammer is a conservative of the post-George W. Bush variety — that is, an unreconstructed totalitarian nationalist. In an essay calling for the execution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (after a show trial, if possible, but by extra-judicial means if necessary), Herr Krauthammer blusters about the majesty of the Imperial State even as he whines about the besetting dangers it faces and the consummate injustice that has been done in exposing a handful of its criminal secrets.
Exhibit “a” in the column is the disclosure, by way of WikiLeaks, that Washington allowed its Yemeni puppet regime to take the blame for a hideous atrocity — the December 2009 cruise missile massacre of dozens of civilians, including 21 children.
“The Yemeni president and deputy prime minister are quoted as saying that they’re letting the United States bomb al-Qaeda in their country, while claiming that the bombing is the government’s doing,” Krauthammer complains in a Goebbels-worthy misrepresentation of the matter. “Well, that cover is pretty well blown. And given the unpopularity of the Sanaa government’s tenuous cooperation with us in the war against al-Qaeda, this will undoubtedly limit our freedom of action against its Yemeni branch, identified by the CIA as the most urgent terrorist threat to U.S. security.”
Perhaps we are to believe that the 21 Yemeni children slaughtered via remote control belonged to an al-Qaeda youth auxiliary. Then again, for a militarist like Krauthammer the operative principle in dealing with Muslim children appears to be “nits make lice.”
The point here, I suppose, is that those children are simply invisible to Krauthammer. Their deaths should play no role in the calculations of imperial power, and the real scandal is not that they were annihilated but rather that the crime and attempted cover-up were publicly disclosed.
The course of boldness and valor for the Regime in Washington, Krauthammer apparently believes, is to cower behind a tiny, embattled Arab puppet government that is expected to take the blame when the CIA slaughters innocents.
Appropriately, Krauthammer is featured in a new book entitled Underdogma: How America’s Enemies Use Our Love for the Underdog to Trash American Power. The book is a manifesto of sorts (Unser Kampf, perhaps?) for the Beltway-controlled “Tea Party Patriots” group. It was written by Michael Prell, a neo-con PR whore who has been employed by the likes of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Prell’s book peddles the conceit that “America” — meaning the Regime in Washington — is the victim of those who resent its power. The author complains that “some people’s natural love for the underdog has warped into an automatic, blind, irrational hatred for those who have more power.” That “hatred” is supposedly manifest every time someone complains about the innocent people killed, maimed, or tortured as a result of State policy, or — in the case of WikiLeaks — when whistle-blowers expose a handful of the Empire’s crimes.
In his contribution to the book, Krauthammer condemns Barack Obama’s purported desire to “curtail the power” of the American State. Given that Obama has escalated the Afghan war, expanded the use of Death Drones, claims the power to order the summary execution of American citizens suspected of terrorism, and has dramatically enhanced the domestic police state, one is led to wonder where he has curtailed government power in any way.
It’s also worth wondering why Krauthammer wouldn’t want to curtail the power of someone he considers an ideological enemy. But of course, the real problem for Krauthammer and his ilk isn’t the accumulation of dictatorial power in the presidency, it’s that the power currently resides in the “wrong” hands. As Lenin would put it, the only relevant question to them is “who does what to whom.”
Back in the 1980s, when Krauthammer was George F. Will’s understudy in the role of the conservative punditocracy’s pedant-in-chief, he would occasionally recite from the wisdom of 18th century British statesman Edmund Burke. In a 1793 address, Burke expressed the sentiments of an authentic patriot who understood that loving one’s country does not mean celebrating the unlimited power of the government ruling it.
“Among precautions against ambition, it may not be amiss to take one against our own,” warned Burke. “I must fairly say I dread our own power and our own ambition. I dread our being too much dreaded… Sooner or later, this state of things must produce a combination against us which may end in our ruin.”
About a century and a half later, American patriot Garet Garrett updated that admonition and applied it to the emerging American empire. “Is it security you want?” asked Garrett of the architects of the national security state and those who supported that monstrosity. “There is no security at the top of the world.”
Krauthammer, who celebrates the might of the Imperial State even as he insists that it faces a dire — nay, existential — threat from a handful of Yemeni rebels, unwittingly embodies the paradox Garrett described. To be a pundit in the imperial power structure one must be willing to play Grover Dill to the Regime's Scut Farkus -- that is, to be the vicious little punk who orbits the neighborhood bully, taunting and threatening his victims and whining piteously when someone dares to strike back. Few have played that role more convincingly than Charles Krauthammer.
“Nobody roots for Goliath,” observed Wilt Chamberlain, who spoke from experience. Krauthammer and others who peddle the toxic amalgam of bullying jingoism and collectivist self-pity -- more than a few of whom profess to be Bible-believing Christians -- insist that Goliath is the virtuous victim.
Author's note: The horribly mutilated child in the photo above was a victim of the Regime's humanitarian venture in Iraq. That youngster was not among the dozens who were murdered and mangled in the more recent drone strikes in Yemen. My point in using that photo was to illustrate the human cost of the imperial politics so callously promoted by the likes of Charles Krauthammer. I regret causing some confusion on that matter.
(An earlier version of this essay was published at Lew Rockwell's blog.)
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