An apology

I guess I’ve been kind of oblivious. I hadn’t really noticed that Donald Trump’s inauguration is scheduled for next Friday (January 20, 2017).

But of course it is.

Richard Nixon was the first president I was really conscious of. I grew up believing him to be the epitome of evil. But since Nixon, it seems like each president (yes, that includes Jimmy Carter) has been worse than his (all men so far) predecessor. That was, of course, going to be true of whoever won last November, whether it was Trump or Hillary Clinton.

I’m remembering being told that in the wake of World War II, German citizens were held responsible for Nazi crimes.[1] I am thinking that at some future date, U.S. citizens may be held responsible for the crimes of politicians we have repeatedly elected.

These crimes include war crimes. In the sort of asymmetric conflict that has been typical of conflicts since World War II, war crimes are inevitable: Combatants cannot reliably be distinguished from non-combatants, so the only way to protect non-combatants as required under international law is not to go to war in the first place. But instead, we’ve been sending our special operations forces, whose reputation is anything but that of being nice, all over the world.[2] And we “dropped 26,171 bombs in seven countries” in 2016.[3]

Our crimes are also economic. These are, if anything, even more murderous. Then there are environmental crimes, which threaten not only our own species, but many, many others, as well. All this before we even get to police crimes against people of various hues and to domestic spying.

I don’t want to detail the speculation about Trump’s presidency here. First, it is speculation. Second, watching him fill positions in his upcoming administration has all been pretty gut-wrenching. Third, he manifests an ignorance and bigotry that appeals to authoritarian populists and paleoconservatives and quite legitimately frightens, at least to some degree, nearly everyone else but in fact leaves us largely in the dark as to how he will actually govern. And fourth, it’s really enough to know that we are continuing a pattern of progressively worse presidents. Just as Barack Obama embraced, extended, expanded on, and (well, I guess, duh) refused to prosecute George W. Bush’s most egregious policies,[4] we can expect that Trump may well do the same with Obama’s worst policies. 2017 will certainly be a worse year than 2016. More and worse crimes will be committed.

And yes, I fear being held accountable for those crimes despite my consistent and strident opposition to them and despite my desperation to leave this country.

So I’m hoping to make it very clear before any such prospect becomes imminent that I am and continue to be utterly appalled by ongoing United States criminality[5] both in forms I recognize and in forms I (undoubtedly) fail to recognize. I apologize to the extent I am complicit in these crimes. I apologize for my powerlessness in the face of evil.

If I had a goddess to pray to, it would be for positive peace, not just negative peace as in the absence of violence, but restorative justice.[6] And not just for humans, but for non-human animals, and the environment.

But I have no goddess. Which is too bad. Because what Rabbi Michael Lerner calls the “Great Transformative Power in the Universe” is now, I think, the only thing that can save us.

  1. [1]My source for this might have been Robert Terrell, my then-favorite professor at California State University, East Bay. I have not found corroboration for the claim.
  2. [2]Tom Engelhardt, “Filling the Empty Battlefield: Jeremy Scahill, Blowback Reporter,” TomDispatch, April 23, 2013, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175691/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_field_of_nightmares/; Nick Turse, “A Secret War in 120 Countries: The Pentagon’s New Power Elite,” TomDispatch, August 3, 2011, http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175426/; Nick Turse, “The New Obama Doctrine, A Six-Point Plan for Global War: Special Ops, Drones, Spy Games, Civilian Soldiers, Proxy Fighters, and Cyber Warfare,” TomDispatch, June 14, 2012, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175557/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_the_changing_face_of_empire/; Nick Turse, “America’s Black-Ops Blackout: Unraveling the Secrets of the Military’s Secret Military, January 7, 2014, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175790/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_special_ops_goes_global/; Nick Turse, “The Golden Age of Black Ops: Special Ops Missions Already in 105 Countries in 2015,” TomDispatch, January 20, 2015, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175945/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_a_shadow_war_in_150_countries/
  3. [3]Micah Zenko, “Scary Fact: America Dropped 26,171 Bombs in 7 Countries in 2016,” National Interest, January 6, 2017, http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/scary-fact-america-dropped-26171-bombs-7-countries-2016-18961
  4. [4]Amnesty International, “‘Will I be Next?’ US Drone Strikes in Pakistan,” October 22, 2013, http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/security-and-human-rights/drones/will-i-be-next; David Benfell, “N.S.A. scandal timeline,” December 17, 2013, https://parts-unknown.org/wp/2013/11/07/peeping-obama-prospects-for-a-movement-to-restore-the-right-of-privacy/; Jon Boone, “US drone strikes could be classed as war crimes, says Amnesty International,” Guardian, October 21, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/22/amnesty-us-officials-war-crimes-drones; Glenn Greenwald, “Obama’s justice department grants final immunity to Bush’s CIA torturers,” Guardian, August 31, 2012, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/31/obama-justice-department-immunity-bush-cia-torturer; Elizabeth Holtzman, “Statutes of Limitations Are Expiring on Some Bush Crimes,” Nation, March 20, 2013, http://www.thenation.com/article/173435/statutes-limitations-are-expiring-some-bush-crimes; Human Rights Watch, “‘Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda’: The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen,” October 2013, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2013/10/22/between-drone-and-al-qaeda (link is external); David Johnston and Charlie Savage, “Obama signals his reluctance to investigate Bush programs,” New York Times, January 2, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/12/world/americas/12iht-12inquire.19265701.html; Jason Leopold, “Former Guantanamo Chief Prosecutor: ‘A Pair of Testicles Fell Off the President After Election Day’,” Truthout, November 13, 2011, http://truth-out.org/news/item/4738:former-guantanamo-chief-prosecutor-%E2%80%9Ca-pair-of-testicles-fell-off-the-president-after-election-day; Chase Madar, “How Dystopian Secrecy Contributes to Clueless Wars: Bradley Manning Has Done More for U.S. Security than SEAL Team 6,” TomDispatch, June 11, 2013, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175710/tomgram%3A_chase_madar%2C_bradley_manning_vs._seal_team_6/; Andrew O’Hehir, “Obama’s ‘Dirty Wars’ — and a soiled presidency,” Salon, June 9, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/06/09/obamas_dirty_wars_and_a_soiled_presidency/ (link is external); Reporters Without Borders, “Biggest rises and falls in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index,” 2014, http://rsf.org/index2014/en-index2014.php; Jonathan Turley, “United States Drops To 46th in Press Freedoms Under Barack Obama,” February 14, 2014, http://jonathanturley.org/2014/02/14/united-states-drops-to-46th-in-press-freedoms-under-barack-obama/; Jeremy Scahill, “Obama’s Expanding Covert Wars,” Nation, June 4, 2010, http://www.thenation.com/blog/obamas-expanding-covert-wars; Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Robert F. Worth, “Secret Assault on Terrorism Widens on Two Continents,” New York Times, August 14, 2010, https://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/world/15shadowwar.html; Jonathan Turley, “Yes We Can: United States Declared ‘Enemy of the Internet’ With Iran, North Korea, and Other Bad Actors,” March 24, 2014, http://jonathanturley.org/2014/03/24/yes-we-can-united-states-declared-enemy-of-the-internet-with-iranth-korea-and-other-bad-actors/; Jonathan Turley, “United Nation’s Report Condemns The United States For Human Rights Violations, Including Blocking Prosecution Of Those Responsible For Torture,” March 28, 2014, http://jonathanturley.org/2014/03/28/united-nations-report-condemns-the-united-states-for-human-rights-violations-including-blocking-prosecution-of-those-responsible-for-torture/; Nick Turse, “A Secret War in 120 Countries: The Pentagon’s New Power Elite,” TomDispatch, August 3, 2011, http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175426/; Nick Turse, “America’s Black-Ops Blackout: Unraveling the Secrets of the Military’s Secret Military,” TomDispatch, January 7, 2014, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175790/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_special_ops_goes_global/; Nick Turse, “The Special Ops Surge: America’s Secret War in 134 Countries,” TomDispatch, January 16, 2014, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175794/tomgram%3A_nick_turse%2C_secret_wars_and_black_ops_blowback/; David Vine, “The Lily-Pad Strategy: How the Pentagon Is Quietly Transforming Its Overseas Base Empire and Creating a Dangerous New Way of War,” TomDispatch, July 15, 2012, http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175568/tomgram%3A_david_vine%2C_u.s._empire_of_bases_grows/; Declan Walsh and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud, “Civilian Deaths in Drone Strikes Cited in Report,” New York Times, October 22, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/world/asia/civilian-deaths-in-drone-strikes-cited-in-report.html; Matthew Weaver, “US human rights record chastised in UN report,” Guardian, March 27, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/27/us-human-rights-record-chastised-un-report; Sarah Wolfe, “8 biggest ‘enemies of the Internet,'” Salon, March 22, 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/03/22/united_states_joins_china_north_korea_and_iran_as_worst_offenders_of_censorship_and_government_surveillance_partner/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Even criminals call the U.S. criminal,” Not Housebroken, November 30, 2014, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=6992
  6. [6]As envisioned in Wanda D. McCaslin and Denise C. Breton, “Justice as Healing: Going Outside the Colonizers’ Cage,” in Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, eds. Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), 511-529.

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David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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