America’s shame

THIS past week, America was riveted by the lurid spectacle of the public exposure and humiliation of New York State’s fallen governor, Elliot Spitzer, who just resigned his position.

By Eric Margolis (World View)

Published: Sun 16 Mar 2008, 8:48 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:25 PM

As a notoriously tough, some said ruthless, former prosecutor, Spitzer relentlessly crusaded against financial, political and moral malefactors, including a number of prostitution cases. Some saw him a future presidential candidate.

That was until a routine federal tax investigation uncovered payments to a high-end prostitution service by a certain ‘Client 9’ — who turned out to be that scourge of sinners, the upright, unforgiving Elliot Spitzer. Worse, it seemed the governor paid up to $80,000 for call girls, apparently at up to $4,000-5,000 per one hour session.

It’s always satisfying watching hypocrites and moralists exposed to public humiliation. Except, of course, for the humiliation inflicted on his brave, loyal wife who stood by the embattled governor and even urged him not to resign.

US media overflowed with hours of silly commentary by feminists and psychiatrists about ‘why did he do it.’ Spitzer did it because he was a typical man genetically programmed to lust after other women. As the old saying goes, if a man isn’t thinking about women, his mind is wandering.

Too many Americans still have adolescent views of sex and marriage. Europeans, by contrast, shrug off men’s need to stray as normal and acceptable, provided done discreetly.

However ruthless, self-serving and hypocritical about prostitution, Spitzer was doing one good thing: going after Wall Street’s crooks and fraudsters largely responsible for the current financial crisis shaking world markets.

Spitzer’s downfall unfortunately obscured two far more important events. First, the White House’s refusal to release an exhaustive Pentagon review of 600,000 Iraqi documents that found no evidence that Saddam Hussein had any links with Al Qaeda.

This was the second big lie propagated by the Bush White House to justify invading Iraq. So successfully was it spread by the administration and tame media, that on the eve of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, 80 per cent of Americans blamed Saddam for the 9/11 attacks. A small, Al Qaeda Iraqi affiliate only appeared in Iraq as a result of the US invasion. But most misled Americans still believe they are fighting Osama bin Laden’s men in Iraq. No wonder the White House is trying to suppress the Pentagon study.

Spitzer’s pillorying also masked another profoundly shameful act. On Tuesday, 188 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to uphold President George Bush’s veto of a Democratic-sponsored bill to ban CIA from using torture to interrogate enemy detainees. Their party-line vote was strong enough to prevent the 225 Democrats who voted to overturn the president’s veto from achieving the required two-third majority.

Republicans have now become the party of torture. Never has the Grand Old Party sunk so low. Those great Republicans, Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan, must be weeping in their graves.

Among tortures America now routinely inflicts on mostly Muslim captives: water torture, near suffocation, beatings, confinement in cramped positions, sleep and sensory deprivation, freezing rooms, ear-splitting noise, mock executions, psychotropic drugs, food laced with pork or excrement.

None of this is really torture claim the White House and Republicans. Republicans just love euphemisms. These tortures are merely ‘enhanced interrogation.’ Overthrowing foreign governments is ‘regime change;’ murdering foreign leaders, ‘taking them out; ’ and, of course, ‘water-boarding.’

George Orwell warned such double-talk was the hallmark of totalitarian regimes. Even KGB did not use all these tortures.

The president and his party are violating American and international law, and UN agreements against torture. Their sanction of torture, and its apotheosis in the Guantanamo gulag, has disgraced America’s name around the globe and will continue to haunt the United States for decades to come. Captured American soldiers now know what to expect.

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama and John McCain — the latter a torture victim — all properly condemn the White House for promoting torture. But McCain, who should know better, fudges, saying he won’t restrict CIA interrogations. That is ominous.

The Spitzer follies should not distract us from the Bush Administration’s continuing violations of American and international law, and the values America used to hold dear.

Eric S. Margolis is a veteran American journalist and contributing foreign editor of The Toronto Sun.

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