by Eric Margolis
March 17, 2008
NEW YORK – America was riveted last week by the lurid spectacle of the humiliation of New York State’s former governor, Elliot Spitzer who resigned office after be exposed as a long-time client of an escort service.
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 what was described as a ‘routine’ federal tax investigation uncovered payments to a high-end prostitution service by a certain ‘Client 9’ – who turned out to be a modern Savolarola, 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. This alone qualified him for a dunce cap.
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 endless hours of silly, hypocritical commentary by feminists, psychiatrists, and pundits about ‘why did he do it,’ as if infidelity was an aberration or disease.
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 sex, his mind is wandering.
Too many Americans still have adolescent views of sex and sugar-coated images of marriage. Europeans, by contrast, shrug off men’s need to stray as normal and acceptable, provided done discreetly. An infidelity scandal would not have gotten far in continental Europe – except France, where, unfortunately, the hyperactive, publicity-seeking Nicholas Sarkozy has for the first time made politician’s private lives fair game for media.
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. His resignation at least temporarily removes pressure to investigate this den of thieves that had, with tacit administration blessing, brought Enron-style fraud to America’s finances, then exported them around the globe.
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-Qaida.
This was the second big lie after the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ canard 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% of Americans blamed Saddam for the 9/11 attacks. A small, al-Qaida Iraqi affiliate only appeared in Iraq as a result of the US invasion. It was not part of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida but Washington inflated this small group into the second coming of bin Laden and misled Americans still believe they are fighting his men in Iraq. All 22 of Iraqi organizations fighting US occupation are now called by Washington, ‘al-Qaida.’ 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. Even KGB did not use all of these tortures.
However, the White House and Republicans insist none of this is really torture. Republicans just love euphemisms. These tortures are merely ‘enhanced interrogation.’ Overthrowing foreign governments is ‘regime change;’ murdering foreign leaders, ‘taking them out; ’ water torture is, ‘water-boarding.’
George Orwell warned such double-talk was the hallmark of totalitarian regimes.
The president and his party are violating existing 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 growing violations of the values America used to hold dear.
Copyright Eric S. Margolis 2008
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