Monday, July 18, 2005

The Wages of Boltonism


The emerging center-left CW about this Rove/Plame/Wilson scandal is that it's ultimately about the Suckering of the American People into supporting the invasion of Iraq. Of course that's not wrong, but what troubles me more is the abuse of power generally, especially the use of official power to damage or destroy innocent lives - not to mention the preposterous and dangerous idea that the Men of Destiny in the current White House 'make reality'. This is quite beyond neocon, neolib, or any other ideology; I make a distinction between neocons like Wolfowitz and the people to whom they are allied in this administration who aren't really neocons at all - the Hard-Asses: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bolton and the like. The patent authoritarians.

We're all familiar now with Valerie Plame, and some of us who followed the Bolton hearings also know some other victims' names, like Christian Westermann, and Melody Townsel , and others. But the most shocking, disgusting example of this kind of abuse I've seen yet is the tale of Alberto Coll, told by A.L. Bardach in a little-noticed Slate piece last week:

Coll is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense during the George H.W. Bush administration, a military scholar, and a dean at the U.S. Naval War College whose life has been nearly destroyed by a slander campaign accusing him of espionage and an absurd criminal prosecution for violating U.S. travel rules to Cuba.

For many years, Coll defined himself as a conservative Republican and anti-Castro hard-liner. When he was 6 years old, he watched as his father was taken from home to serve nine years in a Cuban prison for his opposition to Castro. When he was 12, he fled Cuba in a propeller-engine plane. He would not see his family again for 10 years. Although he did not know any English upon his arrival, he won a full scholarship to Princeton and earned a law degree at University of Virginia, going on to teach at Georgetown University and become a senior Pentagon official.


Then Coll committed the unforgivable by coming to believe in the late '90s that the U.S. embargo of Cuba was a doomed policy. Once he made those views public, marginalizing Coll was not enough; he had to be destroyed.

Go read the whole thing, but make sure you've fully digested your late lunch before you do. And while you're there, try to avoid the temptation to click on Hitchens' new clueless, shit-eating apologia for Rove, et. al. Or not; if you enjoy the pathos of self-parody, click away.

[UPDATE: I didn't make the distinction between domestic-political and foreign abuse, and should have. Of course, the biggest victims of abuse of power in the last few years have been American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. But I was meaning to highlight the ruthless suppression of domestic political dissent, which is corrosive in a different way.]

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