Thursday, February 16, 2006


So there he was, your Cheney, doing his mea culpa on friendly Fox television news, and I know you'd like us to believe that he has held himself accountable by so doing. As I see it, though, Bush, accountability needs to go a whole lot further than a simple "I did it." A whole lot further, even, than "I'm sorry"--which is I guess what your guy was saying when he confessed that this was "the worst day of my life." Real accountability in my own experience means going deeper, to discover what it is about me that caused the disruption in my life, or the life of others; and what I need to do to ensure that it doesn't happen again.

I can't, obviously, do Cheney's work for him--though I did have the temerity a couple of days ago to suggest some areas that bear investigation: his arrogance, for example. His assumption of rectitude in every circumstance... None of which would matter terribly to the rest of us, if the refusal to be held accountable were not so typical not only of your Vice President, Bush, but of yourself, and indeed of your entire administration; and if the consequences of your failure to accept any real responsbility were not so frequent, nor so glaringly evident, nor so damaging to the world at large. I'm thinking, today, of two particularly painful examples: Guantanamo Bay, because of this week's UN report; and Abu Ghraib, in the wake of yesterday's publication of more of those dreadful pictures.

I heard a spokesman for your administration try to pass off the Abu Ghraib pictures as past history. The matter had been dealt with, was the claim. Those involved had been held accountable and punished. As though the courts-martial of a handful of low-ranking soldiers absolved their higher-ups of responsibility--along with a rap over the knuckles for one (female) officer. (Remember our earlier entry, Bush: Cherchez la femme?) As though it were enough to address the symptoms, not the cause. As though your Gonzales and your Rumsfeld were not complicit, with their justification of torture on legalistic and, of course, (questionably) practical grounds. As though you yourself, Bush, were not to be held accountable for Abu Ghraib. Where is it that buck is supposed to stop? Not, apparently, at your desk. Nor at the desk of your cabinet secretaries. Nor at the desk of the officers in charge. Did it never occur to you, Bush, that the use of torture at Abu Ghraib was not simply the work of a few "bad apples", but the symptom of a systemic problem that needed, badly, to be addressed.

It's the same systemic problem that is causing you grief in regard to Guantanamo Bay. It's the same underlying set of assumptions and beliefs that have proven time and again to be wrong-headed and counter-productive. To be fully accountable, even in your exalted position as the President of the United States, you need to be asking this deceptively simple, personal question: what is it about me that is causing this disruption in the affairs of the world? What do I need to learn from the errors in judgment that led to these events? What can I do to change the habits and behaviors that cause such harm to others and myself?

This, at least, is what I understand accountability to be all about. It's not about mouthing acceptance of responsibility--as you did after Katrina, remember?--or expressions of regret, then moving on to the next disaster. Take a look at how your Chertoff is dangling on the hook. Accountability is about bringing the hidden root causes to the light of day, and learning from them. It's about learning to avoid the repetition of the same destructive patterns. Above all, it's not about all those others to whom I delegate responsibility. It's about me.

(A footnote, Bush: A friend stops by as I'm completing this entry and points out the irony of your Cheney wailing that the day he shot his friend was the worst day of his life. My friend asks, How about all those other days, when he caused thousands of soliders to be sent out to be shot, and maimed, and killed? She was angry, Bush, that he should let himself so easily off the hook.)


Fred Thompson said...

The whole shooting incident has the reek of alcohol about it. Notice the hospital spokesman was quick to avoid comment on a blood alcohol question re: The victim. They may well have delayed a day to let the veep sober up. He has always struck me as a man working very hard to hold himself together.

I read this morning in the LA TIMES that the veep has claimed for himself the power to "de-classify" security info. This may be a tactic to provide cover in the Valerie Plame/Scooter Libby scandal.

PK said...

Well Fred, you took the words right out of my mouth:). I will add this. I was taught, many moons ago as a young person, drinking and alcohol DO NOT go hand in hand. I adhered to that all the years I was hunting, just because I was afraid of what happened to Cheney. Even wearin' of the orange or red vest may not stop you if your senses are dulled. Good post again, as usual Peter.