of fear and disorientation. Journalists did not meet the challenge of
holding the executive branch accountable, politically and morally, in
the run-up to the Iraq war. Such failures, it is true, were not gross manipulations of the law in the service of inhumanity, but they
were failures nonetheless. And they carried a human price.
I’m wary of the clamor for retribution. Congress failed. The press
failed. The judiciary failed. With almost 3,000 dead, America’s checks
and balances got skewed, from the Capitol to Wall Street. Scrutiny gave
way to acquiescence. Words were spun in feckless patterns.
Well hey, so long as everybody screwed up, it’s all fine! So long as there wasn’t a single voice raised in opposition to what was done, so long as we didn’t shout down anybody who had a different idea of things, so long as nobody who spoke up against this bullshit was punished, drummed of public life, called a traitor on national television or demonized for daring to opine that instituting a regime of torture was pretty fucking stupid, so long as we are all equally complicit in this there’s no need to punish anybody. Because if it’s all of us, then it’s none of us really, and isn’t it funny how that always works out so beautifully?
I am just so violently opposed to the idea of transferring your moral cowardice onto the country at large to get it to share the blame for your own wussitude on the fundamental questions of our time. It is just so incredibly cheap and small and mean. Fact of the matter is, not everybody lost their damn minds, and it is a profound dishonor to those who held to their convictions in the face of overwhelming public pressure to go all kill-crazy that we lump them in with the nutballs painting their chests red, white and blue and high-fiving their buddies while they beat up Arab shopkeepers.
Cohen would like us to think of this time in our nation’s history in the passive voice, or at the very least with the royal we. He refers to Sept. 11 and its aftermath as a “national trauma,” and declares “There but for the grace of God go I.” No. Absolutely not. We didn’t all go mad and even if we had, collective madness is still madness. You are not exempt from responsibility because your neighbor went nuts too. That isn’t how this works. There not but for the grace of God but for the love of country and ironclad devotion to its principles went many, and to pretend you could just as easily have gone the other way, to pretend it was something akin to luck or a miracle you didn’t … it’s monstrous. For all his canting about forgiveness in that piece, Cohen’s not advocating reconciliation. He’s simply expanding the blame.
Via Balloon Juice.