A Rich Embarrassment

In the final days of negotiation on the healthcare bill, President Obama twice postponed diplomatic trips to Indonesia and Australia, in order to close a deal that had engulfed the first 15 months of his presidency. The achievement noticeably improved Obama’s standing on the international stage, giving him much-needed credibility with foreign governments, but to Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal, it was “embarrassing to our country” that the president felt this was necessary. “What an air of chaos this signals to the world,” she lamented. “How bush league, how undisciplined, how kid’s stuff.”

Ms. Noonan would rather have seen Obama in Jakarta that weekend, where he was to discuss the possibility of increasing military aid to Indonesia, and lifting a 12-year ban on US training of the Indonesian special forces unit known as Kopassus. Yet, as a prominent national journalist, she is surely aware of the political assassinations that are occurring in that country, and that “a US-trained Kopassus general who coordinated the assassinations confirmed to [investigative journalist Allen] Nairn an Indonesian army role in the killings.”

Carried out in Aceh region in late 2009, these murders have targeted pro-independence, separatist activists, under the guise of “anti-terrorism”. In that, they resemble the “anti-communist” purging campaigns of an earlier era, in which the US also played the role of trainers and financiers. SWAT-style “task forces”, military police, drug warriors, and so-called anti-terrorists murdered thousands of civilians, and all of them were aided by American money and weapons, as they would be again under Obama’s Look Forward, Not Back policy. None of this, presumably, is embarrassing to Ms. Noonan.

This is, after all, the same Peggy Noonan who, faced with the evidence that her government was waterboarding, beating, and even murdering suspected terrorists, preferred to simply shut her eyes and “just keep walking.” As she put it, “Some of life has to be mysterious.” As in, isn’t it mysterious that thousands of radical Muslims want to murder us? Gosh, they must hate our freedoms or something.

If the president does it, remember, that means it’s not illegal. Richard Nixon’s dictum is alive and well in America, and is there any patriot ashamed of it? No government officials will be charged with instituting a regime of torture, despite reams of evidence. None will be indicted for illegally spying on Americans’ emails and phone calls, but Obama’s Attorney General is hauling into court the whistleblower who alerted the nation to what the NSA was doing. Truly, the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

The propaganda machine is so well-oiled in this country that most Americans have no idea of our government’s crimes in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan – to say nothing of Haiti, Nicaragua, Honduras, Indonesia, the Philippines, Iran, Chile… Anything that we have done is by definition heroic and noble; anyone who says otherwise is “embarrassing.” The American need to save face is greater than any Asian nation’s. We don’t take criticism well.

Unfortunately for anyone interested in the truth, the Peggy Noonans of this country have already won. The curriculum has been set, the myths of American exceptionalism hewn into the rock of Mt Rushmore. With each subsequent retelling, the lie inches closer to the truth, until at last there is nothing to be embarrassed about, because there is no such thing as shame.