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NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

John Chuckman

One by one, in the dead of night, they push ghastly, rotting fingers through dank earth in an effort to grasp something solid and pull themselves up from moldering graves, figures of long-dead flesh, blank-eyed, capable of no feeling save an unnatural hunger that animates and drives them shakily forward. They are the gruesome remains of an earlier time, mysteriously returned to life, once more to exercise their malevolent influence on the planet. They are the Bush appointments – Cheney, Rumsfeld, Reich, and Poindexter.

And now we have the decayed bulk of Henry Kissinger again lurching into Washington. Kissinger has been reanimated and assigned to study the causes of what he himself helped create, terrorism.

Well, you might say, if police can use a skillful, lifelong criminal to understand a crime, as they often do, why not use a grotesque monster to understand monstrous events?

Kissinger will studiously avoid examining the genuine causes of terror. These are things the United States does not want to hear, and they are the kinds of things he is an old hand at deftly hiding. The clue to Mr. Kissinger’s actual task is contained in the words of the soulless husk now inhabiting the White House when he noted that he and the seventy-nine year-old war criminal and pathological liar “share the same commitments.”

Anyone who has studied Kissinger’s career understands that his total commitment has been to personal advancement, always and everywhere at the expense of others, and the path of his advancement has followed the American establishment’s insatiable lust to control its external environment, swarming as it does with the awkward wants and needs of billions of other human beings.

He has frequently taken America down to failure and disgrace – the greatest example being the disgusting holocaust in Vietnam – precisely because the goals of the people he serves are encrusted with ignorance and arrogance about the world. But if you serve the cause of the American imperium with adequate zeal, a considerable allowance is made for failure, and, generally, you still are rewarded.

You are rewarded because the establishment does not want to examine its motives, its assumptions, or its ignorance following on failures. It cares only that its urges are acted upon immediately as they are made known and with all the force it is possible to summon. Besides, most failures are of no great consequence since they involve mainly the broken bodies of others – Vietnamese, Cubans, Chileans, Kurds, Iraqis, Iranians, Palestinians, Central Americans, and, of course, the no-account mass of ordinary Americans – so who cares?

Kissinger’s lifelong task has been to extract the liquids, including huge volumes of blood, from America’s imperial detritus and convince the world in a gravelly, authoritative baritone, with earnest, over-the-glasses looks, that he has distilled a wondrous elixir for the benefit of humanity.

And he has been a remarkable success, perhaps the most energetic and amoral character since Talleyrand, the utterly-corrupt Catholic bishop who served every government of France from revolutionary to imperial to re-installed royalty as a statesman with equal indifference to principle and equal capacity for foul and self-aggrandizing tricks. Talleyrand died, of course, a fabulously wealthy and much decorated figure.

As readers know, I enjoy poking fun at the more inept qualities of Mr. Bush, always in the desperate hope that Mark Twain was right when he wrote that nothing withstands the assault of laughter. But the truth is, in dark private moments, I am inclined to agree with Mark Miller who has observed that Bush’s speech and gestures are better explained by a personality disorder than a lack of intelligence. The disorder his study suggests is a degree of sociopathy. How else do you explain shared commitments with a monster?

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