Random Thoughts

Power, Pelf, Torture & Terror

Churchill who never believed in self-government for the lesser races indicted democracy as a bad form of government that was exonerated and redeemed because other forms of government were even worse. What he probably meant was that democratically elected leaders have a finite and limited tenure and they can be thrown out in the next election. This personal experience obscured the clarity of Churchill's thought and resulted in mundane and clumsy expression.

The important fact is that the desire to become the ruling class whether by election or usurpation is almost never motivated by the ethos of public service or public good, but usually by the lust for power whose intoxication results in corruption and manipulation to perpetuate the tenure of power. The etymological derivation of gerrymandering is worth looking up. The crooked shennanigans of the Congress in Bihar in overthrowing the elected government by President's rule and the carping of the BJP against the UPA for policies consistent with their own ones shows that these are both unprincipled frauds with a lust for power and unlikely to do any significant public or national good. The recent bribery scandals of Abramoff and Indian MPs are the umpteenth recurrence of such follies over time due to the short memory and attention span of the stressed and foolish electorates. Let us analyze the two largest democracies, viz., India and America. They both have unthinking electorates, ignorant and illiterate in India and apathetic and stupid in America.

The electoral debacle in Indian national elections of the BJP is rationally justified by its right of center policy with unconcern for the economic welfare of the deprived masses who rejected its religious appeal. Thus Indians vote their stomach and have an anti-incumbent bias. The invariable corruption and stealing by the ruling party justifies the voter's bias, but reversing choices between two corrupt factions is hardly a compliment to voter foresight or intelligence. A bigger problem in India's case is that it meant an incompetent and intellectually handicapped foreigner married to a former leader of a nation destroying dynasty, could have become the prime minister. This is not against the Indian Constitution and to give Sonia Gandhi her due, she handled the situation smartly. Manmohan Singh serves as her puppet but is beginning to show frustration and irritation.

The Communist party support required for a ruling majority in parliament, leads to a schizoid lack of clear policy. Thus it is the desire for power and resultant riches, of the Congress seniors that deserves condemnation for re-enacting India's tragic history of millennia of foreign domination. A prior ruling coalition of BJP was stitched together and sustained by doling out ministries to nearly hundred members.

What is even worse is the growing clout of regional political parties without a national agenda or vision. This is responsible for the widely prevalent fissiparous tendencies and balkanizing demands of parochial forces prevalent through much of India and particularly in the Northeast. It is populated by fractious minorities with linguistic, ethnic and religious differences magnified by the negligence or design of colonial and post-colonial independent national governments for nefarious self-serving purposes. Missionaries have always served as the Trojan horses of the colonizers and have left behind an exploiting wedge of divide and rule as the case histories of Ireland, Pakistan, Bangladesh, East Timor and the present unrest in Indonesia and Northeast India demonstrate.

Thus the government in India is doubly hampered by regional coalitions that constrain national progress and the bankrupt ideology of communist parties clinging to failed policies. The party publicly espouses selfless egalitarianism, while its leaders like Jyoti Basu use their economic and political clout to garner financial severance packages and open heart surgery for themselves in America. Such hypocrisy is prevalent in the religious leaders like Ayatollah Sistani, who condemn the British occupation of Shia South Iraq, while going to Britain to get their open heart surgery. The so-called moral law like prohibition in Gujarat, only serves the interests of corrupt police and politicians.

This is not a brief for moral indifference or total complacency. The legislation of morality has a dismal record of failure in human history. It is lack of opportunity and social stigma rather than legislated morality or constraints of conscience, that regulate the behavior of the majority of human beings and sensible governments should stick to these successful restraints rather than wasting time, effort and money on becoming a nanny state.

The past tyranny and discrimination against the backward classes cries out for redress, but it should be by providing them extra support like subsidized education and equal opportunity. The system of reserve quotas has outlived its useful benefits and now serves to bring the national standards down by installing inept persons in essential and powerful positions to the detriment of the nation and its welfare and progress. The schemes to extend these undeserving privileges and positions to all minorities and even into the private sector spells future disaster for the country and a Lebanon like political climate with a similar future outcome.

A better solution would be to provide free education and remedial coaching from the earliest grades to the children of the poor (below defined income levels) and allow them to compete in the colleges, administrative and foreign services. This will tend to create a level playing field without dumping down the professional and managerial cadres. The quota system promotes and perpetuates the national plague of the incompetent, overwhelmed by the opportunities of power and unconstrained by character, education, conscience, morality or responsibility. By channeling them down the path of least resistance, which is the slippery slope to the abyssof corruption, it wastes national capital, stymies progress and retards development.

In richer, advanced and powerful countries, the privileges accruing to alumni children or to minorities lead to foolish uneducated persons becoming presidents, vice-presidents, secretaries of state or national security advisers to the detriment of the nation that they mislead into wars and disastrous fiscal and foreign policies. They ignore the Constitution they had sworn to uphold, lie with brazen shamelessness to further enrich their corrupt cronies who finance their lust for power and are manipulated by the crooked because of their lack of intelligence, integrity and knowledge. This is what leads to secret torture and spying on citizens intimidated by fear. This promotes xenophobia and sets up straw victims to misguide the citizens and direct their anger to these, while overlooking the far more egregious sins of the rulers perpetuating their tenure. In totalitarian states the powerful leaders themselves become the source of fear and deprive the citizens of freedom. The combination leads to paranoia and ratting on their fellow citizens with mutual distrust and solidifying the powers of the tyrant.

America from its founding was never a democracy. The restriction of franchise to free white males who owned property and the multiple filtration processes like the selection of senators and the electoral college for the presidency assured an oligarchy. Much of the high minded Federalist papers were to usher in a plutarchy and prevent a tyranny of the majority that led to the rebellions in Massachusetts and Western Pennsylvania. The tug of war between the Federalists and then Republicans was whether the rich merchant and manufacturer class or the rich landlord class would rule. The Civil War settled that issue. Interested persons may wish to read Charles Beard's thesis on the economic foundations of the US Constitution. This governance for the benefit of a privileged minority has persisted to the present as Chomsky, Herman, Howard Zinn, Gore Vidal and even Andrew Bacevich have clearly espoused in their books.

The US Presidency was created in the image of a philosopher king and only George Washington played the part mainly by the script. His refusal of kingship, his quelling of the seething rebellion by the Continental Army at Newburgh, New York by a single sentence, earned him the title of Cincinatus and the leadership of that society. His feet of clay were in his petty greed for land and the attempted abuse of power in trying to reclaim his slaves after the war by unethical means. Again "An Imperfect God " and "His Excellency" by Henry Winicek and Joseph Ellis document the real Washington who still stands out as a beacon of light in comparison to Hamilton and Jefferson. Joseph Ellis' "Founding Brothers" is a must read for the acquaintance of a petulant Adams, an amoral and duplicitous Jefferson and an ambition obsessed Hamilton. Adams is redeemed by his personal integrity which far outshines his desire for recognition and greatness. That is more than can be said of Hamilton and Jefferson. Four years of the first President is all it took before the high minded structure of the American government disintegrated into internecine squabbling and factionalism between Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton, Burr and their henchmen.

So much for the virtues of elected governments. Virtue incidentally is oft a camouflaged manifestation of selfish motives supported by severe self-deception to prevent the truth to be out by any torturous circumstance using a scopolamine like truth serum. Torture is the modus operandi of all governments as America and Israel prove. Two recent books Jennifer Harbury's "Truth, Torture and the American Way" and Alfred McCoy's "A Question of Torture" document our sordid history, not to mention Harriet Beecher Stowe's first exposure. Interested readers should read Naomi Klein's article at www.zmag.org  - 1. Naomi Klein : 12/13/05
and Saul Landau's The Good Neighbor Policy and Other Political Amusements Bolivian Democracy and the US: a History Lesson, 12/22/05 at the same site.

Many readers think that I am overly critical. My intention is to show that even sufferers of the Holocaust can indulge in one and history is usually a lie propagated by victors to brainwash and manipulate the foolish and gullible. Only victors can have Nuremberg trials and terror is a weapon used by the powerful like states, and the weak like Palestinians, Basques, fanatic Islamists etc. There is almost never a realistically true justification for torture despite the false arguments of Dershowitz, and firebombing London, Dresden, Vietnam or nuking Japan are all instances of terror, unredeemed by posthumous justifications. Gulags, Renditions, Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo cannot be transmuted from base torture into noble justice by the alchemy of mouthing Geneva Conventions or extraordinary legal doctrines of any hue, offerings of rice, holy ash, crafty judgments of Hispanic Inquisitors, or beating around the bush.    


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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