American Impotence

by Sonny Bunch on April 26, 2012

At the Holocaust Memorial Museum, President Obama announced the creation of an “Atrocities Prevention Board.” As the Daily Beast put it:

Sheathed in the language of the Holocaust (and embedding in that message an assurance that he stands with the state of Israel and against anti-Semitism), the president announced the creation of an Atrocity Prevention Board, an interagency mechanism that calls for a new means of preventing mass atrocities and genocides. The board’s creation was the result of a White House statement issued last summer that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national-security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” It was the first time the U.S. government had made such a statement.

Wow! Such strength! Such fearless vision! I do hope the board shakes their magnificent finger VERY HARD at this:

Showing a man screaming for his life as he is buried alive at gunpoint, this could be the most shocking video yet to emerge from Syria.

While it is impossible to independently verify whether this short one-minute clip is genuine, it is still both powerful and disturbing.

A man is seen buried up to his neck and surrounded by a handful of soldiers allegedly loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime.

But hey, we’re totally going to sanction those bastards into the ground, right? Right?

Russia and Iran are undermining the Obama administration’s sanctions against Syria and helping the Assad regime to massacre civilians, according to Reuters.

Russia and Iran are helping Syria import fuel which it needs for heavy vehicles including army tanks, allowing Damascus to avoid the full impact of tightening Western sanctions imposed over its violent suppression of dissent.

I guess not. Welcome to a Brave New World of American Impotence. But hey! At least we’ve got that prevention board manning the walls, keeping the world’s vulnerable populations safe from atrocities!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

ice9 April 28, 2012 at 9:58 am

Syrian video, probably a fake.

Your outrage–also fake, though you may not know it. And clearly useless in any altruistic relationship to the truth. Your audience is (with a few exceptions) just overjoyed to see their name in print in the comment roll, which leads them to spend even less time reading the bounty of actual information in the world that contradicts your premises. You don’t see it because, long ago, somebody persuaded you that the media is liberal–this was a great relief. It licensed you to maintain into adulthood the teenage certainty that your basest impulses are actually brilliant new ideas, a-glitter with the tragically abandoned time-honored principles that made America great back when it was a Christian nation, before Jefferson forged the Rings of Atheism and Divisivism and Post-Domination Impotence.

I’m not sure what you think you’re saying, but it’s clear that your guiding principle is contempt. At least you feel like you need one. You are visibly unconcerned with the fate of people in Syria or elsewhere unless their situation can be used to attack President Obama. They are just props for you–you might as well be writing about so many dead dwarves in Moria.

Meanwhile, when the president does intervene someplace, you wet yourself screeching that it is a terrible error of judgement, evidence of incompetence, a sign that he’s in love with somebody bad, etc. If it suited your purposes you would argue with a straight face and block quotes that Obama should ignore the economy and invade Antarctica. Translated, your foreign policy principle is, “Obama should shoot himself in the head.” That is also your domestic policy principle, your tax principle, and your gun-control principle. It’s definitely your logic principle.

That outrage is valuable. It’s money in the bank–just not yours. Those brilliantly reasoned conclusions are just noxious propaganda ghostwritten and circulated by the smart people who have coopted the current GOP into a tool to restore their power in the US. Every time you echo it, an orc gets its wings. Do you hate unions? Is your organized labor principle “Obama should shoot himself?” Guess what! Irony! You’re a card-carrying member of the Wingnut Stenographer’s Union.

Some writers are principle-optional. They seem comfortable simply asserting that the noxious propaganda is right because they say so; those folks make no effort to be consistent or to tie their thinking to the essential principles of our culture. Krauthammer comes to mind here; he is unfazed by being wrong despite lots of practice. Reynolds long ago quit trying to explain his eruptions in Libertarian terms, which is convenient because Libertarian terms are only useful in the real world for explaining Libertarianism.

There’s still hope for whoever requires the ugliness and bigotry to be tarted up with various declarations or implications of principle. It’s good news, I think, that many of those of the minor leagues and below still aim for some kind of coherency–even if it’s fake (as it is in this case). Ugliness and bigotry are ineradicable elements of human nature; the impulse to adhere to principles and to be consistent makes it possible to learn from experience and argument.

The happy moment will come when your efforts pay off and the right-thinking folks are returned to their rightful places in power. In that event you won’t see those principles honored; then, when the damage is done for another generation, you’ll realize what it is you’ve been fighting for. You’re not especially smart, but you may be smart enough so that, when it happens, you’ll realize that the principles they used were just for show. Perhaps this will give you a taste of real outrage.

Why can’t you see it sooner? Any half-educated person can see that the principles in play in this piece are as fake as the outrage over their violation. Opposing the opposition of genocide, for example. The problem isn’t that your logic is telling (it’s not telling; it reads like the examples of logical fallacies in a tenth-grade textbook.) The problem is that you mocking an exercise in human decency (however ineffective), by offering an example of human depravity (even if it’s fake.) Ceremonies like this are the President’s job; it’s not evidence of anything.

Will you get that? There’s hope. Most won’t, and there will be anger, then silence, then they’ll just stand by with a fat Sharpie and a slab of cardboard, waiting for the clean-cut young man to come and tell them what to hate now.

Good luck



Sonny Bunch April 28, 2012 at 10:20 am


(Too long and full of strawmen; didn’t read)


Northern Observer April 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Of course you didn’t.


buster May 5, 2012 at 11:17 am

I lasted until “dwarves of moria”, although I suppose I could’ve stopped at the part where the anonymous web commenter was able to declare that the Syrian video was fake in the first sentence.


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