By Robert A. Vella
After sharing recent revelations about the CIA withholding crucial information from the Warren Commission’s investigation into the Kennedy assassination, I learned of another insightful story about the corrupt nature of American politics. In this case, President Nixon not only blatantly lied to the world about the effectiveness of the U.S. bombing campaign against North Vietnam but also continued such operations despite knowing they wouldn’t achieve any tangible results.
From The Washington Post – Secret archive offers fresh insight into Nixon presidency:
President Richard Nixon believed that years of aerial bombing in Southeast Asia to pressure North Vietnam achieved “zilch” even as he publicly declared it was effective and ordered more bombing while running for reelection in 1972, according to a handwritten note from Nixon disclosed in a new book by Bob Woodward.
Nixon’s note to Henry Kissinger, then his national security adviser, on Jan. 3, 1972, was written sideways across a top-secret memo updating the president on war developments. Nixon wrote: “K. We have had 10 years of total control of the air in Laos and V.Nam. The result = Zilch. There is something wrong with the strategy or the Air Force.”
The day before he wrote the “zilch” note, Nixon was asked about the military effectiveness of the bombing by Dan Rather of CBS News in an hour-long, prime-time television interview. “The results have been very, very effective,” Nixon declared.
Nixon’s private assessment was correct, Woodward writes: The bombing was not working, but Nixon defended and intensified it in order to advance his reelection prospects. The claim that the bombing was militarily effective “was a lie, and here Nixon made clear that he knew it,” Woodward writes.
Let’s put this into the proper context. Here was the elected leader of the world’s preeminent nation deliberately ordering massive death and destruction, and risking the lives of his own countrymen, just to – in his belief – improve his chances to remain in power. There is only one word truly descriptive of such sociopathy: megalomania.
However, political corruption is not always caused by unabashed self-interest. A leader’s unwavering commitment to ideology can be just as ethically corrosive and damaging to society. For example, look at the current demises in America’s education system and women’s reproductive health in conservative states.
President Obama, despite his frequent rhetoric to the contrary, has been overseeing an historic transformation of public education towards a privatized system. The results have been the exact opposite of what was promised. Instead of stabilizing the financing of schools and improving the quality of education for students, America’s education system is now in a state of shambles on both fronts. Taxpayer funding of public schools is being shifted to questionably-performing charter enterprises having little-to-no accountability, while the U.S. has fallen from #1 in the world education rankings (as recently as 1985) to no better than #17 (in 2012). And, the rising cost of higher education is increasingly making college and universities an exclusive perk for the rich. Why is Obama doing this? It’s because he is ideologically committed to the practice of corporatism.
Likewise, Republican governors and legislators in many U.S. states have been waging a social conservative crusade against women’s reproductive rights and services wherever they hold sufficient political power. This has severely restricted access to abortion and other necessary care, and has created a worsening public health crisis particularly for minority women in southern states. Why? Because Republicans are ideologically committed to Christian fundamentalism.
Politicians are human beings and they are susceptible to making mistakes of judgement. However, none of the instances and examples detailed in this article – and much more – can be explained as such. They all did what they did regardless of the negatives outcomes they knew would or could happen. And that, my dear readers, is the very worst kind of corruption.