In these hard economic times, it is crucial that we hunt
down and punish those responsible for the mess we�re in today. Looking around
for culprits, however, I found myself hard put to it. For as we all know, the
American Way of capitalism, profiteering and imperialism is a fundamentally
sound one. So we can forget about pointing at Wall Street, Big Oil, and the
military-industrial complex, which represent the sacred apogee of our great
capitalist system and as such are above reproach.
But oh, for somebody to blame! To wave those torches in
someone�s cowering face, to thrust those pitchforks where they�ll really hurt!
The very thought warms the cockles of our collective heart, does it not? But
the question is: Whom do we hold responsible, and whom do we punish?
In despair, I was reduced to scanning the FBI�s list of the
Top Ten Most Wanted, where I found �Usama Bin Laden� occupying second place.
But as the FBI has been looking for �Usama� for the best part of eight years
now, one can only hope they catch him before he dies a natural death of old
age. At any rate, our pitchforks are unlikely to cause him undue concern.
Still, looking at the FBI�s list did inspire me to create a
list of my own -- a list of some of the men and women who, by their philosophy
and actions, represent a clear and present threat to our cherished American
values of overconsumption, �free� markets, and the right to bomb the bejeezus
out of any individual or nation foolhardy enough to stand in our path.
Since I am only an individual, not an agency, my list
consists of five people instead of 10, but I have a feeling that there are more
of them out there. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the real criminals. They�re all
easier to get to than �Usama,� -- in fact, one of them is actually in custody
at this very moment. Let�s light those torches and make sure the pitchforks are
flesh-ready. Here is the first of these America-hating dirtbags.
The Criminal: Tim De Christopher, 27, Economics Major
at the University of Utah
Don�t be deceived by his boyish looks. This young man is an
unscrupulous character who had the chutzpah to deliberately disrupt business as
usual in this great land of ours. And he is not even apologetic about it.
The Crime: De Christopher infiltrated an auction
where parts of Utah�s red-rock country were being sold for oil and gas parcels.
With cool insolence, the young man sat in the group of bidders, and with a bidder�s
paddle, ran up the prices for the parcels until he was escorted out by law
enforcement. The businessmen thus unjustly victimized were innocent,
law-abiding citizens who were peacefully exercising their right to plunder the
natural resources of our earth. One of them complained that his firm had lost
$600,000 owing to De Christopher�s underhanded actions. We should sympathize
whole-heartedly with these ordinary folk who were only trying to drill some of
the most pristine, most beautiful landscape in Utah for oil and gas. Surely
they have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of profit.
The Sentence: De Christopher said he knew he was
going to jail, but persisted in his activities in deliberate violation of the
rights of the endangered species of oil and gas drillers. The kindest
interpretation of his actions is that he has been brainwashed by his regressive
ideology, in which case a course of �reprogramming� seems indicated. Might I
suggest something along the lines of Room 101, with the urbane O�Brien from
Orwell�s Nineteen Eighty-four,
where the stubborn and rebellious Winston learned the salutary lesson that,
though two and two are usually four, �Sometimes they are five�?
Folks at the Creationist Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky,
hold views that offer encouraging real-world parallels to O�Brien�s innovative
logic. De Christopher cites �the imminent danger of climate change� as one of
the concerns that motivated his action. Creationists at the museum, though
finally compelled to admit the reality of rising earth temperatures, still
entertain grave doubts about the role humans have played in the change. They
also believe that the Bible is literally true, complete with what Bill Maher
has dubbed �the talking snake,� and consequently discount the Darwinian theory
of evolution. The museum would. Therefore, provide an excellent environment for
De Christopher to learn to ignore pettifogging little details like scientific
evidence. He is still young; there is reason to hope that with time and
patience, and under the able tutelage of the Creationists, he will develop the
ability successfully to discriminate between truth and fable, fact and fiction,
which he appears so sorely to lack at present.
As we know, many people who believe in the �talking snake�
also believe in the death penalty and corporal punishment. In fact, there are paddles sold for believing parents with
which to chastise their children according to God�s will. Since De Christopher
used a bidder�s paddle as his instrument of sin, there is a certain justice in
using these holy paddles to beat some sense into him.
The Punisher: In the interests of justice, this
punishment should be administered by a member of the maligned group of oil and
gas drillers. The name of the late lamented Lawrence G. Rawl, the CEO of Exxon
Mobil at the time of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill in 1989, comes to mind. Who can
forget Mr. Rawl�s response to the spill that ruined local wildlife, severely
damaged the livelihoods of local fishermen and remains a proud example of one
of the biggest environmental disasters to date? Top-ranking employees at Exxon
were very concerned at the time -- concerned that the company would have to
take the wrenching step of increasing the price of fuel to pay for the clean
up, and Mr. Rawl himself took only six weeks to visit the site of the spill. A
solid corporate citizen like him would have been the ideal choice to give De
Christopher the whipping he so richly deserves. Perhaps the current Exxon Mobil
chairman could do the honors as a tribute to his predecessor�s memory.
Scandal in Holy
Orders (no, not that kind of scandal)
The Criminal: Father Louis Vitale, 76, Franciscan
Friar, St. Elizabeth�s Friary, Oakland
There is a huge difference in years between the 76-year-old
Father Vitale and the college sophomore De Christopher, yet both share the same
egregious contempt for the law. They both babble about �civil disobedience,� as
though it were a virtuous thing, apparently unaware that you can�t be admired
for breaking the law unless you happen to be dead, like Gandhi or Dr. King.
Since after you�re dead you can make no more trouble, you then get roads named
after you and politicians make speeches about you in which they drip with
unctuous praise that is usually in inverse proportion to how badly they
actually intend to ignore or subvert your legacy. So the only good civil disobedient
is a dead civil disobedient, a truism that appears to have escaped these two
The Crime: This one�s a career criminal with a
mile-long rap sheet. He�s been arrested over 200 times! Need one say more -- could
there be a more damning indictment? The man is a serial pacifist who inflicts
his unwelcome presence upon such temples of Empire as the former School of the
Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Huachaca, Arizona, where military
interrogators receive necessary training in the latest �enhanced interrogation�
techniques. No, these do not include learning to sing lullabies.
By attempting to interfere with the officers in the pursuit
of their lawful (and no doubt moral) duty, Fr. Louie, as he is popularly known,
is acting against American interests. His vaunted message of peace and
non-violence is probably a veneer that conceals his real motives -- to provide
aid and comfort to terrorists. (Isn�t that what all pacifists, from Shelley to
the Dalai Lama, are supposed to really want?)
The Sentence: Well, we could crucify him, or
throw him to the lions, but that�s been done, and anyway, it�s so last century.
Besides, the only lions we have are in zoos and circuses, and it would take a
while to round them all up. Too time consuming.
We�ll have to come up with something more hi-tech, something
with the cutting-edge technology befitting our status as a modern-day Empire.
Since the Father appears to like hanging around our schools of military
interrogation so much, why not give him an inside tour of one of them? Let�s
put the pestilential priest on one of the special tables described by some
recipients of our �enhanced interrogation� (testimony in the recently leaked
ICRC Report). Waterboarding, hanging from hooks, banging heads against walls, stripping,
hooding -- we have a whole smorgasbord of choices for the unholy Father�s
delectation. And isn�t that what America is all about -- the right to choose?
The Punisher: Fortunately we have no call to turn to
the spirit world for a suitable punisher. The obvious choice in this case is
ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who rightly pointed out how �quaint� and
�obsolete� the Geneva Conventions are. Mr. Gonzales was the pathbreaking
visionary who crafted the legal authorization for the Justice Department�s
�enhanced interrogation.� Far from appreciating his pioneering leadership, Fr.
Louie seeks to hobble their practice of these techniques on the ground. It is,
therefore, strict justice that the distinguished lawyer would be dealing out to
the recalcitrant priest. The former is a credit to his robes, the latter, an
unqualified disgrace to his.
Of course, Mr. Gonzales might conceivably argue that
actually to inflict torture is not his job, his being merely to reason why. But
surely Mr. Gonzales would not wish to miss the chance of trying out the methods
he authorized on Fr. Louie, whose mission in life appears to be to subvert
Go for it, Mr. Gonzales. May the Force (the force you helped
unleash) be with you.
Bomber (title courtesy of
P. Sainath of The Hindu)
The Criminal: Actually, the way we�ve reduced their
country to a pile of rubble, one can only conclude that every man, woman and
child in Iraq must be a criminal. Still, one of those renegades deserves
special mention. The individual I have in mind is Muntadhar Al-Zaidi, Iraqi
journalist for Al-Baghdadiya, and currently lodged in an Iraqi jail, where he
is doubtless being pampered past all endurance.
The Crime: Surely you remember the despicable act
that made this man an international hero? (Ask Facebook if you don�t believe me
-- they�ve got multiple fan sites dedicated to him. Some people are so sick).
Al-Zaidi is the man who, during a press conference where both then-President
Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki were present, suddenly rose from
his seat and hurled first one of his shoes, then the other, at the president of
the United States.
Al-Zaidi claims he was incensed over the American occupation
of Iraq. This is not the moment to digress, or I could cover several pages with
shocked disapproval at the man�s inexplicable attitude. Does not the whole
world -- particularly poor nations and those where most residents are people of
color -- have wet dreams about gum-chewing, gun-toting, well-fed American G.I.s
marching in lockstep across their homelands? Does not every �developing�
nation, like a woman wailing for her demon lover, long to be ravished by the
mighty and virile U.S. of A? Well, then -- how dare this upstart of an Al-Zaidi
Al-Zaidi was dragged out by Iraqi law enforcement, and was
allegedly being roughed up outside by these worthies as President Bush, in a
devastating flash of insight typical of someone of his exceptional
intelligence, remarked that Al-Zaidi had done the deed to draw attention to
himself. See? There�s his motivation laid bare for you right there. The man
wanted attention, like a spoiled toddler who throws toys at Mommy because he
wants to play. Perhaps the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi widows and orphans
whom Al-Zaidi invoked in the midst of his tantrum wanted attention, too, but
nobody asked them. What a nation of pouting brats. Shame on them.
The Sentence: Al-Zaidi�s jail sentence, which was
three years at first, has now been reduced to just one year under intense
pressure from fellow Iraqis and human rights groups. Of course, such a lenient
sentence does not begin to scratch the surface of the punishment this scum of
the earth deserves. He has apparently been beaten and tortured while in
custody, but is that sufficient? Must we not make an example of him to show the
world what fate awaits the one who thumbs a nose -- or throws a shoe -- at our
great nation? Al-Zaidi should be publicly hanged, drawn, and quartered in the
best medieval tradition. This is only fitting, and culturally sensitive as
well, since the devastation of Iraqi society has sent that country back to the
Middle Ages if not the Stone Age.
The Punisher: I have two candidates to suggest: one,
of course, Mr. Bush himself, and the other the ex-Secretary of State Ms.
Madeline Albright. Ms. Albright once answered a question put to her by a
reporter about whether the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children owing to the
U.S.-backed U.N. sanctions had been �worth it.� She responded nobly, saying,
�It was a very difficult choice -- but yes, we think it was worth it.� Given
that the milk of human kindness appears to be sloshing around so freely in Ms.
Albright�s bosom (the same milk those Iraqi children would have received but
for the sanctions) she appears to be a natural candidate for carrying out the
sentence on Al-Zaidi. For when she disembowels him, she will do so even though
it will be a �difficult choice.� That�s the U.S.A. for you -- we appoint people
to powerful positions who do not shy away from difficult choices.
The Lawyer in
Looking Glass Land
The Criminal: Clive Stafford Smith, OBE, director of
legal charity Reprieve
This man is yet another example of a wolf in sheep�s
clothing -- someone sworn to protect the law but who shows scant scruple in
breaking it over trivial questions such as human rights. You�d think his
British origins would ensure his loyalty, but he evidently fears to tread where
Tony Blair once rushed in so blithely.
The Crime: Smith stands accused of �unprofessional
conduct� for attempting to notify the U.S. president of human rights abuses
being committed by American personnel. Actually, Smith submitted the memo
detailing the abuses to the Privilege Review Committee, which scrutinizes and
censors communication between Gitmo prisoners and their lawyers, and the committee
redacted the entire memo except for the top sentence. Smith, apparently
aggrieved by the committee�s decision, called it a �bizarre reality� that the commander
in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces should be thus prevented from learning about
alleged crimes committed by U.S. personnel.
Okay, Mr. Smith, you need a serious �reality� check. Here
are some facts that should put you straight on our contemporary reality.
- �The United States of
America does not torture. It�s against our laws, and it�s against our
- �No-one is above the law.�
- �This is a time for
reflection, not retribution.� 
- � . . . those who devised
policy, he [Obama] believes that they were -- should not be prosecuted . .
- President Obama leaves
open the possibility of inquiry into the actions of Bush administration
lawyers who authorized torture 
- � . . . certain acts may
be cruel, inhuman, or degrading, but still not produce pain and suffering
of the requisite intensity to fall within Section 2340A�s proscription
against torture� 
- � . . . the water was
poured on . . . I thought I was going to die. I lost control of my urine.
Since then I still lose control of my urine when under stress . . .� 
- �Contrariwise,� continued
Tweedledee, �if it was so, it might be, and if it were so, it could be;
but as it isn�t, it ain�t. That�s logic.� 
I hope, Mr. Smith, that your reality feels appreciably less
�bizarre,� now. Or maybe you just need more practice learning to believe six
impossible things before breakfast.
The Sentence: Since the Supreme Court recently ruled
that Gitmo �detainees� (such a lovely word, as though they�re under house
arrest in the Aga Khan Palace) do have the right of habeas corpus, perhaps we
should dispatch Smith to the Bagram �detention facility� in Afghanistan. But
wait -- there�s a Justice John Bate currently gumming up the works for Bagram,
too, with his �quaint� notions of the rights of Bagram detainees to habeas
Really. What�s a decent, self-respecting Empire to do,
hampered at every turn by these pestering arbiters of justice? It�s enough to
make one want to do away with meddlesome institutions like courts altogether,
and start forming lynch mobs, as in the Good Old Wild West.
Well, if Bagram is out, I assume the CIA black sites are
still open, so let�s hood Smith, strip him, shackle his hands behind his back,
put him on a plane, and ship him to one of those sites before the CIA closes
them. Afterwards we can always transfer him to Syria or Egypt or some other
friendly country that gives us touching assurances that it, too, does not
The Punisher(s): The CIA officials who participated
in the �enhanced interrogations� authorized by Mr. Gonzalez might be persuaded
to offer their services in the case of Smith. After all, these loyal employees
acted in �good faith� and the president has granted them immunity from
prosecution as a consequence. Although the president has referred to the
episode as a �dark and painful chapter in our history� -- no doubt referring to
the excruciating agony the torturers had to endure as they performed their hard
tasks -- Smith�s brazen attempt to subvert official secrecy surely constitutes
a powerful argument for reopening the �chapter.� It will be hard on the CIA
operatives, of course, but they�re big boys and they�ll handle it somehow.
They�ve done it before.
The Wicked Witch
of the CFTC
The Criminal: Brooksley Born, Stanford graduate and
former chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
We can call her �The Witch� or �The Woman Who Knew Too
Much.� Same difference, really. She�s one of those mouthy women. You know the
type -- women who don�t understand that they are meant to be seen and not
The Crime: Basically, blasphemy against the Holy
Trinity of Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, and Lawrence Summers. Born dared to
question the accepted gospel that the market would always regulate itself.
Apparently bent on heresy, she suggested that there needed to be more
regulation and oversight of complex financial instruments such as credit default
swaps (CDS). Even after the �Oracle,� as Alan Greenspan was called, had spoken,
declaring that he saw no necessity for such regulation, Born continued mulishly
to express her concerns, undeterred by the �scorn, condescension and anger�
with which Greenspan et al. met Born�s ill-mannered carping.  Something had
to be done about this presumptuous pest of a woman -- or someone might start
paying attention to her increasingly shrill warnings. Now was the time for a
few good men to come to the aid of the beleaguered Lady, �Free Market.�
Enter the four gallant knights-errant: Greenspan, Rubin,
Summers, and Arthur Levitt, then head of the Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC). Blazing with righteous zeal for their liege, they rode swiftly forth to
rescue the endangered Lady, �Free Market,� from the evil machinations of
Brooksley �Morgana Le Fay� Born. Triumphant success attended the efforts of the
doughty defenders. On their recommendation, Congress froze the CFTC�s
regulatory authority for six months, and soon afterwards, Born slunk away,
declining a second term in office.
You might think being forced from office is sufficient
punishment for Born�s transgressions. But alas, like Cassandra, Born�s
spiritual ancestor, Born turned out to be right all along. Exotic financial
instruments such as those she sought to regulate ended up playing a starring
role in the current economic meltdown. And this, I submit, is Born�s real
crime. She has made Greenspan, Rubin, Summers and Levitt look like foolish
schoolboys who should never have been allowed to manage a child�s piggy-bank,
let alone run the financial affairs of an entire nation. Born-the-witch
suggested some simple folk remedies that would have worked where the best
efforts of the �leeches� (an ancient and instructive term for surgeons) have
The Sentence: Born is by no means the first woman to
be cut off at the knees by male bosses who know better than their female
underlings. Women have been facing similar fates for centuries now -- uppity
women, �wise women,� as some misguided feminists call them. The English
language is full of words to describe such women -- scold, shrew, nag,
harridan, bitch, witch . . . all of which basically mean the same thing, a
woman who has opinions and is not afraid to voice them. And our world has
developed time-honored methods of dealing with such women, too -- one very
effective method, sanctified by tradition, is to burn them at the stake.
After such l�se majest� as Born has committed, what
forgiveness? To the stake with her, and let�s pile the logs up nice and high.
The Punisher(s): Although Time has called the
Greenspan-Rubin-Summers troika the �three marketeers,� the addition of Arthur
Levitt evokes a more appropriate title: �The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.�
These �parfit gentil� knights represent War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death -- familiar
experiences in country after country where the free-market, neoliberal economic
principles they championed have been put into practice. Who better than they to
consign Brooksley Born to the flames of retribution?
Apart from the fact that �Bankers Burn Brooksley Born� would
make a rather catchy headline, there are more pragmatic reasons to consider
getting rid of Born. Other women, on seeing her vindicated, might get ideas -- and,
as everyone knows, there is nothing so dangerous as a woman with ideas.
So there you have them -- a rogue�s gallery, a snapshot
of the kind of people who pose the greatest threat to our country today. I am
currently soliciting suggestions for more names to add to the list. Creative
methods of punishment are also welcome. In America, we are great believers in
creativity, as also in punishment -- combining the two would be super. Send in
 President George W. Bush, White House Speech, September
 President Barack Obama, answering reporters� questions,
White House, February 9, 2009
 President Barack Obama, letter to CIA employees, in
which he rules out prosecution of CIA operatives involved in acts of torture,
April 18, 2009
 Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, ABC news,
�This Week� April 19, 2009
 Various news sources, April 21, 2009
 Former Asst. Atty. General Jay Bybee, Justice
Department Memo authorizing �enhanced interrogation� techniques, August 1,
 Abu Zubaydah, terrorism suspect, describing his
experiences of �enhanced
interrogation,� page 11
 Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, 1871
Katherine Van Heuvel, �The Woman Greenspan, Rubin & Summers Silenced,� The
Nation, October 9, 2008