Bounties and accountability

President* Trump,

Might the revelation that Vladimir was (is?) paying Taliban fighters bounties to kill US soldiers be what finally prods a whole bunch of your base awake from their stupefied slumber? Even if you maintain your weaselly stance that your intelligence people didn’t brief you, will your flag-loving peeps, the ones who insisted that Colin Kaepernick was dishonoring the military by kneeling during the national anthem, finally say this was a bridge too far and that you blew it? Could this be the conservative version of what happened with George Floyd’s murder where he was killed in such a prolonged, brutal, and indifferent manner that it finally broke through to millions of white people that this shit is happening to Black people all the damn time and that it needs to stop?

I’m actually not all that optimistic at this point that this will lead to your demise, but we’ll see. This morning the pertinent coverage had slid down below the “front page” and I had to troll about for it for a couple of minutes. When I found it, it was dismaying to see that it focused on your predictable fake news claims and that the national security advisor (Robert O’Brien) insists you weren’t briefed because the information hadn’t yet been corroborated. Total bullshit, but plausible deniability is your other BFF, so here we are. Sadly, this is likely to become just another jagged blip that gets filed with all the other horrible abuses of power and craven kowtowing to Vladimir that you’ve engaged in over the years. But damn if it doesn’t have all the ingredients to dog you with your base; looking the other way when Russia puts bounties on American soldiers’ heads – it’s hard to imagine a worse action on the part of a POTUS.

If only Ted Liu’s proposed legislation to levy real penalties on officials who don’t comply with Congressional subpoenas was already in place. I bet if individual officials knew they could be seriously fined (like their assets seized), they wouldn’t be so willing to be human shields for you or for any other politician, much like if there wasn’t qualified immunity, police officers would likely actually engage their frontal lobes when they feel scared (or angry) rather than resort to shooting Black people or kneeling on their necks.

Since we clearly don’t live in a world (at least here in the US) where people can be trusted to carry out their duties with the best interest of the entire community at heart, whether because they don’t want to be seen as weak or they know they’re more likely to get that plum placement if they protect the power structure, there need to be penalties with teeth that can be brought to bear on offenders. Yes, I know this risks buying into the “a few bad apples” idea of both racism and crooked politics. Realistically, though, such changes aren’t likely to deter the truly bad apples – people cut from the same cloth as you will continue to act in their shitty sociopathic ways.

What such changes in the law likely would do is give those who are apt to get caught up in big emotions in the moment or in ethical equivocating a clear incentive to pause and assess the situation more thoughtfully, whether it’s to look for a de-escalation tactic and keep the gun holstered or to stiffen the backbone so that a truly exhaustive (and timely) search for all the relevant materials Congress is asking for is carried out. These folks far out number the “bad apples” and we need to make it much, much easier for them to step up and do the right thing.

May we be safe from our base instincts (and yours).
May we be willing to put real safeguards in place to protect us all from everyone’s base instincts.
May we strengthen our collective commitment to do right by one another.
May we not accept bullshit “fake news” cover stories. Ever.

Tracy Simpson

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