Nick Benton's Corner: The Decade from Hell

Was this, as Time magazine suggests, really the “Decade from Hell?”

Actual reality, of course, can't be broken up into the neat packages of time, such as decades, that humanity has devised in the form of clocks and calendars. We worship those inventions, and it is universally accepted to place in them the inordinate powers we prescribe to anniversaries and other features of an occult-like numerology.

The validity of calendars lies in their capacity for bringing all of humanity onto the same page. They help to make sure people show up on time for meetings, and in assessing individual experience by comparison to other things going on at the same time. They're tools of our shared existence, but are often confused with the reality they're designed to measure.

Still, a decade constitutes a long enough passage of time to be meaningful, and we are now at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

Time magazine also designates annually a “Person of the Year,” not always the best person, but the most impactful person. Looking back at the last 10 years in the same manner, my choices for the four persons of the decade, making the biggest difference on how things unfolded, are Antonin Scalia, Osama Bin Laden, Judith Miller and Barack Obama.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia was the most influential voice on the court that stole the 2000 U.S. presidential election for George Bush, perhaps the most seminal single event of the decade.

A personality profile section of a Washington D.C. newspaper asked the same question of different people every week, and one of them had to do with what one thing the person questioned would change if he or she could. Week in, week out for years, the answer was almost always the 2000 election outcome, as it was when I was asked.

Of course, by the time Scalia decided the matter, Fox News had done its damaging by “calling” Florida for Bush on election night, causing CBS's Dan Rather to hesitate and setting in motion a massive media and public deception operation that led up to the regrettable outcome.

Osama Bin Laden is an obvious choice, not only for his role as the mastermind of the horrid 9/11 attack, but for successfully eluding capture for the entire decade, resulting in the diversion of overwhelming resources while emboldening and growing terrorist networks worldwide.

Judith Miller was the New York Times reporter and Bush administration leak repository, who not only fed lies about “weapons of mass destruction” onto the front page of her newspaper leading up to the invasion of Iraq, but who withheld information that she knew about the White House source behind the retaliatory outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame until after the 2004 re-election of Bush.

Had Miller done her patriotic and journalistic duty to expose this most egregious of White House crimes, Bush would not have been re-elected, and the world would have been extricated from his miserable regime four years sooner. In those four years, Bush opened the floodgates for the most remarkable excess of speculation and leveraging in the history of the species, bringing the world to the brink of a total economic meltdown and a new dark age.

Finally, President Obama is my other “no-brainer” choice. He will be remembered not only for his campaign and historic electoral victory, but for having accomplished more in the first year of his administration than any president in U.S. History.

Of course, truth be told, if people had been paying more attention, I might have made the list, too. This column appeared without fail every week for the entire decade with a remarkable track record for accuracy, and two of them, in particular, were particularly prophetic. One, in October 2003, denounced Congressional Democrats for signing off on Bush's War Powers resolution to justify the invasion of Iraq. The other, appearing in July 2008, entitled “The Wheels Are Coming Off,” warned of the impending economic crisis that virtually no one, at that point, anticipated.

But the most important question at this moment in time concerns how the next decade will be remembered. Will it really be like the 1930s?

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