Overwhelmed by one crisis after another, one scandal after another, one politician's lies after another, I turn to the franchised book empire that tells it like it is, in plain English, so that even confused citizens like myself can understand current events.
Q. What's really going on in Iraq? Is the U.S. trying to get out of that country, or is it planning to stay for another year or two?
A. The Bush Administration will never openly admit that it's wrong, about anything, and certainly not about its incoherent policy in Iraq. But it's been forced by events on the ground to come to grips with reality.
The reality: Since the Bush Administration came to the "post-war" phase totally unprepared -- because it swallowed whole the fantastical theories the neo-cons had devised in their right-wing ivory towers, along with the self-serving lies told by the Iraqi exiles -- they walked right into a political/military buzzsaw, probably just as Saddam Hussein foresaw when most of his forces dispersed without much of a fight.
The reality: you can't create democracy from the barrel of a gun. It won't work in Iraq, it won't work in the rest of the Islamic Middle East. The operative rule, for all nations -- Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist -- is this: No country's citizens like to be Occupied by a foreign army, one that claims to be interested in their welfare but which seems more concerned with power, cont rol, organized corporate-looting -- and, in this case, appears to wear a big Christian-crusader chip on its shoulder when it comes to the Muslim world.
Q. You haven't answered my question.
A. Down, fella; I was just getting warmed up. Providing context. Setting the stage... So, there are twin forces at work within Bush&.Co.: On the one hand, the more pragmatic theorists in the Administration -- mainly in the White House, State and CIA -- see the Vietnam-quagmire handwriting on the wall, and the anger their $87-billion for Iraq is causing in the American electorate, and are desperate to find a way to get U.S. troops out of the target areas before election day.
This would entail turning over more power more quickly to the Iraqis themselves -- but conceivably, if even that doesn't work, may require going back to the U.N. and the European allies and offering them a power-sharing arrangement in helping run and re-construct Iraq, with their companies getting a good share of the reconstruction boondoggle money.
This Bush faction believes that if the democratization/reconstruction phase is under a U.N. or other international umbrella and the U.S. troops are not that visible, the Iraqis will cease-and-desist, or at least ameliorate, their deadly attacks on the peacekeeping forces and humanitarian-aid agencies. Instead, in this scenario, with some elected officials starting to take charge of Iraqi affairs instead of the current U.S.-appointed Coalition Provisional Authority, the Iraqis will see those international forces and agencies as being helpful reconstructionists, not as threatening Occupiers, and Iraq can move forward quickly toward democracy and free-market prosperity.
THE NEO-CON FACTOR
Another faction, mainly consisting of the neo-con zealots at Rumsfeld's Pentagon and in Cheney's office, want to stay on the present course. They bet so much on getting the U.S. militarily into Iraq -- lying through their teeth to do so -- because they believed in the cause of using that weak Arab country as a demonstration model for the rulers of other Middle East nations: This is what could well happen to your country unless
accommodations are made to U.S. geopolitical desires and corporate interests. The ultimate Bush&Co. goal, other than to set up the profit-making machine for their corporate backers, is to totally alter the instability of the oil-rich region, and the mainly autocratic governing system of Islam.
If the U.S. were forced by events on the ground to devolve power to others and not remain in full control in Iraq, the entire neo-con agenda is put at risk. Were the U.S. to be forced by the Iraqi insurgents to move toward power-sharing with the U.N., the Bush Administration -- without its sole-superpower ability to threaten and bully -- might not find it possible to change the face of modern Islam in the direction of less militant behavior towards the West (and, significantly, towards Israel, America's proxy-state in the area). Oil politics could turn against the U.S. and its all-consuming need for cheap, reliable sources of black gold.
Q. So, which faction is winning?
A. It depends on the day. And on the weather. And on which side Pete Rose is betting on... .But, seriously, folks, the truth is that both factions interweave, even as they launch attacks against each other.
Given the strength of both factions, it would appear that attempts are being made to reconcile the two seemingly incongruous policies. It would look something like this:
The U.S. would stay, in some strength, for maybe two years, but would remain in the background, pulling strings when necessary to get what it wants; presumably, fewer American young men and women would get killed and wounded.
Iraqis would begin to move toward some home-grown version of democracy, but always knowing that the Americans, still based in their country, could exercise a forceful kind of veto if it chose to do so. (And, since Bush has said that the American military will stay until the country is pacified, this means the U.S. will be there for a long time, since such a pronouncement invites a constant veto power through suicide bombings.)
In short, the U.S. may have to back down (or seem to be backing down: PR spin) in the short run in order to drastically lower the U.S. death-rate of our soldiers and get the Iraqi debacle off voters' minds prior to the November election.
THE P.N.A.C. POSSE
Q. And, don't tell me: After the election, back to neo-con 101?
A. You're a quick study. You got it. If Bush wins, the neo-con attack dogs are unleashed and off we go once again into the
blood red sunset.
Q. Could our government be so mendacious, so greedy, so power-hungry? I don't want to believe that, even of a Bush Administration. Nobody could be that manipulative, so traitorous to American values and long-terms national interests.
A. Wanna bet? The neo-cons (or neo-conmen, as some call them) have spent a good dozen years, and more, getting ready for the day when they could finally see their strategies working in the real world, with them in control. With the implosion of Soviet communism and the installation of a malleable Bush Jr. in the White House -- and the monstrous 9/11 attack -- they finally got that opportunity, and they're not about to abandon their long-range plans.
If they have to make a few tactical course-corrections before the 2004 election, they'll do it. If they have to immolate a few sacrificial lambs, they'll do it; if the investigative pressure continues to build, I wouldn't be surprised to see a few lower-level fall guys resign to take the heat off of Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney: Stephen Hadley at the NSC (at the heart of the Wilson-Plame scandal), Douglas Feith (one of Rummy's main Iraq Occupation designers and WMD fabricators at the Office of Special Plans), George Tenet at the CIA. Hell, they'd even be willing, in extremis, to dump Cheney, if they figure it'll help Bush's 2004 chances.
Anything in order to keep the original plan moving, as developed by
The Project for The New American Century
theorists for the past decade -- using American muscle aggressively to get their way in the world, cutting out the U.N. and any nation that could possibly threaten U.S. hegemony, getting effective control of the globe's energy resources, threatening preventive wars against those who get in the way of U.S. policy, and actually launching such wars where appropriate.
In short, the PNAC Posse will do what it has to do in the short run -- make Iraq
accommodations, throw a few lesser lights overboard to protect the big cheeses, even (gulp) ask for international assistance -- in order to stay in power and carry out the rest of the imperial plan.
ANGERING THE SPOOKS
You namby-pamby liberals don't want to think your government would behave this way? Listen, buddo, they are consumed by arrogance and fear; they'll do what they have to do to stay in power. If it requires outing a covert CIA agent to make a political point, they'll do it, and to hell with the illegality of the act. Valerie Plame and her network of informants and agents around the world are merely collateral damage in the service of the cause; besides, Bush&Co. know they won't be fingered on that one, since journalists will never reveal their sources.
Q. But when they outed Joe Wilson's wife, they stirred up a hornet's nest of opposition from inside the CIA, who now are leaking all sorts of information detrimental to the White House and its neo-con allies. Didn't they realize that the Plame outing, and blaming the CIA for all the bad intelligence about Saddam's supposed WMDs, would backfire?
A. We're talking about the tragic flaw of hubris here, the feeling that you can get away with anything because you're so powerful and nasty and scary. But you can almost feel the inexorable convergence of scandals into one big, huge mass at the top of a steep hill, with the White House at the bottom. Critical mass has just about been reached. When that huge boulder of scandal and incompetency and hubris begins to roll -- and a run-up to the election is the perfect launch ramp -- you know that the smashing and destruction at the bottom of the hill is going to be swift and ugly. Impeachment and resignation are the best they can hope for, to try to stave off criminal prosecution.
Q. Oh, come on. That's not going to happen. These guys control the White House, the Congress, the Supreme Court, the radio and cable networks and much of the rest of the mass-media. Your scenario is just a fantasy -- even you know that, right?
A. You can fool some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can't have it all. More and more Americans are realizing they were lied to and egregiously manipulated by the Bush Administration in order to move the country into Iraq. Our young men and women are targets in a shooting gallery, dying and being wounded at an astounding rate; the Iraqi insurgents can bleed us for years, a war of a thousand cuts.
Support for the U.S. war effort is below 50% in the polls and falling rapidly, and there's a rising understanding that Bush&Co. didn't have a clue when it came to "post-war" Iraq. We're basically out there all by ourselves, the rest of the world content to watch us flounder in the muck. In short, there's no strong support,
domestically or internationally, for Bush's original neo-con policies that got us into this immoral, reckless mess.
In addition, domestically there is so much revulsion against the excesses of the USA Patriot Act -- which was rammed through Congress right after 9/11, with virtually no legislators having had a chance to read the final draft -- that even conservatives are joining in to strip it of its worst, fascist-like, Big Brother provisions. More than 200 cities and towns and states have passed resolutions that they will not honor it, or help the federal government enforce it, in their jurisdictions. (And, believe it or not, Ashcroft and Bush are trying to EXPAND the federal government's powers under Patriot Act 2! These guys are shameless.)
Even Pvt. Jessica Lynch, whom the Bush spinners turned into a poster girl for Iraq-War heroism, has rebelled, complaining that her story was largely manipulated for political purposes.
In short, all the seeming power and control in the world can't conceal forever that the citizenry, finally, is getting a peek behind the Washington curtain and they don't like what they see -- all that lying and mendacity and meanness and hidden agendas. Meanwhile, more than 3,000,000 have lost their jobs since Bush moved into the White House -- many of them really good jobs "outsourced" to the cheaper labor markets abroad -- and a lot more citizens are fearful of becoming unemployed. All this doesn't bode well for Bush&Co. in the 2004 election.
THE TOUCH-SCREEN PROBLEM
Q. You mean Bush is vulnerable enough to lose to the Dems?
A. You're forgetting something: Republicans control the computer-software that adds up the votes on the touch-screen voting machines being installed all over the country. A slight manipulation of the software there, a
surreptitiously-installed patch here, a quiet hack into the system there -- and, surprise!, Bush pulls ahead in enough states to emerge the winner. Already, the Bush-supporting CEO of Diebold, one of the three major computer-voting companies, has promised Bush he will "deliver" Ohio to the Republicans in 2004.
That's the bad news. The good news is that 12 months before the election, word of this scandal is finally moving out from the progressive internet sites -- which have kept this story alive and building for more than a year -- into the mainstream press. And, as a result, more and more folks are getting outraged, and even beginning to ask embarrassing questions about the elections of 2002 and how some Democrats, who in key states were slightly ahead in the polls just before the vote, came to lose -- Max Cleland in Georgia, for example. Turns out software-patches may have been illegally installed just prior to the balloting.
California has put a hold on full certification of Diebold machines until it can be convinced that the software system is on the up-and-up. There are moves in other states to do something similar. These three companies refuse to let anybody look at their proprietary software (and even have threatened lawsuits against websites publishing internal Diebold memos), but if state and local election officials REFUSE TO BUY THEIR MACHINES until the software problems are solved -- and a paper-trail made available as a further double-check on the voting totals -- we might see some action quick.
But, as always, there will be no official action by the bureaucrats unless the people organize themselves on the local levels and demand it. So get to work. It would be a crime, literally, if the Democratic candidate once again won the presidential election, only to be robbed of it by chicanery and fraud.
Q. I'd like to believe your rosy predictions of how Bush could lose. But you're forgetting something really important: the terrorists who hit the United States badly on 9/11. We Americans were, and remain, scared, and thus we're willing to cut Bush some slack, since he's protecting us from the bad guys -- who, by the way, are not figments of your liberal imagination but real, and anxious to do the U.S. more harm. You've seen what they did in New York and Washington, and the atrocities they've pulled off all over the world. Don't you think they could do it again inside the U.S.?
A. Of course. Despite the draconian, police-state tactics of Ashcroft's Justice Department, and the setting up of the Homeland Security Department (significantly, without the FBI and CIA folded in), the U.S. is still mightily vulnerable to terrorist attack. The first time it happened, on 9/11, the inner circles of the Bush Administration knew that something like it was coming, and decided to do nothing, in order to further their domestic and foreign agendas. That's why the Bush White House is fighting so tenaciously to keep the 9/11 commission from getting its hands on the key pre-9/11 documents.
It's possible the Bush Administration could choose to look the other way again and further manipulate our fears and insecurities, so that the populace would permit the central government to do whatever it wants in the name of "homeland security" and the "war on terrorism."
But we're two years away from 9/11 now, and the American people have been able to get some perspective and have seen how Bush&Co. used our insecurity against us, leading us by lies and deceptions to support an unnecessary, unprovoked war against Iraq -- a country so weak and defenseless that it could barely put up a decent fight during the invasion -- and to acquiesce to the shredding of our Constitutional protections against tyrannical rule. I don't think we'd make the same mistake twice.
THE DEMS AND REGIME-CHANGE
Q. Says you. Look at the polls. Bush still has 40% of the country solidly behind his election effort, and many more who look up to him as a folksy, likeable guy -- plus he's got a campaign war-chest of close to a quarter-billion dollars. Who can the Democrats nominate who could defeat him?
A. You're looking at the cup as half-empty. Try half-full. Even without naming a candidate yet, the Democrats already have 40% support of the population behind defeating Bush. That's pretty damn good in "wartime." And Bush&Co. seem more and more incompetent and desperate all the time, trying one thing after another, for example, in Iraq, in order to paper over the holes and unworkability of their policies.
The Democratic contenders are, on the whole, a fairly strong, competent bunch. Assuming the computer-voting scandal can be taken care of -- maybe even going back to paper, hand-counted ballots for 2004 -- virtually any of them probably could take Bush next November. Especially if Iraq remains a mess and the jobs issue continues to haunt Bush next year.
It looks like Howard Dean may pull away from the pack pretty quickly after the initial primaries; any of the other contenders would make a good ticket-balancer -- it might well be Clark or Graham or Gephardt. Karl Rove pretends not to be worried by a Dean candidacy, but you'd better believe he reads the poll numbers and is not at all happy at the prospect of Bush going one-on-one against Dean, or almost any of the other candidates for that matter.
Q. So you're hopeful the American people will rally behind the Dem candidate in order to get the Bush extremists out of power?
A. Let's just say that we have no choice if we love our country, our Constitution, our once-admirable reputation in the world. If Bush&Co. are gone, we can return to an economy aimed at decreasing deficit-spending, increasing employment-growth, reducing the number of good jobs going overseas, setting up a tax-system fairer to the middle-class, etc. With Bush&Co. gone, we can focus on the anti-terrorism campaign without massive, reckless, horrendously expensive wars; we can service our citizens without bankrupting the treasury.
But we will be able to accomplish none of these goals as long as the Bush extremists, these ideological zealots, remain in power. I think the American people are beginning to understand this, and are willing to organize to take the country back -- even if it means supporting and voting for a Democrat with whom they may have some disagreements -- because the situation simply has to change if we're going to save our country.
Copyright 2003, by Bernard Weiner
*John Wiley & Sons is the official holder of the trademarked
title "For Dummies."