As regular readers know, much of my
writing walks the razor's edge of believability. I like to think of
it as "scraping close to the bone," and am delighted when letter-writers
ask whether my scenarios really happened or whether they are fictional.
But I find that as a satirist, it's getting more and more difficult to
skate the thin line separating reality and parody. (Tom Lehrer had much
the same feeling in the '70s: "Political satire became obsolete when
Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.")
In that light, check this out: An increasing number of nations in the
"coalition of the willing" are abandoning Bush's war in Iraq (most
notably our one remaining major ally, Great Britain), and yet Cheney is
viewing that development as evidence of the Administration's successful
strategy. All this while the U.S. is "surging" more troops into Iraq
because the situation is so dire there.
How could a satirist possibly top that one?
THE ABSURD AS POLICY
In this and other matters, Dick Cheney resembles "Baghdad Bob." Do you
remember that guy? He was the Iraq Information Minister (Mohammed Saeed
al-Sahaf), the official spokesman for the Saddam Hussein regime in its
last days. "Baghdad Bob" was the ultimate absurdist spin-doctor who
would put the best face on the worst possible news happening to his
The foreign reporters hovering around him would burst out laughing when
he'd unravel another whopper about how well the Iraqi troops were doing
in fending off the American invading force.
His ultimate performance, as I recall, took place on a Baghdad street
when, surrounded by the foreign press shouting questions at him, he
denied that the Americans were anywhere near Baghdad. ("There are no
troops there. Never. ... There is no presence of American infidels in
the city of Baghdad." ) Behind him, one could see the U.S. tanks
One could giggle at his lies because we all knew that he didn't believe
what he was saying. He was spouting such nonsense because if he didn't
toe Saddam's line, he'd be executed in a second. Besides, he had no
power to affect events.
But Cheney has no such excuses: Along with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz,
Cheney is largely responsible for the policy that took the U.S. to war
in Iraq, a policy based on outright lies, distortions, deceit. Cheney is
the major progenitor of the war's current escalation of sending 21,000
more troops into Iraq. (This escalation comes nearly two years after
Cheney, always consistent in his wrong-headedness, declared that the
Iraq insurgency was "in its final throes." Baghdad Bob-ing again.)
"SIGNS OF PROGRESS"
Here is Tony Blair announcing the beginning of the end of British
involvement in Iraq, by withdrawing one-third of its expeditionary
forces, and Cheney is claiming that as a "sign of progress" for the Bush
Lest you think I'm making this up for satirical effect, let's quote more
of what Cheney said about the Brits pulling out of Basra in that
interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl: "Well, I look at it and see it
is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are
going pretty well."
Juan Cole, who actually knows the territory, had a more realistic
"This is a rout, there should be no mistake. The
fractious Shiite militias and tribes of Iraq's South have made it
impossible for the British to stay. They already left Sadr-controlled
Maysan province, as well as sleepy Muthanna. They moved the British
consulate to the airport because they couldn't protect it in Basra.
They are taking mortar and rocket fire at their bases every night.
Raiding militia HQs has not resulted in any permanent change in the
"Blair is not leaving Basra because the British mission has been
accomplished. He is leaving because he has concluded that it cannot
be, and that if he tries any further it will completely sink the
Labor Party, perhaps for decades to come."
Also this from Kim Murphy in the
Los Angeles Times: "Britain's decision to pull 1600 troops out
of Iraq by spring, touted by U.S. and British leaders as a turning point
in Iraqi sovereignty, was widely seen Wednesday as a telling admission
that the British military could no longer sustain simultaneous wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq. The British military is approaching 'operational
failure,' former [U.K.] defense staff chief Charles Guthrie warned this
Blair can accept the reality in the region, CheneyBush can't. And the
Republican Party will pay the price in 2008 for their leaders'
unwillingness to see and deal with the disaster in front of their faces.
COMFORT FOOD FOR THE MIND
The Cheney-as-Baghdad-Bob meme would be funny except that several
hundred-thousand human beings, American and Iraqi civilians, have died
or been maimed as a result of the Bush Administration's consistent slide
into delusion, and more are being slaughtered and wounded every day.
Reality to CheneyBush and the rest of the Bunker Boys is unfamiliar
territory. It's much more comforting for them to rest in their bubble
world of self-delusion, where just one more offensive, another infusion
of troops, another tweaking of the military leadership, will snatch
victory from the jaws of defeat.
We watched this same fantasized "turning-the-corner" scenario unfold
innumerable times in the Vietnam War as well; eventually, the U.S.
"surged" 500,000 troops U.S. into that quagmire, only to bring them out
in humiliation several years later.
So when anti-war Democrats and moderate Republicans analyze their
options to get America's troops out of Iraq and to prevent the Bush
Administration from expanding the war beyond the borders of Iraq and
Afghanistan into Iran, it's clear that extraordinary action is required
lest the madness take us all into a moral and warmaking maelstrom from
which there is no conceivable exit.
DISSENT AT NEW LEVEL OF URGENCY
That means thinking the unthinkable for many in opposition: cutting off
funding for the war effort, introducing articles of impeachment in the
House, initiating massive civil disobedience, avoiding '08 candidates
who dance around what needs to be done in Iraq rather than actually
taking steps to do it, and building support for Pentagon military brass
who resign in protest (and for troops like Lieutenant Watada who refuse
to participate in illegal, immoral wars), etc.
Normally, the political system in Washington would correct itself slowly
over time, but that system appears to be so corrupted and frightened and
confused that it will take a popular tsunami of desperate anger to get
them to move and do the right thing. Besides, time is not on our side
That's where you and I come in. We must not merely march and write
letters and sign petitions and give money, as important and necessary as
those acts are. But we also must get our hands dirty in the political
trenches: run for office, volunteer to help good candidates, visit the
offices of our elected representatives and senators and refuse to leave
until they hear us out. We must initiate creative acts of civil
disobedience that time and time again will get the word out that we love
our country and will no longer tolerate its destruction and desecration
from within and its reckless imperial adventuring abroad.
We really don't have a lot of time to play with here. Iraq, already a
charnel house of sectarian slaughter, most assuredly will get even worse
(even with many of the Sadrist forces having gone to ground until the
Americans leave) into a full-scale civil-war bloodbath. A reinvigorated
Taliban/Al Qaida alliance is expected to launch its Spring offensive
shortly in Afghanistan, with the U.S. and NATO forces trying to counter
by pre-emptively attacking their bases.
THE COMING ATTACK ON IRAN
And, most ominously, as many have reported, Israel and the United
States, either together or separately, are preparing to attack Iran's
nuclear and military facilities, in order to set back that nation's
technological and strike capacities for at least a decade or more. This
attack could well come within the next six weeks or so. See
I suppose it's possible that the U.S. and Israel are playing a giant
game of "chicken" with Iran, trying to scare the Iranian leaders into
backing off their missile and nuclear development programs, but the
evidence points to an operational run-up to a new war, using pretty much
the same rollout template from 2003 Iraq. All the U.S. needs is a
triggering incident, and if the Bush Administration can't find one that
Congress can believe, they will, as they did in Iraq, invent one.
Even though the limited intelligence being used by the Bush
Administration to con Americans into supporting an attack on Iran is
"thin," to say the least, Iran's recent launch of a powerful rocket
into space and thumbing its nose at U.N. demands concerning its nuclear
program are like waving a red flag in a bull's face and don't help
relieve the tension between Iran and the U.S. All it will take is one
miscalculation in Tehran or Washington and the region will be drowned in
In short, all hell is about to break loose on the military front in the
greater Middle East/South Asia region, with the U.S. being right in the
middle of it. The Pentagon leaders know it and want no part of it,
apparently from Secretary Gates on down through the Joint Chiefs of
Staff. It was reported over the weekend that at least
five generals and several admirals will resign if Bush decides to
bomb Iran. Our allies know the reality of what's happening and warn
against U.S. policy; Tony Blair, for instance, has expressed his serious
reservations about the U.S. desire to attack Iran.
U.S. SUPPORTING JIHADIST GROUPS!
And, to top it all off, and take us back to that thin line between
reality and satire: U.S. policy, according to
Sy Hersh's new must-read article in The New Yorker, is being
redirected to support Al Qaida-linked Sunni terrorist groups as a buffer
against the rising power of Shiite Iran. I couldn't make this stuff up!
Here are some quotes from Hersh: He says the U.S. has been "pumping
money, a great deal of money, without congressional authority, without
any congressional oversight" for covert operations in the Middle East
where it wants to "stop the Shiite spread or the Shiite influence."
Hersh says these funds have ended up in the hands of "three Sunni
jihadist groups" who are "connected to al Qaeda" but "want to take on
Hezbollah. ... We are simply in a situation where this president is
really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit
here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by
Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same
people that did 9/11."
We American citizens must keep saying it, and saying it even more
loudly: CheneyBush policy in Iraq and Iran is absolute madness and must
be stopped in its tracks.
We voters thought we were sending a clear, decisive message to
CheneyBush in the November midterm election -- to get our troops out of
there and tamp down the imperial adventurism -- but they chose not to
listen. So we have our work cut out for us, to be sure.
A mass-based popular intervention may be the only thing that will save
our country. Let's roll up our oppositional sleeves and get to it.
Copyright 2007, by Bernard Weiner