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The Iraq Debacle & Abu Gonzo


By Bernard Weiner, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers


March 27, 2007


(EVERGLADES CITY, FL.) For the past four years, as I've been cris-crossing the country -- and even when traveling abroad in Southeast Asia, North Africa and Europe -- I have run into the same pattern: Conservative, Reagan-style Republicans, many of them serving or former military types, ranting about the Bush Administration and the incalculable damage done both to the Constitution and to America's reputation in the world.

In all these conversations, these angry screeds just burst out of these conservatives, without any pre-knowledge that the fellow they're talking with is an editor of a progressive, anti-Bush, pro-democracy website.

When they find out my political slant, they seem overjoyed that they've met someone who shares many, though clearly not all, of their anxieties about the wrong direction in which the country is being taken. They need to vent their anger and disappointment big time; they can't do so in front of many of their military superiors and fellow officers. So they're happy to have someone to talk with who listens to their rants and agrees with much of them.

I'm in Florida for my uncle's 85th birthday celebration in a wealthy, white neighborhood in South Florida and one of the extended-family members, an active-duty official in one of the armed forces, volunteers that "the Cheney Administration," as he puts it, has wrecked the standing of America abroad by its obsessive pre-occupation with launching this ill-advised Iraq war and then continuing it long past the point of no-return.

CONSERVATIVE ANGER AT BUSH

This former Reagan staffer opines that if the U.S. had gone into Iraq with "a half-million men, and taken care of business," America would not be trapped in the quagmire it's in today. But he also believes that you can't fight extremist Muslim terrorists mainly in militarily campaigns since "you can never win" that kind of guerrilla war.

The war we should be fighting and winning, he said during his 30-minute rant, is for the hearts and minds of the locals, and CheneyBush policies are not capable of succeeding in that type of battle, especially given the use of torture as approved state policy, the not uncommon rapes and murders of Iraqi civilians by U.S. troops, the corruption everywhere that accompanies the U.S. occupation, the continuing lack of a functioning infrastructure (electricity, fresh water,) etc. .

Later in the evening, my sister and I engaged the military man again on a seeming contradiction: You stated, we say to him, that the U.S. can't win these type of wars against nationalist guerrillas but you think we should have thrown 500,000 troops into the battle anyway.

In an argument I've heard before from other military types, he didn't see his position as containing a contradiction:

"If we had moved that half-million in there in force and kicked ass immediately, stopped the looting, secured the ammo dumps, made it more difficult to come across the porous borders, installed our Iraqi strongman in charge -- if we had done all that then, chances are pretty good that things would have turned out much differently and to our advantage now.

"But since the Cheney Administration, mainly Cheney and Rumsfeld, messed up the situation royally from the git-go, there's no way we can put Humpty Dumpty back together again, achieve anything approximating a victory. It's simply time for us to go, before we make the situation even worse. Better to simply get out of there with as much of our tattered reputation as we can take with us, rather than flail about for a year or two before having to exit even more ha stily in humiliating Vietnam-War fashion."

DEMOCRATIC MOVES ON THE IRAQ WAR

The latter part of that argument seems to animate many Democrats in the House and Senate, willing to take the political risk by attaching strict conditions to war-funding bills, as a way of crippling CheneyBush's ability to wage its aggressive war-of-choice and to build momentum for ending the U.S. misadventure in Iraq as soon as is practicable. Sure, the Dems' moves are a kind of attack-from-the-side approach, rather than opposing CheneyBush policies frontally, the result of which timidity is to leave U.S. troops on the ground there for several more years.

But if it takes small, incremental but significant steps to start the exit-Iraq ball rolling, then let's take them -- as long as the effort continues with more meaningful de-funding and withdrawal bills in coming months. In addition, it is essential that Congress pass a bill stipulating that there will be no financial support for any pending Bush war against Iran.

Passing resolutions devoid of legal teeth in them doesn't help all that much in getting U.S. troops, and innocent civilians, out of harm's way. Passing bills that fund the troops' withdrawal, in concert with U.N. and regional stabilizing efforts, can draw the day closer when the U.S. military machine can start rolling out of this catastrophic war, now in its fifth tragic year.

ALBERTO GONZALES, BUSH TOADY

So how does Alberto Gonzales, the "Abu Gonzo" of the headline above, fit into the Iraq picture?

For one thing, to figure out how to stop the Iraq war, first you have to know the key players who took the U.S. into that war and bungled Occupation. My advice is to look for those with their fingers in a whole lot of policy and operational pies. In the current CheneyBush Administration, that translates to Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Bush Himself, Alberto Gonzales, Stephen Hadley, and the ineffectual Bush lapdog Condoleezza Rice. (Previous co-conspirators Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Steven Cambone, Doug Feith, and John Ashcroft have already left the scene of the crime, and would make excellent witnesses.)

What we're witnessing in these waning days of the CheneyBush Administration is an implosion of the once-monolithic inner circle, with the rest of the remaining crew hunkering further down in the White House bunker, trying desperately to avoid both the stain of history and to stay out of the federal slammer as a result of their crimes and corruptions. (See "Bush Heads for the Bunker.")

Attorney General Gonzales (who, from his earliest association with Bush in Texas, has been his personal legal toady) has demonstrated time and again his willingness to do whatever needs to be done to keep Bush in office. Rove and Gonzales and Harriet Miers, key figures in Bush's so-called Texas Mafia, are stand-ins for the elite, behind-the-scenes powers that prop up this shady enterprise.

And now Gonzales, caught knee-deep in the U.S. Attorneys scandal, looks as if he's a political liability and will be thrown overboard in short order. His key aide, Kyle Sampson, was the designated scapegoat (with Deputy A.G. Paul McNulty the new chosen patsy), but his resignation couldn't stanch the bleeding in this ever-widening scandal, and Gonzales' lies, dissemblings and probable perjuries before U.S. Senate committees requires something more drastic, such as his firing or resignation -- or, failing that, his impeachment.

(But dumping him won't come easy to CheneyBushRove: more than most, Gonzo knows too much, knows where the bodies are buried, so to speak. Who can guess what he might be willing to tell a grand jury in order to save his own neck?)

GONZO'S LARGER CRIMES

As is often the case, the real crimes go uncharged and the thing that brings down the kingpin is a lesser scandal. In the 1930s, for example, Al Capone, the master mob boss, was imprisoned for non-payment of taxes rather than for the numerous murders and mayhem he engineered. In the case of Gonzales, he'll probably go down for covering-up his political maneuvering to fire competent, dedicated U.S. Attorneys and install Bush loyalists in their stead, ones willing to concoct phony "vote fraud" charges against Democratic opponents.

Gonzales would seem to fit in the Rove category of domestic-policy criminals, but Gonzo's impact on foreign/military policy is much, much larger. Consider: Gonzales is the one figure most responsible for creating a legal philosophy in support of Bush authoritarian rule whereby the President is permitted to violate the Constitution and laws passed by Congress whenever he says he's acting as "commander-in-chief" during "wartime."

That suspect legal philosophy also winds up justifying torture and other severe violations of Americans' civil liberties in the so-called "Patriot" Act, military tribunals, "extraordinary renditions" of suspects to countries notorious for their extreme interrogation methods, the forced disappearance of the 600-year-old legal tradition of habeas corpus,, and so much more. In short, the "war on terrorism," Gonzales asserts, trumps all laws and constitutional protections.

However, Gonzales will not be removed from office for those gross crimes -- where domestic and foreign policies meet -- but because internal White House emails by others reveal his complicity in the politicization of the U.S. Attorneys system, and because he lied publicly in his attempt to escape culpability.

RUNNING OUT OF SCAPEGOATS

It does the heart good to see the shrinking Bush Bunker crew start to run out of lower-level scapegoats (Libby the fall guy for Cheney, Rumsfeld the sacrificial lamb for continuing the Iraq war policy, Sampson and McNulty for Gonzales, et al.). That means that the genuine villains, those in control of policy, are now having to face the music.

When Gonzo goes, that should mean that the progenitors of CheneyBush policy (those two, plus Rove, Rice and Hadley) will be left even more exposed and thus the primary targets of congressional investigations -- and, in the case of Bush and Cheney, impeachment proceedings.

Cheney and Rove should be first to go after Gonzo -- Cheney for attempting to run the world, Rove for so disastrously running Bushworld politics. As Patrick Fitzgerald's Libby trial showed, Cheney is at the heart of virtually every bad decision and policy in the Administration, running virtually a shadow government, covert intel organization, and foreign policy apparatus. Rove likewise on the domestic politics front. Their fingerprints are all over the joint, and bulldog-tenacity investigations should reveal the extent of their perfidy.

Let's get on with it.


Copyright 2007, by Bernard Weiner

 


Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government & international relations at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: crisispapers@comcast.net .
 


Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances