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On the Lip of the Vortex:
Surging to Disaster


By Bernard Weiner, Co-Editor

The Crisis Papers


February 13, 2007


My investigative-reporter hero from the 1950s and '60s, I. F. Stone, told me decades later that he delighted in finding news nuggets not in front-page articles but buried deep inside, sometimes in the closing paragraphs, of mass-media stories.

This observation has served me well in doing political analysis over the years. It has helped me figure out how best to read articles, and has reinforced my theory of news reporting as too often being sleight-of-hand entertainment: distracting your eyes and mind while the real object for scrutiny is secreted elsewhere.

Indeed, one could carry the argument even further: Politics is distraction, often a weapon of mass-distraction. Usually, government officials and their P.R. toadies want you to look one place while they carry out their dirty deeds somewhere else.

What made me think about all this was the little-talked-about subject generally missing from, or on occasion hidden deep inside, stories about Bush's military "surge" into Iraq.

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

The government's (and mass-media's) short version is that Bush's "surge" probably won't work, but as a last-ditch effort it's worth trying.

The missing piece: Even if by some stroke of luck, Bush's escalation of the war started tamping down the sectarian violence in Baghdad, there is no concomitant political plan in place, not even in the idea stages. It's all ad hoc illusioning, a faith-based initiative hoping that somehow, some stability will emerge in Iraq out of the war-magician's hat.

Other than hoping and praying that the Sunnis and Shias and Kurds will put down their arms and forget their many generations and centuries of distrust and hatred -- and their greed for the oil-money and reconstruction cash-cow -- there is no new initiative on the political front in Iraq.

There is indeed a "political plan" of sorts associated with the war's escalation -- but it has nothing to do with what's happening on the ground in Iraq. Rather, the "surge" is designed to save Bush and Cheney and Gates and Rice and the rest of the crew down there in the White House Bunker from acute embarrassment, and from political/legal liability as the situation gets more and more disastrous in Iraq. Their hope is to stalemate the war and somehow stagger their way past the 2008 election.

FAILING ON BOTH FRONTS

So, let's summarize. It seems clear that Bush's "surge" probably isn't going to work militarily -- even Defense Secretary Gates has told Congress that he's already started planning for that possibility in Iraq's bloody civil war. (There is reasoned speculation in D.C. that the Administration is even considering dividing Iraq into three ethnic/religious federated states, an idea that was anathema to them previously.)

And why should one even hope for success in this new escalation? The CheneyRumsfeldBush war administration blew all chances of a "victory" in Iraq years ago with the way they took the U.S. into war based on lies and deceit, and with no-postwar planning, and then through their thoroughly corrupt and incompetent Occupation policies, complete with widespread torture.

And, as many have noted, the escalation of the war -- not just in Iraq, but likely expanding also to Iran -- is destined to fail also because the Bush Administration is placing virtually all its chips on the use of military force. Scant, if any, attention has been paid to the political and diplomatic options that are out there: encouraging a regional approach to a solution, engaging United Nations' peacekeeping forces, negotiating with the insurgent groups about the modalities of a safe U.S. withdrawal, etc.

DEALING WITH WORLD-CLASS BULLIES

So, if the analysis above is correct, what is to be done?

CheneyBushRove don't seem to give a flying fig whether you or I or the Congress or their own generals or the Iraqis themselves think the Bush Administration is nuts escalating the war and also preparing to bomb Iran. Try to stop me, coppers!

It's the approach of bullies from time immemorial: I don't follow the same rules as you do; get out of my way. It's worked for Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and George Bush for six years, so they're ratcheting up their in-your-face approach for the tail end of their tenure in the White House. Their approval numbers are so low, they may figure they haven't got much to lose.

Cheney, the prime-mover in this foreign adventuring, seems to exist in a world all his own, a dank cave that you'd best stay away from, if you know what's good for you. This week, probably to protect his darkest secrets about his role in the Libby/Plame case and other such White House horrors, he asserted that he doesn't have to follow any of the rules, not even Presidential Executive Orders. He claims he's outside any legal restraints. See the ugly details at Daily Kos and  at Digby's blog.

WOBBLY-KNEED DEMOCRATS

Per usual, the ostensible Opposition Party seems thrown back on its heels and at least temporarily immobilized by this aggressive approach by the Republicans. The Democrats' presidential hopefuls are running around in different directions, personal ambition taking precedence over stopping the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home ASAP.

While the Republicans manufacture and endlessly hype phony-baloney "issues" (Pelosi's plane size, Edwards' offensive bloggers, Obama's alleged "Islamic" roots, etc.), and while the mass-media seem mesmerized by the death of an untalented ex-Playboy bunny and the soap-opera of a jilted astronaut in diapers, there are hundreds real people -- American troops and Iraqi civilians -- being slaughtered and maimed in Iraq each day.

The Democrats seem content to take their time dealing with the issue of extracting our troops and in condemning Bush's reckless, dangerous escalation of sending more young American soldiers into Iraq. Shame on the Dems! And their timidity could even prove to be disastrous politically, as they will have the blood of "surged" American troops on their hands for the 2008 campaign, making Iraq no longer just Bush's war.

The American public is not, and history will not be, especially interested in the actual wording of a war resolution, one that is non-binding in any case. Three weeks of verbal dilly-dallying. The voters just want American forces to leave, as quickly as is humanly possible. And they don't want another war to start in Iran. If truth be known, they just want Bush and Cheney to leave the premises.

  • If it takes the House cutting off funds for anything other than to facilitate the "redeployment" of U.S. forces out of Iraq, then let's get to it.
     

  • If it takes the introduction of a bill forbidding Bush to attack Iran without Congressional approval -- and explicitly noting that if he bombs anyway, that act automatically will trigger impeachment -- then let's get to it.

    (And, in case you haven't noticed, the bomb-Iran war-wheels are being greased and the same templates of lies and deceptions are being hauled out yet again, just like they were prior to "shock&awe" in Iraq. The Administration is trying to provoke a bellicose act by Iran -- it is now moving a third naval group into the Persian Gulf area -- since there is no imminent threat Iran poses to the United States to justify a massive bombing attack. Anonymous intelligence figures asserting that Iran is supplying some arms to Shia militias in Iraq hardly qualifies as a causus belli (and hasn't been proven to be true, in any case), since Saudia Arabia is allegedly doing much the same thing for the Sunnis in Iraq.)
     

  • If it takes impeachment hearings to remove the shadow president, Mr. Cheney, and the acting president, Mr. Bush, then let's get to it.

What these guys are doing to America's standing in the world, to our country's national security, to the Constitution, amounts to felony reckless-endangerment. They swore to uphold and defend the nation and its Constitution and its citizens and instead they have put us all in harm's way, making us more likely than not to undergo catastrophic consequences because of their foolish, ignorant misunderstanding of the world.

They must go. Honorable men would resign. These guys are in no way honorable.

They're on the lip of the vortex and they don't seem to care if they suction everyone else with them as they take the downward swirl. It's long past time to ratchet up the dissent. Let's get to 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