OK, let's connect the dots: The Iraq War & Occupation. Scott
McClellan's memoir. The death of film director Sydney Pollack.
When I heard about the death of Pollack last week, I happened
coincidentally to be rewatching one of his earliest films, from 1971,
"Three Days of the Condor." In it, Robert Redford plays a bookish CIA
analyst who survives the mass-murder of his entire unit because he was
"out to lunch," literally and figuratively. The rest of the movie
involves Redford (codename "Condor") staying one step ahead of the
assassins sent to get him while he tries desperately to figure out what
the hell is going on.
All Condor knows is that somehow there's a CIA plot involving areas
around the globe where three distinct languages are spoken: Spanish,
Dutch and Arabic. By the end of the film, and remember that it was made
in 1971, he finally has it figured out: The three regions where those
languages are spoken -- the Middle East, Latin America, and former Dutch
colonies in the Pacific and East Africa -- possess huge untapped oil
reserves, and the U.S. wants to ensure that it will have effective
control of those energy resources far into the future. To do so, it will
stop at nothing, including violent or non-violent regime changes abroad
and hiding its motives from the American citizenry at home, even if
doing so requires assassinating its own researchers and agents.
Certainly, in addition to CIA analysts, there were a number of
officials, authors and journalists in 1971 who had been thinking and
writing about the long-range strategic role of oil in world affairs, and
the humongous profits to be made from its extraction. Everyone knows the
value of black gold now, but most American citizens at that time were in
the dark about the potential economic and political ramifications of
U.S. oil policy: the propping-up of dictators and governments friendly
to the U.S., wars and occupations when deemed necessary, the massive
corruption that would emerge, the environmental degradation associated
with oil extraction, oil as a political tool by OPEC countries and the
possibility of quick-rising prices at the pump, etc.
In recent years, Hollywood & TV have spun off a few commercial
features that center around the economic and military ramifications of
the U.S. trying to control oil/gas reserves around the globe ("Syriana,"
"Oil Storm," "The Deal," etc. ). But 35-plus years ago, all this was
sub rosa. Sydney Pollack, with "Three Days of the Condor," was one
of the first Hollywood directors to lift up the rock and permit us to
smell the dangerous stench of energy-greed and rapacious power roiling
underneath. R.I.P., Mr. Pollack.
SCOTT McCLELLAN'S REVELATIONS
The Scott McClellan flap is almost silly. The mainstream media is
shocked, shocked!,to learn from the former White House press
secretary that Bush and Cheney and Rove lied and deceived to lead
America into invading and occupying oil-rich Iraq. And that they lied
and deceived about having outed a CIA agent in political retaliation for
her husband having revealed that the Administration had lied and
deceived America into invading and occupying Iraq.
And the mainstream media is shocked, shocked!, to learn from
McClellan's memoir that the mainstream media were cheerleaders --
"complicit enablers" is McClellan's term -- for the Bush
Administration's plan to invade and occupy Iraq. Who, us? This helps
explain the mass-media's current virtual silence about the recent
revelation that the Pentagon sent out scores of ex-military officers
disguised as "independent consultants" to hype the Administration's
talking points daily in the mass-media about the absolute necessity to
rush to war against Iraq. No wonder it's CYA time.
Of course, McClellan downplays his own role in the deaths and maiming
of several hundred thousand human beings in Iraq: our troops and Iraq's
insurgents and civilians. True, the mass-media corporations were all too
willing to act as stenographers for the CheneyBush spin rather than do
much digging on their own, but it was McClellan who was among the chief
White House dissemblers in helping create the atmosphere of lies and
deceit that aided the mass-media in its "enabling" function. In short,
there's blood all over his hands.
Finally, the mainstream media is shocked,
shocked!, to learn
from McClellan's book that practically every action taken by the
CheneyBush White House was done for partisan political reasons, not
necessarily for the good of the American people.
THE FACTS WERE OUT THERE
Why is all this flap "silly"? Because anybody paying even
half-attention to what's gone down in the past seven-plus years knew
long ago about all this mendacity, moral corruption, media-enabling, and
partisan machinations. A few respected sources in the mass-media and
many analysts in the foreign press and on the internet were asking the
right questions and revealing the truths behind Administration lies. So
the facts were out there if you knew where to look.
And certainly McClellan wasn't the first CheneyBush insider to reveal
In addition to Richard Clarke and Tom Ridge and David Kuo spilling
insider beans about what was really going on, how can we forget former
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill revealing that he was amazed and puzzled
at his first Cabinet meetings in 2001 by the amount of time devoted to
the topic of attacking Iraq. It didn't make sense. Saddam Hussein was
isolated, contained, Iraq had no WMD to speak of (both Rice and Powell
said as much at the time). Why the big rush to war?
Had O'Neill been party to Dick Cheney's top-secret energy-panel
discussions, he might have been able to figure it out. It was at those
2001 Cheney meetings, we've since learned, that maps of Iraq's oil
fields were brought out and discussion ensued about the various
corporate "suitors" interested in divvying up rights to the various
oilfield-sectors. As early as 1998, the extreme rightwing movers and
shakers associated with The Project for The New American Century (PNAC)
had urged President Clinton to attack Iraq, and James Baker and military
analysts had discussed Iraq's oil as essential to America's "national
The theoretical planning talked about in Pollack's 1971 "Condor"
movie morphed into the public consciousness for real in 2003, when
CheneyBush unleashed their "shock & awe" invasion and occupation of
Iraq. And let us not forget that while Rumsfeld was nonchalant about the
massive looting and destruction of the various governmental buildings by
Iraqi citizens post-invasion, the U.S. made one exception: the American
military seized the oil ministry and tightly guarded it.
And, under CheneyBush, the U.S. is leaning on the Maliki "government"
in Baghdad to make permanent the U.S.-friendly oil agreements that
enrich Western energy conglomerates handsomely, and also to lock-in
agreements that would permit U.S. military forces to remain in Iraq for
a long, long time. Interestingly, Muqtada al-Sadr, the powerful Shia
religious leader, urges repudiation of the agreements, and Grand
Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most revered of all Shia religious
authorities, also has indicated that the Maliki government should not
sign the agreement without first holding a nationwide referendum on the
issue. America may rue the day it agreed to what it thought was the
fiction of Iraqi "sovereignty."
Sistani also has recently issued a fatwa against Iraqis selling food
to the American occupiers -- not a good sign, especially when a good
share of Iraqis now believe killing each other is bad but killing
American troops is OK.
Meanwhile, Bush and John McCain are pretending none of this means
anything and all is going swimmingly in Iraq. That rose-colored-glasses
view of reality is what got the U.S. into the Iraqi quagmire in the
first place and would keep American forces there ("for one hundred
years") if McCain were to be victorious in the November elections.
EVERYTHING GOT POLITICIZED
One other McClellan observation from his memoir: The former press
secretary decried the emphasis on "permanent political campaigning" in
Washington to the detriment of sound public policy, as if this
observation were a new revelation, even from the inside.
Recall that the first expression of that complaint by a CheneyBush
insider came early in the Administration, in late-2002, when John
DiIulio, appointed by Bush to head the Office of Faith-Based and
Community Initiatives, told author Ron Suskind that "mayberry
Machiavellis" were in charge in the White House.
"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is
going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What
you've got is everything — and I
mean everything — being run by the politiitical arm. It/s
the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.
"I heard many, many staff discussions but not three
meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual
policy white papers on domestic issues. ... On social policy and
related issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and the
only casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking:
discussions by fairly senior people who meant Medicaid but were
talking Medicare; near-instant shifts from discussing any actual
policy pros and cons to discussing political communications, media
strategy, et cetera. Even quite junior staff would sometimes hear
quite senior staff pooh-pooh any need to dig deeper for pertinent
information on a given issue."
It's been that way for nearly eight years: everything done for
partisan political advantage, little if anything done because it's for
the public good. Indeed, in this Administration, to even bring up the
idea of a "public good" could get you fired. It's all about every man
for himself, every corporation for itself, grab what you can get while
the getting is good, privatize and outsource everything you can. As for
getting fired: Rove & Co., operating out of the politics-is-all mode,
got rid of key U.S. Attorneys around the country who were too
independent and installed their lackeys, more amenable to harassing
Democrats and making it more difficult for minorities to vote.
The end result of two terms of this kind of misrule is: an economy in
disastrous shape; a foreign/military policy that is an incompetent
disaster on the ground and and destructive to both America's reputation
abroad (especially so in the case of its use of torture as state policy)
and to the military services domestically; an environment that is
effectively controlled by the polluters; a Constitution that is in
tatters with even the 800-year-old concept of habeas corpus no longer
operative; a voting system that is corruptible and corrupt with clear
evidence of stolen elections, run as they are by vote-counting
corporations supportive of the Republicans; a political system that
skews badly to over-weening Executive power with Bush as a kind of
dictator who violates the rule of law, ignores subpoenas by Congress,
and neuters bills passed by Congress with his "signing statements."
DECADES TO TURN IT AROUND
As the November balloting approaches, it's important that we keep two
things in mind:
1) For the sake of our country and the world, it is absolutely
essential for the electorate to run up massive victories against the
Republicans, both to ensure that the necessary reforms can be made free
of vetoes and filibusters in the new Congress, but also to make it
really difficult to manipulate the tallies into "squeaker" GOP
2) CheneyBushRove have so thoroughly screwed up the domestic
governmental system and entangled the U.S. in so many self-destructive
foreign/military misadventures (with an attack on Iran likely in the
next few months) that it might well take a decade or two to effectively
undo all the damage. Expectations for drastic change need to be
That's the reality of what a post-CheneyBush era will look like, even
if a true reformer were to move into the White House next year. There
will be change, to be sure, but significant progressive change is not
likely to come quickly or easily.
However, if we all work together and never give up, that change will
come, sometimes maddeningly slow and sometimes with revolutionary
rapidity. The key words are: Organize. Organize. Organize. And: Never.
Copyright 2008, by Bernard Weiner