I wish you the happiest of holidays.
I wish you the happiest of holidays.
06:40 PM | Permalink
Who among the already disheartened was not braced for this?
“President Bush's approval rating has surged in recent weeks, reversing what had been an extended period of decline, with Americans now expressing renewed optimism about” – for one thing – “the future of democracy in Iraq.”
Naturally – since the future of democracy in that sectarian hellhole hit an all-time low last week. Which is to say, early Iraqi election returns indicate “that religious groups, particularly the main Shiite coalition, had taken a commanding lead.”
The Sunnis are going to be less than pleased about that. They’ve new masters, soon to be officially installed in power, which means Iraq’s incipient civil war will explode like nothing we’ve yet seen and plunge straight into a nightmare, available soon on a TV screen near you.
This was as predictable as another Bush malaprop.
But the public who responds to pollsters almost always seems to be a day late in the information war. Hence Bush’s numbers are inversely proportionate to the gruesomeness of Iraqi reality. The worse the situation bodes – but is not yet bloody apparent – the better his numbers.
And the situation indeed bodes more poorly than ever, notwithstanding Bush & Co.’s pervasive happy talk about Iraq’s flowering democracy.
Far more American lives will be lost, not to mention the more widespread, internecine bloodshed on its way. We all expected more lives to be lost before we bow to inevitable withdrawal, but the next round of lost lives will result almost exclusively from Iraqi social divides – not because we’re fighting on any kind of terrorism front. And our place within those divides will be as out of place as any foreign venture can get.
But most Americans are consumers of the latest sound bite, not reality, and certainly not in-depth analysis. Permit even a hapless featherweight like Bush a podium before a national audience several times a week to hammer away some insipid message, and enough Americans will salute the repetition, permitting the featherweight just enough public support to claim a mandate for insanity.
And sad to say, a careless electorate deserves its hapless featherweights, even if their victims don’t.
Head Fascist Spook, National Security Agency
Head Fascist Spook, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Head Fascist Spook, Pentagon
Alberto Gonzales, Head Fascist Spook, Justice Department
John Ashcroft, Head Fascist Spook, Emeritus
George W. Bush, Head Fascist
Aspiring Fascist Minion
Dear Boys, who will be boys:
I’ve been reading that you’re trying to launch a fascist state here. I know it must be difficult for you, what with all those old, troublesome laws in the way, in this, a nation of laws.
I have always thought of myself as a facilitator, and I can see you’re in need of facilitation. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re all such a bunch of incredible bumblers. Fascists can usually at least make the trains run on time, but you boys are so inept I doubt you can manage to even catch a train on time.
So I’m here to help, to facilitate, to do my little part.
My cell number is 217-621-9306.
There. There’s one less number you need to waste time tracking down before wasting time monitoring it.
Please understand the only calls you’ll hear on that number will be those I make to my six-year-old daughter – fascist alert: she doesn’t live with me, so please adjust your surveillance – and the calls she, in turn, makes to me. But a good fascist can never be too careful. You need a file on everyone, and discriminating file-building is for unpatriotic candyasses.
I offer this phone information and all my loyal facilitation because you've had such a way with words, especially lately. Your penetrating logic expressed in recent speeches and interviews has my mind, at long last, thinking right.
I understand now that the only way we can save this nation is to destroy what it once stood for. I understand now that the constitution should permit dictatorial power to destroy it, and to negate, suspend, or destroy the constitution itself. I understand now that checks and balances are so old-fashioned, so yesterday, so … unAmerican.
And I understand now that the real threats against America are those homefolk who believe in some idealized land of liberty, which is, as you have so forcefully pointed out, an ill-advised land in this dire time of protecting what we can’t allow, so as to protect it.
Muddled logic? You bet. Contradictory? Absolutely. Self-defeating? No doubt. But we understand – wink, wink – don’t we boys? Let’s just call it a necessary paradox that the candyasses can’t fathom, never will.
Boys, if you find the information I have offered here to be insufficiently patriotic, please don’t hesitate to render me “renditioned” to some stinking, anonymous torture cell in some stinking, anonymous, fellow fascist country. All I ask is that you blast some Brahms or Ellington into my cell – not rap. I think the public patriotism I have demonstrated here has earned me at least that much consideration.
Oh, and boys, one other thing. You’re more than welcome to listen in on what used to be my private phone. But please don’t call it. I have limited minutes.
Loyal Fascist Lackey
OK, somebody please ‘splain this to me like I’m a five-year-old.
Wednesday, the president gave the last of his four clarifying speeches on why we’re in a mess in the Middle East, why it is a mess and why we’re going to stay in the mess, although few really believe we’re going to stay in the mess much longer, but that’s a different story.
Anyway, leveling with the public, as he always does, the president also clarified that the U.S. "did not choose war - the choice was Saddam Hussein's," although we struck Iraq and not the other way around. But that’s a different story, as well.
Anyway, he then said "It is true that much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong," although experts are still looking for even a shred of intelligence that turned out to be right, other than all the intelligence that said there was no linkage between Saddam and al Qaeda – the one, single, correct piece of intelligence that the president ignored or distorted. But that, too, is a different story.
Anyway, later in the day in a Fox News interview the president said he “‘absolutely’ would have invaded Iraq if he had known then that Mr. Hussein did not have banned weapons.”
You see, this is where I get really confused, even more than usual, and I’m afraid all of Bush’s clarifications haven’t helped much, although they seem to be boosting his numbers a bit. So if they’re boosting his numbers, what are others getting that I’m not?
The war was Saddam’s choice, although he didn’t start it; our intelligence was wrong about why we needed to go to war (which, again, Saddam actually launched against us, not us against him – well he didn’t actually, but you get the drift); and although the war’s justification has been blown up along with half of Baghdad, we “absolutely” still should have, would have, gone to war.
Do you share my pain? Wasn’t this, in fact, a profound declaration of Bush Doctrine II?
We’re not talking a defense of preventative wars any longer. We’re not even talking the less-dicey diplomatic and legalistic ins and outs of preemptive wars. We’re talking wars of whimsy and superpower globullying because we just don’t like someone. We don’t need a reason other than that – and Bush just formulated “that” as official U.S. foreign policy.
I find this and that … disturbing.
Nevertheless I didn’t hear Bush’s audience gag, or laugh, on Wednesday upon his pronouncement of the new doctrine. And I didn’t read or hear much gagging or laughter from our vigilant media afterward, either.
What I did read and hear is that Bush is making marvelous strides in clarifying things, that he’s making marvelous strides for the good folks in Iraq, that he’s finally doing a marvelous job himself, and that the whole stinking mess may yet prove to be just too marvelous, after all.
Not a peep about war without any justification, as justified by this war president.
Would someone please ‘splain this to me?
07:06 PM | Permalink
One of my favorite movies is The Caine Mutiny. It stars Humphrey Bogart, and that’s enough for me. But on a deeper level, of course, the film paints a fascinating portrait of unbalanced leadership as it deconstructs Captain Philip Francis Queeg, a man paralyzed by rigidity, intolerance, isolation, paranoia, obsessiveness and, in general, an unsuitability for being at the helm – any helm.
It was the recent Newsweek expose, “Bush in the Bubble,” that brought the good captain to mind. The Bush-Queeg parallels in personality are striking. And if you substitute Bush’s ship of state for the U.S.S. Caine, and the grail of Iraq for the missing strawberries (Bogie also knew the truth about the allusive strawberries early on, you’ll recall), the parallels are downright frightening.
Consider the Newsweek article’s glimpses into the closed mind and troubled soul of Mr. Bush-cum-Queeg:
Bush is isolated [and] out of touch.
[He possesses] a level of indifference, if not denial, that is dangerous for a president.
Bush may be the most isolated president in modern history.
[His old friends] rarely … brace him with bad news.
What Bush actually hears and takes in … is not clear…. One House Republican … recalls a summertime meeting with congressmen in the Roosevelt Room at which Bush enthusiastically talked up his Social Security reform plan. But the plan was already dead—as everyone except the president had acknowledged. Bush seemed to have no idea.
Bush does not encourage truth-telling or at least a full exploration of all that could go wrong…. The way Bush phrase[s] his questions, as well as his obvious lack of interest in long, detailed discussions, ha[s] a chilling effect.
Bush generally prefers short conversations—long on conclusion, short on reasoning…. His close friends agree that Bush … does not like dissonance.
True mandates for hard choices come from reaching out and compromising. Bush’s father understood that… It’s very unlikely the son [does, or ever will].
In an interview with NBC’s Brian Williams this week, it was all too apparent that Bush, like Queeg on the witness stand, was desperately trying to hide his inadequacies. The Q&A was uncomfortable, even painful, to watch.
I swear I almost felt sorry for Captain Bush as he sat there in one of the sit-downs with Williams, squirming in his seat and saying, “I know what’s going on. Some people don’t think I know what’s going on, but I know what’s going on.” I could see the beads of sweat on his forehead and hear the steel balls rolling in his hand. It lacked only Bogart’s twitching of the upper lip.
It was pathetic.
In The Caine Mutiny, Queeg finally, inexorably snapped in full view of everyone.
One wonders …
06:30 AM | Permalink
Yesterday there appeared in the Washington Post a 2,100-word history on the Bush administration’s obsession with timetables in Iraq – an obsession very much in contrast to its public opposition to all manner of timetables – and the consequences it has wrought.
It was an eye-opening piece, the must-read essence of which was:
When U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer transferred sovereignty to Iraqi authorities … he left behind a script with hard-and-fast deadlines for drafting a constitution and forming a government.
… the 18-month process that unfolded after Bremer left Baghdad was … a costly period of U.S. inattention and endless frustrations with squabbling Iraqi leaders…. Bush … has stuck doggedly to the Bremer political timetable despite qualms of his staff, relentless violence on the ground and disaffection of Iraq’s minority Sunni Arabs.
… by pushing forward without Sunni acceptance, the Bush team failed to produce the national accord it sought among Iraq’s three main groups, leaving a schism that could loom beyond Thursday’s election. And the Sunni-powered insurgency that was supposed to be marginalized by an inclusive democracy remains as lethal as ever.
The press to meet the Bremer deadlines, starting in January … only fueled the militants.
[Ambassador] Negroponte’s eight-month stint marked a period of drift followed by a diplomatic void.
More important was the missed opportunity to capitalize on a Sunni change of heart. In a dramatic shift after the January vote, Sunni groups that had boycotted the election … declared they wanted to help write the constitution. But Shiites and Kurds took until June to add 25 Sunni members.
[Newly appointed Ambassador] Zalmay Khalilzad … found a jumbled situation as constitutional negotiators bogged down.
Bush, who instinctively dismisses doubters and abhors changing course, again stuck to the plan. “We’ve got to keep the deadline there to force the parties to make the hard decisions to reach compromise,” Bush told advisers.
… the Shiites and Kurds did reach a deal – bypassing the Sunni Arabs.
“The one single worst mistake was the rigid, shortsighted adherence to the … deadline,” said Jonathan Morrow of the U.S. Institute of Peace, who advised constitutional drafters…. “It’s a hopeless situation and it’s progressively more difficult to remedy.”
The consequence of sticking to the schedule without Sunni agreement will be another year of haggling.
The article concluded that the prospect of “civil war deepens.”
Yesterday on “Meet the Press,” for example, Senator Lindsey Graham gave us a preview of what’s coming, assuming the Bush administration continues on its suicidal path. In what seemed to be his only unscripted moment, he burst out with, “Yeah, we’ve made a ton of mistakes” – “we” being the Bush administration, principally, and “mistakes” virtually defining the administration’s actions from start to near finish.
One could almost see Graham turning red from embarrassment in trying to defend U.S policy. He’s advancing to the left so quickly, in another six months he’ll be telling Howard Dean to move over.
Then, following Graham’s appearance, came the New York Times’ David Brooks, who actually said he thought Democratic victories in 2006 would be a positive. The unspoken, Machiavellian angle of Brooks’ comment was, of course, that Congressional Democrats would then be as accountable as Republicans for a failing policy. Nevertheless a Team Bush member’s call for Democratic empowerment is seismic in its political desperation.
A lot of steam is being generated (some of it here) about the rift that the Iraq war is causing within the Democratic Party. But Democratic rifts aren’t news. Republican ones are – and it appears a huge one is in the works.
05:26 AM | Permalink
The greatest contribution that Democratic strategists could make in advancing the Democratic Party is to shut up. They just don’t get it.
Here’s what one of these clever chaps had to say about Democratic leaders speaking their minds over the swelling catastrophe that George W. Bush has dropped on the Middle East:
We have not blown our chance, we have jeopardized it. It raises questions about whether we are capable of seizing political opportunities or whether we cannot help ourselves …
in sucking up to the “liberal base,” which is, of course, the party’s only base these days. Top strategists now want to alienate it, just as the majority of Americans are coming around to agreeing with it.
This “strategy” boggles the mind. And depresses. And angers. And infuriates.
What has strategists so outspokenly nervous are the opinions offered of late by Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi. Dean, as Republicans are fond of playing up, said in a radio interview that “the idea that we’re going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong” – which is just plain right. Party strategists, however, worried that Dean’s “comment could reinforce popular perceptions that the party is weak on military matters.”
And as you know, Pelosi finally endorsed John Murtha’s thoughtful recommendation for rapid redeployment. To this it’s reported that “Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking House Democratic leader” – no doubt after huddling with their party’s strategic Strangeloves – “have told colleagues that [her comments] could backfire on the party.”
What has backfired on the Democratic Party is its initially gutless position on Iraq. Fearing that their opposition to armed intervention would hurt them politically – even though they knew the war was insanely hyped – they muzzled their honesty and threw in with the perpetrators. They did themselves, their party and the American public the greatest possible disservice.
Now, only because the public is coming to the same conclusion on its own, a few Democratic leaders are choosing to correct their party’s wrong by saying what’s right: This war is a turkey, only Iraqis can resolve an Iraqi civil war, and therefore it’s best to skedaddle.
But what do honest Dems hear from the “strategists”? More spineless advice grounded in political cleverness, which advice got Congressional Democrats in trouble to begin with, and which advice is now sure to backfire again.
What Democratic strategists seem incapable of appreciating is that the American public is weary of slick, political cleverness. It’s had five torturous years of it, and it’s brought us to the brink of ruin.
Voters are desperately seeking honest alternatives. It’s the job of the alternative party to proffer those alternatives. And advocating the other party’s dishonest party line out of clever political safety is as gutless and counterproductive as what marginalized the Democratic Party in the first place.
07:07 PM | Permalink
George Bush continues to dangle before a war-weary public the happy prospect of Iraqi soldiers assuming combat and patrol duties now performed by American troops. This transition, claims the president, will relieve the need for direct American involvement – that we will “stand down as they stand up.” All we need is a little patience, and by golly, before you know it our fighting days will be over.
Nice rhetoric. Bad reality.
In a recent “clear, hold and build” operation in which freshly trained Iraqi troops played a major role, one veteran reporter in the thick of things observed that “the Iraqis often seemed disorganized, complacent and undisciplined.”
For instance in one area “where the Iraqis had a chance to take the lead because they outnumbered the Americans, house-to-house clearing operations were sloppy. The troops moved unsystematically from house to house, sometimes giving buildings nothing more than a glance or, worse, bypassing them altogether.”
The journalist further noted: “Some soldiers demonstrated unorthodox uses for their weapons, including two soldiers who used their Kalashnikov assault rifles to swat a ball around as if they were playing field hockey.”
This is the sense of urgency displayed by the homeboys: security inspection by glances and the use of assault weapons as hockey sticks – oh, and as crowbars, whereas several of these crack, American-trained troops used their rifles “to pry metal security doors off their hinges.”
Yet patience is what Bush counsels.
The problem faced isn’t that complex. By way of simple analogy, let’s say you’re a private tutor who specializes in waging war on ignorance. After two years of “training” some deficient but inherently capable lad, you note that he continues to shift in his chair, stare out the window and play with his pencil as you explain – for the 50th time – the fundamentals of long division. You haven’t been talking advanced mathematics, just the basics. He’s perfectly capable of mastering the material should he ever apply himself, but there he sits – shifting, staring, playing, excelling only at being “disorganized, complacent and undisciplined.”
The problem, obviously, isn’t your lack of patience. The problem is, he doesn’t care. He could “get it” if he cared, but he just doesn’t. You could sermonize on the lifelong benefits of understanding basic mathematics and go through example exercise after example exercise till you’re exhausted, but if the lad isn’t willing, the cause is hopeless. You can’t teach, or force, the underlying prerequisite: motivation.
The American public learned that lesson the hard way in South Vietnam. For years we were promised that clearly unmotivated “indigenous personnel” would somehow get motivated and assume the combat and counterinsurgency duties of American troops and thereby save their own land. They were provided the best tutoring and best military hardware that any empire could offer.
We were patient. Oh, how we were patient. Later when that patience was to pay off, the indigenous personnel, on their own, lasted about three minutes in the field.
These analogies are so blithering obvious, I suspect even the famously ineducable George W. Bush knows how our patience will play out – again. In the meantime, however, he’ll deal with the problem in the same intelligent way he deals with all problems: He’ll give pleasant speeches loaded with delusional prospects of success.
It ain’t never gonna happen. It’s that fundamental, unalterable reality that makes redeploying now far wiser than reliving the inevitable later.
06:06 AM | Permalink
Excuse this layman for kibitzing on military matters, but it seems advisable on the face of it that any “strategy for victory” announced by any commander in chief in any war should at least be faxed to a few of the Pentagon boys for review before the commander in chief clues in Naval Academy midshipmen and daytime-TV viewers. Yet the rather questionable alternative is precisely what Mr. Bush did.
As reported in Sunday’s New York Times, “In a news briefing from Iraq on Friday, Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the top American military official in charge of training Iraqi troops, surprised some reporters by saying he first saw ‘Our Strategy for Victory in Iraq’ when it was released to the public on Wednesday.”
And please excuse my kibitzing on journalistic matters as well, but it also seems that “appalled” would have better described the reporters’ reaction. Then again, maybe not. Perhaps we’re all so accustomed to appalling acts being committed by this administration, jaded “surprise” is, at long last, all we can muster.
As it turns out, however, there’s an excellent reason why Bush’s “Strategy for Victory” didn’t require a check-off by military experts. Contrary to the White House’s marketing spin to a desperate public, the speech had nothing to do with military strategy grounded in military expertise.
From opening word to concluding period, the document was conceived and written by a neoconning, public-opinion guru at Duke University – one Peter D. Feaver – who had statistically “concluded that Americans would support a war with mounting casualties on one condition: that they believed it would ultimately succeed.” Naturally, given that this was a neocon project, the wisdom of fighting the war was not a fundamental consideration.
“This is not really a strategy document from the Pentagon about fighting the insurgency,” said a research colleague of Feaver, apparently forgetting that our most pressing strategic problem is … uh … fighting the insurgency, and that the document is entitled “Our Strategy for…..”
He added, helpfully, “The document is clearly targeted at American public opinion.” Take that, Mr. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
In other, Madison Avenue words, the White House was selling the alluring sizzle, not the rancid steak. Slap “Victory” in the title, repeat it 15 times in a speech, promise it and generally bamboozle the public with its false hope – all merely to boost the war’s home-approval numbers long enough to set the stage for the next bamboozlement: declaring victory as we’re hightailing it out of Iraq prior to U.S. Congressional elections.
As noted, the administration’s head-faking is a pattern that no longer surprises. On Friday, for instance, there appeared an Associated Press story that opened with, “Bulgaria and Ukraine will begin withdrawing their combined 1,250 troops by mid-December.” Its concluding paragraph read – almost in passing, almost as an afterthought – “In his strategy for Iraq, announced Wednesday, President Bush said expanding international support was one of his goals.”
Like a reincarnation of the purposely psychotic, tragically comical Baghdad Bob, no longer is there a pretense among White House officials that their public pronouncements should acknowledge, or even brush up against, reality.
Hence as they begin declaring incremental victories – in the buildup to a declaration of final victory – they’ll declare them from the most insulated presidential bubble in American history.
(Note: If your business or not-for-profit organization benefits from on-line exposure, consider adding p m carpenter’s commentary to your marketing array. Click here for rate information, or click “Blogads – Advertise here!” in the sidebar. *** Individuals can support this site by clicking on the "Donate" button in the sidebar. Thank you.)
06:00 AM | Permalink
George W. Bush escalated his war on honesty this week, declaring that American forces would not withdraw from Iraq based on “artificial timetables set by politicians.”
But, in front of the cheesiest propaganda-backdrop ever designed and before a fawning assemblage of Naval Academy automatons, there was this from the other side of his mouth: “We will continue to shift from providing security and conducting operations against the enemy nationwide to conducting more specialized operations targeted at the most dangerous terrorists. We will increasingly move out of Iraqi cities, reduce the number of bases from which we operate, and conduct fewer patrols and convoys.”
Translation: “Make no mistake about it: We are on our way to withdrawing from Iraq based on an artificial timetable set by this politician and politicians of my own party who are running for their despicable, political lives.”
That’s fine with me, and it’s fine with a couple hundred million other Americans as well as countless, American-loathing Iraqis, but Bush’s stay-the-course-plan-for-cut-and-run-victory still leaves behind the biggest international mess and ugliest political vacuum since the Treaty of Versailles. And we all know how well its aftermath worked out.
What we’re leaving behind is a massive, terrorism-production factory that makes Afghanistan, circa 2000, look like Santa’s workshop.
What we’re leaving behind is virgin territory for the likes of a hostile Iran to dominate and rape at will.
What we’re leaving behind is an increasingly wary Kurdish population that soon will have had enough, declare independence and thereby invite armed, Turkish intervention.
What we’re leaving behind is a ghastly civil war that will only get worse. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, for instance, is openly “decrying … the brutal behavior of new security forces empowered by the U.S. invasion but beholden, according to most reports, to Shiite religious parties … using the kind of ‘ethnic cleansing’ terror seen so recently in Rwanda and the Balkans.”
What we’re leaving behind is what every thinking person who could read a map predicted we’d leave behind before one American soldier ever stepped foot on Iraqi soil – and what others predicted soon after the Bush administration busily set about botching the early occupation. As Representative John Murtha chronicled on Hardball after Bush’s speech Wednesday, when POTUS, the Vice-Smirk and Rummy sent inadequate U.S. forces to keep the peace, and then critically failed to secure clean water, electrical power and proper sewage treatment for the Iraqi people, we promptly lost their necessary support.
In short, we lost the war immediately after having won it. Yet the White House was as dishonest with the American people and its own fighting forces then, as it was in contriving initial support for the war.
As is his nature, Mr. Bush continues dealing from the bottom of the deck. The only sure way to know what he’s up to is to read his lips, then deduce the opposite. Hence “Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory” means “We’re outta there, just as soon as I redefine ‘victory.’”
Make no mistake about it.
04:04 AM | Permalink