Democrats are hoping to put off the moment of reckoning just as much as the White House is. In fact, the two sides are eyeing neighboring dates. The President dreams of January 20, 2009, while Democrats anticipate November 4, 2008.
Until then, Bush and Cheney will be channeling Bart Simpson: we didn’t do it. We didn’t fail. We kept the flame alive. We’ll hand it over to the next administration, and if they have the courage and the honor to do the right thing, the war will be carried to a successful conclusion at some glorious future time. Inshallah. I mean, God willing. (Heh heh, we’re out of here!) This ploy will fool the same clear-thinking folks that make up the 28-30% support Bush currently enjoys. These people are either those so artfully described by Thomas Frank, who still believe we would have won in Vietnam if not for the hippies:
Like everything else, however, the political valence of Vietnam-related martyrdom has been switched. What you hear more commonly today is that the soldiers were victimized by betrayal, first by liberals in government and then by the antiwar movement, as symbolized by the clueless Fonda. The mistake wasn’t taking the wrong side in the wrong war; it was letting those intellectuals — now transformed from cold corporate titans into a treasonable liberal elite — keep us from prevailing, from unleashing sufficient lethality on the Vietnamese countryside.
Or they’re the new generation of the same breed, electronic Rambos often derided in Left Blogostan as the 101st Fighting Keyboarders. Jeez, at least some of the previous generation had the integrity, or perhaps more importantly the cojones, to act on their beliefs.
These days, we get tragedy following tragedy, good people sacrificing life and limb in a stupid cause. Whatever you think of Pat Tillman’s decision to join up, he must have thought he was doing the right thing. (Personally, I wonder how he could have combined an understanding of Chomsky with enlisting, as has been reported, but perhaps I’ve got events out of order.) Andrew Bacevich’s son is another such tragic story. There are thousands of very similar ones in the US, and tens of thousands of stories of people whose lives will never be the same due to their injuries and experiences.
But these are overwhelmed by the millions of such stories in Iraq, stories of death, bodily harm, fiscal ruin, evacuation, homelessness, despair. At this point nearly every Iraqi must consider the US to be a sworn enemy. How would we feel in Riverbend’s place?
What a horrible thing this country has done. The only idea I’ve encountered so far that might help is to follow, as we should have many years ago, George McGovern’s plan. McGovern and William Roe Polk sketch out a plan to compensate Iraqis for all the damage we’ve done. It’s kinda the least we could do, under the circumstances.
Though it would outrage the 101st FKs, it would be both the morally correct and the world-politically savvy thing to do. We should pay for the reconstruction of the Iraqi water, power, medical, and educational systems. And you know what? Altogether it would cost about as much as one year’s occupation, at the current rate. Thing is, we’d have to pay for it, not contract it out to Halliburton. McGovern’s strategy involves Iraqis doing the work, deciding what they want and building it. Our role is limited to paying for it, plus a reasonable amount of financial oversight. (Obviously there will be graft, but we’re not really in a position to complain about that right now. At least the money would end up in Iraq.)
Can we at least hope to realize how clearly Cheney proves that we create our own realities, even at the global level? Give the reins to a maniacal dark lord from a comic book, and you’ll soon have a situation as bad as a bunch of superheroes would make it. At that point, even if a superhero comes along and saves everyone, what kind of basis is that for society? That way lies tyranny, the strong-man theory of government. (Damn, where’d we put Saddam??)
One measure of what Americans have learned will be how we react to Bush and his cronies after they leave office. If the welcome Andy Card received at UMass was indicative, they’ll have to travel quietly and appear only in controlled settings.
Come to think of it, given Bush’s age, he might well survive until a post-imperial period, when the US military can no longer shelter a war criminal under its worldwide umbrella. Will Pinochet bequeath us some precedents? Or, wonder of wonders, will we join the ICC? (I maintain that we should ask every candidate, at every opportunity, “As President, will you lead the US into joining the International Criminal Court?”) But, like Cheney, Bush is unlikely to care. He never left the US before he was President, why should he leave afterward?
At this point, my money’s against the Republicans trying to deify this particular two-term President. Looks like Bush will manage to set a new standard, lower than Nixon, who—lying, cheating, murdering scumbag that he was—at least inherited his war, and from someone he didn’t much like, though the two were similar in their distance from the destruction they caused. If I believed in evil, I would consider such people instantiations of it. But I don’t, so I don’t.
I think what would really help our image on the world stage is if we’d try these bastards for their crimes. There seems to be good reason to investigate BushCo for war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. If we just brought Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzales, and Powell (and I’d argue for including Hadley) into court to defend themselves, we’d recoup some standing in the world. Of course Addington, Libby, Yoo, Rove, and some others should be in the dock as well, once we get rolling. I don’t even care whether we start prosecuting from the top or from the bottom, as long as we get ‘er done.
In any case, the world has changed since the last warmonger was President. I was never a Clinton fan, didn’t vote for him either time; but I have to admit his warmongering was piss-ant compared to either of the Bushes. (And we’re not even talking about the level of Truman or Johnson.) True, Clinton’s war was harder core than Reagan’s glorious salvation of the hard-pressed population of Grenada. Stephen Zunes recalls those heady days:
An island nation no bigger than Martha’s Vineyard, with a population that could barely fill the Rose Bowl, was defeated with relatively few American casualties. President Ronald Reagan’s decision to occupy the country and replace the government with one more to his liking proved to be quite popular in the United States, with polls indicating that 63% of the public supported the invasion.
There we go again. And how many days after the barracks bombing in Beirut was that…? (Correct answer: two.)
Lies and incompetence are not, unfortunately, unique to this particular war-criminal President. Nor is the employment of public relations in the service of military prowess.
After the invasion of Grenada, there was what the New York Times called recently a grand Reaganesque gesture; namely, Reagan stood up and said, we are “standing tall.” six thousand U.S. Special Forces won, I think, eight thousand medals for overcoming the resistance of a couple of dozen Cuban construction workers, meanwhile killing dozens of other American soldiers in the process. The press had to play a role, too. They had to suppress, and did suppress, the fact that Cuba had made offers instantly to negotiate the whole issue. The claim was the U.S. was protecting American students in a medical school. Cuba, said, fine, take over the medical school. All of that had to be suppressed by the press. It was kind of leaked quietly after it was all over and it was too late. But, yes, that was the grand event.
Proud to be an American, where at least, uh… How’s that go?
One thing you gotta say about Clinton, though, is that he wasn’t doing it so his friends in the oil and construction businesses could make out like bandits. No, sirree. No, his friends were lawyers and Wall Street types, and they weren’t heavy in defense industries. What they wanted was cover for their latest multinational scam.
They called this scam “free trade”, a term only slightly more accurate than “Moral Majority”. Clinton didn’t just buy into it; this was the only issue in his eight years for which he pulled out all the stops. Every bit of leverage he could apply to Congress was in play. With most of the Republicans, and fewer than 40% of the Democrats, voting with him, he got what Wall Street wanted. And the giant sucking sound became audible. Health care reform? Gays in the military? Civil liberties? Those could wait. We need 100,000 new cops on our dangerous streets.
Current-day Democrats, with a few honorable exceptions, are playing the same political game Bush is. He has a losing hand, and is trying not to acknowledge that, so he can find a sucker to take over the hand and go back to his beloved branch-cutting. The Democrats, on the other hand, figure they have a winning hand; all they have to do is not screw up and they’ll win in 2008. So why solve the big problems now? They didn’t create them. Yes, people might live who’ll otherwise die. But whose fault is that?
Surely, beloveds, it’s ours. Folks are dying in their roles as pawns in our politicians’ games. We must stop this madness.