Mission Accomplished

September 1, 2010

President Obama’s visit to Fort Bliss just before his speech on the withdrawal of most (not all) troops from Iraq was gracious and dignified. As this Grey Lady editorial notes, it was a welcome change from the behavior of the repulsive little creep who launched the war:

President George W. Bush tried to make Iraq an invisible, seemingly cost-free war. He refused to attend soldiers’ funerals and hid their returning coffins from the public. So it was fitting that Mr. Obama, who has improved veterans’ health care and made the Pentagon budget more rational, paid tribute to them.

Of course, before going on to state the obvious about this contemptible war, the Times has to pause and give the hippies a smack over Vietnam: “One of the few rays of light in the conflict has been the distance America has come since Vietnam, when blameless soldiers were scorned for decisions made by politicians.”

We hardly ever hear about the antiwar protestors who were shot, or beaten to a pulp by hard-hat rioters, or attacked by cops with batons and tear gas. But these yarns about hippies spitting on soldiers, like the fairy tales about Americans still being held prisoner by the evil Vietnamese, will always be with us. They are a peerless mechanism of control, to be used for corralling and isolating dissent, and control was what the Iraq invasion was all about. Not the control of Saddam Hussein — he was already penned in. The control of power in America.

Many fine, patriotic Americans opposed the Iraq invasion right from the start, and I salute them, now and always. Some opposed it out of pacifism. As for myself, I didn’t oppose the war out of pacifism: I opposed it because I can smell a rat. The stench of fraud and lies was thick in the air well before the “shock and awe” spectacle started, and it only increased over the months and years. But “support the troops” was the catch-all response to any criticism, and it worked. The public, scared stupid by 9/11, mostly went along with it. The Democrats who should have been the loyal opposition were cowed. The press, which should have been telling the truth about what was going on, failed (with some honorable exceptions) in this most important task. What an appalling show.

As a military operation, the invasion of Iraq was worse than a fiasco, but it was never a true military operation. There was no casus belli, no real threat to be expunged. I see no reason to doubt that the Iraq invasion was, from the start, a politically motivated spectacle meant to shore up the credibility of George W. Bush and give the Republican Party the whip hand in dealing with the Democrats. It certainly wasn’t meant to go on this long: I’m sure most of the war whores expected it to be done and dusted as quickly as the Nineties romp presided over by the president’s dad, only this time the political capital wouldn’t go to waste.

That’s not the way it turned out, of course, as is shown by the scorecard: some 4,400 Americans dead, another 35,000 wounded, and at least 100,000 Iraqis dead. But that “Mission Accomplished” banner turns out to have been quite correct. George W. Bush, whose presidency was made possible by only Supreme Court justices voting from the bench, got to play Caesar and win himself a second term in an office he didn’t deserve in the first place. The GOP got endless congressional clown shows with ink-stained fingers, and the freedom to turn the economies of the U.S. and Iraq into vast hog troughs of crony capitalism.

And none of the crooks who participated in this awe-inspiring scam has suffered for it. Bush, whose middle name should forever be “Waterboard,” will grow old with his millions. An entire administration that deserved to be led away in shackles for fouling  America’s good name and destroying its economy has not even been subjected to the mild inconvenience of a serious investigation.

Gracious and dignified behavior is not the proper response to what Bush and his cronies did to this country. They used America like a cheap hooker, and they got away with it. So give the hippies their due: they saw something was wrong, and they did something about it. For all the uglies, real or imagined, that might be laid at the feet of the Sixties protestors, they stood up and demanded answers to their questions. All this generation can do is avert its eyes, twiddle its  thumbs, and say “Let’s just move on, okay?”

Mission accomplished.

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The Iraqi Prisoner

February 18, 2009

I’ve already noted how closely the actions of the Bush administration, and conservative fiscal policies in general, correspond to a venerable con game called the “Bust-out,” in which fraudsters pretending to take an interest in running a business use a down payment to gain access to the company’s credit lines and assets, then max out all the credit lines, sell off assets at fire sale prices, then clear out just before the deposit check bounces, leaving a bankrupted company hollowed out by unpayable debt.

Readings new stories of how U.S. contractors and military personnel appear to have siphoned off billions of dollars supposedly targeted for Iraq reconstruction projects, an even more venerable con game comes to mind: “The Spanish Prisoner,” in which the mark is induced to pay out large sums of money to secure the release of some unidentified prince being held overseas, in some vaguely defined location, with the understanding that the contribution will be returned tenfold when the grateful prisoner wins his freedom and showers his supporters with royal largesse. A variation of this con, known to police as “419 Fraud” or “Advance Fee Fraud,” has probably turned up in your e-mail — instead of liberating a prisoner, the pigeon is asked to help broker the release of a big pot of money in a West African bank. The target usually expects to get a phat return on the initial investment, but sometimes the con men are also milking the target’s idealism or charitable impulses. To get a picture of how it works, watch House of Games, David Mamet’s first and best film, in which the psychologist heroine is drawn into a long con with the promise of helping her patient get free of his gambling debts. (Though Mamet went on to make another film called The Spanish Prisoner, that con actually doesn’t figure in the plot, curiously enough.) Michael Caine’s character in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is also running a similar scam by convincing rich widows he’s a deposed prince trying to raise money for freedom fighters back home. 

The designation of Bush’s little Middle East killing spree as “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was already a museum-quality specimen of Orwellian Newspeak when he rolled it out, but it becomes even more richly ironic when we consider how the American people were gulled into thinking that by throwing open their coffers to the Bush banditos, they could secure the liberation of the Iraqi people from a cruel dictator in a place many of them couldn’t have found on a map if they had a three-day head start. In return for pretending the whole thing was a John Wayne movie with extra sand on the sets, they would get cheap oil and a nice friendly regime that would recognize Israel and provide us with free military bases, along with the promised cascades of candy and flowers. Remember how we were told the whole thing would pay for itself once the good guys got their hands on all those oil wells? Those were the days, huh?       

Meanwhile, while Bush’s cronies went on looting with both hands here in the States, another team of con-men (maybe even some freelancers — who could tell, with so much money flying around?) tapped into the tsunami — one might even call it the surge — of unmonitored cash flowing into the country. In return, we got a taxpayer-funded training ground for aspiring Islamist terrorists, a pseudo-government composed of crooks, religious fanatics and terrorist sympathizers (kind of like the GOP, when you think about it) and a host of brand-new regional worries that will plague the world long after Bush has strutted off to that great gated community in the sky.  

The only upside I can see to any of this is that political science students attempting to grasp the nature of conservatism need no longer waste any more time studying Friedman, Oakeshott or any of the other great minds of wingerdom. They need only read the latest e-mails from Nigeria, and everything they need to know about conservatism will become crystal-clear.

Remember when warwhores were predicting that the Iraqis would be raising monuments to Bush and naming public squares after him? Turns out there a perfectly appropriate monument to Bush erected outside an orphanage in Tikrit, but the Central Government ordered it taken down:

Assisted by kids at the Tikrit Orphanage, sculptor Laith al-Amiri on Tuesday erected a huge brown replica of one of the shoes hurled at Bush last month by journalist Muntadhir al-Zaidi during a press conference in Baghdad.

But officials from Salaheddin province told CNN that the monument was removed after a request from the central government, which has charges pending against al-Zaidi — now in an Iraqi jail.

After the request was made, Iraqi police visited the location to make sure that the shoe monument was removed.

“We will not allow anyone to use the government facilities and buildings for political motives,” said Abdullah Jabara, Salaheddin deputy governor.

I wonder where the Shoe has gone. Maybe somebody could hold a fundraiser to buy it and transport it to America, perhaps to be mounted on a flatbed truck and parked in front of whatever hideout Bush is skulking within at any particular moment.

Top Ten Iraq Myths

January 2, 2009

From “Iraqis are safer because of Bush’s war” to “Bush invaded Iraq because of bad intelligence” and beyond, here’s your clip’n’save hit parade of lies and their corrections.

Heave Ho, Joe

November 7, 2008

I don’t know what’s funnier: the most batshit elements of the conservative movement preparing to go on a purity purge of the GOP’s ranks, or an aide for Joe Lieberman suggesting that Joe the Ho might bolt the Democratic caucus and play in the Republican sandbox if the turncoat senator gets stripped of his chairmanshp on the Homeland Security Committee.  

Gosh, Joe, whatcha gonna do? Threaten to call the Democratic presidential nominee a Marxist and actively campaign for his Republican competitor? Whoops, already did that. Stick a knife in the back of a fellow senator who helped save your hash when Ned Lamont had you on the ropes in the Connecticut primary? Dag, already did that, too. Lie to your constituents by pretending to be a “centrist” in favor of withdrawal from Iraq, then turn into one of Bush’s most vocal warwhores? Uh oh, wait a minute . . . 

Lieberman shouldn’t just be encouraged to go over to the Republican side; he should be loaded into a circus cannon and fired at Mitch McConnell’s office door. Josh Marshall takes a slightly less punitive position:

I don’t think it’s necessary to expel him from the caucus. And perhaps there are some perks of seniority he could be allowed to retain. But allowing him to keep his chairmanship is simply unacceptable. It’s a position the Democrats hold because of the joint efforts of Democrats across the country pulling together to support Democratic policies and ideals and elect Democratic candidates. For Lieberman to enjoy the fruits of that labor after working so hard to stymie that effort would be unconscionable.

Lieberman says his position was one of conscience. And out of generosity more than reason, I’m willing to believe that. But as he so often says, you have to take responsibility for your actions.

And the simple fact is the Democrats don’t need Joe Lieberman. He’s not in a position to call anything ‘unacceptable’. The Democrats didn’t get to 60 votes or at least it now seems highly unlikely — which was his only hope to have any continued relevance or position to bargain from. And the truth is that filibuster-busting votes are often made on an ad-hoc basis rather than on a party line. In any case, there’d be no more reason to trust he’d be there as a 60th vote as a Democrat than as a Republican.

Sen. Reid should take a cue from the one his fictional predecessor once heard in telling Lieberman how it’s going to be: “My offer is this. Nothing.”

If we’re going to be quoting from movies (the second Godfather movie in Marshall’s case), let me paraphrase a line from Kill Bill in response to the news that Joe the Ho is considering his options: “Bitch, you have no options.”

Must-See TV

September 28, 2008

Taxi to the Dark Side, Alex Gibney’s documentary about how the Bush administration got America into the torture business, debuts tomorrow night (Sept. 29) on HBO. In the clip posted above, Gibney talks with Rachel Maddow about the film and about how the moral squalor of Bush and his stooges has stained the good name of America.