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.

Weekend Bookchat

February 7, 2009

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Patrick Tyler’s A World of Trouble: America in the Middle East surveys the actions of eight presidencies — from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush — and finds an almost unbroken line of ineptitude, mendacity, bad faith and hubris, from the Suez Crisis to Bush’s lie-driven campaign in Iraq. Tyler draws on newly available archival material and offers some jaw-dropping anecdotes from the history of America’s role in keeping the Middle East ablaze. The sainted Henry Kissinger, who still enjoys a baffling reputation as a master politician and diplomat, comes off particularly badly:

. . . Henry Kissinger, entrusted with a message from Nixon to Brezhnev calling for joint superpower action to end the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and then proceed to a just settlement of the Palestinian question, simply decided, in mid-flight to Moscow, not to deliver it. Nixon’s message, Tyler writes, “threatened to undermine the record Kissinger was seeking to create; that he and Nixon had run the Soviets into the ground and they had protected Israel”. The truth was that the Russian leaders had reacted cautiously and moderately when war broke out, and that Nixon himself had a statesmanlike grasp of what was necessary. But a joint US-Russian initiative “would have thrust Kissinger into the thankless and perilous task of applying pressure on Israel”. So he simply dumped the message. He later encouraged Israel to violate the ceasefire that was supposed to end hostilities so that it could better its military position. With these acts of disobedience – acts which were also, as Tyler says, arguably unconstitutional – Kissinger closed off the possibility that the 1973 war could have been ended on terms which would have left Israel in a less powerful position, making it more amenable to an ensuing push for a settlement by the Americans and the Russians.

Tyler also demonstrates  the problems caused by the “special relationship” between America and Israel:

Tyler does not go quite as far as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, for whom the Israel lobby lies at the heart of American foreign policy; but he is nevertheless a keen critic of the special relationship between the United States and Israel. Indeed, what is perhaps most striking is the constant American appeasement in the face of Israeli aggression. “Don’t lie to me! I’m sitting here watching it on CNN!” Reagan yelled down the telephone to Menachem Begin in 1982, after the Israeli leader had reneged on a promise not to bombard Beirut. But in typical fashion, Reagan did nothing about it – a pattern that has been repeated, by and large, ever since.

Meanwhile, Tyler writes that Bill Clinton fumbleda one-in-a-lifetime chance to capitalize on  “a great convergence: the end of the cold war, the advent of Yitzhak Rabin’s premiership and the PLO’s decision to recognise the Jewish state.” By letting himself be manipulated by Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, Clinton tried to force a settlement and had the whole thing blow up in his face. He then blamed Yassir Arafat and everyone except himself for the collapse.

The manifold failures and disasters of the Bush administration have left Barack Obama with one hell of a mess to clear up, but one can only hope he might find time to read Patrick Tyler’s A World of Trouble. He might not be able to improve the situation, but as Tyler makes clear, simply not making things worse will put him miles ahead of his predecessors.

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How did so many public fixtures come to be named after Ronald Reagan? How did so many people come to believe that this dozing fantasist, whose administration was a carnival of corruption and who presided over embarrassing military failures ,  single-handedly defeated the Soviet Union, reduced the size of governmentand revived the American economy through tax cuts and positive thinking?

Why, the  way just about everything else beloved of conservatives, from crackpot economic theories to fake bestsellers, comes into being: a small group of dedicated crusaders with access to wingbucks lobbied for them round-the-clock, then created the illusion they had come about through overwhelming public demand. Will Bunch, in his new book  Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future, chronicles the rise of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project in 1997, and argues that its rewriting of history (a creation of a fantasy version of a president whose legacy is, at best, highly debatable) is a hindrance to the present and fitire of America

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The memoirs of a renowned editor give us a glimpse of a vanishing era in American publishing — and an amusing look at how a neocon blowhard got wild-man lessons from Norman Mailer. A cultural history of Americans and their automobiles.

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.

Zbig Fun

December 31, 2008

Let’s start the last day of 2008 with a bit of lowdown fun as former national security Zbigniew Brzezinski smacks around winger hack Joe Scarborough during a talk about the ongoing horror in the Middle East. Brzezinski, a courtly and diplomatic man, tries to school Scarborough in a gentlemanly fashion, but finally gets tired of the hack’s blowhard spinning and says, “You know, you have such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on that it’s almost embarrassing to listen to you.” Scarborough’s petulant response is worth noting as well.

Shooting Fish In a Barrel

December 30, 2008

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When Israel started carpet-bombing Lebanon two summers ago, the Woman Warrior hung up a banner that read KILLING CHILDREN IS NOT SELF-DEFENSE. That Saturday afternoon, we spent a couple of hours arguing with and getting shouted at by people leaving the synagogue nearby, who came up our driveway to call us terrorist-lovers and baby killers. A couple of nights later, some vandals trespassed on our property and cut down the banner.

When we spoke with the rabbi a few days later, he was sincerely upset by the vandalism and the possibility that it might have been the work of some of his congregants. “We can’t look for justice in unjust ways,” he said, a philosophy I can endorse wholeheartedly. I hope it soaks into the heads of some of his congregants.

During those endless, pointless driveway debates in which outwardly intelligent people said the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon was acceptable because the Israelis gave the Lebanese time to clear out before the bombs started raining down, I received an object lesson in the fact that it is more possible to have a rational talk about Israel with Israelis than it is with American Jews.  There are Israelis who are appalled by the generations-long misery of Gaza and the West Bank, by the farcical situation with the settlements, with the double-dealing and the bad faith, but their American counterparts are shouted down by political hysterics who see every situation involving Israel as a replay of Exodus, with Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint holding back the slobbering Arab hordes.

The atrocity being committed right now in Gaza has no basis in morality, practicality or even long-term Israeli self-interest. It is a naked exercise in force wielded by a nuclear-armed regional superpower in the name of fighting an enemy it created decades ago in order to undermine the power of other Palestinian groups. I would like to see the propaganda nonsense about targeting only Hamas operations, with any civilians casualties a matter of regret, get the contemptuous treatment it deserves, but that’s as pointless as hoping for a reduction, much less an end, to the American subsidies lavished on the biggest economy in the eastern Mediterranean. This is shooting fish in a barrel, and it ends whatever claim Israel may have to the moral high ground.

So, like the good people at 3 Quarks Daily, I’m running the flag of Palestine to offer some gesture of sympathy, however ineffectual, with the innocents being subjected to this terror. At least this is one banner those self-righteous creeps won’t be able to cut down.

Verdict with Cheese

December 23, 2008

So, as far as I can tell, the jury in the pizza jihadi trial has determined that five men were conspiring to kill American soldiers at Fort Dix, but that they didn’t really mean to hurt anybody.

Do I have that right? If you convict the accused men of conspiracy but acquit them of attempted murder, where does that leave us? If they were gathering up weapons and preparing to strike Fort Dix, that implies an intent to do something more than inconvenience the soldiers, right? But they weren’t guilty of attempted murder? Weren’t we told last year, when these men were arrested, that the feds had narrowly averted a bloody strike on an American military target? No wonder the jury asked the judge to read a statement saying, “This has been one of the most difficult things that we have ever had to do.” Maybe that’s so, but that’s nothing compared with the work the jurors have created for anyone trying to make sense of the logic of this verdict.

This case has smelled bad right from the start and the outcome stinks. We are left with an ambiguous verdict against five “terrorists” who invited a Philadelphia cop to join them on one of their “training sessions,” who were blatantly led into making provocative moves by a paid FBI informant, and who were leery of the guy egging them on.

Something tells me this case will spend the next few years unraveling in the appeals process.