April 26, 2002
By Joseph Arrieta
How would the press react if the President of the United
States made a major address on a critical issue that proved
he was delusional, ill-informed, contradictory, and essentially
working and living in fantasy?
Unfortunately we now can get an answer to that question.
Even more unfortunately the answer is highly unsettling and
The fantasy Bush publicly proposed occurred last week when
he invoked the name of George Marshall in his pledge to rebuild
Afghanistan. Minus the flowery drivel provided by his speechwriter,
Bush stated that the United States would rebuild Afghanistan
in the spirit and tangibility that was used in the Marshall
plan to rebuild Europe after WW II.
This is not some obscure portion of the Farm Bill, a subtle
rule in the EPA regulatory scheme, or an issue that is deemed
unimportant to most Americans. After 9/11 no one would dare
presume that US policy in Afghanistan cannot be anything but
extremely important and worth extensive news coverage.
That coverage makes two facts abundantly clear: There are
only a relative handful of Americans presently in Afghanistan
(10,000), and only the capital of Afghanistan is secure in
any meaningful sense. Meaning that minus Kabul, the rest of
Afghanistan is an anarchy of warlord territories, ethnic cleansing,
every imaginable crime, and extensive opium production. Society
as we know doesn't exist beyond Kabul.
For some time the Bush administration has been caught in
a trap of its past ideology concerning the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
"Nation building" was sneered at as some Clintonite liberal
handout to loser countries. Many have been watching the administration
to see how they would assess the destruction of Afghanistan,
the US responsibility for that destruction, and what we would
do about it.
Bush can be given a legitimate pass on contradicting the
ideology. Many Presidents have found that the rhetoric of
the campaign trail doesn't fit the reality of the presidency,
especially when a world-altering event like 9/11 changes the
One can also for the moment put aside whether Marshall II
is the correct course for future US policy in Afghanistan.
The problem here is that Marshall II is totally, completely,
irrefutably impossible to implement with the current US force
and societal structure currently existing in Afghanistan.
One of the most surprising elements of the US campaign in
Afghanistan is the absence of the US Army. The US fought the
campaign with air power, Special Forces and a collaborating
rebel army. With only 10,000 troops in the theatre the US
has effectively ceded all future control of Afghanistan to
whatever Afghan power structure emerges to grab it.
In other words, the Bush administration wants its desired
outcome in Afghanistan but is unwilling to pay for it. Payment
comes about in accepting the responsibility for the destruction
of Afghanistan and occupying the country for however long
it takes to make sure it safe, self-sufficient, and no long
a threat to the world community.
Occupation means at least 100,000 highly mobile fighting-ready
troops with at least 6 squadrons of mixed aircraft. Along
with 30,000 support personnel. Plus leadership that clearly
explains the necessity of occupation and the likelihood of
losing at least 5,000 American lives over 20 years.
What's surprising is the Administration's temerity in not
using the US Army for fighting or occupation. There seems
to be an inordinate amount of fear of public opinion to American
casualties. Of course the minimum amount of American casualties
is desirable, but after 9/11 Americans were more than willing
to do whatever it takes - even if it meant 50,000 casualties
and 50 years of occupation - to successfully resolve Afghanistan.
For whatever reason the Bush Administration took a pass on
that option. All right. But then last week Bush said we'd
implement Marshall II in Afghanistan. What?
Rebuilding Afghanistan with the approximate 10-20 billion
dollars it would take requires complete security just for
the infrastructure requirements. Can you rebuild a bridge
with roaming, armed bandits on the roads? Of course not. The
same equation works equally well for any infrastructure element:
totally impossible with out stable, complete long-term security.
Infrastructure is the easy part. Implementing long-term political
structures that have any real chance of success requires an
enormous amount of military, political and intellectual resources.
None of that can even begin without the basic of stable security
At any rate, it should be abundantly clear to even the most
casual observer that for Bush to state the US is going to
implement Marshall II without an American occupying force
for security is complete, total, undeniable fantasy. There's
just no other conclusion to reach - after a desperate search
for a rational explanation.
What mental processes Bush must have used before giving the
speech for Marshall II are downright scary. He either is completely
ignorant of the current security restrictions in Afghanistan
(highly unlikely), completely divorced from reality (impossible),
or just views his job as some sort of verbal game that he
can get away with. He could have even actually believed what
he was saying. Whatever the case, the mental precepts used
before the speech have to be horribly misplaced from what
most Americans would expect the thinking processes of the
President of the United States should be in a critically important
Put another way, the President abundantly demonstrated he's
a delusional crank with seemingly no grasp of basic reality.
He made a fool of himself and the country, to put it kindly,
over one of the most important decisions of his presidency
that has enormous implications for what he's himself stated
as the most important task he has-eliminating terrorism. How
did the US press react?
Incredibly, hardly at all. Newsday had a good editorial entitled
"Get Busy," which essentially forgave Bush for leaving out
all the critical details on how the fantasy would take place
and demanded that he come up with them as soon as possible
(they also called the delay in announcing any plan "unconscionable.")
The Washington post very briefly mentioned the story inside
of another one-it was part of a list of Bush gaffes for April.
That was it. No op-ed columns, no radio shows, no coverage
at all except for the published transcript of the speech and
the basic event story, plus the two items above.
Many of the essays published here lately have pounded on
the duplicity of the press for the current mess of our politics
and desperately tried to reach for alternatives in getting
true press coverage of this president.
We can hope and try to carry the real Truth of this presidency
through every possible media outlet, but without the mainstream
press reporting the Truth there's very little hope it will
reach a majority of Americans.
The press, especially the New York Times, hates to be scolded
and is highly sensitive to criticism. One could easily blast
them over this episode through a number of effective means-but
only the inherent tangible communication would be effective.
Once it was demonstrated they effectively colluded with the
President in publicly hoisting pure fantasy on the country
and the world they'd be embarrassed and never admit it.
How the press ever abandoned its skepticism and aggressiveness
toward this president is astounding, but that's what we have
to live with. All we can do is pray that one day soon they
wake up to their duty as journalists and citizens and simply
report the Truth: this president is a dangerous mental patient
in need of immediate critical care.
Until then all we do is hope we get lucky.