By Bernard Weiner, The
What's really going on in Iraq? Is the U.S. trying to
get out of that country, or is it planning to stay for another
year or two?
A. The Bush Administration will never openly admit
that it's wrong, about anything, and certainly not about its
incoherent policy in Iraq. But it's been forced by events
on the ground to come to grips with reality.
The reality: Since the Bush Administration came to the "post-war"
phase totally unprepared - because it swallowed whole the
fantastical theories the neo-cons had devised in their right-wing
ivory towers, along with the self-serving lies told by the
Iraqi exiles - they walked right into a political/military
buzzsaw, probably just as Saddam Hussein foresaw when most
of his forces dispersed without much of a fight.
The reality: you can't create democracy from the barrel
of a gun. It won't work in Iraq, it won't work in the rest
of the Islamic Middle East. The operative rule, for all nations
- Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist - is this: no country's
citizens like to be Occupied by a foreign army, one that claims
to be interested in their welfare but which seems more concerned
with power, control, organized corporate-looting - and, in
this case, appears to wear a big Christian-crusader chip on
its shoulder when it comes to the Muslim world.
Q. You haven't answered my question.
A. Down, fella; I was just getting warmed up. Providing
context. Setting the stage...
See, there are twin forces at work within Bush&.Co.: On
the one hand, the more pragmatic theorists in the Administration
- mainly in the White House, State and CIA - see the Vietnam-quagmire
handwriting on the wall, and the anger their $87 billion for
Iraq is causing in the American electorate, and are desperate
to find a way to get U.S. troops out of the target areas before
This would entail turning over more power more quickly to
the Iraqis themselves - but conceivably, if even that doesn't
work, may require going back to the U.N. and the European
allies and offering them a power-sharing arrangement in helping
run and re-construct Iraq, with their companies getting a
good share of the reconstruction boondoggle money.
This Bush faction believes that if the democratization/reconstruction
phase is under a U.N. or other international umbrella and
the U.S. troops are not that visible, the Iraqis will cease-and-desist,
or at least ameliorate, their deadly attacks on the peacekeeping
forces and humanitarian-aid agencies. Instead, in this scenario,
with some elected officials starting to take charge of Iraqi
affairs instead of the current U.S.-appointed Coalition Provisional
Authority, the Iraqis will see those international forces
and agencies as being helpful reconstructionists, not as threatening
Occupiers, and Iraq can move forward quickly toward democracy
and free-market prosperity.
THE NEO-CON FACTOR
Another faction, mainly consisting of the neo-con zealots
at Rumsfeld's Pentagon and in Cheney's office, want to stay
on the present course. They bet so much on getting the U.S.
militarily into Iraq - lying through their teeth to do so
- because they believed in the cause of using that weak Arab
country as a demonstration model for the rulers of other Middle
East nations: this is what could well happen to your country
unless accomodations are made to U.S. geopolitical desires
and corporate interests. The ultimate Bush&Co. goal, other
than to set up the profit-making machine for their corporate
backers, is to totally alter the instability of the oil-rich
region, and the mainly autocratic governing system of Islam.
If the U.S. were forced by events on the ground to devolve
power to others and not remain in full control in Iraq, the
entire neo-con agenda is put at risk. Were the U.S. to be
forced by the Iraqi insurgents to move toward power-sharing
with the U.N., the Bush Administration - without its sole-superpower
ability to threaten and bully - might not find it possible
to change the face of modern Islam in the direction of less
militant behavior towards the West (and, significantly, towards
Israel, America's proxy-state in the area). Oil politics could
turn against the U.S. and its all-consuming need for cheap,
reliable sources of black gold.
Q. So, which faction is winning?
A. It depends on the day. And on the weather. And
on which side Pete Rose is betting on.... But, seriously,
folks, the truth is that both factions interweave, even as
they launch attacks against each other.
Given the strength of both factions, it would appear that
attempts are being made to reconcile the two seemingly incongruous
policies. It would look something like this:
The U.S. would stay, in some strength, for maybe two years,
but would remain in the background, pulling strings when necessary
to get what it wants; presumably, fewer American young men
and women would get killed and wounded.
Iraqis would begin to move toward some home-grown version
of democracy, but always knowing that the Americans, still
based in their country, could exercise a forceful kind of
veto if it chose to do so. (And, since Bush has said that
the American military will stay until the country is pacified,
this means the U.S. will be there for a long time, since such
a pronouncement invites a constant veto power through suicide
In short, the U.S. may have to back down (or seem to be
backing down: PR spin) in the short run in order to drastically
lower the U.S. death-rate of our soldiers and get the Iraqi
debacle off voters' minds prior to the November election.
THE P.N.A.C. POSSE
Q. And, don't tell me: After the election,
back to neo-con 101?
A. You're a quick study. You got it. If Bush wins,
the neo-con attack dogs are unleashed and off we go once again
into the bloodred sunset.
Q. Could our government be so mendacious,
so greedy, so power-hungry? I don't want to believe that,
even of a Bush Administration. Nobody could be that manipulative,
so traitorous to American values and long-terms national interests.
A. Wanna bet? The neo-cons (or neo-conmen, as some
call them) have spent a good dozen years, and more, getting
ready for the day when they could finally see their strategies
working in the real world, with them in control. With the
implosion of Soviet communism and the installation of a malleable
Bush Jr. in the White House - and the monstrous 9/11 attack
- they finally got that opportunity, and they're not about
to abandon their long-range plans.
If they have to make a few tactical course-corrections before
the 2004 election, they'll do it. If they have to immolate
a few sacrificial lambs, they'll do it; if the investigative
pressure continues to build, I wouldn't be surprised to see
a few lower-level fall guys resign to take the heat off of
Bush and Rumsfeld and Cheney: Stephen Hadley at the NSC (at
the heart of the Wilson-Plame scandal), Douglas Feith (one
of Rummy's main Iraq Occupation designers and WMD fabricators
at the Office of Special Plans), George Tenet at the CIA.
Hell, they'd even be willing, in extremis, to dump Cheney,
if they figure it'll help Bush's 2004 chances.
Anything in order to keep the original plan moving, as developed
Project for The New American Century theorists for the
past decade - using American muscle aggressively to get their
way in the world, cutting out the U.N. and any nation that
could possibly threaten U.S. hegemony, getting effective control
of the globe's energy resources, threatening preventive wars
against those who get in the way of U.S. policy, and actually
launching such wars where appropriate.
In short, the PNAC Posse will do what it has to do in the
short run - make Iraq accomodations, throw a few lesser lights
overboard to protect the big cheeses, even (gulp) ask for
international assistance - in order to stay in power and carry
out the rest of the imperial plan.
ANGERING THE SPOOKS
You namby-pamby liberals don't want to think your government
would behave this way? Listen, buddo, they are consumed by
arrogance and fear; they'll do what they have to do to stay
in power. If it requires outing a covert CIA agent to make
a political point, they'll do it, and to hell with the illegality
of the act. Valerie Plame and her network of informants and
agents around the world are merely collateral damage in the
service of the cause; besides, Bush&Co. know they won't be
fingered on that one, since journalists will never reveal
Q. But when they outed Joe Wilson's wife,
they stirred up a hornet's nest of opposition from inside
the CIA, who now are leaking all sorts of information detrimental
to the White House and its neo-con allies. Didn't they realize
that the Plame outing, and blaming the CIA for all the bad
intelligence about Saddam's supposed WMDs, would backfire?
A. We're talking about the tragic flaw of hubris
here, the feeling that you can get away with anything because
you're so powerful and nasty and scary. But you can almost
feel the inexorable convergence of scandals into one big,
huge mass at the top of a steep hill, with the White House
at the bottom. Critical mass has just about been reached.
When that huge boulder of scandal and incompetency and hubris
begins to roll - and a run-up to the election is the perfect
launch ramp - you know that the smashing and destruction at
the bottom of the hill is going to be swift and ugly. Impeachment
and resignation are the best they can hope for, to try to
stave off criminal prosecution.
Q. Oh, come on. That's not going to happen.
These guys control the White House, the Congress, the Supreme
Court, the radio and cable networks and much of the rest of
the mass-media. Your scenario is just a fantasy even you know
A. You can fool some of the people all of the time,
all of the people some of the time, but you can't have it
all. More and more Americans are realizing they were lied
to and egregiously manipulated by the Bush Administration
in order to move the country into Iraq. Our young men and
women are targets in a shooting gallery, dying and being wounded
at an astounding rate; the Iraqi insurgents can bleed us for
years, a war of a thousand cuts.
Support for the U.S. war effort is below 50% in the polls
and falling rapidly, and there's a rising understanding that
Bush&Co. didn't have a clue when it came to "post-war" Iraq.
We're basically out there all by ourselves, the rest of the
world content to watch us flounder in the muck. In short,
there's no strong support, domestially or internationally,
for Bush's original neo-con policies that got us into this
immoral, reckless mess.
In addition, domestically there is so much revulsion against
the excesses of the USA Patriot Act - which was rammed through
Congress right after 9/11, with virtually no legislators having
had a chance to read the final draft - that even conservatives
are joining in to strip it of its worst, fascist-like, Big
Brother provisions. More than 200 cities and towns and states
have passed resolutions that they will not honor it, or help
the federal government enforce it, in their jurisdictions.
(And, believe it or not, Ashcroft and Bush are trying to expand
the federal government's powers under Patriot Act 2! These
guys are shameless.)
Even Pvt. Jessica Lynch, whom the Bush spinners turned into
a poster girl for Iraq-War heroism, has rebelled, complaining
that her story was largely manipulated for political purposes.
In short, all the seeming power and control in the world
can't conceal forever that the citizenry, finally, is getting
a peek behind the Washington curtain and they don't like what
they see - all that lying and mendacity and meanness and hidden
agendas. Meanwhile, more than 3,000,000 have lost their jobs
since Bush moved into the White House - many of them really
good jobs "outsourced" to the cheaper labor markets abroad
- and a lot more citizens are fearful of becoming unemployed.
All this doesn't bode well for Bush&Co. in the 2004 election.
THE TOUCH-SCREEN PROBLEM
Q. You mean Bush is vulnerable enough to
lose to the Dems?
A. You're forgetting something: Republicans control
the computer-software that adds up the votes on the touch-screen
voting machines being installed all over the country. A slight
manipulation of the software there, a serruptitiously-installed
patch here, a quiet hack into the system there and - surprise!
- Bush pulls ahead in enough states to emerge the winner.
Already, the Bush-supporting CEO of Diebold, one of the three
major computer-voting companies, has promised Bush he will
"deliver" Ohio to the Republicans in 2004.
That's the bad news. The good news is that 12 months before
the election, word of this scandal is finally moving out from
the progressive internet sites - which have kept this story
alive and building for more than a year - into the mainstream
press. And, as a result, more and more folks are getting outraged,
and even beginning to ask embarrassing questions about the
elections of 2002 and how some Democrats, who in key states
were slightly ahead in the polls just before the vote, came
to lose - Max Cleland in Georgia, for example. Turns out software-patches
may have been illegally installed just prior to the balloting.
California has put a hold on full certification of Diebold
machines until it can be convinced that the software system
is on the up-and-up. There are moves in other states to do
something similar. These three companies refuse to let anybody
look at their proprietary software (and even have threatened
lawsuits against websites publishing internal Diebold memos),
but if state and local election officials REFUSE TO BUY THEIR
MACHINES until the software problems are solved - and a paper-trail
made available as a further double-check on the voting totals
- we might see some action quick.
But, as always, there will be no official action by the
bureaucrats unless the people organize themselves on the local
levels and demand it. So get to work. It would be a crime,
literally, if the Democratic candidate once again won the
presidential election, only to be robbed of it by chicanery
Q. I'd like to believe your rosy predictions
of how Bush could lose. But you're forgetting something really
important: the terrorists who hit the United States badly
on 9/11. We Americans were, and remain, scared, and thus we're
willing to cut Bush some slack, since he's protecting us from
the bad guys - who, by the way, are not figments of your liberal
imagination but real, and anxious to do the U.S. more harm.
You've seen what they did in New York and Washington, and
the atrocities they've pulled off all over the world. Don't
you think they could do it again inside the U.S.?
A. Of course. Despite the draconian, police-state
tactics of Ashcroft's Justice Department, and the setting
up of the Homeland Security Department (significantly, without
the FBI and CIA folded in), the U.S. is still mightily vulnerable
to terrorist attack. The first time it happened, on 9/11,
the inner circles of the Bush Administration knew that something
like it was coming, and decided to do nothing, in order to
further their domestic and foreign agendas. That's why the
Bush White House is fighting so tenaciously to keep the 9/11
commission from getting its hands on the key pre-9/11 documents.
It's possible the Bush Administration could choose to look
the other way again and further manipulate our fears and insecurities,
so that the populace would permit the central government to
do whatever it wants in the name of "homeland security" and
the "war on terrorism."
But we're two years away from 9/11 now, and the American
people have been able to get some perspective and have seen
how Bush&Co. used our insecurity against us, leading us by
lies and deceptions to support an unnecessary, unprovoked
war against Iraq - a country so weak and defenseless that
it could barely put up a decent fight during the invasion
- and to acquiesce to the shredding of our Constitutional
protections against tyrannical rule. I don't think we'd make
the same mistake twice.
THE DEMS AND REGIME-CHANGE
Q. Says you. Look at the polls. Bush still
has 40% of the country solidly behind his election effort,
and many more who look up to him as a folksy, likeable guy
- plus he's got a campaign war-chest of close to a quarter-billion
dollars. Who can the Democrats nominate who could defeat him?
A. You're looking at the cup as half-empty. Try half-full.
Even without naming a candidate yet, the Democrats already
have 40% support of the population behind defeating Bush.
That's pretty damn good in "wartime." And Bush&Co. seem more
and more incompetent and desperate all the time, trying one
thing after another, for example, in Iraq, in order to paper
over the holes and unworkability of their policies.
The Democratic contenders are, on the whole, a fairly strong,
competent bunch. Assuming the computer-voting scandal can
be taken care of - maybe even going back to paper, hand-counted
ballots for 2004 - virtually any of them probably could take
Bush next November. Especially if Iraq remains a mess and
the jobs issue continues to haunt Bush next year.
It looks like Howard Dean may pull away from the pack pretty
quickly after the initial primaries; any of the other contenders
would make a good ticket-balancer - it might well be Clark
or Graham or Gephardt. Karl Rove pretends not to be worried
by a Dean candidacy, but you'd better believe he reads the
poll numbers and is not at all happy at the prospect of Bush
going one-on-one against Dean, or almost any of the other
candidates for that matter.
Q. So you're hopeful the American people
will rally behind the Dem candidate in order to get the Bush
extremists out of power?
A. Let's just say that we have no choice if we love
our country, our Constitution, our once-admirable reputation
in the world. If Bush&Co. are gone, we can return to an economy
aimed at decreasing deficit-spending, increasing employment-growth,
reducing the number of good jobs going overseas, setting up
a tax-system fairer to the middle-class, etc. With Bush&Co.
gone, we can focus on the anti-terrorism campaign without
massive, reckless, horrendously expensive wars; we can service
our citizens without bankrupting the treasury.
But we will be able to accomplish none of these goals as
long as the Bush extremists, these ideological zealots, remain
in power. I think the American people are beginning to understand
this, and are willing to organize to take the country back
- even if it means supporting and voting for a Democrat with
whom they may have some disagreements - because the situation
simply has to change if we're going to save our country. Onward!
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government/international
relations at various universities, served as a a writer/editor
with the San Francisco Chronicle for 19 years, and currently