Thoughts About Horrid Leaders
By Bernard Weiner, The
you've forgotten John DiIulio. An early ranking member of
the Bush Administration - in charge of faith-based programs
- he was the first to leave and tell us what really went on
inside the White House.
Basically, he said, virtually every initiative of the Bush
Administration was taken for partisan political reasons. There
was precious little, if any, loftier discussion of whether
something might be good for the American people. Everything
flowed from the top down, from the cynical, manipulative minds
of Rove and Cheney and their ilk. The major question dealt
with was: How could this policy benefit Bush&Co. and their
"This gave rise," wrote Dilulio "to what you might call
Mayberry Machiavellis - staff, senior and junior, who consistently
talked and acted as if the height of political sophistication
consisted in reducing every issue to its simplest, black-and-white
terms for public consumption, then steering legislative initiatives
or policy proposals as far right as possible."
Later, we heard variations on a similar theme by other,
more highly-placed insiders - such as Treasury Secretary Paul
O'Neill and Anti-Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke and Ambassador
Joseph Wilson IV - that confirmed that Bush and his inner-circle
are not especially curious about the real world and are not
interested in hearing unwelcome truths. Politics and power
are what really matter.
Once Bush&Co. make up their minds, it's full speed ahead;
if they run into a brick wall, all attempts are made to deny
the existence of the wall-like obstacle in front of them.
If there is no way to escape that impediment, they'll back
and fill and try to go around another way, but the ultimate
goal remains to get to where they wanted to get to originally
and, by golly, they will get there - even if it requires them,
stealthlike, to pretend for a while that they're changing
THE IRAQ DEBACLE
What's happening in Iraq is a good example. The neocons
in charge of American foreign/military policy - hard-rightists
from The Project for The New American Century like Cheney
and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Feith - wanted to get a U.S.
military foothold in Iraq, and to bend the existing Arab culture
in the Middle East to its "democratic/free market" will. To
effect this U.S. presence, the Bush Administration had to
invent a rationale to justify an invasion and hyped an "imminent"
danger posed by Saddam Hussein with his supposed terrifying
biochemical and nuclear weapons. None of it was true, of course,
and thousands of Americans and Iraqis are paying the ultimate
price for those gross lies and deceptions - and U.S. taxpayers,
and their descendants, are paying the humongous financial
The ongoing conflict in Iraq has turned into an embarrassing
disaster for the U.S., as it gets sucked into the kind of
war Saddam and his military planners wanted to fight: an urban
insurgency against the American occupiers. Comparisons with
Vietnam and the Battle of Algiers are being made even by conservative
pundits. Support at home for Bush's bumbling war policies
is melting away. Unless Rove can find some way to get Iraq
off the front pages of voters' minds, Bush conceivably could
lose the election in November.
And so, Bush&Co. are desperate enough to do anything to
get the U.S. out of the death zones in Iraq. The aim is to
take American voters' attention off the war long enough to
get Bush elected. Once that happens, all bets and restrictions
are off; it's back to moving toward those original neo-con
In Iraq, the goal is to have a military presence in the
country - the U.S. already has set up 14 bases inside Iraq
- so as to have leverage as the U.S. attempts to reshape the
Middle Eastern geopolitical map, and to have effective control
of the natural resources of the area at a time when oil reserves
worldwide are running down.
If Bush were to win in November, the original agenda would
come into play: moving hard on Iran and Syria and others to
toe the U.S. line, or face the consequences - with the example
of "shock-and-awe" and "regime change" in Iraq to help focus
the minds of leaders who might object to American hegemony.
THE LOGIC OF TORTURE
How history delights in irony. Bush claims that because
of U.S. "liberation" of Iraq, America has taken the country
beyond the Saddam horrors and brutalities and tortures of
the past and into a bright new present and glowing future.
At virtually that same moment, what many Iraqis and human
rights groups already knew was revealed to the public: the
U.S. and U.K. have been involved in systematic humilitation
and torture of Iraqi prisoners - sometimes to the point of
death - and often at the same jails that Saddam's thugs used
for the same purposes.
Why Bush and Blair would be "shocked, shocked" to discover
that the troops serving under their command would behave in
an uncivilized manner is a mystery. For nearly four years
now, Bush, for example, has behaved like a king who answers
to no-one; his administration's behavior across the globe
- strutting and swaggering unimpeded like an arrogant bully,
taking what it wants, demeaning its enemies as "uncivilized,"
claiming a dichotomy of God on our side and the Other as thoroughly
"evil" - almost invites ordinary U.S. soldiers to see their
Iraqi enemy as lesser mortals, somehow unworthy of normal
It's what the world witnessed in Stalinist Russia, Hitlerian
Germany, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, Israel in Palestine, France
in Algeria, the U.S. in Vietnam. We are the good guys with
God on our side ("Gott mit Uns"), our enemies are some barbaric
subhumans whose God is inferior to ours; even with international
rules of war and treatment of POWs in place, there naturally
will be officers and troops who go over the line with great
regularity. Once the war genie is let out of the bottle, we
shouldn't be surprised by the inhumanity that follows.
The rationales justifying this Iraq adventure were, and
remain, rotten. The post-"Mission Accomplished" war is a disaster.
The commander-in-chief, looking through rosy-colored glasses,
maintains that all is well, just a few malcontent natives
and "foreign terrorists" to deal with.
When an entire war enterprise is based on faulty foundations,
as in Vietnam, as in Iraq, one should expect the troops -
many, if not most, of whom come from moral, religious backgrounds
- to recognize, on some level, that what they're being asked
to do varies from what they've been taught is right.
Some soldiers can't handle that kind of emotional/ethical
warping and psychologically snap, performing ghastly acts
of torture and violence. That is an expected part of warfare;
if the war seems to be lasting forever, if your own country
doesn't armor and protect you enough, if you as a soldier
learn you can't trust anyone in the native population, and
if the required changes aren't made from the top down, the
entire war policy and behavior can slide off the moral tracks.
It happened in Vietnam, it's happening increasingly in Iraq.
But, since the Bush neocons want Iraq and what it represents
- political greed, don't forget, is their middle name - they
will do anything necessary to stick to their goal of using
Iraq to "transform" the energy-rich Middle East. They will
do so even if it means temporarily contradicting their own
best interests on the ground in order to reduce the number
of Americans dying - for one reason and one reason only: to
win the election in November.
This attitude helps explain the U.S. rush to hand over the
reins of "sovereignty" - to someone, anyone, please - even
though the Americans will continue to maintain their bases
and pull the strings from behind the scenery; and why the
U.S. is even willing to pay out huge amounts of "protection
money" to Iraqi militias (often made up of the same insurgents
who were firing on them previously) in order to buy their
way out of deadly firefights.
THE ISRAEL/PALESTINE DISCONNECT
There clearly is a disconnect in the White House between
what's happening in Israel/Palestine and what's happening
in the Arabic Middle East and, in general, throughout the
Islamic world. Since Bush&Co. have placed all their chips
on Israel in that Middle East struggle, Sharon's Likud-led
government considers that it has carte blanche to pacify and
control that area however it wants. Bush&Co. simply refuse
to comprehend (or care) that the U.S. and Israel are pouring
gasoline on the smoldering fire of Arabic and Islamic resentment
across the globe.
If they really wanted to win hearts and minds in the Islamic
world, the U.S. would engineer and work tirelessly for a just
and lasting peace in the Middle East: Arab-wide recognition
of Israel within secure pre-1967 borders, a geographically
and economically viable Palestinian state, withdrawal of Israel
from most of the occupied territories and settlements. But
Bush has now moved the U.S. away from its traditional "honest
broker" role between the two warring parties, and placed America
squarely in the Likud camp, thus ensuring that Muslims worldwide
see little or no difference between the two most powerful
countries in the area. Both Israel and the United States increasingly
are seen by Muslims these days as a common enemy - occupying
powers who employ similarly brutal, inhumane acts in trying
to control the local populations.
In short, Bush - the same guy who infuriated the Islamic
world when he used the term "crusade" to define his initial
anti-terrorist policy - has become the best recruiter for
Hamas and Islamic Jihad. And, most importantly in terms of
domestic American security, Bush has become the best recruiter
for Al Qaida.
Which leads to an unsettling line of thought:
Since Bush Administration policies are so outrageous and
extreme, and since the manner of carrying out those policies
is so incompetently handled, and since Bush&Co. alienate everyone
who comes near them, one is tempted to believe that these
Bush guys are alien pod people, or forces from the dark side,
or agents of a foreign power - sent to destroy America from
within and ensure defeat abroad.
Of course, I'm not serious about that. But at times the
Bush Administration's policies, behavior and bumbling ways
certainly make one wonder. In addition to the blowback that
can be expected from Bush's Israel/Palestine mistakes, here
are a few more examples of policies that, if one didn't know
better, could be viewed as designed to aid our enemies:
- The highest echelons of the Bush Administration in the
Spring and Summer of 2001 are warned, in very specific terms,
that fanatic Al Qaida extremists are coming to attack the
U.S. mainland by hijacked airplanes, aimed at icon American
targets in New York and Washington, and yet Bush does nothing
to try to prevent or warn about such a terrorist attack
or even to call all his top advisers together to deal with
the issue. The terrorists, in effect, march through an open
- The 9/11 attacks occur, and within days, the Patriot Act
is sent to Congress - a collection of police state-like
laws that were rejected by previous Congresses because they
violated so many due-process provisions of the Constitution
- and, in the atmosphere of terrorism/anthrax fright and
heightened patriotism, passes by an overwhelming majority,
even though virtually none of the members get a chance to
read the final version sent over by the White House at the
last minute. Thus begins the further degradation of federal
government respect for individual rights and civil liberties.
- Few on the Left or the Right wish to oppose the U.S.
response in Afghanistan, where Al Qaida is headquartered,
but it turns out that Afghanistan and Al Qaida are not the
main targets after all. The planning for war on Iraq begins
in the first few days of the Bush Administration, secretly.
The chief architects of the Iraq war are rightwing neo-conservatives
who as part of The Project for The New American Century
(PNAC) have been agitating for war on Iraq since at least
1991, when Saddam was left in place by the first President
More than $700 million dollars that Congress authorized
for going after Al Qaida in Afghanistan serreptitiously
is diverted to preparations for the Iraq war, and troops
searching for Bin Laden are pulled out of Afghanistan and
made ready for action in Iraq. Instead of concentrating
on Al Qaida and taking the group out once and for all, the
U.S. focuses its energies on attacking a country that had
nothing to do with 9/11.
- Saddam takes flight, the main body of the Iraqi army
suddenly disappears, and the U.S. waltzes into Baghdad to
accept the flowers, kisses and huzzahs of a grateful Iraqi
population. The honeymoon lasts for a few days, but increasingly
the U.S./U.K. occupation is resented. Especially when it
becomes clear that the U.S. is not restoring public services,
is providing little or no employment, and has no effective
The wrong troops are assigned policing and nation-building
roles for which they are not trained. Looting is widespread
and uncontrolled; only the Oil Ministry building and oilfields/pipelines
are protected by U.S. troops. Not even the nuclear sites,
and ammo dumps, are guarded; weapons from these dumps are
used against U.S. troops each day. No wonder ordinary Iraqis
are at first puzzled by, and then infuriated at, the U.S.
- When the native insurgency begins, the U.S. naively dismisses
its importance and tries to keep it contained with ambivalent
tactics, sometimes harsh, sometimes conciliatory. The civilian
death toll rises in a 10-to-1 Iraqi-to-American ratio; it's
now anywhere from 10,000 to 17,000. American deaths are
pegged at near-800, troops removed for medical reasons at
more than 10,000. (None of these figures include U.S. "contract"
forces - formerly known as "mercenaries" - who operate outside
of military rules and regulations.)
- Iraqi prisoners are humiliated and tortured by U.S. and
British military intelligence and spy agencies, and these
sick bastards take lots of photos and perhaps even videos
of the jolly fun. Higher-ups are alerted and reports are
written, but nobody publicly apologizes or takes responsibility
to shut down the torture chambers. When the photos are released,
they are broadcast on Islamic news networks immediately.
The U.S./U.K. couldn't have done more to damage their reputations
in the region, and around the world, if they had tried.
- When confronted by effective urban resistance in Fallujah,
the U.S. is faced with only bad options. It chooses to buy
its way out, by re-inserting Ba'athist control - the very
army forces it wanted no part of after Baghdad fell. More
and more, in civilian ministries and security positions,
the Ba'athists are being brought back in. Anything to aid
in diminishing the U.S. death toll and helping ensure an
election victory in November. Nothing personal, it's all
- Purely for U.S. electoral reasons, in less than two months
a new Iraqi leadership - of some sort - will assume "sovereignty."
The sham probably won't fly, as it's not genuine sovereignty;
the U.S. military still will call the major shots. What
then? Ad hoc policy-making eventually gets one into a cul-de-sac.
How to exit?
Well, you get the idea. Bush&Co. can't think straight, can't
see straight, can't shoot straight. The result is endlessly
and constantly to supply propaganda ammunition to our enemies.
Bush&Co., blinded by their extreme ideology and arrogance
- we're the only superpower on the planet and we can get what
we want when we want - are now trying anything to play catch-up
with reality, even paying off insurgents not to attack them,
even seeking help from the United Nations and former allies
that they reviled and humiliated before the war. Who woulda
It's a back-asswards way of running a war - trying to do
now what might have helped if done then - but that's what
happens when think-tank ideologues (who made sure never to
be in a war themselves) send young men and women to fight
for greed-based wacky theories, and for the idea that you
can create instant democracy at the point of a gun.
In sum, friends, we are witnessing in Iraq and elsewhere
the deadly result of nearly four years of Bush&Co.'s ideological
stubbornness and insistence on politics-at-all-costs. The
whole crew should be impeached - and there are plenty of charges
that would stick - but it may not happen prior to the election.
Still, that's no reason not to attempt it; doing so will keep
Bush&Co. busy defending on another front, thus reducing the
amount of havoc they can cause.
If the Republican-dominated Congress won't impeach these
guys, then we the voters will. If we do it right in November,
not only will Bush&Co. be sent packing from the White House,
but a good share of Republicans in the House and Senate will
take involuntary early retirement along with their Bush&Co.
True, It will take years to undo the damage caused by Bush&Co.
domestically and abroad, but at least we will know we are
engaged in doing solid, moral work - and, most importantly,
that we are helping move our country out from the shadow world
and back into the light. Let's do it!
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations,
has taught at various universities, was a writer/editor with
the San Francisco Chronicle for 19 years, and currently co-edits