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Bush to U.N.: Screw You!

March 15, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

Traditionally, a lame-duck president has a two-year window of opportunity to successfully push his foreign and domestic agenda. Karl Rove knows this well.

Since the Bush/Rove/Cheney bullyboy approach worked for them so successfully during their first term, the Administration is using the same strong-arm tactics in its foreign/military policy, and in quickly trying to ram its domestic agenda through Congress.

But something is different this time; there now is an odor of reckless haste emanating from the White House. The result is that they are now making mistakes, big time.

Just two examples: the nomination of John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations, and the Social Security "reform" campaign.

Bolton, a founding member of the neo-con Project for The New American Century (PNAC), is a mad-dog unilateralist who wants the world to bow to U.S. demands now that America is the only remaining superpower. Bolton has said: "If I were doing the Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member [the United States] because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world." Treaties and international laws are irrelevant, he believes, since they are attempts to constrict the justified use of American power around the globe.

If other countries refuse to bow to America's wishes, according to Bolton, the U.S. should either find a way around them to get what it wants, or unleash its full diplomatic, economic or military might on them.

Bolton despises multilateralism and thinks the U.N. is an abomination. His mouth, by any accounts, is an undiplomatic sewer. By appointing him, Bush is telling the world: screw you, we're making no concessions, get out of our way or get run over.

What a nominee! It's like giving matches and a can of gasoline to a known arsonist and sending him into a building where firecrackers are stored.

SOCIAL SECURITY "REFORM" UNPOPULAR

Bush's campaign to shred (and eventually destroy) the Social Security program is going nowhere fast - even normally supportive GOP members of Congress, anxious for re-election in 2006, are distancing themselves from the privatization scheme - but Bush and Rove continue their whirlwind tour of pre-screened audiences around the country, to try to generate traction for such "reform."

But as Democrats.com's Bob Fertik puts it: "House Republicans are already running for their lives over Social Security privatization. When Tom DeLay ordered them to hold town hall meetings on privatization two weeks ago, two-thirds of them flatly refused. When George Bush took Air Force One for a Bamboozlepalooza rally in Alabama - Alabama! - six of the seven House Republicans announced they suddenly had to attend urgent Congressional hearings!"

"It's only going to get worse for House Republicans," Fertik continues, "because George Bush is determined to march them off the cliff for privatization. It is important to remember that 2006 is an off year, and the people who turn out most reliably in the off year are Social Security recipients! And it is essential to remember that every House member is up for election in 2006, compared to just one-third of the Senate."

In short, debacles on the order of this Social Security madness, and the nomination of John Bolton for U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., provide openings for progressive/moderate victories, both big and small, if effective oppositional strategies can be put in place.

BUSH'S STRATEGIES

1. Circling the Bush-Bunker Wagons.

Clearly, from the Administration's point of view, there were far too many leaks and covert acts of disloyalty to The Leader during the first term - from the State Department, CIA, EPA, etc. - so everything is being done to make sure that will not happen again. The various departmental purges and staff changes at the top are a key part of ensuring a more leakproof environment.

To guarantee this tighter command structure, Bush has assembled those few officials pledging total fealty to The Leader, and has headed for the political bunker. This select group includes Karl Rove in the White House, Cheney* and Libby* in the Vice President's office, Gonzales at Justice, Rumsfeld* and Wolfowitz* at Defense, Rice and Abrams* (and now Karen Hughes as well) at State, Goss at the CIA, Hadley at the National Security Council, Chertoff at Homeland Defense, and now Bolton* on-deck for the United Nations, and Zalmay Khalilzad* as Ambassador to Iraq.

The executive committee, as it were - the ones who set the militarist policy, and run the show - would appear to consist of Rove, Rumsfeld*, Cheney,* Wolfowitz* and, ex officio, Bush.

(*Those asterisked above are members of PNAC.)

To see how this little circle-jerk game is played, last week Rumsfeld ordered more "extraordinary renditions" - i.e., sending detainees in U.S. care abroad to countries where torture is the method of choice in eliciting information - and Gonzales provided the "legal" cover for such shameful behavior. (His logic is classic Bush Administration: "Our policy is not to render people to countries where we believe or we know that they're going to be tortured," said Gonzales. But "once someone is rendered, we can't fully control what that country might do.")

Each of those bunker occupants is dirty, fully worthy - along with departed co-conspirator Ashcroft - of prosecution for one crime or another. But that's what we've come to in this country: a cabal of liars and crooks and torturers and warmongers and would-be dictators running the ship of state - right toward the icebergs that reality is placing in their way. And that threaten to take us all down with them.

During the past four years, when encountering one of those realitybergs, the Bush Administration tended to ram them full speed, and damn the consequences. They got what they wanted through such reckless, arrogant tactics - most specifically, their war against Iraq - but at a horrific cost.

They alienated their allies, engendered (especially as a result of the torturing and sexual abuse of male, female and child Iraqi prisoners) a deadly and resourceful insurgency among Iraqis, united a good share of the Muslim world against them, wound up with several thousand "Coalition" forces dead and nearly 20,000 American troops wounded, an estimated 100,000 Iraqis slain, most of them civilian women and children.

In short, on issues ranging from Iraq to global warming to the U.S.'s unilateral approach to international agreements (Kyoto, International Criminal Court, the Geneva Conventions, etc.), America was feared greatly but barely respected as a moral nation, regarded as a pariah state by many in the international community. And, despite the photo-ops on his recent European tour - which showed Bush and European leaders smiling and shaking hands - the situation hasn't changed much today.

2. The Illusion of Peace in the Middle East.

Bush & Co. finally seemed to realize that in order for their policies to be successful in the greater Middle East, there would have to be something that could pass for major progress on the incendiary issue of Palestine. And so they encouraged the Palestinians to get their post-Arafat house in order, and Sharon to make some moves toward peace.

The problem is while the Likudniks in charge of Israeli policy have no inclination to do anything but pull Israel out of poor, destitute Gaza, the more valuable real-estate in the West Bank will remain under effective Israeli control, with no pullback from the major settlements there. The separation wall will continue to be built, ratifying that decision. An official report issued this week in Israel noted that the Israeli government secretly has been complicit in expanding the West Bank settlements and outposts, contrary to the law.

In short, once it becomes clear to the majority of Palestinians that they've been had yet again - that the contiguous, viable state they've been promised will not materialize, and that the Americans will not force the Israelis to end the occupation and remove most of their huge settlements in the West Bank - the shooting/bombing war will re-erupt in earnest. And more suicide bombers will join up also to attack U.S. interests - perhaps in mainland America itself.

3. Moving Against Syria and Iran.

Meanwhile, Bush & Co. are moving relentlessly against their next targets in the Middle East region: the governments running Syria and Iran.

Because Syria is far the weaker of the two, Bush has felt more free to issue an ultimatum to Syria to execute an immediate withdrawal of its military and spy forces from Lebanon, while he praised the anti-Syria demonstrators in the streets of Beirut as representing the great force of democracy in the region. Strangely, when pro-Syria/pro-Hezbollah demonstrators appeared in the streets of Beirut, Bush did not praise that huge crowd as being pro-democracy activists in Lebanon. Nor has Bush acknowledged the irony of calling for all "foreign troops" to leave so that Lebanese citizens can work out their own future, whereas he used the term "terrorists" to describe those Iraqi citizens who feel likewise about the foreign occupiers in their midst.

With reference to Iran, Bush has agreed to work with Europe in an attempt to bribe that country's mullahs from continuing to authorize work on their nuclear projects. But such a turnaround appears to be mainly a front, a way for Bush to spin later that he exercised the "full measure of diplomacy" in trying to resolve the Iranian situation peaceably before he was "forced" to move militarily.

In Syria and Iran - and perhaps in Lebanon as well - the goal is regime change; to get a more U.S.-compliant government in place that will not put up much of a fight while the Americans lock up the natural resources and build their huge military bases.

INCREASING BUSH'S VULNERABILITIES

Domestically, Bush already has won significant major battles - victories aided by timid Democratic sell-outs - in getting Rice and Gonzales and Chertoff approved, and in passing bills that make class-action lawsuits and bankruptcy more difficult to file by ordinary citizens, especially the poor and lower-middle class.

But Bush & Co. have suffered significant setbacks as well: their major overhaul of Social Security, especially instituting private savings accounts (the first step in destroying the program), is not likely to be passed in this Congress.

And last week, a key piece of anti-environmental legislation - which would have rewritten the Clean Air Act to permit more pollution from coal-fired power plants - was defeated in Senate committee. In addition, several federal judges have come down hard on the Bush Administration's violations of detainees' civil-liberty rights. It's not surprising to find that Bush's approval numbers are well below 50%.

If Bolton's nomination can be killed in the Senate, along with the Dems holding firm against Bush's extremist judges, the tenor of his second term could change drastically. The more Bush seems vulnerable, the more vulnerable he would become. But, as of this writing, one cannot count on the GOP-ruled Senate to do the right thing.

As the Administration sees it, moving fast on the Bush agenda is a rush against that time when his second-term clout is irrevocably lost - so it's now or never for Bush & Co.'s domestic and foreign agenda.

Let's help make it never.

Progressives, moderate Republicans, Democrats of all stripes need to unite to ensure defeats of Bush's plan to destroy Social Security, his nomination of Bolton for the U.N. job, his putting forward extremist judges for the appeals courts, his plan to bring "democracy" to Arab states by force.

We need to make clear to the American people that Bush's bellicose war policies are not only putting our military forces (and civilian "collateral damage") at grave risk, but are endangering our country's long-term national interests.

It's time to protect our country better - it's certainly not going to happen under the current regime in the White House.

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught politics and international relations at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers.

Crisis Papers Archive

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