Rove's Tricky Decoy Dump
March 22, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The
seen the movies and animations: enemy weapons are fired at an American
plane or submarine; to avoid being blown up, "chaff" is thrown out
to confuse the incoming missiles/torpedoes into going after the
decoys rather than the targeted jet or ship.
In a way, that defensive trickery seems an apt description of
how Karl Rove's political team operates. They choose a select number
of objectives they really care about, go all out for them - often
in secret - and the rest of their high-profile program is little
more than decoy chaff to keep their political enemies from focusing
attacks on the Administration's deepest-held plans.
So what is it that Bush & Co. really are after in these final
four years? I would suggest that at the core of their desires are
1. To have effective American control of oil/natural-gas reserves
worldwide, concentrating first in the Middle East, the "stan"
countries along the Caucuses arc, and in South America.
2. To lay the groundwork for generations of Republican political
dominance in American politics even after Bush departs the White
House - and, as a corollary, to avoid criminal prosecution for
their felonies and misdemeanors while in office.
Accomplishing #1: In the Middle East, that means unfailing
Administration support for the one big regional ally it can count
on - Israel - and "regime changing" a good many Islamic-nation governments
from autocracies to U.S.-friendly "democracies" that will do America's
Accomplishing #2: That means continued majority control
of the Congress by destroying the Democratic Party as a viable opposition
(including painting Dems as unpatriotic and starving the party of
its traditional funding sources, most notably by diminishing the
incomes of attorneys, teachers, union members), packing more and
more Hard-Right judges onto the federal appellate courts and U.S.
Supreme Court, making sure that the computerized, GOP-owned vote-counting
system stays exactly the way it is, and keeping the corporate-owned
mass-media a willing propaganda tool.
Carrying out all the above will ensure continued GOP control of
the three branches of government, and the Fourth Estate of the mass-media
- and also assures that the GOP and their corporate supporters will
make out like bandits.
THE KEY IS PERMANENT WAR
To smooth the way for a successful campaign on both the foreign
and domestic fronts, the Administration must continue its policy
of permanent war (the never-ending "war on terrorism") in order
to keep the populace in a state of constant anxiety and willing
to grant the Commander-in-Chief pretty much whatever he wants in
foreign/military policy, and in the domestic curtailment of Constitutionally-guaranteed
civil liberties under the Bill of Rights. (There definitely are
bad guys out there, but our government doesn't have to shred the
Constitution while going after them.)
If I'm correct in my supposition here, that means that many of
the other programs, policies, nominees and stated goals of the Bush
Administration are, in a sense, little more than political "chaff"
- weapons of mass distraction.
Don't get me wrong. Bush/Cheney/Rove would love to get the Social
Security "reform" package passed, would love to open up the pristine
refuge of ANWR to oil and gas drilling, would love to pass more
corporation-protection bills, would love to get the more extremist
judges and other nominees approved, and so on. But even if they
aren't able to ram all or any of these programs, policies and nominees
through Congress, they would have served their ancillary purpose
of deflecting Democratic and citizen attention and energies away
from Bush & Co.'s core goals, as stated above.
It's the old magician's sleight-of-hand trick: fast patter while
making the observers focus on where you want their attention directed.
You get them to concentrate on your hand moving the red scarf, but
your other hand is hiding or doing something much more important
and interesting - or criminal.
FALLING FOR THE FEINT
So here are the Democrats ranting and raving about the Bush Administration's
Social Security "reform" lies and deceptions, about the environmental
rape of the Alaskan refuge for a small amount of oil, about these
ten extremist judge nominees, about the crass intrusion of GOP politics
into a deeply personal medical tragedy in the Schiavo family, and
Meanwhile: the war in Iraq rages on, fueled by U.S. military's
neo-colonialist brutalities visited upon the local population, plus
the humiliations and tortures of its men, women and children when
detained in prison. Syria appears to be next on the U.S. hit list
or maybe Iran or even the popular, democratically-elected government
of oil-rich Venezuela. Bush isn't pressuring Israel to do what's
necessary to make way for a viable Palestinian state. The national
debt is ballooning into trillions and trillions, thus further reducing
the diminishing social services available to the middle class and
Again, don't get me wrong. Democrats, moderate Republicans, progressives
of all stripes need to stand up against virtually all of these initiatives
and extremist nominees of the Bush Administration, but we can't
risk getting mesmerized by the sleight-of-hand moves so that we
ignore the larger issues and immense damage being done. MoveOn.org,
for example, is not activating its millions of members to call for
removal of U.S. troops ASAP from Iraq - a bad sign, that.
BUSH'S "VICTORY" IN THE MIDDLE EAST
We also have to guard against falling into the definitional "frame"
the Republicans use when discussing their programs and policies.
For example, the Bush spin is that, because of America's forthright,
in-your-face policies in the Middle East, especially its invasion
and occupation of Iraq and recent elections there, Bush can claim
a major political "victory" in that explosive region: Lebanon will
be joining Iraq and Afghanistan and the Palestinian Authority in
holding elections, Syria and Iran are backing down from some of
their hard-line positions, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are slowly moving
away from their autocratic election style, the level of violence
is at least temporarily down in the Palestine-Israel struggle, etc.
But, even if the fear of shock & awe attacks were partially responsible
for this outbreak of apparent "democratization" in the Arab Middle
East, seeing America as the progenitor of that momentum would be
a wild overstatement and misreading of the objective situation.
Even the corporate New York Times, which on March 1 editorialized
that "the Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share
of the credit for many of these [democratic] advances" in the Middle
East has had second thoughts.
In its March 18 edition, the editors now admit that "many of the
most promising signs of change have little to do with Iraq. The
peace initiatives in Israel were made possible when Yasir Arafat
died and was replaced by a braver, more flexible leader. The new
determination of the Lebanese people to throw out their Syrian oppressors
was sparked by the assassination of the Lebanese nationalist, Rafik
Hariri, not the downfall of Saddam Hussein. And in Iraq itself,
the voting largely excluded the Sunni minority, without whose cooperation
Iraq will never be anything more than a civil war battleground or
a staging platform for a new dictatorship." For a fascinating, less-establishment
view of this position, see Juan Cole's "Democracy
- by George?"
BUSH NEO-CONS' "CHAOS THEORY"
Remember those winter-scene paperweights, where you turn them
upside down and watch the snowflakes swirl? The neo-cons leading
American foreign/military policy have picked up the Mideast in similar
fashion, are turning it upside down and shaking it violently, hoping
that the resulting chaos and instability will result in the snowflakes
falling in the pro-U.S. pattern the neo-con theorists have envisioned
in their ivory-tower imaginations.
These are the same guys, remember, who told us about Saddam's
supposed nuclear programs and huge stockpiles of WMD and who said
Iraq would be a cakewalk, with the invading American troops welcomed
with kisses and flowers and full cooperation from a grateful Iraqi
The Bush Administration already has its military forces bogged
down in a Vietnam-like quagmire in Iraq, and yet they're still willing
to threaten war against Iran and Syria. True, both countries have
made conciliatory gestures to the U.S. recently - Iran pulling back
some on its nuclear program, Syria agreeing, sort of, to withdraw
from Lebanon - but the strategists and leaders of many of the Islamic
countries take a much longer, more patient view of history.
As did the Vietnamese. The Islamic Middle East countries targeted
by the Bush Administration figure they can outlast the U.S., whose
citizenry (as was the case with the Vietnam War) eventually will
tire of the humongous cost in soldiers and treasure in these inconclusive
"pre-emptive" wars - fought ferociously, and seemingly forever,
against nationalist guerrilla insurgencies - and choose to take
another policy route, perhaps as early as the next U.S. election.
These Islamic leaders also are quite aware of how thinly the U.S.
military forces are stretched these days, and how unpopular the
draft is across the board in the American population - and that
the Bush campaign vowed never to re-activate it.
Currently, the targeted Islamic states are doing as little as
they can get away with to keep the U.S. from unleashing its shock
& awe tactics on them, while they seek out alliances (Russia, the
EU, maybe China) to give them some balance-of-power leverage.
Now, let it be understood that many of the Islamic states of the
Middle East indeed are in need of reform and transformation - if
for no other reason than to combat the backward-looking momentum
of fundamentalist know-nothingism - but that's not the central problem
here. The key question is whether these countries can modernize
on their own, while maintaining their Islamic character and protecting
their natural resources and their national interests, without being
forced to adopt the U.S. plan for their future.
THE RUN-UP BALLET
The Bush Administration has made clear, by its action in Afghanistan
and Iraq, that it is prepared to move unilaterally and militarily
in pursuit of its imperial ambition to secure areas in conflict
on its own terms. If suasion doesn't work, the White House neo-cons
say they are ready to go in with whatever military force it takes
to get the job done.
What we're witnessing now is the pre-decision dance. Iran and
Syria have to try to guess how far they can push their national-interest
envelopes before the Bush Administration decides to move on its
own (or with Israel's help) in bombing and overthrowing. The Bush
Administration has to decide, based on its own timeline, how many
precious second-term months it is willing to spend in "diplomacy"
and brow-beating before deciding that it is "forced" to move militarily.
And, let us not forget a key ingredient in that volatile region:
Palestine. If a just and lasting peace can be engineered by the
U.S. - leaning on Israel to end the occupation and leave virtually
all the West Bank settlements, and offering a viable, contiguous
state for the Palestinians - then there might well be light at the
end of the tunnel in that region. Attention and energies could then
be devoted to the needs and desires of Israel's Islamic neighbors.
But there's no indication that the U.S. is leaning on Israel to
do anything but trim around the edges of the dispute (leave Gaza,
turn over a few small West Bank towns, etc.). And until Israel comes
to believe, or is forced to accept, that it will never get border
security and a major diminution of terrorist bombings inside its
country until it once and for all ends its occupation and exits
most of the West Bank, the tension in the Greater Middle East will
not significantly diminish.
KEEPING OUR EYES ON THE PRIZE
Those of us who oppose Bush & Co. policies - liberals, moderate
Republicans, progressives, radicals, the mix of which was evident
at the many anti-war demonstrations over the weekend - need to remember
to focus our energies on the major criminal/immoral policies of
the Administration, while noting the decoy "chaff" that is being
thrown out there to lure us away into side-skirmishes. Those lesser
Bush initiatives are important to resist, to be sure, as long as
we keep in mind what is really going on, what Bush & Co. really
If some or all of our political attacks weaken the Administration
overall - for example, if Bush & Co. were to suffer an embarrassing
defeat on its Social Security "reform" scam, or if Rove were found
to be linked to the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame or to the
Jeff Gannon scandal in the White House press corps - then let's
pile on and reveal the Administration's true motives and political
vulnerabilities. But if it's a minor irritant or distraction, let's
give it the attention it's worth and move our focus back to the
major objectives of the Administration and gear up for those huge
Those battles are winnable, though it may take us a while get
our renewed "Movement" infrastructure and financial underpinnings
in order, and to build critical mass in the population. But eventually
this reckless, greedy, power-hungry crew will fall, and then
the United States can start its climb back from the dark caves into
the light of hope and progress. Let's make it happen.
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 Archive