It's Time to Play Beat-The-Bully
December 6, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The
all know this from our schooldays and our workplaces: the thing
about bullies, especially the really cocky ones, is that they're
often very insecure. They swagger and strut their stuff, and get
in your face aggressively, but once you organize opposition and
indicate you're not afraid of them anymore, thus stripping them
of their essential power over you, they're lost in the world of
Bullies need to seem successful, which helps explain why so many
cheat and lie and threaten in order to get their way; they don't
believe they can make it on their own abilities. This behavior also
helps explain why they avoid responsibility by blaming others for
their own faults.
I got to thinking about this the other day when learning that
the Bush Administration secretly paid for pro-U.S. stories in Iraqi
newspapers. That reminded me of how Bush & Co. got caught secretly
paying a number of U.S. journalists to write pro-Administration
articles and plant them in various media outlets. And that reminded
me of how the Pentagon and other Administration departments created
their own fake TV "news stories" about Bush policies and
sent them out to small-town stations around the country, who ran
them as real news.
And that reminded me of how Bush during the campaign almost always
appeared before hand-picked supportive audiences, and how he almost
never gives major foreign-policy speeches these days except before
supportive military audiences. Ordinary American civilians who may
or may not agree with all his policies are not to be included in
the democratic process; as Bush famously told one citizen who expressed
mild disapproval, "What do I care what you think?"
The operating principle in the Bush M.O. is to bully and threaten
and use violence abroad, to denigrate, humiliate and thoroughly
neuter the political opposition at home, to frighten those around
them, to take what can be taken, to move relentlessly forward toward
their goals until forced to stop, to discipline and harm those who
desert their ranks. In short, a regimen of intimidation and use
of brute force.
It's plain that the Bush Administration believes (or at least
suspects) that its own arguments to justify its aggressive policies,
if presented straight, won't pass muster with the American populace,
or, in the case of the purchased news stories in Iraq, that country's
public. The Administration's versions of the truth won't be enough
to convince readers or viewers - for good reason, as they derive
from a greedy, mean-spirited, power-hungry ideology - so propaganda
is employed to fool the public.
Such deception can be carried out in microcosm by, say, writing
a story, getting it translated into Arabic and then paying to have
it run in a Baghdad newspaper. Or the deception can be on the macrocosmic
Big Lie scale: asserting that Saddam Hussein is in cahoots with
Osama bin Laden and is going to pass some of his supposedly huge
store of biological and chemical and nuclear WMD to Al-Qaida. The
bigger the lie, in some ways, the easier it is to sell to the public
- especially when your highest officials spend months and months
engaged in such falsehoods and deceptions. Then you add the mainstream
media into the equation: by not doing their job and questioning
the Bush assertions early on, they appeased the bullies, thereby
giving them more power.
RECALLING HOW WE GOT IN THIS MESS
You'll recall that the White House Iraq Group, the unit established
to "market" the war to the American people, had a devil of a time
coming up with a successful selling tool. Should they tell the truth,
that the war was necessary as part of a long-term campaign to control
the huge oil/gas energy fields in the Mideast and to alter the geopolitical
map of that region? No, that wouldn't fly with the citizenry, they
figured; nobody wants their kids killed or maimed for imperial adventures
created by ivory-tower ideologues who made sure never to put on
their country's uniform in times of war.
So, according to Paul Wolfowitz, one of the key neo-con architects
of the war, the Bush Administration finally settled on the scary
bogeyman of "weapons of mass destruction" that Saddam Hussein supposedly
was ready to unleash on America - biological and chemical agents
dropped or sprayed from drone planes off the East Coast, "mushroom
clouds" over American cities, and so on.
Even though U.S. leaders knew Saddam was a paper tiger and no
longer possessed such weaponry or even active programs to acquire
such capabilities, they launched their WMD-scare offense on the
American public and provided cherry-picked intelligence (devoid
of the doubts, caveats and demurrers of the intelligence analysts)
to the Congress.
To help push the propaganda campaign along, they added one more
powerful deception to their arsenal of lies. Cheney and Rumsfeld
and Rice and others began conflating Saddam Hussein and the 9/11
terror attacks. There was no such linkage, of course; the Administration
had been informed by their counter-terrorism experts shortly after
9/11 that the attacks were pure al-Qaida, with no Iraqi involvement.
(Further, Saddam slaughtered any Islamicists he could find in Iraq,
and Osama bin Laden had targeted him as a secular enemy.)
The Iraq-9/11 linkage was all B.S., of course, but most American
leaders swallowed it - including those Democrats of the supposed
"opposition" - while the rest of the world, more savvy about the
reality and complexity of the situation, were not afraid to confront
the Superpower bully and angrily denounced the Bush lies. More than
10,000,000 citizens demonstrated worldwide against the impending
war. Maybe they were more willing to take on the U.S. because they
remembered what happened in Europe when appeasement of Adolph Hitler
led to World War II, in which 60 million were slaughtered.
Two years after the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the
suspicions raised by the anti-war forces around the globe about
the Bush Administration's duplicity and lies were verified when
the top-secret Downing Street Memos - minutes from inside the Blair
war cabinet, detailing the war-preparation machinations of the U.S.
and U.K. leadership - were leaked to the British press, and, of
course, were given little attention by the American corporate mainstream
TODAY: LYNNE CHENEY'S TWISTED KNICKERS
In the wake of the recent indictment of Dick Cheney's chief of
staff, Scooter Libby, for obstruction of justice in the Valerie
Plame case, the run-up to the Iraq War again has become the subject
of great scrutiny. And it turns out that the duplicitous war campaign
is non-stop, because the lies are non-stop. The other day, Lynne
Cheney expressed outrage that her husband was being accused once
more of making those links to Iraq and 9/11. He never expressed
such linkages, she said adamantly.
Too bad, Lynne, there are such things as videotape and audiotape,
and that record still exists of his intertwining
9/11 and Iraq.
And the linkage deceptions still go on. In Bush's Annapolis speech
the other day, he correctly laid out the three main components of
the Iraqi insurgency:
"The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists,
Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the
largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis. ... The second group
... contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power
under Saddam. ... The third group is the smallest but the most
lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al-Qaida."
But throughout the rest of the speech, he often used the term "terrorists"
to describe all those fighting the U.S. occupation.
In other words, to deflect attention away from the true nature
of the bulk of the Iraqi insurgency - nationalists and ex-Baathists
angry at being invaded by foreigners, and enraged by an occupying
army that brutalizes and tortures Iraqi civilians at will - the
insurgency suddenly is given the rubric of "terrorists," which conflates
in some Americans' minds with those mass-murderers who hit the U.S.
The situation in Iraq, in the world, is terribly complex, with
all sorts of tribes and clans and competing economic, political,
religious, and ethnic interests. To understand those complexities,
and devise equally as nuanced responses to them would take real
creativity and hard work. It's much easier to simply divide Iraq
and the world into black and white categories: "those who are with
us and those who are against us." The latter category is given the
hated title "terrorists," and the propaganda flows much more easily
from that designation, aided enormously by a generally quiescent,
at times cooperative, mass media.
And speaking of cooperative reporters who abdicated their journalistic
responsibilities, mostly recently it was Bob Woodward of the Washington
Post. Once an outsider press hero doing battle against the Nixon
bullies, Woodward for years has been a shameless insider protecting
the powerful; he knew of the intelligence community's doubts about
the Bush Administration's broad WMD assertions - three high-level
sources told him about the deceptions - but he kept silent, apparently
in order to guarantee total access to Bush for the book he was writing
about the run-up to the war. For shame!
MURTHA SPEAKS FOR THE GENERALS
Not much changes over time; only the justifications, the spin.
Now Bush, trying to avoid culpability for the disaster that is the
Iraq War, is trying to deflect criticism by blaming others: it's
the CIA's fault, or, in essence, the American public's fault, since
they re-elected him during wartime, and Congress' fault since they
voted to authorize the war in the first place. Bush & Co. claim
that Congress voted for the war based on the same intelligence that
the White House saw - an assertion that is patently false, since
Congress was provided only summaries cleansed of all doubts and
caveats having to do with the supposed stockpiles of WMD.
Finally, belatedly, even with blood on their hands, some Democrats
are speaking up against Bush's war policies: the deceptive way we
were led into the war, and the gross incompetencies of the Occupation
- and so the entire history of that war is once again Topic A for
public discussion. Recent reports that the Vietnam War decades before
(where millions died) also rested on lies, exaggerations and deceptions,
sheds new light on the current situation.
Rep. John Murtha, who earned his bravery medals in 'Nam, spoke
with great force the other day, calling for the U.S. to withdraw
quickly from Iraq before more senseless slaughter occurs. What is
plainly apparent is that Murtha is not speaking only for himself
in his denunciation of Bush policy and in calling for a speedy American
withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Murtha, a militarist hawk for decades
with close ties to the officer corps, also is speaking for those
generals inside the military who have revealed their strong arguments
with Bush's Iraq policy openly to him but who are afraid to voice
their objections in public, lest they be fired or otherwise have
their career-advancements closed off.
So where are we? Though there are differences in emphasis and
approach, there is a wide, strong, unified opposition to the continuing
U.S. presence in Iraq, coming from supposedly disparate groups:
officers inside the military, Establishment conservatives, liberals
and radicals and mainstream Democrats, the peace movement, nearly
two-thirds of the American people. But, even with all this united
opposition, Bush & Co. remain in power and, if Bush's Annapolis
speech is to be taken seriously, the Iraq War will continue until
some vague, undefinable thing called "victory" is obtained. Which
is to say the 12th of Never.
Bush may make a few accommodations prior to the 2006 election
- withdraw thousands of Guard and Reserve troops, for example, and
promise more withdrawals - in order to seem to be in line with the
public mood. But the war will continue, with bombing from the air
taking the place of boots on the ground, and the goals of dominating
the region and controlling the energy fields will remain operative.
If it takes five years or ten or twenty, Bush is willing to sacrifice
the lives of U.S. troops and spend the treasury into bankruptcy;
he believes the war against radical Muslims is his holy mission
and we won't back down unless absolutely required to do so. Besides,
keeping the American citizenry on a constant fear-boil, Rove believes,
provides openings through which to slip Bush & Co.'s domestic agenda.
In short, it's long since time for us to respond to the bullies
in charge of our foreign and domestic policy, to remember the lessons
of history when insecure leaders are not confronted early enough
- Hitler in Europe, Presidents Johnson and Nixon enlarging the disastrous
Vietnam War, Sen. Joe McCarthy running roughshod over Americans'
civil liberties in his mad hunt for supposed "communists" in 1950s
America, et al. We have the proper role models: Fannie Lou Hamer
taking on the segregationist Mississippi Democrats, Edward R. Murrow
and Joseph Welch finally taking on Joe McCarthy, John W. Dean and
the Washington Post stepping forward to reveal the lawless
Richard Nixon, Daniel Ellsberg making sure the Pentagon Papers got
published about the Vietnam debacle, and other such brave souls.
They stood up to the bullyboys of their time, and we all are the
better for their fortitude.
So, if we American citizens truly want to get the U.S. out of
its Iraq War quagmire before more thousands of U.S. troops are killed
and maimed, along with thousands of Iraqi civilians as "collateral
damage" - before America has to get out of Iraq anyway years down
the road - we simply must organize our opposition and confront our
own bullies head on.
PRYING THEIR FINGERS OFF THE POWER LEVERS
We don't have a parliamentary system in this country whereby a
vote of no-confidence can remove incompetent or corrupt or ideologically
dangerous fools from office. The only way to pry their fingers off
the levers of power is to either vote them out of office or to impeach
them and send them packing, either with a conviction or with their
resignations. Both take lots of time, and the election option is
plagued by a voting and vote-counting system that is easily corruptible
and has already demonstrably been corrupted.
One would hope Bush & Co. would see the handwriting on the wall
and, for the good of the country, resign their offices now, but
we know these power-hungry zealots are not going to go willingly.
So we - progressives, moderate conservatives, libertarians, right-wingers,
left-wingers - must join together and put our efforts into passing
laws mandating honest elections and hand-counted votes, and then
sweeping enough Republicans out of office in the House and Senate
next November so that the proper investigations finally can be conducted
that will lead to impeachment and removal.
We can work long-range toward either drastic reform of the Democratic
Party or the founding of an electable alternative party. But our
immediate goal, our immediate job - because the stakes are so extraordinarily
high - is to do everything possible to close down this war, to ensure
honest elections, and to protect the Constitution from further ravaging.
Let's get on with it.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations,
has taught at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with
the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The
Crisis Papers. Send comments to email@example.com.
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