Democratic Underground

Rove's Tricky Decoy Dump

March 22, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

You've 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 these two:

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 bidding.

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.


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.


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 so on.

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 poor, etc.

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., for example, is not activating its millions of members to call for removal of U.S. troops ASAP from Iraq - a bad sign, that.


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. 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?"


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 populace.

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 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.


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 are after.

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 fights.

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.

Crisis Papers Archive

 Print this article (printer-friendly version)
Tell a friend about this article  Tell a friend about this article
 Jump to Editorials and Other Articles forum