Friday, September 01, 2006

How Many Times Must We Go Down The Same Road?

Have you noticed the “chatter” about a full-scale attack on Iran?  If not, you haven’t been watching cable news, and good on you for that.  I have a bad feeling that Frank Luntz has given the GOP, the Bush administration and Fox News a tutorial on how to wear away at the resistance of the American people to start yet another war.  They are testing the waters and using repetition to get people used to the idea that an attack on Iran is an inevitability thereby mitigating the public backlash that would surely come from such a move.  I’m done asking if this administration will ever learn from their mistakes, but will the American people?  That’s what I want to know.

We’ve seen what Bush’s pre-emptive invasion of Iraq has produced, a bloody occupation, a civil war and the proliferation of radical Islam and anti-Americanism.  As bad as things seem now, they will be made exponentially worse if this administration goes neo-con crazy again and orders air strikes on Iran.  Any chance we may still have of repairing the damage we’ve done in the Middle East will be blown to bits once the first pictures of dead Iranian civilians are plastered around the region.  Anyone that thinks the Iranian government will collapse as fast as Saddam’s is loony beyond help and Iranian resistance will not be contained within their borders, we will see a significant rise in international terrorist acts as a result.  But that may be exactly what the Bush administration and their neo-con bat-shit crazy new world order friends are counting on.  The fear they love to exploit has lost its punch, better stir the pot and get some real action going again.

If there is one thing the Bush administration is not, it’s creative.  They are trotting out the same argument for attacking Iran as they did for invading Iraq and they are doing so without acknowledging in any way that we now know their entire argument was based on lies and manufactured evidence, not to mention that we have seen every single pillar of their case collapse into rubble.  We were not greeted as liberators, this war is not paying for itself and it has certainly not made us any safer.  How stupid do they think we are?  I guess the more important question is how many times will the American people allow their incurious, slow learning, incompetent President to insult their intelligence?

Iran does not pose an imminent threat to us, most experts believe that they are five to ten years away from developing a nuclear weapon, but that doesn’t matter if there is political gain in ratcheting up the fear.  The only potential winner in a preemptive strike on Iran is Bushco.  George gets to leave office a war President, the war profiteers get to keep raking in the dough and the GOP gets to continue manipulating voters through fear.  This administration is not serving the people, so much as serving themselves and their friends.  Our money isn’t being spent, it’s being stolen.  Our soldiers aren’t defending our country or spreading freedom, they are being sacrificed for profit.  Do we really need a repeat performance before we make up our mind?  Six years should be long enough for Americans to be able to recognize the pattern.  I just hope the slow learners don’t blow it for the rest of us (yet again).


Anonymous david said...

I love the fact Bush claims to be reading three "Shakespeares" and Camus's The Stranger. Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker has THIS comment on Bush's summer reading.

Somehow, I can't see Bush thinking along the lines of Camus who said, "We have witnessed lying, humiliation, killing, deportation and torture, and in each instance it was impossible to persuade the people who were doing these things not to do them, because they were sure of themselves and because there is no way of persuading an abstraction, or, to put it another way, the representative of an ideology."

Since Bush thinks in abstractions as well --Good vs. Evil, God vs. Satan, West vs. East, Republican vs. Democrat-- it seems we are bound to see the Seven Seals broken and the Apocalypse unleashed. How can we persuade someone who has lied, tortured, humiliated, and 'disappeared' people into thinking things are more complex than a Biblical Black & White?

1:09 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Messenger said...

I read Camus 32 years ago but the difference between Bush and myself is I didn't need Cliff Notes to understand his philosophy .... LOL.

I also don't need an earpiece with someone telling me how to respond rationally to media questions.

Perhaps Dubya would do better if he added "The Social Contract" by Rousseau or "Socialism" by Michael Harrington to his reading list.

Of course these books are probably banned from his local library because they might create a risk to Homeland Security.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous kindlingman said...

Does anyone here believe the US has enemies?
If so, please name our enemies.

Is bin Laden our enemy? Russia? China? Anyone of these an enemy?

If enemy is too strong a word, how about opposition? Who opposes the United States of America? What country would like to see the US become less in the eyes of the world?

We should believe people who say they want to kill us. Don't you agree?

8:04 PM  
Anonymous david said...

I don't understand you, kindlingman. You want to call Russia and China the enemies of America, why? The Soviet Union collapsed 17 years ago; it's a bit perverse to be wanting to destroy that country now, don't you think? And why was China ever America's enemy? Does China have troops on America's borders? No, but the USA has troops all along China's borders. The old Cold Warriors in the USA can't forgive China's use of the word Communist, but China doesn't follow Marxist economics any more, so what's the big deal?

Yes, America was attacked five years ago by Osama bin Laden's followers. But did anyone ever tell you why? Bush Sr was warned by his own advisors to remove the American bases in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War, but he didn't. That's why most of the 9/11 crowd were Saudis. And remember, the Shah of Iran was put there by the CIA when America overthrew Iran's first democratic government.

Nobody wants to invade the USA. Nobody wants to overthrow its government. The USA doesn't have enemies who want that. America does have enemies who want the USA to stop meddling in their countries, fixing their elections, bribing their politicians, bombing their towns and villages, and forcing trade with American businesses. America has gone from the country who wanted to nothing to do with the corrupt foreign entanglements of Europe to the nation addicted to interventionist policies.

Up until the start of the second World War, the USA had plans to invade Canada. It's consider something of a joke by some, but the plans were real, spies were deployed, and our natural resources always the target. Canada doesn't want to invade America, but we'd like America to obey international law once and a while.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

It's good to know I'm not missing much by not having a TV. I wouldn't worry too much about cable new as very few people watch it anymore.

Thought I'd pass along my latest letter to Dick Cheney. Hope it doesn't get me sent to GITMO.


Dear Dick,

Unlike you, when his country called my father answered that call and joined the army. Unlike you, my father knows what it means to serve his country, he knows what war and death look like. Unlike you, Mr. Cheney, he was there.

My father raised me to believe that asking questions, speaking your mind and acting on conscious, reasoned, moral thought is the right and proper and way to live. This is not how you live Mr. Cheney. Mr. Cheney I believe you to be a sociopath. You seem to have no morals. Do you have Morals, Mr. Cheney? I haven’t seen any evidence that you do.

You may feel that I am a Chamberlain Mr. Cheney, but I think you’re Ted Bundy. I guess we’re even. You may not like it, Mr. Cheney, but I will continue to live in the manner that my veteran father raised me: asking questions, speaking out against that what I think is wrong and supporting that what I think is right. This may make me a Chamberlain, Mr. Cheney, but at least I’m not a Bundy.

Michael Crites

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

"Does anyone here believe the US has enemies? If so, please name our enemies."

David made a great point when he noted that we don't have serious external enemies who want to invade our country, overthrow our government or fundamentally change our way of life.

I think that underscores an essential point that is critical to understanding our enemies -- who do exist -- and it is this: The idea of "enemies" is inextricably bound with the notion of competitors for influence in the world. The former spring from the latter, so it's really important to understand the nature of your competitors and have a coherent strategy for addressing them.

Now, the US purports to be the standard-bearer of liberty, a promoter of democracy, human rights and freedom. The stated goal of our foreign policy is to spread this influence. Then there’s also our pesky need for oil, the greatest supply of which unfortunately sits under the sands of some of the most tyrannical, intolerant, anti-freedom and oppressive regimes on the planet. And some of the oppressors (Iran) and some of those oppressed by these regimes (with our complicity) – the radical Islamists -- have their own influence-spreading agenda; they are among our competitors.

So that’s the dilemma, and the key question is how to approach it. Do you work in cooperation with other countries for justice and fairness? Or do you charge into situations you don't understand in a ham-fisted attempt to assert control over the resources you need?

Unfortunately, we have followed the latter policy for decades, with Bu$hCo being the latest and in many ways most arrogant and egregious example. This turns competitors for influence into implacable enemies and provides the pretext they need to kill.

Please understand -- I'm not exonerating Osama bin Laden or blaming the US for what he did. He represents everything I hate -- oppression, intolerance, misogyny, violence and fanaticism. However, if we understand him (and the fanatical interpretation of Islam he represents) as a competitor, it is clear to me that our foreign policy has only served to strengthen him, and it continues to do so.

When we buy into Bu$hCo's apocalyptic rhetoric and take action on that basis, we've lessened our influence rather than strengthened it. Is there any question that the war in Iraq lends credence to the radical mullahs’ claims that the US is determined to destroy Islam and seize the Middle East’s oil?

I’m no believer in American exceptionalism, but I am a believer in the power of good ideas. And I think if we had remained true to the principles to which we claim to subscribe, we wouldn’t be in this mess right now, and very few people would take seriously the rantings of some backwater, medieval theocratic loon like Osama bin Laden.

But unfortunately, we’ve lent credence to the loons and put forth some loons of our own to wreak their own particular brand of havoc. And so our list of enemies continues to grow.

5:12 AM  
Anonymous david said...

You make some good points, Betty Cracker. I know many from the Iranian diaspora who dread the Axis of Evil talk from Bush because it makes the fundamentalist clerics seem heroic. However, I wouldn't paint all these conservatives as medieval loons.

Osama bin Laden was armed and trained by the CIA to terrorise the Soviet army in the early 1980s. His movement is nationalist in nature. Permanent US military bases in the Middle East only guarantee the terror will continue. If the Freedom & Democracy America is spreading comes only in the flavour of hedonistic Western materialism, it will never win the hearts & minds of the Muslim world.

Afghanistan's Taliban may seem to be Medieval loons, but they live in a world that hasn't changed much since 1492. Remember that Colin Powell did not want to call upon the Norhtern Alliance during the invasion of Afghanistan because they were well known for thuggery, rape, and pillage. Although the Taliban are Medieval, they do have concepts of Justice, Law, and Order that could have provided the basis for a civilization. The Warlords who rule now only understand that Might is Right --and they are our allies!

The use of the word "competitors" instead of "enemies" puts the lie to the Free Market philosophy. If Free Markets existed, countries would compete at the Commodities Exchange with cash and not in the hills with rocket launchers. Political and military domination of a region and its resources allows America to "game" the system --to borrow a phrase from Enron-- putting competitors at a disadvantage and manipulating supply & demand to maximize profits for the In Crowd.

People live in these areas. If American interests threaten their land, they will resist. If American culture threatens to overwhelm their culture, they will resist. These societies may seem Medieval, misogynist, and patriarchal. But so did American society in 1856. If we plunked down an American family from 1856 into an American suburb of 2006, it would be a shocking episode of the Twilight Zone. Change has to be gradual. The Muslim World is suffering a backlash to post-WWII attempts leap forward; Gradual change is happening in the Muslim World, but not in those countries where America wants to "corner the market" on their natural resources.

As America marks the fifth anniversary of 9/11, we should remember America has been very lucky. It has invaded many countries over the past 200 years and almost never had the "enemy" hit back on American soil. Globalization is not merely about the free movement of goods, it marks the end of isolation. America cannot pretend it doesn't know about the crimes it commits in the Developing World. And the integrated world means that the "enemy" can hit back.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

I'd put Bush and Co. as enemy #1. We wouldn't be getting attacked if we were helping other countries to modernize and to become what THEY WANTED instead of what Bush and Co. wants them to be.

12:11 PM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

I call 'em like I see 'em, David, and to me, a movement that would make holding a belief system other than their own a capital offense, string up teenagers for the crime of being gay, force women to scuttle around under drop cloths/rob them of their independence and outlaw music -- that group deserves to be called medieval theocratic loons.

We've seen the brand of "justice, law and order" that type would impose, and the crimes of their opponents -- both Western and local -- doesn't remove their stench.

It's possible to deplore the cretinous Bush administration, and indeed decades of Western foreign policy mismanagement, without becoming an apologist for the local despots. I believe that's a trap many of us anti-war, Bush-hating types fall into, and it may be the one semi-credible reason people don't take us seriously.

As for competitors, my point was that we (by "we" I mean the US and the West in general) have competitors in the marketplace of ideas as well as for resources. Our handling of the former has completely screwed up our position in the latter. And it wasn't necessary.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Messenger said...

What Bush wants is for the Third World countries of Latin America and the Middle East to become economic colonies for the United States to be exploited by NAFTA member corporations of their wealth, Michael.

The United States is no different today than the Third Reich and British Empire who had similar ambitions.

Both utilyzed slave labor to produce wealth as cheaply as possible and export it back to the Homeland.

Read my latest column btw,The People vs Dubya

It discusses whether Dubya should be held criminally negligent for the goverment's response to Hurricane Katrina.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Kindlingman wrote:

"Does anyone here believe the US has enemies?

"If so, please name our enemies.

"We should believe people who say they want to kill us. Don't you agree?"

Of course the U.S. has enemies. More now, I'm sure, than at any time since the Vietnam War.

We live in a world well stocked with countries that are smaller, less affluent, less technologically advanced and less militarily powerful than our country. Not surprisingly, they don't take kindly to seeing our country invade a small, weak, Third World country, strictly on our own say so, and turn it into hell on Earth where no one and nothing is safe, the infrastructure is ruined, the economy is destroyed and the nightmare goes from bad to worse with no end in sight.

Remember, no one in Iraq asked us to invade. It was an ends-justifies-means and might-makes-right move on Bush and Cheney's part from the beginning.

If any of this seems confusing, recall that we didn't generate a negative reaction when we invaded Afghanistan and dealt with the Taliban. Ask yourself why.

Then, keep this in mind: When a big, advanced industrial nation starts throwing its weight around, invading, occupying and changing regimes in weaker nations, it usually causes other countries to join forces to oppose it. History shows coalitions opposing an aggressor nation win every time. It happened in both world wars and it can happen again — this time, to us.

Do we have real enemies? Sure we do, and we must maintain a strong defense capability to meet the threat they pose.

There's a difference between doing that and invading and forcing regime change on other countries. It's the difference between a cop arresting you on suspicion of something and turning you over to the prosecutor and court system to arrive at justice, and a vigilante shooting you between the eyes because he was pretty sure you were guilty of something.

Think about it.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous david said...

Betty Cracker, you cannot expect everyone in the world to be on the same page as you. When you do, it makes you no different than John Bolton. (And I know you aren't at all like him; I'm just being melodramatic to make a point.)

The treatment of gays, women, and dissenting art forms in Muslim culture is something to discuss. But the various conservative groups gain their strength through the percieved immorality of secular humanism. America actually supports the worst forms of repressive Islam through its cozy relation with Saudi Arabia and its Islamic sect, Wahhabism. Wahhabism looks very much like the Christian Fundamentalism of America and shares with it those same disparaging attitudes to gays, women and the arts.

Frankly, I'd say the real problem is with liberals who buy into this idea that the neo-cons are going to invade Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and Syria to "liberalise" their cultures. Desert Storm got the support of liberals because the Sultan of Kuwait promised to enshrine women's rights and restore democracy. (Say anything!) Harmid Karzai has already restored strict Islamic law courts modeled on the Talibans. And the rights enjoyed in Iraq by women are already evaporating.

To put it simply: The Republicans don't believe in Gay Rights, Women's Rights, or Free Expression, so don't expect them to defend these abroad except to con liberals into joining the Crusade. The conservative Muslim World has much in common with the Republican ideal of the Eisenhower Years: All wear the mask of Normality, while Reality takes place behind closed doors.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous kindlingman said...

Thanks for your replies.

David said "Nobody wants to invade the USA. Nobody wants to overthrow its government. The USA doesn't have enemies who want that. America does have enemies who want the USA to stop meddling in their countries, fixing their elections, bribing their politicians, bombing their towns and villages, and forcing trade with American businesses."

I agree with David, and others, who imply that US foreign policies that protect or advance American business interests have caused us to become the bullies of the world. If not for American business interests, there would be no driving force for our overt and covert activities.

These same businesses provide America an edge in wealth, well being, and quality of life over other countries. There was a time before todays technology when American resources could provide what was needed to sustain American growth. And when those resources were not available in the US, American business provided them from abroad.

Today a case can be made that other countries pursue their foreign policies like America does. That foreign businesses have avarice in their hearts and seek government protection of their investments, especially in unstable portions of the world. The degree of governmental support is related to the importance of the industry for the country and the amount of influence the business has in its government.

In 1925, Calvin Coolidge said "The business of America is business".

I believe that nothing has changed for us or for other governments. And if we are competing for the same resources, there will be conflict. To use our military to protect our way of life, and not just to defend our borders, is the paradigm shift that has been made more boldly by this Administration than any other. Our pre-emptive war was to pre-empt others from acquiring access to Iraqi oil reserves. It helped that we could point to other grievances and call upon the 'nobility' to free the Iraqi people in order to make our case for invasion.

Having said all of that, I do think we have enemies who would take what we now possess (regardless of our legitimacy) for their own purposes.

Should we defend what we now possess based upon its value to America or the legitimacy of our ownership?

Should the military continue to be used to acquire control over other resources in order to prevent the rise of global competitors?

This is the Bush Doctrine: Pre-emptive actions to forestall the rise of new competitors.

But that brings us back to the fallout from American Foreign Policy and what do we do with people who say they want to kill us?

When those same people organize into groups and form associations that wish to punish America, what should our response be?

5:09 AM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Kindlingman wrote:

". . . what do we do with people who say they want to kill us?

"When those same people organize into groups and form associations that wish to punish America, what should our response be?"

The answer to those questions form the subject of several posts on this blog, my own blog and many others. It could be the subject of a book.

In brief, you begin by knowing your enemy and going after who he really is, where he really is. In the current situation, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are prime targets. Iraq before the invasion didn't even make the top-10 list (but it does have all that oil).

Secondly, you assign the military to missions where military force is clearely needed and can work. Elsewhere, the rest of the time, you do a lot of diplomatic, intelligence and police work.

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

David, you appear to be conflating "Muslim culture" in general with the aforementioned theocratic loons when you say things like, "The treatment of gays, women, and dissenting art forms in Muslim culture is something to discuss."

Yes, oppressive partriarchal norms, such as exist in the Muslim world (and in a fairly large swath of the West, for that matter) are "something to discuss." But the brand of "justice, law and order" imposed by the Taliban, which you back-handedly complimented in an earlier post, is not something to discuss in a neutral manner -- it is something to deplore.

You claim the real problem is liberals who buy into the neo-con lie about invading countries to liberalize backward societies. I think the problem goes way deeper than that. The liberal dupes of which you speak were merely useful idiots for a much darker agenda. Part of the problem, yes, but certainly not the real problem.

The real problem is that the neo-cons are gussying up a greed and power agenda in the clothes of democracy and liberalism. As you yourself point out, the people who are driving these policies don't give a rat's ass about religious freedom, democracy or human rights. In fact, they actively oppose them here. That's just the language they use to appeal to the gullable.

My point is that only a genuine commitment to those principles can help us win in the marketplace of ideas. Why? Because those principles truly are superior in that they have a greater capacity to promote happiness,freedom and prosperity.

I am not of the school that all cultures are equal. I don't think it's effective to impose cultural change via bombs. But neither do I think it's a good policy to make excuses for brutal, oppressive creeps and pretend their way of dealing with their own people and the world is just as valid as any other.

US actions in the Middle East to date have been characterized by such high levels of hypocrisy and aggression that one could be forgiven for buying into the lie that one devil is as bad as another. But there is a better way.

6:38 AM  

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