The American Crazies

When historians look back on the staggering incompetance of the Bush years they will surely conclude that if not for Tony Blair much of the insanity would never have happened. Especially regarding the whole sorry mess in Iraq, if Tony Blair and the British had stood with rest of the world instead of with Bush, it’s unlikely the invasion would ever have happened.

Though we can’t fix the past we can hope that Blair’s replacement, Gordon Brown, has the sense to, as Anatole Kaletsky writes,  “break with the American Crazies”:

There is now strong evidence that President Bush didn’t even know the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims when he decided to attack Iraq – and that dissenting opinions were simply blocked by Mr Cheney before they could reach the President’s desk.

The State Department had prepared to send hundreds of diplomats and private sector construction experts with Arab-language skills and Middle East experience to help to rebuild Iraq. But less than a month before the war started, all these people were “stood down” on orders from Mr Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, as their Middle East experience would bias them towards an “Islamist” and defeatist worldview. The peremptory disbandment of the Iraqi Army and the Baath party, now regarded as the worst mistake of the immediate postwar period, was decided at the “highest level” in Washington and was then imposed against the advice of the US military governor Jay Garner, who quickly understood the anarchy that this would unleash.

The list of misjudgments and mistakes could go on and on, but my point should by now be obvious. The question Mr Brown must now ask himself is whether he can still allow himself to remain publicly allied to a US Administration that is so recklessly belligerent in its diplomatic conduct, so demonstrably incompetent in warfare and so irresponsibly dangerous to the peace of the world.

Michael Sky

The Lesser of Two Evils is Evil

The recent capitulation of major democrats to Mr Bush and his idiot war is being touted as “good politics.” Because the war is such a total failure, its continuation will doom all war-supporting repubs in future elections. So, the thinking goes, dems were smart to approve new war funding, simultaneously tieing the war around the necks of the republicans while avoiding being labelled as “soft on terrorism.”

Only two problems with the strategy. First, it is immoral to lend approval to an ongoing carnage for individual political gains. The only way to halt the cycle of violence is to STOP.

But even worse (for the dems), they will surely lose votes for such blatant political posturing:

Voters don’t like pollster-driven politics or politicians, and with good reason: They want to know what their leaders’ values are, because if they know their values, they know how they’re likely to represent them — not just on today’s issues, but on tomorrow’s, about which we may have no inkling today.

Political scientists have found that people prefer to vote for candidates who share their values, but they prefer a candidate who is strong in his or her convictions — even if they don’t share those convictions — to one whose convictions are hidden in the fine print. Being strong and principled isn’t about being left, center, or right. The fact that voters associate values with the right reflects the fact that conservatives wear their values proudly on their sleeves, and they display their principles in their voting records.

Conservatives don’t vote for bills they don’t believe in. If the public associates principles and values with the GOP, it’s time Democrats start showing voters that there’s another set of principles and values out there: theirs.

Principle number one: no more money for immoral wars.

Principle number two: all wars are immoral.

Michael Sky

Nobody But Gore

David Michael Green makes a convincing case for  a Gore presidency, starting with a sober assessment of the mess we’re in:

It is truly a dark hour for America, and all roads lead to the same explanatory address: the country has been hijacked by a movement of regressive kleptocrats who have not governed well in large part because their intention never was to govern well – but rather, instead, to liquidate every asset from the beast before then dumping its tattered carcass in a fire sale. There are no parallels for this in our political history. Only the leveraged buyout does it justice. Think of this as the Gordon Gekko model of governance. Woo-hoo.

Bad as things have gotten, only Al Gore has the experience, passion, and commitment to really push for solutions, rather than political expediencies.

Lord knows I’ve had my heart broken by too many politicians not to be a bit cautious. Moreover, the old Al Gore could sometimes make Bill Clinton look positively liberal. But nowadays I think a Gore presidency would very likely be different. I think it would be bold enough to end the war, to seriously address global warming, to create a real universal national healthcare program, to begin re-balancing the distribution of wealth in the United States, to restore the Constitution, to appoint progressives to the federal courts, to restore America’s participation in international institutions and its reputation in world opinion, to implement a full-scale alternative energy program, as well as job development, stem cell research, and a whole lot more. I think the majority of the American public already wants all of those things, and it might be very easy to achieve them under the combined circumstances of a completely failed conservative experiment, a clearly articulated progressive vision, and a bold agenda-setting president showing aggressive and fearless leadership in pointing the way.

Which I think is precisely why Gore, the non-candidate, inspires such over-the-top ridicule from conservatives and the press. His capacity to expose them and their lies, to put a label on their failures, and to chart a path toward a popular politics of potential watershed magnitude, makes him nothing short of a regressive’s nightmare. This could be the second coming of FDR, not only politically and ideologically, but in terms of a generational-scale realignment, much as the New Deal coalition dominated American politics for forty years.

No wonder they’ve already started savaging him, even while he says he has no plans to run. Like a hurricane gathering energy at sea, they recognize his potential.

And like a Potemkin village on the shore awaiting the storm’s devastation, they also recognize the complete vacuousness, and therefore the utter vulnerability, of their own project.

Michael Sky

The Forever War

Months ago Seymour Hersh warned that the Bush administration was determined to go to war with Iran. And that, just as they had with Iraq, all they were waiting for was some sort of attack on America that they could use as a pretext.

At the time, most people dismissed his claims. “No way they would try the same scam twice, especially with Iraq going so poorly,” went the conventional wisdom.

But of course, wisdom has nothing to do with it.

Following revelations of a George W. Bush administration policy to hold Iran responsible for any al Qaeda attack on the U.S. that could be portrayed as planned on Iranian soil, former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinksi warned last week that Washington might use such an incident as a pretext to bomb Iran.

Brzezinski, the national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter from 1977 through 1980 and the most senior Democratic Party figure on national security policy, told a private meeting sponsored by the non-partisan Committee for the Republic in Washington May 30 that an al Qaeda terrorist attack in the United States intended to provoke war between the U.S. and Iran was a possibility that must be taken seriously, and that the Bush administration might accuse Iran of responsibility for such an attack and use it to justify carrying out an attack on Iran.

Michael Sky

Trust and Betrayal

To keep the war going, the administration has brought the original bogyman back out of the closet. At first, Mr. Bush said he would bring Osama bin Laden in, dead or alive. Within seven months after 9/11, however, he had lost interest: “I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s at the center of any command structure,” he said in March 2002. “I truly am not that concerned about him.”

In all of 2003, Mr. Bush, who had an unrelated war to sell, made public mention of the man behind 9/11 only seven times.

But Osama is back: last week Mr. Bush invoked his name 11 times in a single speech, warning that if we leave Iraq, Al Qaeda – which wasn’t there when we went in – will be the winner. And Democrats, still fearing that they will end up accused of being weak on terror and not supporting the troops, gave Mr. Bush another year’s war funding.

Democratic Party activists were furious, because polls show a public utterly disillusioned with Mr. Bush and anxious to see the war ended. But it’s not clear that the leadership was wrong to be cautious. The truth is that the nightmare of the Bush years won’t really be over until politicians are convinced that voters will punish, not reward, Bush-style fear-mongering. And that hasn’t happened yet.

Here’s the way it ought to be: When Rudy Giuliani says that Iran, which had nothing to do with 9/11, is part of a “movement” that “has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he should be treated as a lunatic.

When Mitt Romney says that a coalition of “Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” wants to “bring down the West,” he should be ridiculed for his ignorance.

And when John McCain says that Osama, who isn’t in Iraq, will “follow us home” if we leave, he should be laughed at.

But they aren’t, at least not yet. And until belligerent, uninformed posturing starts being treated with the contempt it deserves, men who know nothing of the cost of war will keep sending other people’s children to graves at Arlington.

Paul Krugman | New York Times 

Impeach them all

I held off on this because I thought the process was both legally unjustifiable and politically futile. I believe it is still the latter. The difference is I don’t care any more that it is. The Comey testimony — coupled with the astonishing arrogance it takes simply to ignore congressional subpoenas as though they were something someone slipped under your windshield wiper — pushed me all the way over the edge.

The president spied on Americans and thereby broke the law. Repeatedly. The president was told he was breaking the law by members of the Department of Justice who had no reason to lie to him on the subject. (John Ashcroft noticed, for pity’s sake.) The president knew he was breaking the law so he sent the White House chief of staff and the White House counsel out to behave like Mr. Wolf in Pulp Fiction. (Sorry, Andy Card. I liked you when we were both young and ambitious in Massachusetts, but it’s off to Allenwood for a spell until you come clean.) The clean-up crew failed, and he kept breaking the law anyway. Repeatedly.

They spied on their political opponents. They used their steroidal view of executive powers to justify it in their tiny little minds. That’s what they’re hiding. I have no doubts any more that the administration has committed more crimes than we know. And every day they remain unpunished — hell, every day they remain in office — we become more deeply complicit in their offenses. It’s time to govern ourselves again.

Charles Pierce | Altercation 

Why Bush hasn’t been impeached

To this day, the primitive feeling that in response to 9/11 we had to hit hard at “the enemy,” whoever that might be, is a sacred cow. America’s deference to the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later approach is profound: It’s the gut belief that still drives Bush supporters and leads them to regard war critics as contemptible appeasers. This is why Bush endlessly repeats his mantra “We’re staying on the attack.”

The unpleasant truth is that Bush did what a lot of Americans wanted him to. And when it became clear after the fact that Bush had lied about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, it made no sense for those Americans to turn on him. Truth was never their major concern anyway — revenge was. And if we took revenge on the wrong person, well, better a misplaced revenge than none at all.

Gary Kamiya | Salon

U.S. Imperial Ambitions Thwart Iraqis’ Peace Plans

Al Fadhila’s peace plan was not the first one offered by Iraqi actors, nor the first to be ignored by the Anglo-American Coalition. More significant even than proposals made by Iraqi political parties are those put forth by the country’s armed resistance groups — the very groups that have the ability to bring a halt to the cycle of violence. Comprehensive plans have been offered by the Baath party that ruled Iraq for three generations, The Islamic Army in Iraq and other major armed resistance groups and coalitions. The plans vary on a number of points, but all of them shared a few items in common: the occupation forces must recognize them as legitimate resistance groups and negotiate with them, and the U.S. must agree to set a timetable for a complete withdrawal from Iraq. That’s the key issue, but Iraq’s nationalists see it only as the first step in the long path to achieving national reconstruction and reconciliation.

But these plans are unacceptable to the Coalition because they A) affirm the legitimacy of Iraq’s armed resistance groups and acknowledge that the U.S.-led coalition is, in fact, an occupying army, and B) return Iraq to the Iraqis, which means no permanent bases, no oil law that gives foreign firms super-sweet deals and no radical restructuring of the Iraqi economy. U.S. lawmakers have been and continue to be faced with a choice between Iraqi stability and American Empire, and continue to choose the latter, even as the results of those choices are splashed in bloody Technicolor across our TV screens every evening.

Joshua Holland and Raed Jarrar | 

The Assault on Reason

It is too easy—and too partisan—to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes. We have a Congress. We have an independent judiciary. We have checks and balances. We are a nation of laws. We have free speech. We have a free press. Have they all failed us? Why has America’s public discourse become less focused and clear, less reasoned? Faith in the power of reason—the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power—remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.

American democracy is now in danger—not from any one set of ideas, but from unprecedented changes in the environment within which ideas either live and spread, or wither and die. I do not mean the physical environment; I mean what is called the public sphere, or the marketplace of ideas.

It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong. In 2001, I had hoped it was an aberration when polls showed that three-quarters of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on Sept. 11. More than five years later, however, nearly half of the American public still believes Saddam was connected to the attack.

Al Gore| Time Magazine

Evil Empire

When Ronald Reagan coined the phrase “evil empire,” he was referring to the Soviet Union, and I basically agreed with him that the USSR needed to be contained and checkmated. But today it is the U.S. that is widely perceived as an evil empire and world forces are gathering to stop us. The Bush administration insists that if we leave Iraq our enemies will “win” or — even more improbably — “follow us home.” I believe that, if we leave Iraq and our other imperial enclaves, we can regain the moral high ground and disavow the need for a foreign policy based on preventive war. I also believe that unless we follow this path, we will lose our democracy and then it will not matter much what else we lose. In the immortal words of Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Chalmers Johnson |