Monday, December 4, 2006

Monday with McKenna: Call Out the Squirrels, the Nuts Are All Around Us

For a long time now, we've been discussing the psychopathology of the foul tyrants who have governed us these past six years and driven hundreds of thousands of people to death or to a living hell. The only thing we've occasionally been confused about is the precise diagnosis: we have offered psychosis, psychopathy, dependent personality disorder, and my own diagnostic entity, neuropia. On Sunday, Frank Rich offered his theory, which in turn echoes Terry McKenna's offering for today (Terry always sends me his Monday piece on Saturday morning, before the Sunday papers are out).

The main point is that these people—Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and quite of few of the supporting characters—don't need to be debated: they need to be studied. Preferably in a high-security facility with padded cells inside and electric fences outside. If you think I'm kidding, check out Kucinich's piece at HuffPost today, which includes some of the brutal details about where the destruction delusion has led us.

So now on to Mr. McKenna. Terry, as he often does, draws on history to reinforce his own comparative diagnosis. Here it is.

Despite what Republican sources argue, the Iraq debacle is very much like the affair in Viet Nam. They may not be identical, but the political fallout is very much the same. The war is George Bush’s albatross. Isn’t it embarrassing to watch the president on the nightly news (or in media outlets such as the Daily Show). He mixes an air of arrogance with the look of a deer caught in the headlights.

Things seem to be moving fast now. Iraq’s so called unity government is neither a government nor an agent of unity. Prime Minister Maliki is a fraud – according to insiders, either part of the Shiite power grab, or an incompetent, or perhaps a fool. Yet the US president goes forward with statements like the following regarding his recent meeting with Iraq Prime Minister, Maliki (this was issued November 30th):

"My consultations with the Prime Minister and the unity government are a key part of the assessment process. And that's why I appreciate him coming over from Iraq so that we could have a face-to-face visit. The Prime Minister and I agree that the outcome in Iraq will affect the entire region. To stop the extremists from dominating the Middle East, we must stop the extremists from achieving their goal of dominating Iraq. If the extremists succeed in Iraq, they will be emboldened in their efforts to undermine other young democracies in the region, or to overthrow moderate governments, establish new safe havens, and impose their hateful ideology on millions. If the Iraqis succeed in establishing a free nation in the heart of the Middle East, the forces of freedom and moderation across the region will be emboldened, and the cause of peace will have new energy and new allies."

You just can’t take George Bush seriously anymore.

The extremists are already emboldened. Our presence has given them 3 ½ years to work out the best way to use home made bombs to destroy American armor. Now they know. City warfare has always been tough and resident fighters ALWAYS have a tactical advantage - that’s why armies almost never attack cities by direct force. In WW2, the Germans opted for siege tactics against Leningrad. Stalingrad on the other hand was attacked directly and the early result made it a vast graveyard. When cities are entered, if fighting continues, it ends in desperate house to house warfare. The US is not prepared to either starve (siege warfare) or to fight house to house in Baghdad, so there is nothing left for our army to do. We can’t ask for a do-over.

We are in the current mess because of an over-optimistic sense of what success in war can achieve. And it’s odd how war continues to have a hold over the hearts and minds of men – for history demonstrates that even when you win, the aftermath is rarely what you hoped for.

Let’s take a brief look at our own history. I’ll start with the Civil War – our prior wars are all more or less special cases. The Mexican War was a war over territory that Mexico only lightly held – so when Americans began to develop a new society out west, the chance for an insurgency was just about nil.

On to the Civil War. Yes, the North won, and the slaves were freed. But in the South, the aftermath was an insurgency that destroyed the new freedmen’s governments. After reconstruction was ended in 1876, a succession of laws were passed in each state that re-enslaved blacks with a second class citizenship that provided no civil rights at all. It took another 100 years for descendants of the freed slaves to receive justice.

Ok, one down.

Then we have the splendid little war against Spain in 1898. We won in a matter of a few months. Spain was humiliated and never again participated in world affairs. But the liberated territories – Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines have fared little better since. Cuba was ostensibly freed in 1902, but with US intervention and a series of tin horn dictators, Cuba remains to this day a poorly managed economy full of people who fortunately still don’t hate Americans. The Philippines on the other hand is even worse off. It was not freed until after the Second World War, then it was led with a heavy hand by its own succession of dictators. Its current government may be less a dictatorship, but life in the Philippines is not easy. Ethnic tension abound, so too tensions between Muslims and Christians. White visitors today are subject to the threat of kidnapping.

Puerto Rico is at least a more benign commonwealth. Not quite a US state, but definitely part of the US. For most of the last century, its citizens were poor. In recent decades, the economy has modernized and gained benefit from the presence of US businesses operating from Puerto Rico because of unique tax advantages.

The First World War needs only a few sentences. A horrible affair that the US had no reason to join. The aftermath was a communist Russia, an unstable central Europe, and eventually the Nazi era and a Second World War.

So what about the Second World War. Wasn’t that a just war? Perhaps. But the notion of war being just is always problematical. My retort is: so what!

Let’s discuss the operation in Japan separately from that in Germany. Since Japan attacked our Pacific fleet, the war was as justified as any. But the years following Japan’s defeat are the story of a prosperous Japan surrounded by an Asia ruled mostly by dictators. Liberated China fared no better under communist rule than it did under the Japanese military – millions died anyway. We fought two “hot” wars - in Viet Nam and Korea. Only in the ‘90s did Asia wake up to her potential. So, however justified our effort, the following 60 years suggests that the war in Asia was a waste of lives and treasure.

The War against Germany was also a victory. And if we consider Nazi brutality, who can argue against the fight. Western Europe did prosper in the aftermath, but Eastern Europe suffered under Soviet era communism. And to this day, the former Yugoslavia has never stabilized. And if we think of the victims of Nazi brutality, sadly, most were dead by the time of liberation. I am not arguing against our having gone to war, but if a successful aftermath receives a rating of 4 stars, the results of our WW2 victory gets only 1 ½.

Of course, we already know that we should never have invaded Iraq. But even going forward, we must not forget that a so called victory (in a decade?) may be as troubling as the chaos of retreat. Much better to wall off the Kurds, make some deals to protect any other peaceful communities and then get out.

By the way, the story of the Southern insurgency is rarely told – so try this new book. Redemption: The Last Battle of the Civil War by Nicholas Lemann. It's also available as a CD (spoken book).

—T. McKenna

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