Monday, January 15, 2007

Impeaching Failure

I feel that we are more truly led forward by our errors than by our triumphs, and that when we listen to the teaching voice of a mistake, while our error is still small, then there can be no such thing as failure. This, to me, is a matter of mere practicality: imagine if our government or our corporate entities were guided by such a message; imagine how things might be today if it were included in a constitution or a mission statement.

The first step in going beyond the bipolar realm of success and failure is to encourage a climate where error is recognized and exposed as early and as often as possible. This is to practice what the Karl Rove / FOX News crowd labels "negativity" or "treason." It used to be called "democracy." And I can't think of a better day to celebrate it.

To that end, then, here are two voices that have been pointing out our government's errors for two years and more: Eric Alterman and our own Terry McKenna. We begin with Dr. Alterman:

Bush is like a man who is dealt two kings in blackjack (after 9-11) when the dealer is showing a nine, doubles down instead of playing his winner hand, gets two twos, and continues to double down over and over and over until he loses his family's life savings and insurance policy. Kristol, Krauthammer, and Kaplan, et al, are like the Vegas floozies with fake boobs telling him what a big man he is the whole time, stroking his thighs while picking his pockets ... (Oh, and John "Maverick" McCain is the long-suffering wife ...)

(By the way, observe also how Alterman freely admits a technical error in his metaphor, thus illustrating my premise about error and failure).

And now, Terry McKenna, on last Wednesday night's pathetic presidential speech:

Was the speech worth the wait?

For weeks we have been hearing about it, and even if you never pay attention to politics, you cannot have missed the build up. Sadly for the president, the speech flopped. Within an hour of its conclusion, the community of talking heads pronounced its verdict: dead on arrival. (No, I did not pay attention to the Fox News folks so I might have missed the single source for positive comment.)

The response got even worse the next day. Two cabinet officers and a general went before Congress. Condoleezza Rice was manhandled by the Senate foreign relations committee. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and General Peter Pace were treated somewhat better over in the House, but the bottom line was that the president's message did not succeed.

This blog has made much of the corruption of political speech by corporate modes; this speech was a model of corporate distortion. Acting like a CEO in industry, George Bush delivered a version of the facts that made everything come together in support of his message. It is not that he was overly optimistic, he wasn't. Still the speech omitted any serious analysis of the president's failure – yes he said any failures were his, but then what? Bush's recommendations are just more of the same failed policy. Another instance of truth bending to the needs of a spin - marketing over content. The conclusion was especially ironic given the now discredited Mission Accomplished photo op. It is a tribute to his ability to mislead that George Bush was able to keep his eyes straight ahead and his mouth even when he delivered the following sentences … "Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship." Hmmm.

In the run up to the speech, cynics speculated that the president had two goals. The first was to make us forget the work of the Iraq Study Group. The second was to downsize the definition of success to something much less than victory, thus allowing the president to select some favorable event as the pretext to declare success and thus start his own version of cut and run. (They tried this once before, remember when Paul Bremmer turned over power to the so-called Iraqi government – the whole process was a sham and a failure.) The long delay between the release of the Baker-Hamilton report and the Wednesday speech did much to mute the ISG's original impact. The president did more harm by his willfully misrepresenting the conclusions made by the study group. Yes, just as the president reported, the Iraq Study Group did suggest that failure in Iraq would be a disaster, but (please read the executive summary) their report pointed to diplomacy as the key to resolution – the president did not mention this at all.

So, the Iraq Study Group's message is history. And victory has been downsized to god knows what. Rest assured, George will find a way to delay the denouement till the next president is in power.

It never fails to amuse me that Republicans continually refer to how much better the private sector performs than does government – and they may be right. If George Bush were a CEO in industry, his speech would have been the last straw. The board of directors would have asked for his resignation, or perhaps sworn out a complaint for malfeasance. With such being the case, you would guess that Republicans would try to reflect a higher standard of conduct. But no, as represented by Bush & Company, they have taken the low road.

There is a peculiar disconnect between the fairly measured tone of the speech and that of a "fact sheet" presented on the White House's website. It's an astonishing document. To begin with, it is a one-sided political instrument, meant to justify right wing aims. And in its details, it remains steadfastly true to the past three years of spin. It presents as its primary objective the defeat of Al-Qaeda (in Iraq!). As a corollary, Iraq remains the central front in the Global War On Terror. Wow!! You can't match the Bush administration for perfidy. It describes Iraq as governed by a freely elected government, with a permanent constitution and democratic institutions. Astonishing! Iraq is hardly governed at all; its people live in sectarian enclaves, protected by militias or gangs. Those who can, flee to Syria and Jordan. If Iraq represents the value of constitutional government, then I'd choose autocracy any day.

Still, the marketing plan failed. It reminds me of the launch of New Coke in the mid 1980's. It took less than 100 days for New Coke to fail. And it may have taken less than 100 hours for this marketing initiative to come a cropper.

So, what's next? In the few days since, the US political world has split into two camps, on one side we have George Bush and a few neo-cons – and both Joe Lieberman and John McCain; on the other side, we have EVERYONE else. As long as George Bush remains commander in chief, it's really his way or the highway.

So, if we leave Iraq, will "they" come over here? Not tomorrow. The Sunni's and Shiites will no doubt go at each other, and some manner of ethnic cleansing will continue. And in a few provinces, terrorist camps may flourish. But the Iraq war has already become a terrorist training ground. IED's were perfected in this war. It turns out, US battle tanks, though well armed for standard combat, have notable weak points that the terrorists NOW know how to exploit.)

Let's remember that Al-Qaeda's power is limited to single targets of opportunity. In the West, no two attacks have been the same. Western transportation security and police surveillance may be enough to prevent most harm, especially in the US. Europe has a little more to worry about, since they have an indigenous Muslim population of Al-Qaeda wanna-be's. But the war in Iraq remains irrelevant to managing this threat.

—T. McKenna


Site Note:Tomorrow starts our tribute to the 30th anniversary of the release of Pink Floyd's Animals. Aside from the sound files of the music and the interviews with the band members we'll have, I think you'll find that this all fits rather nicely into our general themes here—the exposure of fundamentalism and the corporate presidency. So come back and check it out.

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