Monday, April 30, 2007

Monday with McKenna: President Lab Rat

I have two links for everyone who watched the Bill Moyers special last Wednesday, Buying the War (viewable here). Moyers featured the work of two young journalists whose work went largely ignored by the MSM. These two journalists, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel of Knight-Ridder's Washington bureau, set out to critically examine the deceptions that were being advanced as truth, the lies that were packaged and bought by the rest of the media establishment. You can keep up on the work of these two men by adding their RSS feeds to your news reader:

  • Warren Strobel

  • Jonathan Landay

  • For another example of Landay's truth-seeking-missile approach to journalism, see this post of ours from January, 2006. And now, here's Terry, to explain what a lab rat and the leader of the free world have in common.


    Is there anything left to say about Iraq? Troop surge or no, we’re getting nowhere fast! Surely, even the president knows this. Or does he?

    It's easy to say that George Bush doesn’t know this, or much of anything – that he’s stupid. We’ve said it in this blog, and it’s a belief that has wide currency. But let’s get serious for a minute. It’s hard to imagine anyone being as stupid as George Bush would have to be to not understand what’s going on with the war.

    But if he’s not stupid, then what? One alternative might be that he possesses a unique mix of arrogance, intellectual mediocrity, and stubbornness. In any case, even lab rats can change their behavior when their actions don’t yield results, and certainly George Bush is at least as smart as a lab rat – so he too can’t fail to recognize that however hard we try, we remain stuck in the same Iraqi quagmire.

    So yes, George Bush knows.

    If there is no chance of winning, then why does he urge America to pour more men and money onto the pile? And here, I must state for the record that it usually is not a good idea to speculate about anyone else’s motives. If someone does something, it’s best to judge the action by its results. With most people, failure begets change, but with George Bush and Iraq, failure begets nothing but a series of repeated failures*. So just this once, let’s try to find out what motivates the decider.

    One reason to continue our war effort is that if we leave, Iraq will devolve into complete chaos (as if it hasn’t already). This is in fact one of George Bush’s public explanations for fighting on. It’s also John McCain’s (in McCain’s case, I think he’s in earnest). It could be true, but it’s hard to imagine an even more urgent level of chaos. Still, let’s accept that it is not an unreasonable point of view. But if that’s the concern, then why not begin a regional conference on Iraq’s future? To do so, the US would have to go hat in hand to the Iranians and Syrians, but it is we who are losing lives, not they. To the Democrats' credit, those who fear even more chaos do support a regional conference. But Bush and his allies do not.

    If Bush doesn’t want a peace conference, what other reason could he have for staying the course? (Staying the course has suddenly disappeared from the Bush talking points, but that’s what the troop surge is - staying the course).

    I believe the reason is pure (and malicious) politics. And here, please remember the old saw that politics stops at the water’s edge, that when it comes to foreign policy, we are Americans first. Republicans keep reminding us about this when Democrats bring up the War’s failure. But it turns out, in this case, Republicans are the worst offenders. Here is the plan: Bush knows he can’t win; he also fears the long-term political damage to the Republican cause, and especially to conservatism if the US leaves Iraq while he is in power. As much as the American people have given up on Iraq, when we leave, the final exit will remain as a stain upon whomever presides over the last days. (Remember the picture of our last days in Saigon). George Bush is stalling for time – hoping to push the sting of his defeat onto his likely Democratic successor. If anyone believes that politics stops at the water’s edge, nonsense. George Bush plans to sacrifice maybe 2000 more Americans lives and spend as much as $200 Billion for what amounts to a small political advantage for his party. Shame on him!

    Of course, there is another reason to stay, and that is that Bush never intended for the US to leave Iraq. Iraq was to be the new permanent base for future US military operations in the Middle East (the defense of our vital interests, which are oil and Israel). This is the thesis of Chalmers Johnson, a renowned foreign policy specialist. His notion is simple (not simplistic): US power depends on massive amounts of fuel, which is to say, oil. It takes millions of gallons of jet fuel to provide the air supremacy that allows us to create shock and awe. And our navy also gulps millions of gallons of diesel fuel (think of how much oil it takes to keeps an aircraft carrier group in the Persian Gulf. With the US having been thrown out of Saudi Arabia, we decided to construct permanent air bases in Iraq (we keep saying that we aren’t doing this, but what we build there has every appearance of permanence). Read this article, written before the Iraq war started. It’s not all that Mr. Johnson has to say on the subject, but it’s a good start. You can also check out his Blowback piece.

    Here at Daily revolution, we are often reminded that human folly is not new. If we are conversant with our art and history, we have a chance of avoiding the repetition of human tragedy. George Bush may be closest to Shakespeare’s King Lear. Like Lear, he is pretty much alone now – note how few defenders he has in Congress. Of course, the Bush presidency hasn’t quite devolved into madness, but who knows how the next 19 months will go?

    *To all those who urge us to fight on, and remind us that America has fought much harder wars than Iraq; I agree. But if we look at our other difficult wars, in each case, the commander in chief made lots of changes AND admitted mistakes when they occurred. In our revolutionary war, George Washington started out being aggressive, but after a series of disasters in New York, he learned never to jeopardize his army – that his job was to preserve the army and buy time. During our civil war, Lincoln admitted the many failures in the Eastern theater, and as a result, he replaced generals regularly until after three years he put Grant in charge. In WW2, Roosevelt was frank about our early difficulties. He too replaced all the early commanders and by the end of the war, the senior commander in Europe was a man who was a mere colonel when the war started. Bush has neither admitted problems (till way too late) nor made effective changes (also till way too late).

    --T. McKenna

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