Page Two: Gutbucket Politics

The deadly consequences of following Bush's instincts

Page Two
Very soon, it will be a time for stories, songs, and movies, not politics – a time to find something closer to calm, abandoning the way of turbulence: standing my ground in an open field as violent lightning storms of ideological hysteria rage all around. There is a rain, a light I look at from the window, and words somewhere off in the distance. I am not there yet but, I hope, soon will be.

Now, the day after the president's State of the Union address, let us note that conservatives seem to have had a near metaphysical belief in the divine powers of the Bush administration. They fully expected the restoration of the United States to the glorious nation that they insist it once was, which is exactly how they feel it should be (though it never was, nor should it have been). The Republican victories in the past few elections would see the heavens crack wide open and the pure sunlight once again shine on this land.

Never was there a hyena that walked prouder or wailed louder than some of the more reactionary of these folks. They strode the public stage braying on about one-party domination, gleeful that it was the end of days for the Democratic Party and that the exile of all who thought differently, or were different, from them would soon begin. The one true party, the Republican Party, was an extension of themselves, pushing a platform of their ideas, and somehow this was not only good for the country but was its only way. They trumpeted majority rule – because they just knew the majority thought exactly as they did – while getting rid of legislative checks and balances, both those mandated by the Constitution and those put in place over the years to protect this government from itself. All this was done while long-guaranteed citizens' rights were actually and defiantly willed away in another ritual to prove that they were real, God-fearing Americans. Anyone with other ideas or in opposition was, of course, a traitor. The bragging was at a sports-team level: our gang, "The Good" against the other gang, "The Bad."

Progressives/lefties/liberals have no such faith in the Democratic Party, even when it is, as now, in power. We expect to be disappointed. Undoubtedly, jerks on the right will do phony, Snidely Whiplash, melodramatic hisses whenever the Democrats flub it, but it won't surprise Democratic loyalists at all. Sure, everyone is relieved that the Republicans are no longer in such unrelenting control, but, to be honest, many loyalist Democrats are never really that loyal to the party. Among them, governing is not viewed as a cheerleader-deep, winner-take-all, easy summer sport. A constitutional republic is complicated, and running it is hard. There are no easy answers – especially because the genius of our government is not in any one president, administration, party, or ideology but in the continuing flow of an ever-changing government as structured by the Constitution.

What has become more and more apparent is that, whereas one should never underestimate President Bush's charisma or how skillful he has been at projecting himself as exactly the sort of leader that most Americans wanted, his leadership strengths are, at best, shallow. Politically, when it comes to reading the public, he has proven remarkably intuitive about the mood of the moment. Unfortunately, his lack of intellectual curiosity (which is exactly the phrase used by numerous people who know him, regardless of their attitude toward him) is matched by an inability to rethink a position. There is little in our republic today that is more misplaced than the president's overwhelming faith in his own gut as a trustworthy political or governmental weather vane. It is not as though he returns to and re-examines opinions and positions, albeit still handicapped by his instincts. There is never even that much activity; once the president is set on a course, there is no further thought, turning back, compromise, or analysis. Movement is only forward. After this past election, he started talking about bipartisanship a lot, but then renominated the exactly same slate of controversial candidates for the federal bench. Logically, it could be argued that a president might, at the very least, add or subtract a name from such a list just to show seriousness about bipartisan cooperation. Not Bush.

Republicans are already offering revisionist histories of the past six years. In light of the mess this administration has made, they are beginning to deny, or at least downplay, their nearly fanatical, oversized hyper-excitement at the Republican Party's and Bush administration's ascent to power.

There has been an awful lot of talk about taking responsibility for one's actions, a conservative term that implies that the irresponsible, adolescent Democrats and secular humanists are spoiled, irresponsible children who treat all other citizens as the same. Republicans have long clarified that this is a charge made about other groups as well. It is especially applicable to anyone who brings any kind of lawsuit against any kind of company – unless it is they themselves bringing it – because, unlike whining others, they have truly been wronged!

At one point, 80% of the public (according to some polls) supported the invasion of Iraq. Currently, polls show 50-60% of Americans against the war. There has been precious little in the way of apology or explanation from many who were so certain about this action that they were accusing opponents of the war of being cowards, communists, and/or traitors. Without acknowledging that they were in any way in error, many of the most outspoken war supporters switched, practically in midsentence, to denouncing the "invasion" of this country by illegal immigrants.

Without missing a beat, they abandoned their previous stance, completely ignoring and refusing to remember their aggressively offered opinion that, not only did we have to invade Iraq, but that the Iraqi people would welcome us as heroes. Truly astonishing is that, as they concentrate their hysteria on the phony illegal-immigration "crisis" issue, they display the same condescending certainty and arrogance they had previously offered when talking about Iraq.

A few things here:

• When anyone defends his or her earlier support of the invasion by saying that if only we knew before the invasion what we know now, spit-takes are permissible. Sad to say, but we absolutely knew before the invasion just about everything we know now. The Bush administration pointedly ignored military and diplomatic intelligence, as well as other authorities who tried to explain the serious consequences of such an invasion. They deliberately did little post-invasion planning, and most recently, they ignored the Iraq Study Group's recommendations.

• There is the argument, disdainfully made as though we are but naive children in the presence of our mature and wise elders, that many of our governmental agencies, as well as many foreign governments, were convinced Hussein had WMD – there not being any indication otherwise. Thus, this war is based on this honest mistake, which was absolutely not a propaganda tactic to justify the invasion.

Even if Saddam Hussein had WMD, there was no indication that he would have used them or given them to terrorists. There was a strong supposition by some that he might, but invading a nation and toppling a sitting government based on just a supposition?

• The argument that will fly on a banner over the conservative camp day and night will be, "If our hands weren't tied by those humanist liberals, so that we could have exercised our full military might, then we could have easily won the war." When you fight a guerilla war on another nation's soil, especially if there is any kind of civil war under way, there is no way to win short of completely conquering the country. In such a war, there is no distinction between civilian and fighter and no sharp geographical separation of military and civilian areas. To fight such a war is to be constantly recruiting for the enemy. The harder you fight it, the more innocents are killed, and the more people join the resistance.

• One of the fantasies underlying that argument is that we could have won in Vietnam, if only we were willing to use more force. The cherry on this cupcake is that the Tet Offensive was a public-relations success but a terrible military failure, so significant that if we had persevered, victory would have been ours.

Come on, get real! The Vietnamese fought the French before World War II. During that war, they fought the Japanese. After the war, the French returned with American aid. The conflict continued until Dien Bien Phu in 1954, when the Vietnamese defeated the French. The French left, but the United States stayed, propping up a puppet government. The Vietnamese fought us. If we had followed up militarily on the Tet Offensive, they would have fought us with whatever weapons they could find. When they ran out of ammunition, they would have taken up sticks and stones.

This is not to say the Vietnamese were unusually noble and moral warriors. In histories of that period, there are long, detailed lists of communist atrocities. The viciousness and brutality are neither forgivable nor understandable, but they do indicate the intensity of Vietnamese devotion to the struggle.

• Before and after the invasion of Iraq, there were large protest marches against the war. Supporters of the war said that, as Americans, we had the right to protest – but the very fact we had that right meant we shouldn't exercise it. This was because such protests gave aid and comfort to this country's enemies. The much smaller number who still support the war argue that if we leave Iraq without victory, we will only be encouraging and empowering our enemies.

• The invasion of Iraq was not a response to 9/11, and there were absolutely no legitimate reasons for it. And, sorry, but this is not a war against the "Islamo-fascists." When a nation is fighting terrorists and guerrillas, rather than another nation, it doesn't get to pick the battleground. As for those who still bring up the truly surreal concept that they really care that Iraq violated 12 years of UN sanctions to build its military, the fact is the invasion forces cut through Iraqi defenses like a red-hot knife through butter. Iraqi military power was a brag, and our fear, but not fact. They had no air force. The sanctions worked.

Finally, the reactionaries who still support the war are truly demonstrating their overwhelming passion for the past over the present, their ideas over reality. Watch Zulu and Zulu Dawn. These are two great movies about the war in South Africa between the British and the Zulu nation. In the first phase, the Zulu armies won great victories over the British; this is brilliantly depicted in both those films.

Having won these battles, they believed that they had won the war. They went home victorious. The British, not respecting or probably even understanding the way such wars were fought, returned with enough additional forces and military power to conquer the Zulu nation. The Zulu people weren't ready because they thought it was all over.

Now, with great assurance we are told that it is better to fight our enemies in Iraq because otherwise we will have to fight them on our own soil. That we are even in Iraq is nuts, but that there is an argument that we have to fight them there, because the Islamo-fascists must be beaten, is even more ludicrous. I'm betting no one has explained to Islamic fundamentalist fighters all across the world these definitive rules. If we win, whatever that may mean, they are defeated and done.

• Now, call me un-American, and I'm not arguing in favor of this, but don't you think that every day we remain in Iraq, we recruit more people to join the fight against the United States?

• Sorry, but is there anything more empowering to this nation's enemies than the ongoing success of the Iraqi insurgents against the strongest, best-armed military in the history of the world, from a Judeo-Christian country? Is there a stronger recruiting tactic imaginable than the day-after-day everyday of this conflict, in which Western forces are killing Muslims, while heroic Islamic freedom fighters are successfully fighting back? end story

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2006 election, George W. Bush, troop surge Iraq, Vietnam conflict, Democratic congress, Iraq war

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