It's Time to Play Beat-the-Bully
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
December 6, 2005
We all know this from our schooldays and our workplaces. The thing about
bullies, especially the really cocky ones, is that they're often really
insecure. They strut their stuff, and get in your face aggressively, but
once you organize opposition and indicate you're not afraid of them
anymore, thus stripping them of their essential power over you, they're
lost in the world of ordinary mortals.
Bullies need to seem successful, which helps explain why so many cheat and
lie and threaten in order to get their way; they don't believe they can
make it on their own abilities. This behavior also helps explain why they
avoid responsibility by blaming others for their own faults.
I got to thinking about this the other day when learning that the Bush
Administration secretly paid for pro-U.S. stories in Iraqi newspapers.
That reminded me of how Bush&Co. got caught secretly paying a number of
U.S. journalists to write pro-Administration articles and plant them in
various media outlets. And that reminded me of how the Pentagon and other
Administration departments created their own fake "TV news stories" about
Bush policies and sent them out to small-town stations around the country,
who ran them as real news.
And that reminded me of how Bush during the campaign almost always
appeared before hand-picked supportive audiences, and how he almost never
gives major foreign-policy speeches these days except before supportive
military audiences. Ordinary American civilians who may or may not agree
with all his policies are not to be included in the democratic process; as
Bush famously told one citizen who expressed mild disapproval, "What do I
care what you think?"
It's plain that the Bush Administration believes (or at least suspects)
that its own arguments, if presented straight, won't pass muster with the
American populace, or, in the case of the purchased news stories in Iraq,
that country's public. The Administration's versions of the truth won't be
enough to convince readers, viewers or voters-- for good reason, as they
derive from a greedy, mean-spirited ideology -- so propaganda is employed
to fool the public.
Such deception can be carried out in microcosm by, say, writing a story,
getting it translated into Arabic and then paying to have it run in a
Baghdad newspaper. Or the deception can be on the macrocosmic Big Lie
scale: Asserting that Saddam Hussein is in cahoots with Osama bin Laden
and is going to pass some of his supposed huge store of biological and
chemical and nuclear WMD to Al-Qaida. The bigger the lie, in some ways,
the easier it is to sell to the public -- especially when your highest
officials spend months and months engaged in such falsehoods and
deceptions. Then you add the mainstream media into the equation: by not
doing their job and questioning the Bush assertions early on, they
appeased the bullies, thereby giving them more power.
RECALLING HOW WE GOT IN THIS MESS
You'll recall that the White House Iraq Group, the unit established to
"market" the war to the American people, had a devil of a time coming up
with a successful selling tool. Should they tell the truth, that the war
was necessary as part of a long-term campaign to control the huge oil/gas
energy fields in the Mideast and to alter the geopolitical map of that
region? No, that wouldn't fly with the citizenry, they figured; nobody
wants their kids killed or maimed for imperial adventures created by
ivory-tower ideologues who made sure never to put on their country's
uniform in times of war.
So, according to Paul Wolfowitz, one of the key neo-con architects of the
war, the Bush Administration finally settled on the scary bogeyman of
"weapons of mass destruction" that Saddam Hussein supposedly was ready to
unleash on America -- biological and chemical agents dropped or sprayed
from drone planes off the East Coast, "mushroom clouds" over American
cities, and so on.
Even though U.S. leaders knew Saddam was a paper tiger and no longer
possessed such weaponry or even active programs to acquire such
capabilities, they launched their WMD-scare offense on the American public
and provided cherry-picked intelligence (devoid of the doubts, caveats and
demurrers of the intelligence analysts) to the Congress.
To help push the propaganda campaign along, they added one more powerful
deception to their arsenal of lies. Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and
others began conflating Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terror attacks. There
was no such linkage, of course; the Administration was informed by their
counter-terrorism experts shortly after 9/11 that the attacks were pure
al-Qaida, with no Iraqi involvement. (Further, Saddam slaughtered any
Islamicists he could find in Iraq, and Osama bin Laden had targeted him as
a secular enemy.)
The Iraq/9/11 linkage was all B.S., of course, but most American leaders
swallowed it -- including those of the supposed Democrat "opposition" --
while the rest of the world, more savvy about the reality and complexity
of the situation, were not afraid to confront the Superpower bully and
angrily denounced the Bush lies. More than 10,000,000 citizens
demonstrated worldwide against the impending war. Maybe they were more
willing to take on the U.S. because they remembered what happened in
Europe when appeasement of a war-hungry Adolph Hitler led to World War II,
in which 60 million were slaughtered.
Two years after the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the suspicions
raised by the anti-war forces around the globe about the Bush
Administration's duplicity and lies were verified when the top-secret
Downing Street Memos -- minutes from inside the Blair war cabinet,
detailing the invasion preparations of the U.S. and U.K. leadership --
were leaked to the British press, and, of course, were given little
attention by the American corporate mainstream media.
TODAY: LYNNE CHENEY'S TWISTED KNICKERS
In the wake of the recent indictment of Dick Cheney's chief of staff,
Scooter Libby, for obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame case, the
run-up to the Iraq War again has become the subject of great scrutiny. And
it turns out that the duplicitous war campaign is non-stop, because the
lies are non-stop. The other day, Lynne Cheney expressed outrage that her
husband was being accused once more of making those links to Iraq and
9/11. He never expressed such linkages, she said adamantly.
Too bad, Lynne, there are such things as videotape and audiotape, and that
record still exists of his
intertwining 9/11 and Iraq.
And the linkage deceptions still go on. In Bush's Annapolis speech the
other day, he correctly laid out the three main components of the Iraqi
insurgency early: "The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists,
Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group.
These are ordinary Iraqis. ...The second group...contains former regime
loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam ...The third group is
the smallest but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or
inspired by al-Qaida." But throughout the rest of the speech, he often
used the term "terrorists" to describe all those fighting the U.S.
In other words, to deflect attention away from the true nature of the bulk
of the Iraqi insurgency -- nationalists and ex-Baathists angry at being
invaded by foreigners, and enraged by an occupying army that brutalizes
and tortures Iraqi civilians at will -- the insurgency suddenly is given
the rubric of "terrorists."
But the situation in Iraq, in the world, is much more complex than labels,
with all sorts of competing tribes and clans, and those representing
diverse economic, political, religious, and ethnic interests. To
understand those complexities, and devise equally as nuanced responses to
them would take real creativity and hard work. It's much easier to simply
divide Iraq and the world into black and white categories, "those who are
with us and those who are against us." The latter category is given the
hated title "terrorists," and the propaganda flows much more easily from
that designation, aided enormously by a generally quiescent, at times
cooperative, mass media.
(Speaking of cooperative reporters who abdicated their journalistic
responsibilities, mostly recently it was Bob Woodward of the Washington
Post. Once an outsider press hero doing battle against the Nixon bullies,
Woodward for years has been a shameless insider protecting the powerful;
he knew of the intelligence community's doubts about the Bush
Administration's broad WMD assertions -- three high-level sources told him
about the deceptions -- but he kept silent, apparently in order to
guarantee total access to Bush for the book he was writing about the
run-up to the war. For shame!)
MURTHA SPEAKS FOR THE GENERALS
Not much changes over time, only the justifications, the spin. Now Bush,
trying to avoid culpability for the disaster that is the Iraq War, is
trying to deflect criticism by (as usual) blaming others: It's the CIA's
fault, or, in essence, the American public's fault, since they re-elected
him during wartime, and Congress' fault since they voted to authorize the
war in the first place. The administration spinmeisters claim that
Congress voted for the war based on the same intelligence that Bush saw --
an assertion that is patently false, since the White House provided only
summaries cleansed of all doubts and caveats having to do with the
supposed stockpiles of WMD.
Finally, belatedly, even with blood on their hands, some Democrats are
speaking up forcefully against Bush's war policies: the deceptive way we
were led into the war, and the gross incompetencies of the Occupation --
and so the entire history of that war is once again Topic A for public
discussion. Recent reports that the Vietnam War decades before (where
millions died) also rested on lies, exaggerations and deceptions, sheds
new light on the current situation.
Rep. John Murtha, who earned his bravery medals in 'Nam, spoke with great
force the other day, calling for the U.S. to withdraw quickly from Iraq
before more senseless slaughter occurs. What is plainly apparent is that
Murtha is not speaking only for himself in his denunciation of Bush policy
and in calling for a speedy American withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
Murtha, a militarist hawk for decades with close ties to the officer
corps, also is speaking for those generals inside the services who
revealed their strong disagreements with Bush's Iraq policy openly to him
but who are afraid to voice their objections in public, lest they be fired
or otherwise have their career-advancements closed off.
So where are we? Though there are differences in emphasis and approach,
there is a wide, strong opposition to the continuing U.S. presence in
Iraq, coming from supposedly disparate groups: Officers inside the
military, Establishment conservatives, liberals and radicals and
mainstream Democrats, the peace movement, nearly two-thirds of the
American people. But, even with all this opposition, Bush&Co. remain in
power and, if Bush's Annapolis speech is to be taken seriously, the Iraq
War will continue until some vague, indefinable thing called "victory" is
obtained. Which is to say the 12th of Never.
Bush may make a few accommodations prior to the 2006 election -- withdraw
thousands of Guard and Reserve troops, for example, and promise more
withdrawals -- in order to seem to be in line with the public mood. But
the war will continue, with bombing from the air taking the place of any
boots missing on the ground, and the imperial goals of dominating the
region and controlling the energy fields will remain operative. No matter
how long it takes, Bush is willing to sacrifice the lives of U.S. troops
and spend the treasury into bankruptcy for "the mission"; he believes the
war against radical Muslims is his holy work and he won't back down unless
absolutely required to do so. Besides, keeping the American citizenry on a
constant fear-boil, Rove believes, provides openings through which to slip
Bush&Co.'s domestic agenda.
In short, it's long since time for us to respond to the bullies in charge
of our foreign and domestic policy, to remember the lessons of history
when insecure leaders are not confronted early enough -- Hitler in Europe,
Presidents Johnson and Nixon enlarging the disastrous Vietnam War, Sen.
Joe McCarthy running roughshod over Americans' civil liberties in his mad
hunt for supposed "communists" in 1950s America, et al. We have the proper
role models: Fannie Lou Hamer taking on the segregationist Mississippi
Democrats, Edward R. Murrow and Joseph Welch finally taking on Joe
McCarthy, John W. Dean and the Washington Post stepping forward to reveal
the lawless Richard Nixon, Daniel Ellsberg making sure the Pentagon Papers
got published about the Vietnam debacle, and other such brave souls, Cindy
Sheehan speaking truth to power about the shameful lies that continue to
fuel the slaughter in Iraq. They stood up to the bullyboys when it was
vital that they do so, and we all are the better for their fortitude.
So, if we American citizens truly want to get the U.S. out of its Iraq War
quagmire before more thousands of U.S. troops are killed and maimed, along
with thousands of Iraqi civilians as "collateral damage" -- before America
has to get out of Iraq anyway years down the road -- we simply must
organize our opposition and confront our own bullies head on.
PRYING THEIR FINGERS OFF POWER LEVERS
We don't have a parliamentary system in this country whereby a vote of
no-confidence can remove incompetent, corrupt or ideologically dangerous
fools from office. The only way to pry their fingers off the levers of
power is to either vote them out of office or to impeach them and send
them packing, either with a conviction or with their resignations. Both
take lots of time, and the current election option is plagued by a voting
and vote-counting system that is easily corruptible and has already
demonstrably been corrupted.
One would hope Bush&Co. would see the handwriting on the wall and, for the
good of the country, would resign their offices now, but we know these
power-hungry zealots are not going to go willingly. So we -- progressives,
moderate conservatives, libertarians, right wingers, leftwingers -- must
join together and put our efforts into passing laws mandating honest
elections and hand-counted votes, and then sweeping enough Republicans out
of office in the House and Senate next November so that the proper
investigations finally can be conducted that will lead to impeachment and
We can work long-range toward either drastic reform of the Democrat Party
or the founding of an electable alternative party. But our immediate goal,
our immediate job -- because the stakes are so extraordinarily
high -- is to do everything possible to close down this war, to ensure
honest elections, and to protect the Constitution from further ravaging.
We can do this.
Copyright 2005, by Bernard Weiner