You've seen the movies and animations: Enemy weapons are
fired at an American plane or submarine; to avoid being blown up, "chaff" is
thrown out to confuse the incoming missiles/torpedoes into going after the
decoys rather than the targeted jet or ship.
In a way, that defensive trickery seems an apt description of how Karl
Rove's political team operates. They choose a select number of objectives
they really care about, go all out for them -- often in secret -- and the
rest of their high-profile program is often little more than decoy chaff to
keep their political enemies from focusing attacks on the Administration's
So what is it that Bush&Co. really are after in these final four years? I
would suggest that at the core of their desires are these two:
1. To have effective American control of the oil/natural-gas reserves
worldwide, concentrating first in the Middle East, the "stan" countries
along the Caucuses arc, and in South America.
2. To lay the groundwork for generations of Republican political dominance
in American politics even after Bush departs the White House -- and, as a
corollary, to avoid criminal prosecution for their felonies and misdemeanors
while in office.
Accomplishing #1: In the Middle East, that means unfailing Administration
support for the one big regional ally it can count on, Israel, and "regime
changing" a good many Islamic-nation governments from autocracies to
U.S.-friendly "democracies" that will do America's energy- and
Accomplishing #2: That means continued majority control of the Congress by
destroying the Democratic Party as a viable opposition (including painting
Dems as "unpatriotic" and starving the party of its traditional funding
sources, most notably by diminishing the incomes of attorneys, teachers,
union members), packing more and more HardRight judges onto the federal
appellate courts and U.S. Supreme Court, making sure that the computerized,
GOP-owned vote-counting system stays exactly the way it is, and keeping the
corporate-owned mass-media a willing propaganda tool.
Carrying out all the above will ensure continued GOP control of the three
branches of government, and the Fourth Estate of the mass-media. And assures
that the GOP and their corporate supporters will make out like bandit$.
THE KEY IS PERMANENT WAR
To smooth the way for a successful campaign on both the foreign and domestic
fronts, the Administration must continue its policy of permanent war (the
never-ending "war on terrorism") in order to keep the populace in a state of
constant anxiety and willing to grant the "Commander-in-Chief" pretty much
whatever he wants in foreign/military policy, and in the domestic
curtailment of constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties under the Bill of
Rights. (There definitely are bad guys out there, but our government doesn't
have to shred the Constitution while going after them.)
If I'm correct in my supposition here, that means that many of the other
programs, policies, nominees and stated goals of the Bush Administration
are, in a sense, little more than political "chaff," weapons of mass
Don't get me wrong. Bush/Cheney/Rove would love to get the Social Security
"reform" package passed, would love to open up the pristine refuge of ANWAR
to oil and gas drilling, would love to pass more corporation-protection
bills, would love to get the more extremist judges and other nominees
approved, and so on. But, even if they aren't able to ram all or any of
these programs, policies and nominees through Congress, they would have
served their ancillary purpose of deflecting Democratic and citizen
attention and energies away from Bush&Co.'s core goals, as stated above.
It's the old magician's sleight-of-hand trick: fast patter while making the
observers focus on where you want their attention directed. You get them to
concentrate on your hand moving the red scarf, but your other hand is hiding
or doing something much more important and interesting -- or criminal.
FALLING FOR THE FEINT
So here are the Democrats ranting and raving about the Bush Administration's
Social Security "reform" lies and deceptions, about the environmental rape
of the Alaskan refuge for a small amount of oil, about these ten extremist
judge nominees, about the crass intrusion of GOP politics into a deeply
personal medical tragedy in the Schiavo family, and so on.
Meanwhile: the war in Iraq rages on, fueled by U.S. military's
neo-colonialist brutalities visited upon the local population, plus the
humiliations and tortures of its men, women and children when detained in
prison. Syria appears to be next on the U.S. hit list or maybe Iran or even
the popular, democratically-elected government of oil-rich Venezuela. Bush
isn't pressuring Israel to do what's necessary to make way for a viable
Palestinian state. The national debt is ballooning into trillions and
trillions, thus further reducing the diminishing social services available
to the middle class and poor, etc.
Again, don't get me wrong. Democrats, moderate Republicans, progressives of
all stripes need to stand up against virtually all of these initiatives and
extremist nominees of the Bush Administration, but we can't risk getting
mesmerized by the sleight-of-hand moves so that we ignore the larger issues
and immense damage being done. MoveOn.org, for example, is not activating
its millions of members to call for removal of U.S. troops ASAP from Iraq --
a bad sign, that.
BUSH'S "VICTORY" IN THE MIDDLE EAST
We also have to guard against falling into the definitional "frame" the
Republicans use when discussing their programs and policies.
For example, the Bush spin is that, because of America's forthright,
in-your-face policies in the Middle East, especially its invasion and
occupation of Iraq and recent elections there, Bush can claim a major
political "victory" in that explosive region: Lebanon will be joining Iraq
and Afghanistan and the Palestinian Authority in holding elections, Syria
and Iran are backing down from some of their hard-line positions, Egypt and
Saudi Arabia are slowly moving away from their autocratic election style,
the level of violence is at least temporarily down in the Palestine-Israel
struggle, etc. etc.
But, even if the fear of shock&awe attacks were partially responsible for
this outbreak of apparent "democratization" in the Arab Middle East, seeing
America as the progenitor of that momentum would be a wild overstatement and
misreading of the objective situation.
Even the corporate New York Times, which on March 1 editorialized that "the
Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for
many of these [democratic] advances" in the Middle East has had second
In its March 18 edition, the editors now admit that "many of the most
promising signs of change have little to do with Iraq. The peace initiatives
in Israel were made possible when Yasir Arafat died and was replaced by a
braver, more flexible leader. The new determination of the Lebanese people
to throw out their Syrian oppressors was sparked by the assassination of the
Lebanese nationalist, Rafik Hariri, not the downfall of Saddam Hussein. And
in Iraq itself, the voting largely excluded the Sunni minority, without
whose cooperation Iraq will never be anything more than a civil war
battleground or a staging platform for a new dictatorship." For a
fascinating, less-establishment view of this position, see
Juan Cole's "Democracy -- by George?".
BUSH NEO-CONS' "CHAOS THEORY"
Remember those winter-scene paperweights, where you turn them upside down
and watch the snowflakes swirl? The neo-cons leading American
foreign/military policy have picked up the Mideast in similar fashion, are
turning it upside down and shaking it violently, hoping that the resulting
chaos and instability will result in the snowflakes falling in the pro-U.S.
pattern the neo-con theorists have envisioned in their ivory-tower
These are the same guys, remember, who told us about Saddam's supposed
nuclear programs and huge stockpiles of WMD and who said Iraq would be a
cakewalk, with the invading American troops welcomed with kisses and flowers
and full cooperation from a grateful Iraqi populace.
The Bush Administration already has its military forces bogged down in a
Vietnam-like quagmire in Iraq, and yet they're still willing to threaten war
against Iran and Syria. True, both countries have made conciliatory gestures
to the U.S. recently -- Iran pulling back some on its nuclear program, Syria
agreeing, sort of, to withdraw from Lebanon -- but the strategists and
leaders of many of the Islamic countries take a much longer, more patient
view of history.
As did the Vietnamese. The Islamic Middle East countries targeted by the
Bush Administration figure they can outlast the U.S., whose citizenry (as
was the case with the Vietnam War) eventually will tire of the humongous
cost in soldiers and treasury in these inconclusive "pre-emptive" wars --
fought ferociously, and seemingly forever, against nationalist guerrilla
insurgencies -- and choose to take another policy route, perhaps as early as
the next U.S. election.
These Islamic leaders also are quite aware of how thinly the U.S. military
forces are stretched these days, and how unpopular the draft is across the
board in the American population -- and that the Bush campaign vowed never
to re-activate it.
Currently, the targeted Islamic states are doing as little as they can get
away with to keep the U.S. from unleashing its shock&awe tactics on them,
while they seek out alliances (Russia, the EU, maybe China) to give them
some balance-of-power leverage.
Now, let it be understood that many of the Islamic states of the Middle East
indeed are in need of reform and transformation -- if for no other reason
than to combat the backward-looking momentum of fundamentalist know-nothingism
-- but that's not the central problem here. The key question is whether
these countries can modernize on their own, while maintaining their Islamic
character and protecting their natural resources and their national
interests, without being forced to adopt the U.S. plan for their future.
THE RUN-UP BALLET
The Bush Administration has made clear, by its action in Afghanistan and
Iraq, that it is prepared to move unilaterally and militarily in pursuit of
its imperial ambition to secure areas in conflict on its own terms. If
suasion doesn't work, the White House neo-cons say they are ready to go in
with whatever military force it takes to get the job done.
What we're witnessing now is the pre-decision dance. Iran and Syria have to
try to guess how far they can push their national-interest envelopes before
the Bush Administration decides to move on its own (or with Israel's help)
in bombing and overthrowing. The Bush Administration has to decide, based on
its own timeline, how many precious second-term months it is willing to
spend in "diplomacy" and brow-beating before deciding that it is "forced" to
And, let us not forget a key ingredient in that volatile region: Palestine.
If a just and lasting peace can be engineered by the U.S. -- leaning on
Israel to end the Occupation and leave virtually all the West Bank
settlements, and offering a viable, contiguous state for the Palestinians --
then there might well be light at the end of the tunnel in that region.
Attention and energies could then be devoted to the needs and desires of
Israel's Islamic neighbors.
But there's no indication that the U.S. is leaning on Israel to do anything
but trim around the edges of the dispute (leave Gaza, turn over a few small
West Bank towns, etc.). And until Israel comes to believe, or is forced to
accept, that it will never get border security and a major diminution of
terrorist bombings inside its country until it once and for all ends its
Occupation and exits most of the West Bank, the tension in the Greater
Middle East will not significantly diminish.
KEEPING OUR EYES ON THE PRIZE
Those of us who oppose Bush&Co. policies -- liberals, moderate Republicans,
progressives, radicals, the mix of which was evident at the many anti-war
demonstrations over the weekend -- need to remember to focus our energies on
the major criminal/immoral policies of the Administration, while noting the
decoy "chaff" that is being thrown out there to lure us away into
side-skirmishes. Those lesser Bush initiatives are important to resist, to
be sure, as long as we keep in mind what is really going on, what Bush&Co.
really are after.
If some or all of our political attacks weaken the Administration overall --
for example, if Bush&Co. were to suffer an embarrassing defeat on its Social
Security "reform" scam, or if Rove were found to be linked to the outing of
CIA agent Valerie Plame or to the Jeff Gannon scandal in the White House
press corps -- then let's pile on and reveal the Administration's true
motives and political vulnerabilities. But if it's a minor irritant or
distraction, let's give it the attention it's worth and move our focus back
to the major objectives of the Administration and gear up for those huge
Those battles are winnable, though it may take us a while get our renewed
"Movement" infrastructure and financial underpinnings in order, and to build
critical mass in the population. But eventually this reckless, greedy,
power-hungry crew WILL fall, and then the United States can start its climb
back from the dark caves into the light of hope and progress. Let's make it
Copyright 2005 by Bernard Weiner