Let's construct a pair of binoculars out of two quotes that may help us
see more clearly what our current reality looks like and what options
are out there on the November 2008 horizon.
Seen through the right ocular is this doozy by
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; it's from another era (the
early-1970s, to be exact), discussing the socialist government of
Salvador Allende in Chile prior to the military coup that toppled his
"The issues are much too important for the
Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves...I don't see why
we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the
irresponsibility of its people."
Seen through the the left ocular is a recent remark by
liberal Democratic Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey from California, speaking
to a gathering of anti-war activists:
"You folks should go after the Democrats. . . .
Iíd hate to lose the majority, but Iím telling you, if we donít
stand up to our responsibility, maybe thatís the lesson to be
So let's join the two together, adjust the binocular
focus and see what we can learn about where we are in late-2007 and
what's to be done in 2008.
U.S. TRUSTS DEMOCRACY UNTIL...
Kissinger's recommendation for the U.S. to decide, and help arrange for,
the "correct" rulers for other countries should not be surprising. (In
case you've forgotten, Chile's President Allende was overthrown by
rightist forces, with covert U.S. help.) That's what authoritarian
ideologues do. Why? Because they are convinced they hold the patents on
Truth and Righteousness and thus are permitted, nea required, to play
God with other peoples' lives.
Bush carries it even further, since
that God told him to invade Iraq.
And now, the supposedly "sovereign" government of Iraq is under firm
orders from Bush to meet the "benchmarks" for stability, reconciliation,
oil-revenue sharing, etc., or else. The "or else" is clear. If al-Maliki
can't or won't do it, he will be replaced by a more U.S.-friendly
Yes, we made a thorough mess of the situation from
the first moment we invaded and set up our occupation. Yes, your
civilians are dying by the hundreds each week, sometimes each day,
because we removed your dictator but without moving fast enough to
establish law and order and police presence and governmental
institutions. Yes, we disbanded your army and thus sent hundreds of
thousands of young, armed men into the streets without jobs or
compensation. Yes, several million of your best and brightest
citizens have emigrated from the charnel house that is Iraq.
And because we are responsible for a good share of all this misery
and slaughter, we're going to stay another ten years until YOU get
Oh, by the way, we're considering arranging for the division of your
country into three distinct parts -- Shia, Sunni, Kurds -- but
you'll love it. No need to fret: It's for your own good.
BEWARE OF "TRUTH" ZEALOTS
What's happening in Iraq, using the Kissinger quote as an example, is
not unique to the CheneyBush Administration, nor to the United States of
America. Self-righteous zealots, infused with "The Truth," have been
galloping over the historical landscape for millennia, causing death and
destruction whenever and wherever they decide to conquer and rule other
peoples "for their own good." (At least that's the public rationale;
privately, it's most often greed for territory and natural resources,
attempts to control unstable geopolitical situations, vendettas for
perceived injustices, etc. etc.)
But because such invasions and occupations have been going on for
millennia doesn't make them any more acceptable when we Americans do it,
especially so in the Iraq case since that war clearly was based on lies
and deceptions. And it was carried out with the U.S. having no "Plan B"
for nation-building amidst an anti-occupation insurgency and a
concurrent civil war as the various sectarian and religious groups
jockeyed for power and control.
Bush, in his televised address last week, made it clear that there will
be no major change of course in Iraq; he'll withdraw the "surge"
brigades that were scheduled to be rotated out anyway, and leave
130,000-plus troops still in occupation for a good, long while, at least
five and maybe 10 or 20 more years, a la South Korea. (Incidentally,
this Korea analogy is total B.S., since there was no countrywide
occupation there, no guerrillas who wanted us out.) Bush seems to be
suggesting that the administrations that follow him, despite any
professed intentions to pull back from Iraq, will find that he has so
FUBAR-ed the situation in Iraq that they will be hogtied to the original
Bush policy, with little chance for escape.
THE MORPHING OF THE PARTIES
The election of 2008 could lead to an historic re-alignment of the two
major political parties, from the inside.
The activist Democratic base, thoroughly angered by how they are
disrespected and taken for granted while the leadership directs the
party down traditional paths of centrist and center-right policies, is
starting to loudly grumble about that leadership and the party's
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, after refusing to put impeachment
back "on the table" and being overly timid in her anti-war moves, will
have to face off with activist Cindy Sheehan in her home San Francisco
district next November. Other wishy-washy or Blue Dog Democrats will
face primary challengers from the progressive wing of the party.
And here, as noted above, we have progressive Congresswoman Woolsey more
or less urging the base to purify the party by knocking off
That's pretty strong stuff, suggesting that the Democrats won't move off
their centrist dime until they are smacked upside the head by the base
deciding to abandon the party, which could result in the Democrats
losing their majority in the House.
WHAT THE DEMS COULD DO
Woolsey's heated rhetoric may be ill-advised, but Democratic Party
leaders would be foolish to ignore its genesis. Based on conversations
this writer has had with numerous progressive Democrats around the
country, backed up by recent national polls and letters to the editors
and on the call-in radio shows, Woolsey is by no means alone in her
The basis for this point of view lies in the results of the November
2006 election, when the voters overwhelming put the Democrats in charge
in the House and Senate to make major changes, especially in the conduct
and longevity of the war in Iraq. It's now nearly a year later, and the
Democrats are doing virtually nothing in the way of stopping the coming
attack on Iran, and have done little or nothing except pass non-binding
resolutions on the Iraq occupation.
If they were to act like a true party of opposition, they could pass a
resolution explicity forbidding an attack on Iran, absent an imminent
threat to America. They could pass a House bill authorizing funds only
to protect the troops as they leave Iraq. They could, by mustering 41
votes in the Senate, cut off funding for the war except to protect the
troops as they exit Iraq. But, under Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader
Reid, they don't; their major aim seems to be to water down bills aimed
at Bush's war in order to attract enough wavering Republicans to join
them. It's conceivable such bills might pass, but they would be
ineffective in doing anything other than telling Bush how tenuous his
support is in the Congress, something he already knows.
THE REPUBLICAN PARTY COULD CHANGE
There is a huge chunk of the Republican Party that is, and has been for
some time, appalled by the hijacking of their party by far-right
ideologues who are eager for military adventures abroad, repressive
measures at home, and spending the treasury into humongous deficits. For
lack of a better term, let's refer to these alienated Republicans as
comprising the "realist" wing of the GOP.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California recently told his fellow
Republicans that unless the GOP moves back toward the center, it would
risk becoming a permanent minority party in state and national
Alan Greenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve, a true
conservative Republican, finally has expressed another part of that
"According to the Wall Street Journal, the former
Federal Reserve chairman writes [in his upcoming memoir] that the
GOP deserved to lose power in Congress last fall because it
abandoned its small-government principles and let the budget get out
"Congressional Republicans 'swapped principle for power,' he wrote.
'They ended up with neither. They deserved to lose." And though he
urged Bush to veto bills to exercise fiscal discipline, the
president did not follow through, and that was a 'major mistake'."
So you've got more and more Republicans, including many
high-ranking Pentagon and intelligence officers, angry at the Cheneyist
neo-cons for putting the military and U.S. national interests in
jeopardy with their reckless foreign adventures; you've got
small-government stalwarts angry at the disastrous, big-spending
economic policies of the Bush Administration; you've got libertarians
and moderates angry at the shredding of Constitutional protections and
the police-state spying and other civil-liberties violations; etc.
In short, there is a huge center/center-right wedge of the GOP that,
looking at the Bush-lite candidates being offerred, might well sit on
their hands on Election Day 2008 or potentially could be lured to vote
for a third-party candidate. (In one recent poll, "none of the above"
was the winner among Republican voters.)
On the other side, as we've seen, there is a huge progressive bloc in
the Democratic Party that similarly is likewise turned off the leading
candidate currently in the race. If Hillary Clinton were to be
nominated, they, too, might choose to sit out the November 2008
election, or could be ripe for a truly dynamic third-party candidate.
Is there such a populist, charmistic candidate who might make a race of
it by uniting the disenchanted Dems and Reps? Or, more likely, the
question should be (reminiscent of when Ross Perot mounted a strong
third-part run in 1992, or Ralph Nader in 2000), which party would most
benefit by a serious three-way race in 2008?
Right now, the public is so averse to Republicans -- due to the
never-ending war in Iraq, to the financial, political and sexual
scandals, to the deficient candidates running for the nomination -- that
the Democratic candidate potentially could take the victory outright,
even with a third party running a nominee. But it's not outside the
realm of possibility that the Republican candidate could slide by in a
three-way race, since the activist Dem base -- who ring the doorbells,
drive voters to the polls, and supply millions in donations -- might
well abandon the Democrats and split their energies elsewhere.
So let's take a final look through the binoculars above and see what our
situation looks like in late-September 2007.
If the political situation stays much the same on the ground in Iraq,
which certainly seems likely, and if the Democrats don't force a change
in mission, which also seems likely, and if the U.S. attacks Iran, which
appears to be a certainty within the next few months, the U.S. will be
seen as continuing its imperial, self-righteous, bullying policies.
Translation: More fuel for the recruiting of suicide-bombers, more
terrorism directed at the U.S., an even lower reputation in
international circles, more danger to America's national interests.
If each of the two major parties nominates someone who is anethema to
the base of that party, those segments might split away and either form
a loosely-knit third-party, or join with the Greens or whomever, thus
throwing the 2008 election into confusion and/or hope, depending on the
outcome you desire. It's possible the two major parties would undergo
significant internal shakeups and realignments, and that a viable third
party might emerge, even if it doesn't elect a candidate in 2008.
May we live in interesting times, indeed.
Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner