Playing Chicken on the Big Stage
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
April 2, 2007
I thought "Shallow Throat" would be positively giddy, given how the
Administration's disastrous war policies and ongoing scandals are
painting CheneyBush into a tighter and tighter political corner.
But the high-ranking GOP mole inside the corridors of federal power
looked anything but exultant as we walked at fast pace around the track
at a local Virginia park.
"What's going on?" I asked ST, who was wearing a new wig and large dark
shades. "Gonzales' days are waning at DOJ, the number two guy at
Interior is heading for the clink, the public overwhelmingly has turned
against the war in Iraq, Libby was convicted for the lies he told about
the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, the Abramoff corruption story
continues giving, etc. etc. Am I missing something here? Where's the
negative in all this?"
Per usual, Shallow Throat looked at me like I was a dummy. "Sure, the
Bush bunker crew are cornered and hassled and in potential legal
trouble. But you 'progressives' don't see what's really going on. The
Bush cabal still, and for nearly two years more will, control the
Defense and Justice Departments and much of the court structure,
including the Supreme Court. The damage they can do is humongous.
"But they're wild-eyed in their rush to escape possible criminal
indictments or impeachment. The Bush approval numbers are so low,
everything looks up to them. They're in so much trouble, they feel they
have nothing to lose. Cornered, wounded animals are always at their most
dangerous, since threatening and attacking is about all they have left
to save themselves. And that's what they're doing now."
ROVE: THE ATTACK MEISTER
"But they're on the defensive," I countered. "They are increasingly
dysfunctional in the White House these days."
"That's what I mean," Shallow Throat roared. "After six years, you still
forget that Karl Rove always attacks when they're most vulnerable,
usually aimed at the perceived strengths of his opponents.
"I'll get to how this translates to Iraq and Iran in a moment. But for
now, let's just talk about the U.S. Attorneys scandal.
"So follow this out. The Democrats have been gaining political traction
by pointing out the election fraud that took place in 2000, 2002, 2004
and 2006: easily manipulated computer-voting machines, inflated tallies,
ballots gone missing, GOP-friendly corporations counting the votes,
hundreds of thousands of minority voters stricken from the rolls, key
states' returns altered, etc. etc. So Rove is seeming to grab the same
issue. That's partially what the U.S. Attorneys scandal is all about:
claiming that these U.S. Attorneys were forced out because they weren't
moving on 'vote fraud' charges. They--"
"Hang on," I interrupted. "I'm confused here. How does the
Administration's 'vote fraud' issue differ from the Democrats' 'election
THE KEY IS THE 2008 ELECTION
"Don't go for the spin moves, Bernie, stay focused on the ball," said
Shallow Throat. "The term 'vote fraud,' which would seem to be aimed at
alleged electoral hanky-panky, for Rove&Co. really refers to creating
electoral conditions that favor Republicans and diminish Democrat
turnout. GOP operatives claim that huge hordes of ineligible individuals
(mainly poor and minorities) cheat in order to vote, and their aim is to
make it harder for those groups, who tend to vote Democratic, to cast
their ballots. Rove wants U.S. attorneys to start bringing cases against
Democrat voter-registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns, so that by
November 2008, the GOP will have a leg up in key states and districts.
"And, per usual when you're dealing with Rove-initiated dirty tricks, it
doesn't matter that there is little or no truth to the 'vote-fraud'
charges. You indict somebody, you make it sound like the Democrats are
engaged in massive illegal actions, you pound that big-lie technique for
months leading up to the election -- and, voila!, the Dems are tied up
in court cases and many voters who might otherwise vote Democrat start
backing away from them and/or Democrat leaders have to divert their
funds and energies away from their usual campaigns.
"Take a good look at which U.S. Attorneys were fired. In the main, they
come from key, toss-up states for the 2008 election."
"Let me get this straight," I averred. "You're saying that for two years
at least, the Bush Administration, realizing their potential electoral
and criminal vulnerabilities, have been working on ways to protect
themselves in the legal system and that the firing of the U.S. Attorneys
and replacing them with
'loyal Bushies' (to use the term in an email to Rove) was a key part
of the strategy?"
WAKE UP AND SMELL THE ROT
"You finally got it. Wake up and smell the rot, my friend. They've
packed the appellate courts, and the Supreme Court, with their own
ideologically-friendly judges. And, by removing U.S. Attorneys who won't
question the Bush party line they accomplish at least two things: 1.
provide a clear warning to other U.S. Attorneys they've left in place to
bedevil the Democrats and lay off Republican miscreants or go look
elsewhere for employment, and 2. put their brand of U.S. Attorneys in
position in key states that could well determine the 2008 winner, thus
affecting Democrat turnout and the issue of potential presidential
"The way you tell it," I responded, "you make the whole thing sound so
sordid and partisan. Isn't it possible that the conspiracy tale you're
weaving is way overdrawn? And, by the way, you promised you'd talk about
Iraq along the way here."
"Will do. But the point here is that you don't know these guys the way I
do," Shallow Throat said. "I work with them every day and can confirm
that they care about nothing but hanging on to their own power, and how
they can use it for their own personal, financial or ideological ends.
"Look at how they totally FUBARed Iraq, using it as a corporate
money-drain, putting inexperienced and incompetent political hacks into
positions of great power in the Occupation regime. Look at how, in
violation of the Hatch Act, they used the
General Services Administration to aid Republican Party candidates.
Look at how, so that they wouldn't have to turn over White House phone
and email records to the investigating Democrat committees, they've been
using the Republican National Committee email address and their personal
"In short, the situation is actually much worse than appears on the
surface. We're talking about a de facto criminal enterprise here, a
political mob approach to governance. And nothing will change at the top
until we get Cheney and Bush and Rove and the rest of the White House
bunker crew out of there and, one can hope, into prison suits so that
the next administration, Republican or Democrat, will never try anything
like that again."
PURGING TO DISASTER IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
"So, the obvious question," I said: "Is Gonzales political road kill? Is
he out of there?"
"They are resisting pushing him out with all their might," said Shallow
Throat. "He's the ultimate insider, and knows where all the bodies are
buried, so to speak. They're trying to protect him -- and thus
themselves -- by tossing his subordinates overboard as sacrificial
lambs, whoever it takes to stanch the hemorrhaging.
"But, if the purging scandal of the U.S. Attorneys gets really
desperate, Gonzo will go, keep his mouth shut, take the rap, get
sentenced, and get pardoned."
"SURGING" TO DISASTER IN IRAQ & IRAN
"Can we finally get to the Middle East now? You suggested earlier that
the CheneyBush Administration was flailing about dangerously in
international adventures there that are tied in to their political
survival strategy as well. Can you say more about that?"
"Surely you see what's going on. Internationally, the Administration
escalates the war in Iraq, and is preparing to attack Iran. All this
while the Democrats pass timid resolutions about bringing the troops
home, with no real teeth to them, the effect of which is to keep those
soldiers there another year or more. The Dems win symbolic victories,
but the war expands in Iraq and is about to expand all over the Middle
East with imminent U.S./Israel moves on Iran."
"But the Dems have passed bills that could cut off funds for the Iraq
war," I said. "That action has teeth to it. What about that?"
"We shall see what bill finally emerges from the Senate and House
conference. My guess is that a lot of those teeth will go missing in the
process, as the Dems don't want to be blamed for 'not supporting the
troops' sent to Iraq for the 'surge'. And, after removing mention of
Iran from their funding bill, they have yet to address the pending Iran
attack at all."
PIN THE TAIL ON THE DONKEYS
"The saddest aspect of that 'surge' policy in Iraq," Shallow Throat
continued, "is that those in the inner White House circle are fully
aware that it probably won't work. But the underlying motivation is to
postpone the inevitable until after the November 2008 election. If
there's going to be a defeat, it will not be on this administration's
watch. If the Democrats win in 2008, let them clean up our mess and take
the blame for the defeat -- that's the general idea.
"Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld placed all their chips on Iraq, conquering
and then supposedly converting that pivot-country to a
demonstration-model for the rest of the oil-rich Middle East. They've
got huge personal and political investments in their plan not failing,
so they continue dreaming and fantasizing that they can stay there for a
good number of years and emerge with something they can call a
'victory.' But, deep down, they realize they've messed it up real bad.
So now it's blame time: pin the defeat-tail on the donkeys (the
Democrats), Iraqis, the Iranians, anybody but themselves.
"The problem is, of course, that the American people have awakened from
their political slumber, as they demonstrated in the election of
November 2006, and have awarded responsibility for the Iraq disaster
right where it belongs: on the CheneyBush Administration and their GOP
lackeys in the Congress."
THE CRAZINESS OF ATTACKING IRAN
"And what about attacking Iran?," I asked. "Surely the Administration is
not that lunatic."
"Well, you and I thought much the same before Bush launched 'shock&awe'
in 2003, didn't we? The U.S. and Israel and Brits are trying to provoke
the Iranians into some sort of inflammatory military action, so that
they can respond with overwhelming firepower. It's not outside the realm
of possibility that the Brits deliberately sent their sailors into
Iranian waters in order to create an eventual causus belli. The
Iranians, horribile dictu seem to have taken the bait and are
behaving as if they're hell-bent on provoking the U.S., E.U., U.N.,
Brits, Israelis, everyone into taking extreme sanction action against
them, and likely military action as well. The U.S. response would
probably be an intense bombing campaign to set back Iran's fledgling
nuclear research and conventional arms-building programs for at least a
decade or more. Some Russian military sources have even supplied a date
for the coming attack: around April 6th.
"Giant games of chicken are being played out here. The U.S. is guessing
that the Iranians will back off to avoid having their country's
military/industrial infrastructure destroyed. The Iranians are betting
that the U.S., its military stretched so thin in Afghanistan and Iraq
and elsewhere around the globe, won't dare attack it or, if those
bombing raids come, won't be supported by America's usual allies.
"Either way, if the U.S. attacks, Iran becomes a popular martyr in the
Greater Middle East, the one nation that stood up to the big American
bully and its one ally in the region, Israel. And there may be immense
ramifications inside Iraq as well: the majority Shia population could
well rise up en masse against the American occupiers to help defend Shia
"Yes, you would think that not even the CheneyBush Administration would
be crazy enough to launch yet another war, when Afghanistan is
re-exploding and Iraq is an ongoing disaster. But Bush probably would go
for it, hoping that the American public would rally behind the
'commander-in-chief' during 'wartime,' giving him enough political
wiggle room to avoid the impeachment noose dangling over his head.
"It's going to be an extremely tense and interesting next few months.
I'll see you down the line and let you know what it feels like from the
inside of this Administration. Right now, it's just scary."
And with that, Shallow Throat jogged around the track and out the exit
on the other side. I had to sit down, my knees were wobbling so much.
Copyright 2007, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught
government & international relations at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two
decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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