Surging Towards Bethlehem:
...Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
W. B. Yeats, "The Second Coming"
In the Vietnam-War era, which was the crucible of activism for my generation, we had a devil of a time trying to get the Democratic Party to recognize the necessity for withdrawing our troops from that ill-advised, unwinnable war. With regard to Bush's misadventure in Iraq, it turns out not all that much has changed.
The midterm election and many polls since have clearly demonstrated that Americans recognize that Bush's Iraq policy is and has been a thoroughgoing disaster -- from taking us into war based on lies and deceptions to the way the Occupation has been totally mismanaged. Our troops are now caught in the middle of a brutal sectarian civil war. But the Democrats appear to be divided about how to proceed: give Bush one last chance to "win," whatever that may mean, or start pulling out our troops while we still can with at least a shred of dignity.
Given this situation, the time for politeness, for speaking around the truth, is gone. Civility yes, holding one's tongue, no.
Not while more and more young Americans are dying in Iraq, 3000 to date, with an estimated 25,000 maimed; not while up to 3000 innocent Iraqi civilians are being slaughtered every month; not while billions of dollars each month (half-a-trillion! total so far) are being siphoned from the U.S. treasury, and vital social programs, to pay for this moral monstrosity of a war.
And definitely not while CheneyBush are determined to send tens of thousands more U.S. troops into Iraq's civil-war hellhole.
The "surge" scenario is one written to satisfy the Administration's political goals, not one expected to change much on the ground in Iraq, which is why so many military leaders are opposed to it. Clearly, the "surge" is a public-relations, fig-leaf operation to cover Bush's embarrassing exposure of mendacity and fecklessness.
REPUBS ARE NERVOUS ABOUT BUSH'S "SURGE"
If we all spoke something like the truths discussed below, our words would not change the minds of the Bush Bunker crowd; they've set their course, and intend to stay that course. But such truths surely are catching the attention of Republican powers-that-be and office-holders, who saw what happened to their ilk in the midterm elections over the Iraq issue. They would like to keep their jobs and influence in 2008 and perhaps have a shot at getting back in power.
It will be those Republicans who are best able to get the message through to the Bush Administration on the necessity for drastic changes in policy -- only a small chance of that happening -- or, even more far out, to get Cheney and Bush to resign. Definitely not going to happen. If it comes to it, they seem willing to take the country and Constitution down with them.
With no major foreign or domestic victories to his credit, Bush's legacy is Iraq, and he doesn't want to leave office with yet another "loser" sign slapped on his back. Ergo: the "surge," one last attempt to stabilize the stalemate in Iraq. Best-case scenario for the Bushistas: something, anything, that can be called a "victory." Alternative best-case scenario for Bush: The "surge" takes two years to fully unfold, and the inevitable U.S. defeat in Iraq happens on the next President's watch.
For the Bush Administration, those two alternatives would be a win-win, and to get there our brave young men and women in uniform will just have to "sacrifice" -- in many cases, their lives -- for the Bush cause.
So here are five truths that need to be aired, and their implications:
1. THE USUAL: IGNORING REALITY
CheneyBush and their cohorts have decided to ignore the voters with regard to Iraq, ignore the military, ignore the troops, ignore the allies, ignore the experts, ignore reality on the ground in that country, and are moving America full-speed over the cliff of catastrophe. As Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden suggested the other day, the Bush Administration is willing to sacrifice thousands of more young American troops as long as it delays the inevitable U.S. retreat from Iraq until after the 2008 election.
And, to sweeten the pot, Bush -- per usual, years late and smarts-short -- is advocating a jobs program for young Iraqi men. Might have worked in 2003, ain't gonna work in 2007. The Bush-botched situation is way beyond that now, deep into outright sectarian warfare.
2. THWARTING THE CHENEY-BUSH POLICY
Since CheneyBush and their court lackeys are determined to try to stalemate the war in Iraq for another two years, and have the power to do so -- fully aware that Iraq is a lost cause (see Biden link above ) --there are only three ways to stop them.
A. Cut off funding for the escalation. Speaker Pelosi and Rep. John Murtha are flirting with this idea of putting restrictions on the use of appropriations for the Iraq War. This in order to make sure that funds are spent for the drawing down of U.S. troop levels, rather than for the introduction of more soldiers. And, to avoid the charge of "not supporting our troops," the Democrats will continue to fund the soldiers currently in Iraq.
Congress could pass a bill requiring that the Administration consult with the appropriate committees before major shifts of policy occur in Iraq. Bush might veto, or ignore, such a resolution, of course, but at least he'd be on the record as impeding the effort to close down a war that the American public, in the election and in poll after poll, has decided is not worth continuing.
B. Impeach Bush and Cheney for their high crimes and misdemeanors, which would include their lying and deceiving Congress and the American people into supporting the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq and the escalation of the war in 2007.
Impeachment may or may not have traction at first, but it will grow as the congressional committees, chaired now by Dems, hold hearings on Bush policy and corruptions; besides, if the Administration is forced to deal full-time with impeachment, they will have less time and energy to focus on getting involved in mischief elsewhere.
C. Refuse to participate in this politically-motivated escalation of the Iraq War. Rather than waiting to be fired for indicating that the "temporary" surge (which rightwingers correctly define as at least 18 months and probably longer) is a reckless, doomed idea, let there be mass resignations at the Pentagon, with the generals and colonels publicly denouncing the escalation madness.
To stanch the flow of increasing opposition, Bush and Cheney have cleared the Administration's decks of anybody but pro-escalation loyalists; Generals Abizaid and Casey, both of whom have questioned the wisdom of escalation, are gone, and perhaps the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who reportedly are leery of implementing a politically-motivated "surge," may be on the chopping block next. Public support for the "surge" is at about 11%; not even Bush's base is buying in.
Republican politicians already are out there with their opposition, and it's not just conservatives Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith and Norm Coleman anymore. Hard-Rightists Ollie North and Heather Wilson, for example, also have come out against Bush's "surge" scam.
As that snowball of public opposition rolls down the political slope, more Republican leaders will have "cover" to denounce CheneyBush's war policies. More troops in-country or those ordered to Iraq likely would refuse to participate in a war the generals themselves -- as well as many of their civilian bosses in the Administration -- have abandoned as unwinnable.
The refusal of Lieutenant Ehren Watada to return to Iraq is just the tip of the iceberg of resistance inside the officer corps, and among the rank-and-file troops as well: Hundreds of on-duty soldiers have signed a petition calling for "redress," urging the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq.
3. IRAN IN THE CROSSHAIRS
It's clear that the neo-con goal of changing the geopolitical face of the Middle East, by threat or use of force, remains in place as the operating principle of the Bush Administration. Iran and maybe Syria are still in the crosshairs. If the bombing of Iran's nuclear facilities does not happen in the next few months, either by the U.S. and/or ally Israel, it is being planned for before Bush leaves office. This may explain why an admiral is taking over the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, supplanting Abizaid at Central Command: the navy will be tactically important in any move on Iran.
4. CHENEY-BUSH POLICY ENDANGERS AMERICA
Not only is CheneyBush policy endangering our national interests abroad -- U.S. actions are the best recruiting tools for expanding extremist jihadi ranks -- but America's military is stretched way too thin for the country's good. The Reserves and National Guard are being overused in Iraq to the point of angry frustration and exhaustion, and Army/Marine recruiters are told to get new bodies into the training pipeline however they can: huge bonuses, lowering the moral and educational and psychological requirements, going abroad for foreign soldiers for hire -- even, I kid you not, asking those already slain in battle in Iraq to sign up for a new hitch! (Yes, of course, the last named was a bureaucratic screw-up, but symbolically it seems quite in keeping with the Bush Administration's overall tendency to FUBAR whatever they touch.)
5. OUR FREEDOMS ARE ENDANGERED SPECIES
Our freedoms, supposedly what we're fighting to protect, have been snatched from us, mostly in secret, by the Bush Administration. The concept of habeas corpus -- of justifying to a court why someone has been arrested -- is dead. The right to a jury trial: dead. The prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment (i.e., torture): dead. Attorney-client confidentiality: dead. Guaranteed access to a lawyer: dead. Right of privacy in one's home: dead. Letter and email privacy: dead. And so on. All these police-state actions are in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Articles of the Bill of Rights.
Under a cockamamie theory that a president can ignore or violate laws whenever he claims he's acting as "commander-in-chief" during "wartime," Bush has: authorized secret "disappearances" and tortures of suspected "terrorists," including American citizens; has established a network of secret CIA prisons around the world; has authorized "extraordinary renditions" of suspects to countries that specialize in especially brutal torture. Police agents can enter your home, tap your phones, peek into your computer and emails (and now snail-mail) -- and are not required to present a court warrant or even tell you that you are being subjected to an investigation. The Constitution is in shreds.
The Republican Party for most of its modern life (especially after Waco) has been vehemently opposed to the federal government amassing too much police power in its hands. But this White House crew these days is after as much power as it can get its hands on -- and is aided in this by their GOP lackeys in Congress and in the corporate-owned mass-media -- and has created huge bureaucracies to snoop and spy on its own citizens.
SO WHAT'S TO BE DONE?
Ordinary Americans have to see politics less as a once-every-election activity and more as an ongoing, daily campaign to save our country. That means actively opposing the worst of CheneyBush policies, of course, but it also means constantly letting Democratic leaders and our members of Congress know how we feel about their vacillations and timidity; we must hold their feet to the fire and demand that they truly act differently than the Republicans -- not just with regard to Iraq but to a whole host of domestic and foreign issues, where all too often they have caved in the past and let Karl Rove and his minions roll all over them.
No more. The issues for which we're fighting are far too important for us to slip back into our lethargic, let-someone-else-do-it mode. Keeping democracy alive and well ultimately is up to us, each of us.
In the Vietnam-War era, five different presidents were told by their national-security experts that there was no chance for the U.S. to win a stalemated war with guerrillas in that country, but those presidents persisted in the disastrous folly anyway. More than 54,000 U.S. troops and an estimated two million Vietnamese died in the slaughter before the Americans conceded that they had made a terrible error. Unless the Democrats, and the rest of us, step up now to stop Bush's nonsensical escalation of the Iraq War, a similar catastrophe awaits.
The Democrats have to be warned in no uncertain terms about their responsibilities with regard to rescuing our troops in Iraq. Either act as an authentic Opposition Party should, or risk being abandoned in 2008 by the activist base that returned them to power. Perhaps the prospect of the incumbent Democrats reverting to non-relevancy, with the Republicans back in the majority with their boots once again on the Dems' necks, may finally concentrate their minds on what American voters sent them to Washington to do.
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). To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org .