On the Lip of the Vortex:
Surging to Disaster
By Bernard Weiner,
The Crisis Papers
February 13, 2007
My investigative-reporter hero from the 1950s and '60s, I. F. Stone, told
me decades later that he delighted in finding news nuggets not in
front-page articles but buried deep inside, sometimes in the closing
paragraphs, of mass-media stories.
This observation has served me well in doing political analysis over the
years. It has helped me figure out how best to read articles, and has
reinforced my theory of news reporting as too often being
sleight-of-hand entertainment: distracting your eyes and mind while the
real object for scrutiny is secreted elsewhere.
Indeed, one could carry the argument even further: Politics
distraction, often a weapon of mass-distraction. Usually, government
officials and their P.R. toadies want you to look one place while they
carry out their dirty deeds somewhere else.
What made me think about all this was the little-talked-about subject
generally missing from, or on occasion hidden deep inside, stories about
Bush's military "surge" into Iraq.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
The government's (and mass-media's) short version is that Bush's "surge"
probably won't work, but as a last-ditch effort it's worth trying.
The missing piece: Even if by some stroke of luck, Bush's escalation of
the war started tamping down the sectarian violence in Baghdad, there is
no concomitant political plan in place, not even in the idea stages.
It's all ad hoc illusioning, a faith-based initiative hoping that
somehow, some stability will emerge in Iraq out of the war-magician's
Other than hoping and praying that the Sunnis and Shias and Kurds will
put down their arms and forget their many generations and centuries of
distrust and hatred -- and their greed for the oil-money and
reconstruction cash-cow -- there is no new initiative on the political
front in Iraq.
There is indeed a "political plan" of sorts associated with the war's
escalation -- but it has nothing to do with what's happening on the
ground in Iraq. Rather, the "surge" is designed to save Bush and Cheney
and Gates and Rice and the rest of the crew down there in the White
House Bunker from acute embarrassment, and from political/legal
liability as the situation gets more and more disastrous in Iraq. Their
hope is to stalemate the war and somehow stagger their way past the 2008
FAILING ON BOTH FRONTS
So, let's summarize. It seems clear that Bush's "surge" probably isn't
going to work militarily -- even Defense Secretary Gates has told
Congress that he's already started planning for that possibility in
Iraq's bloody civil war. (There is reasoned speculation in D.C. that the
Administration is even considering dividing Iraq into three
ethnic/religious federated states, an idea that was anathema to them
And why should one even hope for success in this new escalation? The
CheneyRumsfeldBush war administration blew all chances of a "victory" in
Iraq years ago with the way they took the U.S. into war based on lies
and deceit, and with no-postwar planning, and then through their
thoroughly corrupt and incompetent Occupation policies, complete with
And, as many have noted, the escalation of the war -- not just in Iraq,
but likely expanding also to Iran -- is destined to fail also because
the Bush Administration is placing virtually all its chips on the use of
military force. Scant, if any, attention has been paid to the political
and diplomatic options that are out there: encouraging a regional
approach to a solution, engaging United Nations' peacekeeping forces,
negotiating with the insurgent groups about the modalities of a safe
U.S. withdrawal, etc.
DEALING WITH WORLD-CLASS BULLIES
So, if the analysis above is correct, what is to be done?
CheneyBushRove don't seem to give a flying fig whether you or I or the
Congress or their own generals or the Iraqis themselves think the Bush
Administration is nuts escalating the war and also preparing to bomb
Iran. Try to stop me, coppers!
It's the approach of bullies from time immemorial: I don't follow the
same rules as you do; get out of my way. It's worked for Karl Rove and
Dick Cheney and George Bush for six years, so they're ratcheting up
their in-your-face approach for the tail end of their tenure in the
White House. Their approval numbers are so low, they may figure they
haven't got much to lose.
Cheney, the prime-mover in this foreign adventuring, seems to exist in a
world all his own, a dank cave that you'd best stay away from, if you
know what's good for you. This week, probably to protect his darkest
secrets about his role in the Libby/Plame case and other such White
House horrors, he asserted that he doesn't have to follow any of the
rules, not even Presidential Executive Orders. He claims he's outside
any legal restraints. See the ugly details at
Kos and at
Per usual, the ostensible Opposition Party seems thrown back on its
heels and at least temporarily immobilized by this aggressive approach
by the Republicans. The Democrats' presidential hopefuls are running
around in different directions, personal ambition taking precedence over
stopping the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home ASAP.
While the Republicans manufacture and endlessly hype phony-baloney
"issues" (Pelosi's plane size, Edwards' offensive bloggers, Obama's
alleged "Islamic" roots, etc.), and while the mass-media seem mesmerized
by the death of an untalented ex-Playboy bunny and the soap-opera of a
jilted astronaut in diapers, there are hundreds real people -- American
troops and Iraqi civilians -- being slaughtered and maimed in Iraq each
The Democrats seem content to take their time dealing with the issue of
extracting our troops and in condemning Bush's reckless, dangerous
escalation of sending more young American soldiers into Iraq. Shame on
the Dems! And their timidity could even prove to be disastrous
politically, as they will have the blood of "surged" American troops on
their hands for the 2008 campaign, making Iraq no longer just Bush's
The American public is not, and history will not be, especially
interested in the actual wording of a war resolution, one that is
non-binding in any case. Three weeks of verbal dilly-dallying. The
voters just want American forces to leave, as quickly as is humanly
possible. And they don't want another war to start in Iran. If truth be
known, they just want Bush and Cheney to leave the premises.
If it takes the House cutting off funds for anything
other than to facilitate the "redeployment" of U.S. forces out of
Iraq, then let's get to it.
If it takes the introduction of a bill forbidding
Bush to attack Iran without Congressional approval -- and explicitly
noting that if he bombs anyway, that act automatically will trigger
impeachment -- then let's get to it.
(And, in case you haven't noticed, the bomb-Iran war-wheels are
being greased and the same templates of lies and deceptions are
being hauled out yet again, just like they were prior to "shock&awe"
in Iraq. The Administration is trying to provoke a bellicose act by
Iran -- it is now moving a third naval group into the Persian Gulf
area -- since there is no imminent threat Iran poses to the United
States to justify a massive bombing attack. Anonymous intelligence
figures asserting that Iran is supplying some arms to Shia militias
in Iraq hardly qualifies as a causus belli (and hasn't been
proven to be true, in any case), since Saudia Arabia is allegedly
doing much the same thing for the Sunnis in Iraq.)
If it takes impeachment hearings to remove the
shadow president, Mr. Cheney, and the acting president, Mr. Bush,
then let's get to it.
What these guys are doing to America's standing in the
world, to our country's national security, to the Constitution, amounts
to felony reckless-endangerment. They swore to uphold and defend the
nation and its Constitution and its citizens and instead they have put
us all in harm's way, making us more likely than not to undergo
catastrophic consequences because of their foolish, ignorant
misunderstanding of the world.
They must go. Honorable men would resign. These guys are in no way
They're on the lip of the vortex and they don't seem to care if they
suction everyone else with them as they take the downward swirl. It's
long past time to ratchet up the dissent. Let's get to it.
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: email@example.com .