When Josh Marshall asked Joseph Wilson for an honest assessment of the situation in Iraq, he responded, "I think we 're fucked ". And despite the pathetic attempts to portray Wilson as a partisan mudslinger, the truth is that here was a veteran statesman, a former ambassador to Iraq, stating not that things had the potential to go wrong, but that they already had gone wrong, possibly beyond repair. Only a few months ago the Council on Foreign Relations, an institution with a traditional conservative/ centrist bent and on a mission ordained by the administration, argued that the window for success in Iraq would be open for ... a few months.
The point here is that it is time to entertain the possibility that the window for success in Iraq in the near future has, in fact, closed. And while the administration is still demonstrating fits of internal dissent on how and to what to degree they should pursue international assistance, and while they seem to have managed to dig out an uninspiring resolution at the UN, that discussion may have quietly become moot. The UN has always been viewed by Iraqis as somewhat of an extension of the US, since the main force behind the UN sanctions was the US, and at this point even a complete handover of power to the UN would give the appearance that the UN was little more than a proxy. More importantly, even optimistic hopes for additional international troops have hovered around 20,000, hardly a tide-turning number amidst 160,000 Americans. Above all, it is hard to imagine how terrorist resistance can possibly be stamped out, and more and more Iraq threatens to become every bit as intractable as the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
And having seen all of its supposed motivations revealed as the absurdities they always were, the administration has dared to resort publicly to the neocon sophistry about "transforming the Middle East ". But it should be plain for all to see that the Project for a New American Century, the American Enterprise Institute, and the rest of the neocon "think tank " machine was a faÃ§ade. They proclaimed themselves to be intellectuals of the highest calibur, kidded themselves that they were above the common moral order, spoke privately of the New World Order and America "straddling the globe like a Colossus ", while whipping the public into a terrified frenzy over a paltry if not non-existent stash of expired weapons. Above all, they patted each other on the back for the grand global vision they had concocted.
But where was this vision after Saddam scurried out of Baghdad? For all of the talk about vast plans for remaking and democratizing the Middle East, shouldn 't there have been at least a sketchy blueprint for how this would develop in Iraq? Did not the sincerity of the desire to "liberate " Iraq compel them to devise a timetable, a process for turning over sovereignty ...something? The answer to this conundrum, which is so disturbing even liberal pundits are scared to wrestle with it, is that it was all about money. Period.
And it is absolutely irresponsible of the media not to recognize the fact that this mess was brought to us by corporate America, as were the fiscally devastating tax cuts, as was the rolling back of environmental standards across the board, as was the attack on labor through cutting overtime pay, as is the nomination of judges who have tried dozens of corporate cases and found against the corporation zero times. On 9/11 the neocons saw their cash cow oil sources in the Middle East coming dangerously close to falling into the control of militant anti-Western forces and panicked, reverting immediately to their pet project, the neo-colonization of Iraq.
And while it is a conspiracy theory to claim that all corporations are evil, it is a simple fact that there is a class of multinational corporations which operate on pure greed and hold more power than most states. And while not every large multinational is run so amorally, the survival of the fittest principle is very much in operation, and it is not likely for a company to rise to the level of a Halliburton, Bechtel, or Enron without having slit a few throats on the way. And while many such corporations are linked by common board members and social circles, it is probably more accurate to call it a sub-culture. They believe, amongst other things, that corporate America is America, and that as the avant-garde of capitalism, or the market, they are the true epic movers of history. To run the government is the natural extension of all of this, particularly in foreign policy and tax code. If you think this is just baseless liberal narrative and that no such culture exists, you probably haven 't looked too closely at the Project for a New American Century. Politics can bring together the corporate elite, even without an intricate conspiracy, to bankroll pricy institutions like PNAC and AEI where the sole mission is to spin, rationalize, and propagandize those policies pursuant to corporate interests. Consider the Bush fundraising tour from a millionaire 's business perspective: a $2000 investment will return $360,000 in tax cuts alone let alone no-bid contracts, etc. Anything short of $2000 is a bad business, pure and simple.
To understand the full dimensions of what I 'll refer to as the CCE (crooked corporate elite) and their role in this administration, take a look at New Bridge Strategies, a group headed by Joe Allbaugh, Bush 's 2000 campaign manager and close ally, whose goal is to facilitate contracts for work in Iraq. The Washington Post reports:
"Getting the rights to distribute Procter & Gamble products would be a gold mine, " said one of the partners at New Bridge who did not want to be named. "One well-stocked 7-Eleven could knock out 30 Iraqi stores; a Wal-Mart could take over the country, " he said.
There are a handful of such groups, staffed by such cronies as former Rumsfeld aide and arch-neocon Doug Feith and even the nephew of (Cheney favorite) Ahmed Chalabi. It is greatly underestimated how important imposing "free markets " is to the neo-colonization process, and these men are professionals in this line of work. To say it plainly, there are around 22 million people in Iraq who represent little more than potential consumers and untapped cheap labor to throw in the pathetic race to the bottom that is the global labor pool. Valuable commodities they are.
And the same goes for the next front in the corporate war, which has remained under the radar so far. South America is a continent rich in natural resources, all of which are owned by the US and to a lesser extent Europe. It blames, in large part correctly, the IMF and the World Bank for ruining their economies, preserving the exploitation of their labor, and for practicing what amounts to predatory lending. Militant anti-Americanism and even militant Islam are on the sharp rise, and burning of the American flag is stunningly commonplace. Many nations are losing their last hopes as they see the helping hand of the West producing nothing but mountainous debt which devours half of their GDP in minimum payments. The theory that poverty, economic injustice, and hopelessness produce terrorism will soon be tested in South America. And by the way, there 's oil there too.
Much of the world has been living on fumes of hope for some time; hope that the West was truly interested in bringing them into the fold, hope that Western citizens would realize that the exploitation of foreign labor was undercutting their own, hope that some day the West would cut their protectionism too- especially the $300 billion in agricultural subsidies. To get an idea of what this tilted field results in, think of cutting all aid to all American farmers overnight and the disaster that would result. It is exactly this disaster that is being imposed on the nations of South America, Africa, and the rest of the undeveloped world; the only difference is that they are on the brink of starvation already and have no welfare state.
There is a war coming between the CCE and the rest of the world, and as long as the CCE have the planes, tanks, and nukes, they will drive humanity directly into this catastrophe out of sheer arrogance.
As long as they hold the red pen, they will shift the tax burden down and cut anything that does not directly benefit them or their friends.
As long as they write the labor laws at home and abroad, labor will always lose.
And yet they are such a tiny minority- so how do they keep getting elected?
Partly because money has an uncanny if not demoralizing correlation to votes. Both parties know that, which is why so much in the primaries rides on fundraising. But above all it is the CCE 's unnatural marriage to another group, social conservatives, that has put them into power. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has jumped into the culture war because the tiny portion of America that is the CCE realize that they can hijack this division of American culture and manipulate it to vote them into power. So while the larger social conservative block sings that the weak shall inherit the earth, those in charge of the Republican Party are working tirelessly to ensure that never happens. There are a few public figures who successfully represent a bizarre nexus of these two forces- Pat Robertson, with his gold interests in Liberia and media empire, and Jerry Falwell who argues in earnest that Jesus would drive a Hummer were he alive today. But even Pat Robertson casts shame on the US government for giving the lowest percentage of its GDP in aid of all industrialized nations, and in general there is lurking tension between the two forces which threatens to tear the party apart- if only somebody is willing to exploit it.
The unholy marriage was forged in the depths of the Jim Crow South when it was harnessed by Strom Thurmond and the Dixiecrats in a way that would serve as an example for Republicans for decades to come. The approaching Civil Rights era was a threat to the cultural fabric of the South, but contrary to popular conception, it was not the primary threat driving the Dixiecrat presidential campaign. The real threat to these rich white businessmen was the solidification of labor across color lines. The vast majority of whites were desperately poor, and they were slowly realizing that the exploitation of black labor as tenant farmers and in prison work camps (which are often described by scholars as "worse than slavery ") was, in fact, undercutting their own wages- just as the exploitation of foreign labor is doing today. They began to realize that those who owned the land and lorded it over them could only be checked by organized labor, and that whites and blacks would have to unify for labor to be strong. This possibility terrified the rich whites, and so they used the image of the black man as sexual monster (rewatch King Kong with this in mind if you want a shock) to effectively divide and conquer labor. They were amazingly successful, they even convinced poor whites to vote for poll taxes in order to keep blacks from the polls, even though most of the whites could not afford the poll tax themselves.
The perfection of this technique, and the concurrent reorganization of the Republican party around a watered-down and increasingly subtle version of Thurmond 's platform, also coincided with another epic tool of manipulative politicians: the Red Scare. Republicans made particularly good use of this device, wielding it most disgracefully during McCarthyism but using it continuously up to and throughout the Reagan years as well. They morphed a legitimate fear of nuclear holocaust into a belief that any call for a more equal and humane distribution of wealth was quite simply evil.
This was probably the single most important acheivement of the right in the second half of the 20th Century. It inoculated the greedy factions of the Republican Party from obvious attacks on the morality of their policies, and convinced much of America that capitalism, as the opposite of "Satanic " communism, went hand in hand with Christianity. To this day calls of "class warfare " quiet Democratic criticisms more potently than any actual argument, and to this day Texas Republicans refer to the idea of universal health care as an idea "born in the depths of hell ".
The irony of this political posture is difficult to avoid. Kurt Vonnegut has been the only prominent public figure to make the obvious argument that socialism, as an economic theory, is the natural extension of Christianity. Clearly a society in which all are cared for, and where none are engulfed in the trappings of insatiable greed, would bear much more resemblance to the teachings of Jesus than does today 's system which rests on the principle that the collective good demands the maximum greed of each individual. It is little known, probably due to the incendiary effect such knowledge would have on many Americans, but the early Christians lived in relatively small retreats called koinonia, which were in fact communes. So while socialism as an economic system might be unrealistic or problematic in many ways, the fundamental ideals of socialism and Christianity are almost indistinguishable.
And so we see that on basic principles, the vast majority of the free citizens of this nation agree that economically, we are a nation that is rich enough to take care of our sick, educate our poor properly, provide social programs, and establish a progressive tax system that puts a slightly higher burden on those who have more money than they can spend. And yet the tiny remaining minority that does not believe this, the CCE, have managed to gain control of the legislative, the executive, and with Bush 's packing of the courts, even the judiciary to an unprecedented extent. They have done so by convincing social conservatives that they are on their side, even as they empty the nation 's treasure into their own pockets. They have been able to do so because the opposition bites its tongue the moment the words "class warfare " are hollered.
But if those calls are shrill it is only because the CCE know how tenuous their grip on this country is. That phrase may be the lone, paper-thin wall preventing the CCE from being relegated to their proper minority role in the government of the country. All of America has watched as Western Europe and Japan have surged well ahead of us in education, in health care, and in social justice generally. This tension will only grow.
Conservatives (as well as Clinton and too many Democrats) have been very effective in pushing the notion that "free markets " as they call them, and "freedom ", are two sides of a coin. It is time to harness the power and legitimacy of the unions as well as the noise of the protesters to expose this propaganda in broad daylight. It is encouraging to see Democratic candidates at least cautiously addressing this issue, which was viewed as "far-left " only months ago. The surge of populism that has emerged in response to this administration deserves much of the credit, and this surprise should be taken as proof of how much can be done by millions organized to demand justice from their government.
This administration, which has taken shameless corporate greed to once unimaginable heights, is in serious danger of crashing and burning- and in the process exposing CCE government in all of its despicable glory. The administration has survived by exploiting the blind trust given to it after 9/11, and also by acting so ridiculously, so heinously, that the average citizen might intuitively say to himself, "Nah, they couldn 't be that bad- there must be another explanation even if I don 't understand it ". The danger is that as the lies are dismantled, as the momentum continues to mount, there may be a moment in which the public consciousness realizes: "Wow, they really are that bad ", and - perhaps - CCE government will suddenly be stigmatized the way it always should have been.
But those of us who believe in a government of, for, and by the people cannot just sit back and hope for this to happen. For the Democratic Party, in pure calculating political terms, the overarching goal of the next decade must be to divide and conquer the Republican Party, turning social conservatives on their CCE leaders. For the rest of us, and I favor this perspective, we must attempt to dull the passions of the culture war just enough to communicate to social conservatives that economically, and truly in most ways, we are on the same side. With precious few exceptions, they have many more interests in common with progressives than they do with those they are electing to represent them. The political landscape of this nation is overripe for an overhaul.
If this can be accomplished, the culture war will also take on a very different dynamic. It is of monumental importance to understand how great of an interest the CCE have in preserving the culture war. For decades they have been promoting bigotry of every imaginable variety: claiming that gays are after the nation 's children, that black men are after the white woman, that minorities in general are to be blamed for everything wrong with this nation and everything wrong with the individual white man 's life. It is only open to speculation the degree to which the CCE have actually kept alive such bigotry in opposition to natural social progress. But there is no doubt how much the Republican Party needs bigotry in this country in order for the GOP to survive as it stands, and it how desperately it needs to make sure bigots turn out to vote. When Karl Rove scheduled the opening of Bush 's 2000 campaign at Bob Jones University, known until recently for its ban on interracial relationships, it was not an expression of personal racism, it was a wink and a smile to multitude of bigoted voters in the South. In a textbook example of what is known as the two-pronged approach, the administration told the bigoted vote not to worry if they heard some wishy-washy rhetoric on the campaign trail- Bush was one of them.
It is time to close the ideological chasm that divides this country, if only small enough for a fraction of the social conservatives to hear our warnings about CCE rule and jump across. If this nation became 55/45 instead of 50/50, that would be more than enough to force Republicans to drastically alter their policies and leadership. This administration has overplayed the corporate hand, and let them rue the day. Let the CCE be vanquished from the pivot of history once and for all.
As a small step in this direction I am operating a newsletter, entitled Common Sense in recognition of Thomas Paine 's seminal work. It is currently distributed by around 80 readers across America, in the cities and towns of Bush Country, planting the seeds of dissent where the CCE has tried to salt the earth. It is one page, front and back, with a bulleted news summary including the most damning stories from the mainstream media (NYTimes, Washington Post, regional and local newspapers), and one opinion piece, chosen to be potent but not strident in tone. The newsletter can be dropped off at the library, posted on a bulletin board, anyplace where your neighbors and fellow citizens can see it and learn what the administration and the CCE are doing. To receive Common Sense in your inbox every two weeks (certainly free of charge), simply email us at email@example.com, and we will add you to the list.
Jesse Lee is a regular columnist for www.opednews.com and operates Common Sense in conjunction with Rob Kall. He co-operates the blog moneyjungle.org and is a founding contributor to the platform of 2020 Democrats. This article is copyright by Jesse Lee, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this entire credit paragraph is attached