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Fracturing the Bush Base: A Compassionate Approach

By       Message Bernard Weiner       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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My understanding of Buddhist practice -- big on compassion and understanding, small on coercion and retribution -- kicked in after watching Frontline's "The Dark Side" last week, the powerful 90-minute documentary examination of how the CheneyBush White House manipulated the country into war with Iraq.

I wondered whether a shift in thinking about Bush and Cheney and Rumseld and the rest of the crew would alter the way I viewed them and the war. (By the way, if you missed the show -- the first such full-length documentary on a major network laying out the lies and deceptions -- it can now be seen online


Here's what I mean:

Suppose one viewed the members of Bush&Co. as sincere idealists. They had been warned by the outgoing Clinton administration that al-Qaida was extremely dangerous, but it wasn't until the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that they woke up and, out of love of country, decided to do something about it. (Even if you don't think this scenario accords with the facts, I beg you to stick with me here, and see where this line of argument is going.)

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THE "NEVER AGAIN" MENTALITY

Sure, there was a political component to their action -- their agenda was floundering in Congress, and 9/11 presented them with an "opportunity" (Condi Rice's term) to hook their domestic and foreign goals to the fight against terrorism. But mainly they were determined that the U.S. would never again suffer such a deadly humiliation. This was the United States of America -- don't tread on us!

So, looking around, they saw a growing militant-Islamist threat. They also saw that the U.S. was the one remaining superpower on the planet, and thus believed that America would face little military opposition in going after the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and, more importantly, after anyone who supported and encouraged them.

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Since the Muslim world in general was relatively weak and defenseless, the Bush crew felt that Islamic extremism could be attacked and rooted out with very little meaningful opposition before that fundamentalist force became even stronger and more dangerous. The U.S. could move to establish a new political system in the Middle East, based in democracy and free markets. Bringing calm to that volatile area of the world would be a boon to all concerned. A side-benefit would be to stabilize, and in effect have more control over, the immense energy resources (oil, gas) in that area of the world.

BUSH BASE AT LEAST A THIRD

Of course, in 2006 we (and they) know that changing the world doesn't happen that simply or quickly. But at the time, in this scenario, Bush&Co. were operating not so much out of greed and lust for power as out of a sincere belief that they would be doing good works by using their considerable military and economic muscle to alter the region, and thus the world, for the better.

Now one can believe that the above sketched scenario in no way meshes with the truth: That, in reality, President CheneyBush and their co-conspirators are rapacious, greedy, power-hungry felons. But I suggest that they may have talked themselves into believing they are operating out of truly idealistic motives, for the good of the country and the world, with a positive by-product that their policies aid them politically and their political friends financially. Do well by doing good, that sort of reasoning.

More importantly for our purposes today, a large percentage of the American population, at least a third and possibly more, accept this aggressive, "muscular" approach and operate under its supppositions. They truly believe that America, especially beloved by God and able to exercise its power for good in the world, should be supported in all such endeavors.

No matter where you live in this country, you have neighbors or colleagues or friends (or sometimes even family members) who believe that America is engaged in righteous work in the world by attacking "evil" countries and bringing the glories of democracy and free markets to these unfortunate peoples. Some of those Americans believe this out of religious conviction, others out of idealistic motives.

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SEEING BUSH SUPPORTERS DIFFERENTLY

So the opposition gains no political advantage by regarding this large slice of the population, at least 30% and perhaps as much as 40%, as ignorant oafs. The point is that they are True Believers and, by and large, tend not respond to logical and/or factual argument.

To reach them, I suggest, one has to approach them not as calamitously dumb, but as sincere, patriotic citizens, dedicated to the best interests of the country, and greatly influenced by their religious/political leaders and by the parroting mainstream media and the HardRight pundits on talk-radio and cable TV.

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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
 

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