The political world of Washington will shift drastically next month with the opposition Democrats in charge of the Legislative branch. The end of this calendar year offers an appropriate time to examine the first half of the CheneyBush presidency's second term and its impact on our society -- and what we might do about it.
Taking the long view, what strikes one is that whenever the Administration's corruptions, scandals and secret policies were unearthed and publicized in the past two years, and whenever the real world impinged on CheneyBush's chosen delusions and bubbled fantasies (especially with regard to Iraq), the American public's disenchantment with the Republicans grew.
Consider: As in most authoritarian regimes, the Bush Administration is absolutely paranoid about keeping its programs and policies secret -- and for good reason as many of them are illegal or immoral or extremely dangerous to America's national interests. If you haven't yet read John W. Dean's 2004 best-seller "Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush ," I heartily recommend it, as it examines with great surgical skill CheneyBush's obsession with secrecy and its dire impact on our democratic process.
Still, despite, or maybe because of, all the emphasis on secrecy and running a tight ship, disgrunted administrators and good-citizen conservatives within the Administration leaked incriminating evidence about the various CheneyBushRumsfeld corruptions and scandals over the years. In the main, the leakers were conservative Republicans appalled and horrified at what had happened to their party, and to their country, as led by ruthless ideologues. (Something similar happened in England as well: See the devastating truths about the Iraq War's origins leaked last year from inside Blair's war cabinet, the so-called Downing Street Memos. ( www.afterdowningstreet.org )
The American people in the past several years have learned about all sorts of previously-kept secrets involving the Bush Administration: its pay-to-play corruptions via Abramoff and other lobbyists, its advocacy and implentation of torture as official state policy, its sending detainees in its custody to secret CIA prisons around the globe, its "extraordinary renditions" that deliver high-value suspects to countries abroad that are notorious for excrutiating torture methods, its eavesdropping without court warrants on Americans' phone calls and emails, its memos outlining how Bush can rule as an unchecked king able to ignore laws because of "national security" concerns (an assumption of power ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court when President Nixon tried it), and on and on.
AN ABSENCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Now, perhaps Americans would have continued to go along with such violations of the Constitution and Bill of Rights -- giving Bush latitude when dealing with the "war on terror," for example -- if there had been evidence that such departures from the law were rare, temporary in nature and carried out with professional expertise and relative moderation.
But everything we've learned in the past several years about the Bush Administration's policies and programs reveals an over-reaching drive for power and secrecy -- and always desiring more of both -- carried out by incompetents that never have had to face accountability for their drastic mistakes. Katrina is just the tip of the very large iceberg.
Bush claims that he did face a moment of "accountability," the 2004 election; he thereby claims that nothing can be done since then to hold him accountable for anything. He almost dares the House to impeach him, since he's pretty sure they won't.
IRAQ STUDY GROUP'S BLEAK DIAGNOSIS
And then there is Iraq.
The Bush Administration's highest officials may be fooling themselves on the Iraq War with the illusion of eventual "victory" that will permit the U.S. to stay in that country for at least another decade, but they definitely are attempting to fool the American citizenry as to the "win-ability" of that war and occupation.
That's why the harsh diagnosis laid out by the Iraq Study Group -- that the U.S. is stalemated in Iraq and that a way out of that quagmire must be found -- is resisted with such tenacity by the CheneyBush Administration, which has placed all its chips on using that country as its political/military pivot in the Middle East region. Lose there and that dream is gone, including Bush's hope for a positive legacy in history. Plus, Bush's fragile ego needs something other than yet another "loser" tag on his psychic resume.
Speaking in effect for Bush's father and the Republican elite's foreign policy "realists," the ISG offerred a way out that they hoped Dim Son could buy into -- with all sorts of compromises that mirrored Bush's rhetoric and thinking -- but Dubya reportedly will have none of it.
Instead, to counter the ISG, the Administration set up its own Iraq study-panels, in the Pentagon and National Security Council, which presumably will feed back to Bush and Cheney what they want to hear: send 20,000-to-50,000 more troops as a "temporary surge" to stabilize Baghdad, train up the Iraqi army and police forces on an emergency basis and let them do the fighting and dying rather than American troops, and try somehow to pull something that can be called a "victory" out of that. Maybe even throw an attack on Iran into the mix, to build back-the-president patriotic support and to supply a reason for the importance of having permanent military bases next door in Iraq.
What Bush&Co. continue to resist, living as they do in their ideological bubble divorced from reality, is that their actions already have lost popular support and that they will not be getting it back. The American people, in their votes in November and in all the opinion polls for the past two years, have made it abundantly clear that they have no faith in this Administration's war policies or even in its ability to competently lead the country. They want out of Iraq and, basically, want out of this administration; Bush's approval ratings are barely into the 30s.
TIME FOR A GOP INTERVENTION
This isn't even a lame-duck presidency. It's on artificial life-support and there is no guarantee it can last through the next two years without infecting the entire body politic with its dangerous dementia. It may be time for the powers-that-be in the Republican party elite to contact political hospice. If they don't want the entire party, economy, reputation in the world, and ability to control the agenda domestically to go down with Bush and Cheney, a major intervention is in order.
Since Bush will never resign -- to him, it would be the equivalent of ego suicide -- that means the economic and political forces behind his administration will encourage the Democrats to finish him off, perhaps through impeachment. This would give the Republican string-pullers some time to resurrect the image of the party and locate another, more popular front man to run for President in 2008.
As a temporary stop-gap measure, it's possible that the Republican heavies might lean on Cheney to resign ("for health reasons") in the near-future, so that a more acceptable person might be appointed that could be groomed for 2008. If both Bush and Cheney serve out their terms into January 2009, given the political carnage they could cause in the interim, the Republicans might have to deal with Democrats in the White House and in charge of Congress for the next eight years and perhaps even beyond.
True, it's possible for the forces of deep-pocket commerce to greatly influence Democrats, but it's a bit more difficult and it's hard work, with few guarantees that, if the country goes more populist or progressive, that the relationship would stick.
No, better for the Republican powers-that-be to have their "wise men" visit the White House in the very near future and urge a resignation or, if that doesn't work, to somehow engineer a pre-2008 transition to more able and intelligent GOP leadership.
THE DEMOCRATS' ALTERNATIVE
And what should or will the Democrats do in the next two years, as they move into control of Congress?
With a modicum amount of courage, they could effectively veto Bush's wildest domestic schemes and, through the investigatory and funding processes, somewhat rein in the Administration's penchant for reckless foreign adventurism. The Democrats won't be able to get everything they want, but they can at least start to limit, and even reverse, the immense damage of the past five years.
Let's take Iraq as a test-case. Given the lies and deceptions that Bush&Co used to launch the war, and the way that it was bungled by Rumsfeld and Cheney and their minions, what might the Democrats do with the very limited options available to them?
The bi-partisan ISG's bleak diagnosis provides political cover for the Democrats to urge a phased withdrawal ("redeployment") out of Iraq, starting as soon as is practicable. The Dems could ensure that continued funding for the war in Iraq go mainly for the withdrawal of troops, for example.
In the interim, they could urge an international, regional summit of all interested parties in the area -- including leaders of the insurgency, along with Iran and Syria -- to devise some way to guarantee safe-passage for the departing American troops. They could help organize the Iraqi bureaucracy and legal/judicial system. They could help create an international peace-keeping presence, perhaps made up of Arab and/or United Nations detachments, that would attempt to stop the warring ethnic/religious factions from totally slaughtering each other.
THE "BLOODBATH" QUESTION
Would there be some type of mass-grudge bloodbath after the departure of the Americans? Probably. But there is a horrific bloodbath right now, with more than 3000 Iraqi civilians dying each month! With the Americans gone, it is possible that the Iraqis will slowly sort out their new political arrangements and a kind of stability will return after the initial chaos.
Vietnam is a good object lesson here. A huge bloodbath was anticipated in 1975 after the last American helicopter lifted off the U.S. Embassy roof in Saigon. But the slaughter was relatively limited and now a free-market-type Vietnam is an active trading partner with the United States.
Thanks to CheneyBush's war, there is such a mess in Iraq now that maybe nothing will work. But we all know that continuing the war and Occupation under the current Administration's disastrous leadership offers little hope either to Americans or to Iraqis. Indeed, continuing on with the present leadership is a recipe for further disasters.
Better to think more creatively and to get our young men and women out of there ASAP --they are little more than targets right now -- even if an alternative scenario is not totally attractive or likely to guarantee total success. Right now our troops are dying and coming home maimed for no good purpose, and nearly a half-trillion dollars have been poured down the rathole of this baseless ideological adventure, money that could be far better spent at home.
America will not be able to start dealing with the immense political and economic reconstruction work that needs to be done inside America until we can begin to get the 800-lb. gorilla that is Iraq off our collective back. And to do that, America has to rid ourselves of the lying, corrupt, power-hungry, bungling regime that brought us to the Iraq abyss in the first place. Let's bring out the cages and get to work. #
First published by The Crisis Papers 12/12/06.
Copyright 2006 by Bernard Weiner.