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The Roots of Disaster: Impeachment As Remedy

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By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers What was the route that led the U.S. to its present fiasco in Iraq and elsewhere? We'll get to impeachment below, but for now let's trace back the thread, starting in 1947. This narrative may seem like old history, but it adds to better understanding of how we got from there then to here now. (Much of the shorthand analysis below is derived from my doctoral dissertation on the "Truman Doctrine.") America, having helped defeat the then-reining "Axis of Evil" -- the fascist triumverate of Germany, Japan, Italy -- was eager to return to post-war normalcy. U.S. troops returned home from Europe and the Pacific; industry converted from manufacturing war materiel to homes, cars, refrigerators; the U.S. economy was starting to hum. Though some Republican rightwingers were suggesting the U.S. should "finish the job" by "rolling back" Stalin's control of Eastern Europe, there wasn't much stomach for starting another world war so soon after the last one ended. ( http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0505/S00255.htm ) The British had covertly let the president know that postwar strains on the Empire were taking their toll on that country's economic and political systems. And then, suddenly, the Brits openly informed their American allies that their situation was so tenuous that the U.S. would have to take over the job of propping up the pro-West governments in Turkey and Greece. (Greece had a large, active, armed Communist Party in struggle against the rightwing government.) BIRTH OF "THE TRUMAN DOCTRINE" President Harry Truman recognized that, given the problems facing the weakened British Empire, the U.S. would indeed have to step in, at least economically, to stabilize the post-war situation. But since Truman hadn't informed the Congress about any of this, suddenly asking them to pony up $400 million for the embattled Greek and Turkish governments was going to be a tough sell. Truman, a Democrat facing a Republican Congress, asked the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, GOP Senator Arthur Vandenberg, for his support. If you want to get that money out of Congress, Vandenberg said, you'll have to "scare hell out of the country." In other words, take a minor budget item and blow it out of all proportion -- couched in a struggle against a Soviet-led, worldwide "Red Menace." And thus "The Truman Doctrine," initiated by the president and backed by the rabidly anti-Soviet Republicans, was born. That doctrine basically said that from now on, the U.S. would take action anywhere in the world to combat Communism. Greece/Turkey was the region where the fight would start. Congress did grant Truman the funds for Greece and Turkey, and in so doing the U.S. took a giant step away from its predominantly isolationist stance in world politics. But by agreeing to engage "the enemy" anywhere Communism reared its head, the U.S. locked itself into an unworkable, unrealistic, ultimately self-defeating policy. It was precisely that ideology and worldview that influenced U.S. actions years later when America took over the colonial war in Vietnam that had defeated the French. As the years went by, the U.S. found itself trapped in an Asian quagmire it never fully comprehended, and resisted the popular clamor to cut their losses and bring the boys home. ISLAMISTS AS THE NEW "COMMUNISTS" I think you can see where I'm going with this ancient history: "scaring hell out of the country" is not a concept unknown in our current situation. The new "communists," so to speak -- Islamic extremists -- bloodied the nose of their American enemy on September 11, 2001 by slaughtering nearly 3000 in New York and Washington. Bush vowed to retaliate. Bush and his neo-con advisers, who already had Iraq in their crosshairs long before 9/11, could have chosen to mount a global campaign to locate, isolate and capture/kill those responsible for the attacks; in other words, it could have treated the conspiracy as an international criminal matter. But that would yield Bush and his supporters very little, politically speaking, especially since the rightwing GOP agenda in Congress was going nowhere. In short, Bush&Co. decided they needed to "scare hell out of the country" -- using supposed WMDs controlled by Saddam, allusions to Iraq-delivered nuclear bombs going off in the U.S., etc. -- in order to gain public approval for the extreme actions the Administration was about to take. A permanent "war against terrorism" would help maintain that level of fright. Americans probably wouldn't go along with the radical re-direction required, said a Project for The New American Century report (major players: Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney), until or unless a "new Pearl Harbor" occurred. Condi Rice, days after 9/11, said the U.S. should seize the "opportunity" offered by 9/11 for the implementation of its agenda. Whether by conscious action or just plain coincidence, the next "Pearl Harbor" definitely had arrived. THE FORCE OF NATIONALISM The decision by Bush&Co. to launch a war of choice against Iraq was based on numerous lies and misconceptions, the supposed WMD being just the most obvious. But there was another huge mistake that was barely noticed. And so it's back to my dissertation on the origins of the Cold War. The American government believed that Communism was a monolithic movement all across the globe; there was little or no recognition that "national communism" could even exist: that Yugoslav communism was different from the variety practiced by the Vietnamese, that Greek communism was distinguishable from that in the Soviet Union, that Chinese communism was different from Romania's -- in short, that there were national interests involved that sometimes trumped Communist solidarity. Seeing the enemy as a monolith during the Cold War meant that policies based on that simplistic interpretation of Communism were often ill-conceived and dangerously wrong-headed; diplomatic interventions targeted to specific national concerns tended not to be attempted, the results of which were disasters of one sort or another. In the case of Vietnam, for example, this short-sighted analysis of Communist nations led to the deaths of more than 54,000 U.S. troops and as many as two million Vietnamese; the U.S. government could not see that Ho Chi Minh was a nationalist communist, and ignored Vietnam's long history of repelling invaders from China, France and elsewhere. Which brings us to the current Bush Administration and its GOP supporters, who appear to base their policies on the premise that all Islamic jihadists are part of the same monolithic movement. ONE SIZE DOESN'T FIT ALL Islamists may be moving in roughly the same direction in some loose, even metaphorical, sense. But the CheneyBush Administration and its supporters don't speculate that way. In the run-up to the war, and even today, many of them conflate those who carried out the 9/11 attacks with the Iraq of Saddam Hussein, as if they were part of a singular Muslim conspiracy -- even though Saddam regarded Islamists as threats to his dictatorial hold on a secular Iraq and murdered them whenever and wherever he found them. CheneyBush's limited, one-size-fits-all view of the world translates to judging a jihadist in Iraq as being the same as one in Lebanon or Palestine. And thus the U.S. has missed innumerable opportunities to split off Iraqi nationalist fighters from the more extremist Islamist jihadists. Similarly, that attitude has prevented the Administration from talking seriously with neighboring Syria and Iran -- who have their own nationalist concerns with regard to Iraq -- about ways to end the war. Seeing the world through monofaceted, ideological glasses puts foreign/military policy on automatic pilot, while manipulating the press and public with frightening stories of supposedly imminent attacks by a grotesque terrorist-monster. Intelligent foreign policy requires a knowlege of history and politics and religion and language, and a whole lot more. Had the CheneyBush Administration possessed some of that understanding (or listened to those that did), they might not have blundered their way into the wholesale catastrophe that is its Iraq War and Occupation. THE WARNINGS IGNORED For example, they might have listened to their own experts in the State Department and CIA who issued prescient warnings about the likely consequences of attacking and occupying Iraq. They might have heard their European allies advising them not to make a huge mistake by invading that country. They might have been able to hear what 10 million ordinary citizens all around the globe were trying to tell them as they marched and demonstrated against America's about-to-begin war of choice. But Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld and the rest of the neo-con ideologues were blinded by their technological might, by the fact that the U.S. was the only superpower left standing after the Soviet Union fell apart, and by their feeling they could do whatever they wanted to do in the world since nobody could stop them. Since the Iraq war was launched on the basis of lies and deceptions (and a load of self-deceptions), and was being carried out by incompetents and greedy exploiters way over their heads, their enterprise was doomed from the start. They were unable to admit their errors in policy and execution, and could not accept the fact that their war had stirred-up a hornet's nest of nationalist rebellion in Iraq and elsewhere in the Greater Middle East. Lacking a "Plan B," they compounded their disastrous war and occupation by doing little but "staying the course" with a failed policy for several years. THE FAST EVAPORATION OF SUPPORT Eventually, the barest hints of reality made their way into their illusion-based policy, and, at the last minute -- or, more accurately, way past the last minute -- they admitted to themselves that things weren't going well and so tried for a massive do-over with their "surge" of additional tens of thousands of troops into the fray, with thousands more on their way and the field-generals asking for still more. That policy of escalating the war didn't work in Vietnam, and it isn't working in Iraq. The die was cast long ago and now the only question is whether CheneyBush will be able to stretch out the new "surging" escalation of the war through the November 2008 election. But political support for the continued occupation and escalation of the war in Iraq is quickly evaporating. Former commanding generals in intelligence and in the Iraq theatre (such as Generals Odom, Batiste, Eaton, et al.) are openly denouncing the Administration's disastrous war policies, and reportedly serving generals have said they will resign in protest if the escalation is renewed in the Fall absent clearcut signs of political/military progress. Delegations of Republican member of Congress are denouncing the CheneyBush war policies to their faces in private White House meetings. The polls continue to reveal the depth of the revulsion nearly two-thirds of Americans have for the Administration's grossly mismanaged war effort in Iraq and the public's desire to end the conflict and bring the troops home. IMPEACHMENT: THE ONLY LEGAL ALTERNATIVE Since it doesn't appear that any significant changes in U.S. Iraq policy will be implemented while CheneyBush rule, and since that policy is endangering America abroad and shredding the Constitution at home, only one legal remedy is available to the Congress and citizenry: impeachment. To do nothing, to let CheneyBush run out the clock until the next presidential election, is to consign thousands and thousands of additional U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians to death and injury. Do we citizens want that blood on our hands, on our consciences? I don't think so. There are more than enough impeachable offenses ("high crimes and misdemeanors") committed by Cheney and Bush, and their morally corrupt Attorney General, to warrant the immediate convening of a House impeachment panel. HIGH CRIMES, MISDEMEANORS, MALFEASANCE The charges would include the lies and deceptions that took this country into an unnecessary war in Iraq, now in its fifth stalemated year; the various manglings of the Constitution that have changed America from a democratic republic to an authoritarian near-dictatorship, thus robbing the citizenry of their rights and legal protections; the refusal to comply with Congressional directives, subpoenas and orders for the production of official documents and records. (Lest we forget, that last one was a key part of the charges voted by the House impeachment panel probing President Nixon's crimes. ( http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/5/11/2175/54578 ) Stonewalling, coverup, corruption, wars of choice, wrecking the Constitution -- these emblems of CheneyBush rule cannot be permitted to continue for another year-and-a-half, lest the nation be effectively destroyed from within. It's long past time for the Democrats and traditional conservative Republicans to begin to rectify the damage done by this reckless, arrogant, bullying, corrupt, power-mad Administration. To get that process moving, impeachment hearings should commence. Now. Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government & international relations at universites in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly two decades, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: crisispapers@comcast.net . First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 5/15/07. www.crisispapers.org/essays7w/roots.htm Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner.
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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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