Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Betray Us

Petraeus rhymes with betray us, so it is no surprise that, in the past few days, the name General Betrayus has taken hold. But Petraeus has betrayed nobody. Quite the contrary; as a self-serving and rather flat-footed military man, he has done just what he is supposed to, just what his Commander-in-Chief asked of him. Without quite saying what is obviously false, that “the surge” has pacified Iraq, he has come close enough to saying something similar to keep Republicans in Congress on Bush’s and Cheney’s page. That was his mission. It’s another “mission accomplished.”

You don’t have to go to West Point, or even the local Police Academy, to know that crime or, in this case, violent resistance will diminish in areas that are flooded with cops or soldiers. Of course, like all laws of nature, this “police science” truism governs what actually happens only if there are no countervailing factors that overwhelm its efficacy. In this case, thanks to overwhelming levels of U.S. government incompetence, there were countervailing factors aplenty. But Petraeus and his masters were lucky: in Anbar province, Sunni tribal leaders were willing to be bought off, at least for a while; though it’s far from clear that they’ve signed on to anything that will keep them on board for long. They were luckier still because, with so many U.S. soldiers and marines in place, these same tribal leaders saw that they could seize the moment to go after Al Quaeda, just as they will do, with more long lasting effects, when the Americans finally leave. Thus, for the time being, Petraeus and Company were able to mitigate intra-Sunni violence in Anbar enough to report back that “the surge” is working, albeit slowly. No sane person believes this, but it’s what a lot of our political class wants to hear.

It is from within the ranks of that class that betrayal will come -- not from the Republicans, for they have never pretended to be anything other than a War Party, but from the Democrats. In an interview on NPR (September 10), Rahm Emanuel gave that little secret away. In the coming primaries, Emanuel could end up supporting his fellow Chicagoan and co-thinker, Barack Obama, over Hillary Clinton, but he is and always has been the quintessential Clintonite . Thus it was he who, as chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, went to extraordinary lengths to stifle anti-war campaigns within the Democratic Party fold, and to insure the election of “centrist” (that is, right-wing) Democrats.

Emanuel’s remarks were shrouded in the “support the troops” rhetoric that Democrats and Republicans rival each other in exuding. [No need to explain how putting our economic conscripts in harm’s way, turning them into purveyors of murder and mayhem, making some of them torturers and war criminals, scarring them and their families for life, and so on and on counts as “supporting” them. It suffices to declare that it would somehow dishonor those who already died in vain not to have more follow.] There is a corollary to this nonsense that the leadership of the Democratic Party is eager to make its own. They want to make themselves the exponents of a “stronger America” – in plain speak, of a more militarized and outright militaristic America. The army, Emanuel said, is a trusted institution – in contrast to the Presidency (after Bush) and the Congress (no fault of his own, of course!). General Petraeus is an honorable man. We must therefore take his words to heart, after giving them a Democratic spin. The spin is that the commitment to Iraq is not “open ended.” Why not? Because the good General said so; he said that “the surge”, but of course not the occupation, can probably end in another year or so, and that troops, a symbolic number, can begin to come home by Christmas. This is good, Emanuel opined, because the American people have “lost patience” with the war, and you can’t conduct a war if you don’t have popular support. [The Congressman seems unaware that he is living in the midst of a counter-example, but no matter; Clintonites rival neo-cons in obliviousness.]

Emanuel’s view is the Clintonite view and therefore the view of most, but not all, officially anti-War Democrats. It’s not that the war was wrong in the sense that the worst thing that could have come of it would have been a perception of victory, or that now the best thing that can come of it – for the United States and the world -- is a clear perception of defeat. The very idea of going to war against Iraq, when there was still so much to do in Afghanistan, may have been strategically misguided, but there is nothing to fault from a moral or political point of view. There the problem is just that the war and ensuing occupation were badly planned and poorly executed. However, this is not the military’s fault, Emanuel insisted. Our troops have done everything that was asked of them, and they have done it magnificently. The problem is the political leadership, especially the Commander in Chief. In other words, “yea army (and marines), boo Bush; the end!”

Next to “supporting the troops,” the other thing everybody wants to seem to be is “bipartisan.” Lying just beneath Emanuel’s lines it’s clear that, in his mind and in the mind of the rest of the party leadership, Petraeus has given them leeway to wreak of “bipartisanship” by dropping “timelines” and other irksome demands in order to join forces with “moderate” Republicans. Just so long as there’s an appearance of movement in the right direction, the Democratic leadership thinks the Democrats will have it fine. Perhaps they will argue with their Republican friends about the pace of withdrawal, but that’s about as far as they will go in appeasing their anti-war constituents. Anything more would be partisan, and partisan is bad. At one of their so-called candidates’ forums, someone should ask the Presidential aspirants if, in the end, they wouldn’t just prefer a one party state. Someone should ask Nancy Pelosi and Rahm Emanuel.

Meanwhile, Petraeus, has given them a good excuse yet again to betray us, the voters who thought in 2006 that they were voting to end the war. Petraeus is no Betrayus; he’s a Cheney/Bush flunky, trying to stay on everyone’s good side until he can publish a tell-all book under his name. The betrayers are Emanuel and his ilk -- the movers and shakers of the Democratic Party, the Pelosiites, , the Clintonite rank and file, and the “moderates” all the others worked so hard to install.

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