Friday, September 14, 2007


After his well-publicized colonoscopy this summer, there should be no doubt where the Decider’s head is at. But there are always the willfully blind – aka the Republican “base.” As if to show them the light, last night’s (Sept. 13) Speech from the Throne (aka Oval Office) should clinch it. It probably won’t, though. But, for everyone else, the speech provided ample confirmation in a thoroughly stupefying way. The Bush boy came on pretending to be Sir Winnie. We must decide what kind of country and people we are, he declared, and then battle on and on. Yes, the war is “unpopular” (that news has penetrated the bubble!) but we must defend an ally set upon by aggressors whom we must fight there, lest we fight them here. Also, of course, we must stand by our troops. In comparison, LBJ was almost clear headed and honest when he proclaimed that we were in Vietnam to combat aggression. No matter that the aggressors were Vietnamese, and that “we” most certainly were not. At least the Vietnamese struggle for national liberation wasn’t just an artifact of delusional and incompetent U.S. (and French) machinations, like the sectarian and ethnic civil war in Iraq is. In the end, the Cheney/Bush argument comes down to this: we must stay in Iraq (indefinitely, it turns out) because we are there.

To add yet another level of absurdity it is, according to the Decider, the infallible General Petraeus (concoctor first of the plan to introduce Shiite militia members into the Iraqi police forces; concoctor now of plans to do the same for the Sunnis) who has made it so. The Commander in Chief is only doing what his servant in the field tells him must be done. If only the good General, who surely knows better, had enough backbone to stand up against the Mindless Leader! It would make no difference to Cheney or Bush; they’d still “stay the course.” But it would have taken away the excuses our legislators so desperately seek.

For Republican “moderates,” especially if they are not yet up for reelection, the Petraeus report is an excuse for standing by their man. Petraeus did, after all, say that “the surge” could end in another year or so. For the leaders of the Democratic Party, and alas most Democratic backbenchers, downsizing to last year’s levels is an excuse to back off from the shamefully timid “timelines” for withdrawal they’ve been urging -- in order to woo moderate Republicans into helping them “end” the war. This drama will play out in the next few weeks – a struggle for the hearts and minds of a handful of Republican legislators! The Democrats will probably lose. But even if they don’t, the sure thing is that Cheney and Bush will win. They’ll continue their war for -- can one say it without gagging on the hypocrisy and deceit -- “freedom.”

The Democrats’ excuse for becoming even worse than they used to be is that they don’t have the votes to end a Senate filibuster or to override a Presidential veto. True enough. But they do have a modest majority in the Senate and a plain majority in the House. Therefore there is something they can do to end the war: not fund it. There is no doubt that this is their Constitutional prerogative. Let Cheney and Bush launch a Manhattan project led by John Yoo and staffed by the best hacks the Federalist Society can offer. They still won’t be able to mount a single argument to show otherwise; not unless they’re prepared to override the Constitution itself on the grounds that 9/11 “changed everything.” There’s also no doubt that defunding the war would end it because Republicans can’t filibuster funds into being and because Bush cannot “veto” a measure that hasn’t passed; not unless he’s prepared to take the step from “unitary executive” to unabashed dictator. Things are bad, but, even under Cheney’s tutelage, it hasn’t come to that!

Needless to say, defunding the war, like impeaching its perpetrators, is “off the table.” The Democrats figure that, to win in 2008, they have to look tough and, of course, “support the troops” (by assuring that more of them will be killed or injured). These are nonsensical miscalculations. But they may be right in thinking that many, perhaps most, Democratic voters will go along. With our party duopoly system, there’s the familiar argument that progressives have nowhere else to go. There’s also the fact that in a political culture so dumbed down and right-wing that even the Clintons look “liberal,” too few Democratic voters will see the Democrats’ rationale for the shameful excuse that it is.

How can this change? Maybe, since it seems to be on everybody’s lips (if not their mind), it’s time to rethink the whole “support the troops” issue. Of course, fair compensation is due those whose lives are ruined (or lost) by Cheney’s and Bush’s wars; especially inasmuch as our “volunteer” military is comprised mainly of economic conscripts. But the implication that the military is a trusted and revered institution – and that its Petraeuses are beyond reproach – must be contested, not endorsed! At the university where I now work, the marines recruit openly right outside the student union. That they could do so without protest is a disgrace. This would have been unthinkable during the Vietnam War. Part of the explanation, of course, is that now there is no draft (none that affects people affluent enough to attend universities). But the Democrats’ acceptance of the “support the troops” mantra is also part of the explanation. The candidates for President should be questioned relentlessly on this: they should be asked just how having more soldiers and marines die or be maimed for no defensible reason, in cause that is not only plainly wrong but also plainly lost, counts as “support.”

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