On Afghanistan Policy: Obama and the GOP
Commenting on a column by Prof. Andrew Bacevich (republished on The Planetary Movement), I noted that looking backward (and some noted this some years ago), it was obvious that the number one foreign/military objective of the Cheney/Bush administration was to create Permanent War. It would benefit their party politically over the long term. It would also benefit the major economic interests their party represents: the wealthy, the extractive industries, the military industry, and all of the others, large and small, opposed to any major reforms in domestic policy.
Using anger and fear, their principal political weapons, and the implied threat of another "terrorist strike" at the Homeland, they hope to force the Obama Administration to continue that policy, as much as it might not want to for all of the reasons stated by Prof. Bacevich and Frank Rich. If the President follows the Permanent War policy (as recommended by retired General Barry McCaffrey) he will be virtually ensuring his defeat in 2012.
So there was the crew at The Weekly Standard cheering the news of Chicago's loss. And the Chicago loss we're talking about here does not concern the Cubs. They haven't made it since Fred Merkle of the New York Giants committed his classic "boner" in 1908. But that's another story. "Hah," said Sean Hannity, trying oh-so-unsuccessfully to cover up his gloating, "he [Obama] didn't do his due diligence." (Hannity never uses the term "the President," at least not when I listen to him. I listen for a few minutes at a time now and then to see how long it takes for him to tell a lie, or take something out of context, or use two wrongs make a right, or go on one of his whining jags -- Beck cries, Hannity whines. The record has been three minutes and 40 seconds, although it's usually much less.) These guys were absolutely celebrating the loss. Whatever happened to patriotism? Oh I know. It's invoked only when they are trying to line up people to support a GOP president for some killing/torture policy or other.
Back on April 3, 2007, I published a Commentary under this title on BuzzFlash. I started off by saying in part that:
"There is currently a huge amount of speculation and alarums and excursions, mainly on the left-wing Web media, that there will soon be a massive U.S. air/missile attack on Iran on (you name it): Good Friday (April 6), Easter Sunday (April 8), or 'sometime in June' (2007). Most recently, these predictions have been fed by a report from official/semi-official/un-official Russian sources that such an attack, rumored for more than two years, is imminent.
"On this side of the Atlantic, authorities considered to be reliable and to have reliable sources have provided details of the planned attack and how the military is being organized to carry it out. Scott Ritter, the former Iraq U.S. weapons inspector, has been a strong and vocal critic of the CheneyBush Administration over their War on Iraq and their stated reasons for it. As reported to me by a friend, at a meeting at the District 8 Democratic Club in Arizona on March 31, he said the attack on Iran will occur 'by the end of June.'"
In that column, I went on to say that I didn't think that such an attack would occur for one or more of the following reasons: "the security position of the United States, the future of any Jewish state within the current confines of the borders of Israel, the future of the American military, the price of oil, the economic status of the Western democracies and Japan, the explosion of anti-Western terrorism around the world, the U.S. national budget, to say nothing of the tens of thousands of Iranian citizens who would be murdered in such an attack."
So House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi becomes very unusually emotional in recalling the events that lead up to the murders of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in November, 1978. She calls for some civility in the increasingly hostile attacks on herself, the Obama Administration, "liberals" in general, and "the government." And then up steps Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican minority Leader. This is your big chance, Jack. You could say something like, "yes, the current protesters have perfectly legitimate grievances, but we do think that the rhetoric and the mood are getting out of hand, that threats of violence have no place in the conduct of our treasured American democracy, neither civil war nor secession is on the Republican agenda, that in fact we do have a major chance to begin to 'take back America' in the 2010 Congressional elections, that the Republican Party is organizing to do just that, and we welcome the support of everyone who wants to participate in the democratic process in order to accomplish that goal." But you didn't say anything like that. Instead, you threw red meat to the wolves.
So Dick Cheney is going around the country justifying torture, (without any proof whatsoever, and anyway in terms of the law, that argument is irrelevant) saying how many hundreds of thousands of lives it saved, that the U.S. is, or at least was when he (ooops, he means Bush) was in power, really a nation with a Unitary Executive that can over-ride domestic law, the Constitution, and international law whenever the President thinks that that is justified for "reasons of national security." (Sorry Dick, but if you would only read Article II, which defines the Executive Branch, you would know that such a doctrine is not even distantly implied in it, but that's another story.) Furthermore, he charges that the bringing of any charges against folks who, for example, actually engaged in torture, even of the type not approved specifically by himself, is just pure politics.
That in itself is a funny charge to make (even if GOPers make it all the time). "Politics" is the process that all organizations from nations to PTAs use to resolve policy differences short of the use of force. Of course, Cheney seems only to understand force, but thank goodness the Obama Administration has chosen to at least look into the possibility of charging one or more persons with a crime or crimes connected with the use of torture under the previous administration. Why? Because they have adopted a different policy on torture. Starting an investigation is certainly better than picking up a suspect or two in the matter and just throwing them into Gitmo, isn't it? So let's hear it for politics and the examination of torture policy under the Cheney (oops, I mean the Bush) Presidency.
(Of course Cheney's "Unitary Executive" concept happens to be a really good argument for President Obama to use his power under that concept to just enact his version of national health care reform [one that hopefully would include a public option] without consulting Congress. Just do it, Barack. The security of the nation demands it. For at the rate the current for-profit insurance/drug industry "health care system" is running, the personal bankruptcies it causes will seem like small potatoes when it bankrupts the country. That is certainly a matter of national security, isn't it? Of course Cheney doesn't think in those terms. "National security" matters for him are those that are good for the oil/coal and arms industries and the political future of the GOP, not the future of the civil society of the nation. But that's another story.)
On the morning of June 18, 1815, it rained in Belgium. A chance event. Napoleon Bonaparte, triumphant in his "100 Days," felt that he had to wait for the ground to dry before launching his main assault against the Duke of Wellington's men. Had that not happened, Napoleon might well have achieved his aim of destroying the British force before they could get organized and before their main supporting Prussian force could arrive later in the day. Thus, the outcome of the battle that has been famous since that day might have been such that it would have been more of a footnote to the history of Napoleon's re-establishment of his Imperium than the metaphor for his final defeat. But it did rain.
It has been said as well that one additional reason that Napoleon delayed that morning was that he had had a bout of diarrhea; a chance event. Again, if it possibly were not for something he happened to have eaten, the outcome might have been very different. He might not have waited so long for the ground to dry. Why Sen. Jim (gays should not be allowed in the classroom) DeMint would have had to have chosen a different metaphor to describe the true aims of his party in the so-called "health care reform debate." That is, of course, the destruction of the Obama Presidency. The role of chance in history.
In his BuzzFlash Editor's Blog of August 15, our Editor/Publisher Mark Karlin had this to say about the Civil War:
"[I]t may have been won by the North, but in truth the South never emotionally conceded. The Town Hall mobs, the birthers, the teabaggers, are all part of that long line of 'coded' agitators for the notions of white entitlement and 'conservative values.' Of course, this conservative viewpoint values cheap labor and unabated use of natural resources over technological and economic innovation. It also – and this is its hot molten core – fundamentally believes that white people are born with a divine advantage over people of other skin colors, and are chosen by God to lead the heathen hordes. . . Of course, when you start stirring the pot of race -- in order to preserve the status quo of entrenched power and wealth – you emerge with a stew of hate boiling over and ready to explode into full-fledged violence. . . The America that Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh so nostalgically yearn for is a bait and switch: what they want is the 'old-fashioned' white entitlement values of the Confederacy and the short-lived Constitution of the Confederate states."
But did the North really win the Civil War? Did those values ever really go away? Or put another way, did the South really lose?
The GOP is in trouble. Even though the Obama Administration refers to the fact only in passing, and even then not frequently at all, as is well-known to the readers of BuzzFlash, it is the Bush/Cheney policies, unfortunately presaged by Clinton on such matters as free trade (in reality nothing more than the free export of capital), of the last eight years that for the most part have lead our nation into the fix in which it presently finds itself. There were many policies, foreign and domestic, and I do not have to review them here, which have lead to very bad outcomes all around. In fact, it is hard to find one Bush/Cheney policy that has lead to a good outcome.
So what is the GOP to do? Obviously it cannot promote Bush/Cheney policy as the solution to the problems those policies created. Thus certain leaders, from time-to-time, have said "we have to come up with new solutions." The problem for them is that their ideology doesn't permit them to do that just because, as again is well-known to BuzzFlash readers, none of the necessary solutions, some of which are being pursued by the Obama Administration, fit at all into the GOP playbook.
Much has been written about Prof. "Skip" Gates and his trial-by-Crowley. I have a few comments to add on the matter, possibly even an original thought or two. But first, I would like to share with you a long-ago personal experience with stereotyping and the cops, in this case the New York City variety, as a white person.
In the early 1970s, I took part in an unauthorized anti-war march from City Hall in New York City up Sixth Avenue. While it was unauthorized, the cops did not try to break it up, but rather controlled traffic as long as we kept moving. We reached about 39th Street and Sixth and came to a halt. Word went round that the march leadership was negotiating a peaceful end to it, through Bryant Park that lies on Sixth, between 40th and 42nd streets. At that point, needing to get back soon to my job at the Morrisania City Hospital, I left the body of the march and was watching events from the sidewalk on the east side of the avenue.
Everything remained peaceful until out of nowhere came a squadron of mounted NYC Police, charging into the crowd on horseback swinging their night-sticks with abandon. Watching this horror from the sidewalk, with others, I started chanting "these are (Mayor John) Lindsey's cops." All of a sudden out of the corner of my eye, I caught a helmeted cop running along the sidewalk where I was standing, swinging his club too. Before I knew what had happened, that club came down on my head and in an instant, I was the owner of a classic "bloody shirt." Of course I was arrested, for "assaulting a police officer."
A month into his reign that began on January 30, 1933, things are not going so well for Adolf Hitler. He has already made his first roundups, of known Communists and left-wing labor leaders. But, the Depression is still on, he still has Reichs President Paul von Hindenburg to deal with, the army is on the fence (in fact, many of the Old Prussians can't stand the "Little Corporal," an enlisted man and an Austrian to boot), and there is still a functioning Reichstag (Parliament) to deal with. It does not have the Communist elected deputies, but does have enough Socialists and other Nazi-opponents to deny him the two-thirds majority he needs to change the Constitution. What to do?
He gets a half-wit ex-Communist to either really set the fire or let himself get set up as the scapegoat. He blames everything on the "Communist terrorists." He then manipulates the remaining membership of the Reichstag in his favor by scaring off some of the Socialists who are still there and intimidating a few other opponents, and gets the "Enabling Act," giving him dictatorial powers, passed by the two-thirds vote it needs, since it is a Constitutional amendment. The rest is history.
In 2000, the U.S. Right-Wing and their industrial partners such as Big Oil and the military-industrial complex, succeed in getting a President in place, by a one-vote election-theft. But by the spring of 2001, there are problems: 1) They know that their man didn't really win, and further, he is a minority President (a fact the media have completely ignored. Interesting: the Nazis never got more than 37% of the vote in any open election in pre-Nazi Germany.) 2) Their guy is a weakling (just like Hindenburg was). 3) There is a recession underway. 4) They have lost control of the Congress through the defection of Sen. Jim Jeffords.