By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
As regular readers know, much of my satirical writing ( http://www.crisispapers.org/weinerpubs.htm#fantasies ) walks the razor’s edge of believability. I like to think of it as “scraping close to the bone,” and am delighted when letter-writers ask whether my scenarios really happened or whether they are fictional.
But I find that as a satirist, it’s getting more and more difficult to skate the thin line separating reality and parody. (Tom Lehrer had much the same feeling in the ’70s: “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.”)
In that light, check this out: An increasing number of nations in the “coalition of the willing” are abandoning Bush’s war in Iraq (most notably our one remaining major ally, Great Britain), and yet Cheney is viewing that development as evidence of the Administration’s successful strategy. All this while the U.S. is “surging” more troops into Iraq because the situation is so dire there.
How could a satirist possibly top that one?
THE ABSURD AS POLICY
In this and other matters, Dick Cheney resembles “Baghdad Bob.” Do you remember that guy? He was the Iraq Information Minister (Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf), the official spokesman for the Saddam Hussein regime in its last days. “Baghdad Bob” was the ultimate absurdist spin-doctor who would put the best face on the worst possible news happening to his regime.
The foreign reporters hovering around him would burst out laughing when he’d unravel another whopper about how well the Iraqi troops were doing in fending off the American invading force.
His ultimate performance, as I recall, took place on a Baghdad street when, surrounded by the foreign press shouting questions at him, he denied that the Americans were anywhere near Baghdad. (“There are no troops there. Never. … There is no presence of American infidels in the city of Baghdad.” ) Behind him, one could see the U.S. tanks rumblng by.
One could giggle at his lies because we all knew that he didn’t believe what he was saying. He was spouting such nonsense because if he didn’t toe Saddam’s line, he’d be executed in a second. Besides, he had no power to affect events.
But Cheney has no such excuses: Along with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, Cheney is largely responsible for the policy that took the U.S. to war in Iraq, a policy based on outright lies, distortions, deceit. Cheney is the major progenitor of the war’s current escalation of sending 21,000 more troops into Iraq. (This escalation comes nearly two years after Cheney, always consistent in his wrong-headedness, declared that the Iraq insurgency was “in its final throes.” Baghdad Bob-ing again.)
“SIGNS OF PROGRESS”
Here is Tony Blair announcing the beginning of the end of British involvement in Iraq, by withdrawing one-third of its expeditionary forces, and Cheney is claiming that as a “sign of progress” for the Bush Administration’s approach.
Lest you think I’m making this up for satirical effect, let’s quote more of what Cheney said about the Brits pulling out of Basra in that interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl: ( http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=2891713&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312 ) “Well, I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well.”
Professor Juan Cole, ( http://www.juancole.com/2007/02/blair-to-draw-down-british-troops-tony.html ) who actually knows the territory, had a more realistic take:
>> “This is a rout, there should be no mistake. The fractious Shiite militias and tribes of Iraq’s South have made it impossible for the British to stay. They already left Sadr-controlled Maysan province, as well as sleepy Muthanna. They moved the British consulate to the airport because they couldn’t protect it in Basra. They are taking mortar and rocket fire at their bases every night. Raiding militia HQs has not resulted in any permanent change in the situation. …
>> “Blair is not leaving Basra because the British mission has been accomplished. He is leaving because he has concluded that it cannot be, and that if he tries any further it will completely sink the Labor Party, perhaps for decades to come.”
Also this from Kim Murphy in the Los Angeles Times: ( http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-brits22feb22,1,316531,full.story?coll=la-headlines-world )
“Britain’s decision to pull 1600 troops out of Iraq by spring, touted by U.S. and British leaders as a turning point in Iraqi sovereignty, was widely seen Wednesday as a telling admission that the British military could no longer sustain simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The British military is approaching ‘operational failure,’ former [U.K.] defense staff chief Charles Guthrie warned this week.”
Blair can accept the reality in the region, CheneyBush can’t. And the Republican Party will pay the price in 2008 for their leaders’ unwillingness to see and deal with the disaster in front of their faces.
COMFORT FOOD FOR THE MIND
The Cheney-as-Baghdad-Bob meme would be funny except that several hundred-thousand human beings, American and Iraqi civilians, have died or been maimed as a result of the Bush Administration’s consistent slide into delusion, and more are being slaughtered and wounded every day.
Reality to CheneyBush and the rest of the Bunker Boys is unfamiliar territory. It’s much more comforting for them to rest in their bubble world of self-delusion, where just one more offensive, another infusion of troops, another tweaking of the military leadership, will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
We watched this same fantasized “turning-the-corner” scenario unfold innumerable times in the Vietnam War as well; eventually, the U.S. “surged” 500,000 troops U.S. into that quagmire, only to bring them out in humiliation several years later.
So when anti-war Democrats and moderate Republicans analyze their options to get America’s troops out of Iraq and to prevent the Bush Administration from expanding the war beyond the borders of Iraq and Afghanistan into Iran, it’s clear that extraordinary action is required lest the madness take us all into a moral and warmaking maelstrom from which there is no conceivable exit.
DISSENT AT NEW LEVEL OF URGENCY
That means thinking the unthinkable for many in opposition: cutting off funding for the war effort, introducing articles of impeachment in the House, initiating massive civil disobedience, avoiding ’08 candidates who dance around what needs to be done in Iraq rather than actually taking steps to do it, and building support for Pentagon military brass who resign in protest (and for troops like Lieutenant Watada who refuse to participate in illegal, immoral wars), etc.
Normally, the political system in Washington would correct itself slowly over time, but that system appears to be so corrupted and frightened and confused that it will take a popular tsunami of desperate anger to get them to move and do the right thing. Besides, time is not on our side this time.
That’s where you and I come in. We must not merely march and write letters and sign petitions and give money, as important and necessary as those acts are. But we also must get our hands dirty in the political trenches: run for office, volunteer to help good candidates, visit the offices of our elected representatives and senators and refuse to leave until they hear us out. We must initiate creative acts of civil disobedience that time and time again will get the word out that we love our country and will no longer tolerate its destruction and desecration from within and its reckless imperial adventuring abroad.
We really don’t have a lot of time to play with here. Iraq, already a charnel house of sectarian slaughter, most assuredly will get even worse (even with many of the Sadrist forces having gone to ground until the Americans leave) into a full-scale civil-war bloodbath. A reinvigorated Taliban/Al Qaida alliance is expected to launch its Spring offensive shortly in Afghanistan, with the U.S. and NATO forces trying to counter by pre-emptively attacking their bases.
THE COMING ATTACK ON IRAN
And, most ominously, as many have reported, Israel and the United States, either together or separately, are preparing to attack Iran’s nuclear and military facilities, in order to set back that nation’s technological and strike capacities for at least a decade or more. This attack could well come within the next six weeks or so. See here ( http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/070305fa_fact_hersh ), here ( http://www.newstatesman.com/200702190014 ) here, ( http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/022107R.shtml ) and here ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6376639.stm ).
I suppose it’s possible that the U.S. and Israel are playing a giant game of “chicken” with Iran, trying to scare the Iranian leaders into backing off their missile and nuclear development programs, but the evidence points to an operational run-up to a new war, using pretty much the same rollout template from 2003 Iraq. All the U.S. needs is a triggering incident, and if the Bush Administration can’t find one that Congress can believe, they will, as they did in Iraq, invent one.
Even though the limited intelligence being used by the Bush Administration to con Americans into supporting an attack on Iran is “thin,” (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-usiran25feb25,0,4451045.story?coll=la-home-headlines ) to say the least, Iran’s recent launch of a powerful rocket into space and thumbing its nose at U.N. demands concerning its nuclear program are like waving a red flag in a bull’s face and don’t help relieve the tension between Iran and the U.S. All it will take is one miscalculation in Tehran or Washington and the region will be drowned in blood.
In short, all hell is about to break loose on the military front in the greater Middle East/South Asia region, with the U.S. being right in the middle of it. The Pentagon leaders know it and want no part of it, apparently from Secretary Gates on down through the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was reported over the weekend that at least five generals and several admirals will resign ( http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article1434540.ece) if Bush decides to bomb Iran. Our allies know the reality of what’s happening and warn against U.S. policy; Tony Blair, for instance, has expressed his serious reservations about the U.S. desire to attack Iran.
U.S. SUPPORTING JIHADIST GROUPS!
And, to top it all off, and take us back to that thin line between reality and satire: U.S. policy, according to Sy Hersh’s new must-read article in The New Yorker ( http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/070305fa_fact_hersh ), is being redirected to support Al Qaida-linked Sunni terrorist groups as a buffer against the rising power of Shiite Iran. I couldn’t make this stuff up!
Here are some quotes from Hersh: He says the U.S. has been “pumping money, a great deal of money, without congressional authority, without any congressional oversight” for covert operations in the Middle East where it wants to “stop the Shiite spread or the Shiite influence.” Hersh says these funds have ended up in the hands of “three Sunni jihadist groups” who are “connected to al Qaeda” but “want to take on Hezbollah. … We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11.”
We American citizens must keep saying it, and saying it even more loudly: CheneyBush policy in Iraq and Iran is absolute madness and must be stopped in its tracks.
We voters thought we were sending a clear, decisive message to CheneyBush in the November midterm election — to get our troops out of there and tamp down the imperial adventurism — but they chose not to listen. So we have our work cut out for us, to be sure.
A mass-based popular intervention may be the only thing that will save our country. Let’s roll up our oppositional sleeves and get to it.#
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently is co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org .
First published by The Crisis Papers 2/27/07.
Copyright 2007 by Bernard Weiner