Significance for the Long Run: Developments Last Week

The United States seems about ready to begin talks with Iran instead of relying on the standard Bush tactic of scaring the country to death. The person behind this move is Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq and, seemingly, one of the few voices of sanity within the administration. The two countries will start talking first about stability in Iraq and then, if things go well, move on to other topics. The talks, of course, will have to overcome the deep suspicion each nation feels for the other and the resentment in Iran for having been deemed a component of the axis of evil by the president of the United States.  So, they begin with a heavy burden. In this country we would do well not to forget the face our government presented to the world during the first term of the Bush administration. We're going to have to live with that image for a very long time. It's a good thing our government is no longer as bullying as it once was, but the effect is far from having disappeared.

Harry Reid says that President Bush is making an "open-ended commitment" to Iraq. This is the sort of naiveté Democratic leaders have persistently displayed. The issue is not a commitment to Iraq. Rather it's a permanent American base in Iraq, which has been the Bush administration's goal since before the invasion was launched. How can there be doubt that one of the strongest motives for occupying Iraq was to establish an ongoing U.S. military presence which could dominate any Iraqi government that ever came into being, and could ply Iraqi officials with enough American money to cause them to do our will? The notion that the Bush administration has been inept because it has not accomplished what it said it wanted to accomplish is silly. The question is not what they say but what they actually want. And, in the latter respect, they're been fairly effective. All one has to do to see the real motives of the Bush administration with respect to Iraq is to look at the military bases being built there. They are not fly-by-night installations. They are outfitted with every comfort a military man could want during a half-century occupation. That's what the Bush people are pushing towards. And Americans who do not want their country to occupy and dominate Iraq for the next fifty years had best face up to what the real issue is.

Anyone who has paid attention to Iraq knows that the amount of money stolen or thrown away during Paul Bremer's reign over the Coalition Provisional Authority is staggering. Billions simply disappeared, and nobody can, or will, say where they went. Now the barrier of silence that has dominated this scandal may be beginning to crack .Andrew Natsios, who was the foreign aid director in Iraq until recently gave an interview to Newsweek in which he says Bremer allowed ill-qualified or corrupt contractors to dominate the reconstruction process. Nearly $12 billion in actual currency was shipped to Iraq from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and much of it was never accounted for at all. In other words, gobs of cash just went somewhere. It doesn't take much imagination to figure what happened to a lot of it. Fifty years from now there will be a host of Iraq millionaire families, probably leaders of society, who got their start from money that vanished from the federal books in Iraq. One might argue that a little corruption doesn't matter so long as it helps get things done. But the horror of this Iraq money is that the reconstruction effort in Iraq is a mess. The country now, after three years of American occupation and vast amounts of money spent, still does not have an infrastructure as effective as the one Saddam had in place. This story is likely to grow as more and more of the facts come to light -- that is, if the American media can carry out their responsibilities

I'm forever saying that it would be good if all citizens would read such and such article. And, then, invariably, I cite a piece that most people can't and won't read. I'm not sure if that's naiveté on my part or a comment on the American public. But since I've done it before, I see no reason to stop now. So here goes. The article is Louis Menand's review of Francis Fukuyama's America at the Crossroads which appears in the March 27th edition of the New Yorker. The main reason I would like a wide readership for this piece is that it explains clearly and concisely what the neo-conservatives were and what they have become. Here's the key sentence in the explanation: "The present condition of the neo-conservative movement is the outcome of a classic case of the gradual sclerosis of political attitudes." In other words, the neo-conservatives are brain-dead. That's what Fukuyama attempts to tell us, ever so gently, in his new book. A set of ideas which is regularly discussed by the mainstream media as the most powerful intellectual force in America has hardened into a rigid ideology which cannot take reality into account. It has become no more than classic right-wing militaristic jingoism which holds that America not only can, but is obligated to, rule the world through military power. It's an insane notion, but there it is, right at the core of our government. The more people read about it, the more, perhaps, something approaching sense will worm its way into our political discourse.

Ben Domenech, the controversial right-winger blogger for the Washington Post, says the American people should be irritated (actually he used another word) because President Bush attended the funeral of a Communist. He was referring to the ceremonies for Mrs. King. A curious thing has happened in our political discourse. Right-wing spokesmen are granted the privilege of making far more outrageous statements than liberals are. Sure, there is negative response to outbursts in the vein of Domenech's but nonetheless wild arguments like his are seen as being merely part of his trade, more-or-less legitimate political polemic. On the other hand, Michael Moore's far milder critique of the right has been consistently demonized. What, exactly, is it that gives right-wingers the perquisite to speak as though they're demented? Does it suggest that most people recognize that's actually their condition? (After this was written, Mr. Domenech resigned from the Post after it was shown he had copied many of his texts from other writers.)

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