Conventional Wisdom And Bad People In Washington
Dean Lawrence R. Velvel
This posting is about more of the rot coming out of Washington. It begins with the matter of the so-called Iraq Study Group (ISG). One cannot yet know for sure, but the ISG bids fair to be the latest political fraud attempted to be perpetrated on the American people. Its membership is just a bunch of long-time Washington insiders/groupies, people like Baker, Hamilton, Jordan, Eagleburger, Robb, Panetta, Simpson, Meese -- Meese for God’s sake -- and, to try to fool all of the people some of the time, the asserted middle of the road jurist, Justice O’Connor.
God forbid that this cast of perpetual Washington insiders should come up with ideas different from the supposedly middle of the road ideas that most of the pols are tossing around. To insure against this, the ISG met on Monday with Bush and Cheney, met on Tuesday by videoconference with Bush’s British poodle, Blair, and met as well with a bunch of Clinton people who failed to see or guard against what was coming. These meetings were held long before the ISG’s recommendations will become public. The only realistically possible reason for the advance meetings, as opposed to theoretical reasons for them, is to try to insure -- by giving the ISGroupies the Bush/Cheney/Blair views and other conventional views -- that the ISG does not go too far off the reservation. Not to worry, since none of its members is famous for going off the reservation.
To further insure conventional wisdom, Bush commented after his meeting with these paladins of orthodoxy that “it was important for ‘people making suggestions to recognize that the best military options depend upon conditions on the ground.’” John Warner -- who for years would investigate little or nothing about Iraq -- said on the same day that the Senate shouldn’t leap to conclusions before the ISG issued its report. Lindsey Graham, that sometimes -- and only sometimes -- paladin of decency, who at other times is a raving right winger, said he would ‘” adamantly oppose’” a deadline for withdrawing because it is the ‘“equivalent to surrendering in the central battleground in the war on terror.’” The “central battleground in the war on terror”? Can you believe that? Gimme a break! And never forget that another right winger, a deeply political guy who now is making himself come off as a nice guy, John McCain of the Keating Five, wants to add more American troops in Iraq.
Now we read that McCain is being joined in this disastrous desire by lots of the founts of conventional wisdom. All these people want to do more of what has been a roaring failure, which some people think is the definition of insanity.
So the usual Washington crowd, including leaders among the miscreants, are already at work trying to insure that we will be in Iraq for more years, with thousands more deaths of Iraqis and Americans. Not for them the wisdom of former Marine Commandant David Shoup. To accomplish his own purposes, a disbelieving legislator who wished to remain in Viet Nam, and wanted to prove withdrawal would be fraught with disaster, asked Shoup disbelievingly how he would withdraw our troops from Nam. Shoup answered “By ship and by plane”.
The current crop of fools in Washington don’t want to hear this despite the election on November 7th. So they conjure immense difficulties attendant to withdrawal, as their ideological ancestors did with Viet Nam. This blogger’s answer to all this remains the same, and simple. Divide the country into three parts. (Apparently, Joe Biden is the only Senator who favors this or something like it.) That indeed is already happening, as Shia and Sunni, as did the slaves in our own Civil War, vote with their feet. They are moving to their own areas. Once there are three areas, Sunni, Shia and Kurdish, you can bet that the government of each will make sure there is no insurgency in its territory. Division of the country and a consequent end to the killing is a lot more important than who gets what oil, than whether Iran or Syria have influence over respective coreligionists -- which they already do anyway -- or whether Turkey is concerned over a Kurdish area. What we have now is a disaster that can only get worse, as was recognized by the electorate on November 7th. Nothing is likely to be as bad as things are at present if there is division. Right now, though, only Biden, as said, seems to be enough of a non-toe-the-line-Washingtonite to favor the common sense solution of division. The rest favor only the phony nostrums that will dig us in deeper.
It would be nice to be wrong about the ISG. It would be nice if the ISG came up with really unconventional advice that, de facto, stuck it to Bush/Cheney by making them get out of Iraq very quickly. But you wouldn’t want to bet on it, would you?
The question which remains, of course, is whether the Democrats, once again seeking immolation as well as a major defeat in 2008, will go along with remaining in Iraq, or will instead compel an immediate division of and withdrawal from Iraq. One of their problems is going to be Joe Lieberman in the Senate. Apparently a gross egomaniac (like lots -- all? -- Senators), a supporter of a compromise that allowed reactionary judges to be confirmed, a shill for the insurance industry, victorious in the election extensively because of Republican votes, a self admitted potential joiner of the Republican Party, and a long time supporter of the war (there was even talk at one point of Bush appointing him to replace Rumsfeld), Lieberman now holds the key to Democratic control of the Senate. If he were to throw his support to the Republicans, as he has said could happen, then the vote there will be 50-50, Cheney will break the tie, and the Republicans will control the Senate. So . . . . what if Lieberman -- that self-assessed self-righteous paragon of virtue and alleged moderation -- were to say he will give his support to the Republicans if the Democrats were to push for a quick withdrawal from the war that he has long favored? What would the Democrats do in such a case? The question will come down to whether they prefer self-immolation and dishonor to once again being the minority party in the Senate. (They would, however, still control the house if they chose honor and told Lieberman to get lost.)
A correlative question to whether the Democrats will push for quick withdrawal is whether they will or will not investigate fully all the evil and screw-ups regarding Iraq, and will, indeed, keep impeachment off the table as conservatives are seeking to persuade them to do and as Nancy Pelosi has said will (God forbid) be done. If the Democrats do these things, they are going to face a bitter backlash in 2008 from millions of people who voted for them in the hope of having a better country. Lots of those millions of people know that you cannot have a better country so long as those who do evil are not punished and their machinations are not exposed. Without the threat of exposure and punishment, potential evildoers have no reason not to commit evil. This is how conservatives feel about street thugs and Mafiosi; why is it any less true of thugs in suits who control armies? All of recorded history cries out that it is not less true for them. (When they are not punished, you even get things like the secret comeback of Henry Kissinger.) If we want a decent country we must, after trial, put the criminals in irons or even against the wall, depending on the nature of their crimes and regardless of whether it’s some street criminal or one of our many tycoon type criminals or some of our murderers in government.
Frank Rich recently put a related matter quite pithily. Talking about what he called the “toxic” conduct of George Allen (who before November 7th was gunning for the White House), Rich said that, “Once it became clear that Mr. Allen was in serious trouble, conservative pundits mainly faulted him for running an ‘awful campaign,’ not for being an awful person.” (Emphasis added.) An awful person. Exactly. That is what’s the matter with far too many of our politicians. They should be tried and then, as said, be tossed behind bars or, in some cases, should suffer worse.
Speaking of bad people in Washington (who number in the thousands), let me close with a brief comment about Bob Woodward, the former Midwesterner who, as discussed in a prior blog, gave up Midwestern modesty for east coast braggartry. In a review of Woodward’s most recent book last Sunday, Franklin Foer commented on the extent to which Woodward has retreated from his prior near-idolatrous treatment of Bush and company and is now blasting these incompetents. Foer said some things that, to me at least, ignoramous that I am, were amazing to read. I had no idea, as it is said. Speaking of officials who are now jumping ship on Iraq, Foer, who calls this a “rat-jump,” says:
But Woodward doesn’t render this rat-jump with the appropriate comic flair. He portrays these revisionist accounts with far more sympathy than they deserve.
This book, after all, is an object lesson in precisely this brand of retreat. You can easily understand Woodward’s urge to retreat. For the past decade, he has received unending abuse, suffering a devastating Joan Didion hatchet job and then the scorn of the anti-Bush left. His critics have turned him into a symbol of journalism’s rot, a leading force in the sad demise of adversarial reporting that led to Judith Miller and media passiveness in the face of Bush spin. After writing “All the President’s Men,” Woodward became one of them.
With “State of Denial,” you sense this (somewhat overwrought) critique has rattled Woodward. It has forced him to change his style. There’s less of his signature omniscience here -- a style that not only reflected his proximity to power, but captured the self confidence of the Washington Establishment. In its place, he has grown self-referential, nervously mentioning his past books, as well as inserting himself as a character into his own tale. That Bob Woodward has strayed from the Bob Woodward method tells you a lot about the state of American journalism.
“[J]ournalism’s rot,” and the “state of American journalism” indeed. Guys like Woodward -- bigfoot journalists with the power to uncover and write the truth -- instead played the pols’ game, the game of money and self importance. They were (and are) no better than the pols they wrote about. And while it would be too much to say that they are as responsible for this war as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of that crowd, they do have considerable guilt to atone for.
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