6/28/2007

Why GOP victimhood didn't work in 2006

A very good article in Harper's shows how the GOP perpetual claims of being oppressed by traitors didn't stick this time: What has really robbed the conspiracy theories of their effectiveness is how the war in Iraq has been conducted. Bush's refusal to mobilize the nation for the war in Iraq has severed that immediate identification with our army's fortunes. Bush has finally uncoupled the state from its heroic status.

The conspiracy had expanded yet again. Not just Nancy Pelosi or Dick Durbin but all Democrats and all liberals were now firmly established as traitors, and it was not possible that they had made some honest gaffes; instead, their very motives were sinister.

When Rove's thunderous media offensive had finally subsided, however, a strange silence ensued. The popularity of his master, George W. Bush, continued to plunge in the opinion polls. Support for the war continued to plummet as well

... What went wrong? How could such an infallible Republican strategy, conducted with all of the right wing's vast media resources at his command, have failed so utterly? How was it that the story of the stab in the back had lost its power to hold us spellbound?

What has really robbed the conspiracy theories of their effectiveness is how the war in Iraq has been conducted. Bush and his advisers have sought to use the war not only to punish their enemies but also to reward their supporters, a bit of political juggling that led them to demand nothing from the American public as a whole. Those of us who are not actively fighting in Iraq, or who do not have close friends and family members who are doing so, have not been asked to sacrifice in any way. The richest among us have even been showered with tax cuts.

Yet in demanding so little, Bush has finally uncoupled the state from its heroic status. It is not a coincidence that modern nationalism dates from the advent of mass democracy—and mass citizen armies—that the American and French revolutions ushered in at the end of the eighteenth century. Bush's refusal to mobilize the nation for the war in Iraq has severed that immediate identification with our army's fortunes. Nor did it begin with the Bush Administration. The wartime tax cuts and the all-volunteer, wartime army are simply the latest manifestations of a trend that is now decades old and that has been promulgated through peace as well as war, by Democrats as well as Republicans. It cannot truly be a surprise that a society that has steadily dismantled or diminished the most basic access to health care, relief for the poor and the aged, and decent education; a society that has allowed the gap between its richest and poorest citizens to grow to unprecedented size; a society that has paid obeisance to the ideology of globalization to the point of giving away both its jobs and its debt to foreign nations, and which has just allowed one of its poorer cities to quietly drown, should choose to largely opt out of its own defense.

Anyone who doubts that this is exactly what we have done need only look at how little the war really engages most of us. It rarely draws more than a few seconds of coverage on the local television news, if that, and then only well into the broadcast, after a story on a murder, or a fire, or the latest weather predictions. Even the largest and angriest demonstrations against our occupation of Iraq have not approached the mobilizations against the war in Vietnam, but a close observer will notice that we also have yet to see any of the massive counterdemonstrations that were held in support of that war—or “in support of the troops.” Such engagement on either side seems almost quaint now.

Who could possibly believe in a plot to lose this war? No one cares that much about it. We have, instead, reached a crossroads where the overwhelming right-wing desire to dissolve much of the old social compact that held together the modern nation-state is irreconcilably at odds with any attempt to conduct such a grand, heroic experiment as implanting democracy in the Middle East. Without mass participation, Iraq cannot be passed off as an heroic endeavor, no matter how much Mr. Bush's rhetoric tries to make it one, and without a hero there can be no great betrayer, no skulking villain....

More at the source

"Stabbed in the back! The past and future of a right-wing myth" by Kevin Baker (Harper's Magazine)

6/08/2007

Drunk as a skunk - Illness sidelines Bush at G-8 summit - Yahoo! News


Bush, a recovering alcoholic is shown drinking a glass of beer right before he professes to be "too sick to attend the G8 meeting of world leaders". Can anyone tell me what an ex AA is doing with a glass of alcohol in his mouth ? The man fell off the wagon! And has our country's destiny in his shaking hands -- law

Fri Jun 8, 6:34 AM ET

HEILIGENDAMM, Germany - Stricken with a stomach ailment that confined him to his hotel room,
President Bush still met Friday with France's new president and prepared for talks in Poland on a new missile defense system.

The president was already dressed when he began feeling ill in the morning, White House counselor Dan Bartlett said. He said doctors are keeping an eye on him but that Bush's illness — whether a stomach virus, a light touch of food poisoning or something else — is "not serious."

He stayed in bed to try to rest and recuperate, missing the morning session of the summit being held here of eight industrialized democracies.

But Bush taped his weekly radio address, and — for now — was not expected to alter his travel plans for later in the day, Bartlett said. After attending the summit's final day, Bush was scheduled to fly to Poland to meet with Polish President Lech Kaczynski and then on to Rome where he was to stay the night.

His sit-down with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on the sidelines of the larger summit meetings went ahead as planned, only in Bush's private chambers instead of a meeting room, Bartlett said.

The summit session Bush missed was a meeting with African leaders. Stepped-up Africa aid was one of Bush's priorities coming into Germany.

Illness sidelines Bush at G-8 summit - Yahoo! News

6/01/2007

Iraq AKA TerrorU

Complete with hands-on training for would be American killers. Great job Bushies! -- law

Think of what has happened in only the last week in the Middle East. In northern Lebanon, in the long-established Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, out of the blue arose a new al Qaeda-related insurgent group, Fatah al-Islam. Within days and even hours, the recurring hell of the Middle East was loosed, and refugees poured out of the camp in terror.

There had been none of this kind of terror networking in these northern camps. Indeed, since this camp was established in 1949 to accommodate refugees from northern Palestine after the creation of Israel, it has housed one of the more formal and conservative of peoples.

But it was soon established that these new "insurgents" or "terrorists" – or whatever they really are – had arrived at the camp only recently, that they marched in one day with brand-new weapons, ready to fight.

Two points grip you:

•The first is found in the words of French scholar Bernard Rougier, author of Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam Among Palestinians in Lebanon. "The main point is that these camps are no longer part of Palestinian society," he told The Washington Post . "They are only spaces – now open to all of the influences running through the Muslim world."

•The second is that Iraq, where we were supposed to be "containing terrorism," is now clearly exporting insurgents to other regions – to Lebanon, to Syria, to Gaza, to Bangladesh, to Kurdistan.

And so, on the one hand, you have weakened societies vulnerable to the "new answers" of "new insurgencies," and on the other hand, you have Iraq set up as a school for terrorists with American troops and policy providing the constant inspiration for their fight.

This, of course, is not the way the Bush administration sees it.

The White House sees terrorists as born, not created by history, bearing the mark of Cain, not the mark of circumstance. There is a scarlet "T" written on their foreheads at birth and the only answer is to destroy them. This kind of thinking, of course, relieves the thinker of any responsibility for the presence of the insurgent-terrorist-whatever in our innocent midst.


Georgie Anne Geyer: A spreading terror | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Opinion: Viewpoints

TomDispatch - Tomgram: Mark Danner, The Age of Rhetoric

More from the speech -- law

One of the most painful principles of our age is that scandals are doomed to be revealed -- and to remain stinking there before us, unexcised, unpunished, unfinished.

If this Age of Rhetoric has a tragic symbol, then surely this is it: the frozen scandal, doomed to be revealed, and revealed, and revealed, in a never-ending torture familiar to the rock-bound Prometheus and his poor half-eaten liver. A full three years ago, the photographs from Abu Ghraib were broadcast by CBS on Sixty Minutes II and published by Seymour Hersh ... -- in the First President of Rhetoric's phrase -- "an alternative set of procedures" on prisoners in the War on Terror....

if torture today remains a "scandal," a "crisis," it is a crisis in that same peculiar way that crime or AIDS or global warming are crises: that is, they are all things we have learned to live with.

Perhaps the commencement address to the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley is not the worst of places to call for a halt to this spinning merry-go-round. I know it will brand me forever a member of the reality-based community if I suggest that the one invaluable service the new Democratic Congress can provide all Americans is a clear accounting of how we came to find ourselves in this present time of war: an authorized version, as it were, which is, I know, the most pathetically retrograde of ideas.


TomDispatch - Tomgram: Mark Danner, The Age of Rhetoric: "

Rove: US Power has made reality its bitch. Reality: O Rlly ?

It sucks that they made so much mess with US. But it is oh so good that they failed so spectacularly! Mark Danner reminds us of their hubris and failures below -- law

Here is my favorite quotation about the Bush administration, a description of a conversation with the proverbial "unnamed administration official" by the fine journalist Ron Suskind in October 2004:

"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.' "

I must admit to you that I love that quotation. The unnamed official, widely believed to be Karl Rove, sketches out with breathtaking frankness a radical view in which power frankly determines reality, and in which rhetoric — the science of flounces and folderols — follows meekly and subserviently in its train. Those in the "reality-based community" are figures a mite pathetic, for we have failed to realize the singular new principle of the new age: Power has made reality its bitch.

Given such sweeping claims for power, it is hard to expect much respect for truth; or perhaps it should be "truth" — in quotation marks — for, when you can alter reality at will, why pay much attention to the idea of fidelity in describing it?

But this is all old hat to you, graduates of the Rhetoric Department of 2007, the line of thinking you imbibe with your daily study, for it is present in striking fashion in Foucault and many other intellectual titans of these last decades — though even they might have been nonplussed to find it so crisply expressed by a finely tailored man sitting in the White House. Though we in the "reality-based community" may just now be discovering it, you have known for years the presiding truth of our age, which is that the object has become subject, and we have a fanatical follower of Foucault in the Oval Office. Graduates, let me say it plainly and incontrovertibly: George W. Bush is the first rhetoric-major president.

*

IN JANUARY 2001, the rhetoric-major president came to power after a savage and unprecedented electoral battle that was decided not by the ballots of American voters — for of these he had 540,000 fewer than his Democrat rival — but by the votes of Supreme Court justices, where Republicans prevailed 5 to 4. In this singular condition, and with a Senate precisely divided between parties, President Bush proceeded to behave as if he had won an overwhelming electoral victory, demanding tax cuts greater and more regressive than those he had outlined in the campaign. And despite what would seem to have been debilitating political weakness, the president shortly achieved this first success in "creating his own reality." To act as if he had overwhelming political power would mean he had overwhelming political power.

Then came the huge, clanging, echoing cacophony of 9/11. We are so embedded in its age that it is easy to forget the stark, overwhelming shock of it: Nineteen young men with box cutters seized enormous transcontinental airliners and brought those towers down. In an age in which we have become accustomed to two, three, four, five suicide attacks in a single day in Iraq, it is easy to forget the blunt, scathing shock of it. The real weapon that day was not box cutters, or even airliners, but the television set, which reproduced and conveyed that astonishing picture, creating both a recruiting poster for jihad and an image of humiliation to "dirty the face of imperial power."

Our nation's leaders — men and women worshipful of the idea of power and its ability to remake reality itself — needed to restore the nation's prestige, to wipe clean our dirtied face. Henry Kissinger, a confidant of the president, when asked by Bush's speechwriter why he had supported the Iraq war, responded: "Because Afghanistan was not enough." The radical Islamists, he said, want to humiliate us. "And we need to humiliate them."

In other words, the presiding image of the war on terror — the burning towers collapsing on the television screen — had to be supplanted by another, the image of American tanks rumbling proudly through a vanquished Arab capital.

In the end, of course, the enemy preferred not to fight with tanks, though they were perfectly happy to have us do so, the better to destroy these multimillion-dollar anachronisms with so-called IEDs, improvised explosive devices, worth a few hundred bucks apiece. This is called asymmetrical warfare — the strategy of provocation — and one should note here with some astonishment how successful it has been these last half a dozen years.

In the post-Cold War world, after all, as one neoconservative theorist explained shortly after 9/11, the United States was enjoying a rare "unipolar moment." It deployed the greatest military and economic power the world has ever seen. It was the assumption of this so-called preponderance that lay behind the philosophy of power enunciated by Rove and that led to an attitude toward international law and alliances that is, in my view, quite unprecedented in American history. That radical attitude is brilliantly encapsulated in a single sentence drawn from the National Security Strategy of the United States of 2003: "Our strength as a nation-state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes and terrorism." In such a world, courts — indeed, law itself — must not be allowed to limit the power of the most powerful state. The most powerful state, after all, makes reality.

Now, here's an astonishing fact: Fewer than half a dozen years into this "unipolar moment," the greatest military power in the history of the world stands on the brink of defeat in Iraq. Its vastly expensive and all-powerful military has been humbled by a congeries of secret organizations fighting mainly by means of suicide vests, car bombs and improvised explosive devices — all of them cheap, simple and effective, and all designed to use the power of the most powerful against it. Indeed, so effective that these techniques now comprise a kind of ready-made insurgency kit freely available on the Internet and spreading in popularity around the world, most obviously to Afghanistan, that land of few targets.

*

AS I STAND here, one of our two major political parties advocates the withdrawal — gradual, or otherwise — of American combat forces from Iraq, and many in the other party are feeling the increasing urge to go along. As for the Bush administration's broader war on terror, as the State Department detailed recently in its annual report on the subject, the number of terrorist attacks worldwide has never been higher, nor more effective.

How could such a thing have happened? In their choice of enemy, one might say that the terrorists of Al Qaeda had a great deal of dumb luck, for they attacked a country run by an administration that had a radical conception of the potency of power.

Critical to this was the administration's peculiar ideas about the relationship of power to reality — and beneath that a familiar imperial attitude, if put forward in a strikingly crude and harsh form: "We're an empire now and when we act we create our own reality." Power, untrammeled by law or custom; power, unlimited by the so-called weapons of the weak, be they international institutions, courts or terrorism — power can remake reality.

If the last half a dozen years have done anything, they have put such grand ideas to a stern empirical test. The experiment unfolds daily in the bloody streets of Baghdad. How can I convey to you the reality of that place at this time? Perhaps by this account from a young Iraqi woman of her trip to recover the body of her nephew, who had been killed in a downtown explosion:

"When we got there, we were given his remains. And remains they were. From the waist down was all they could give us.

"We identified him by the cellphone in his pants' pocket. 'If you want the rest, you will just have to look for yourselves. We don't know what he looks like.' …

"We were led away, and before long a foul stench clogged my nose and I retched. With no more warning we came to a clearing that was probably an inside garden at one time…. But now it had become a slaughterhouse, only instead of cattle, all around were human bodies….

"We were asked what we were looking for; 'upper half' replied my companion, for I was rendered speechless. 'Over there.' We looked for our boy's broken body between tens of other boys' remains; with our bare hands sifting them and turning them.

"Millennia later, we found him, took both parts home, and began the mourning ceremony."

These words come from those who find themselves as far as they can possibly be from the idea that, when they act, they "create their own reality." The voice comes not from "history's actors" but its objects — and we must ponder who exactly its subjects are.

Graduates, you have chosen a path that will let you look beyond the rhetoric that you have studied and into the heart of reality. Of all people, you have chosen to learn how to see the gaps and the loose stitches and the remnant threads. Ours is a grim age, this Age of Rhetoric, still infused with the remnant perfume of imperial dreams. You have made your study in a propitious time, and that bold choice may bring you pain, for you have devoted yourselves to seeing what it is that stands before you. If clear sight were not so painful, many more would elect to have it


LA Times OP/ED by Mark Danner