As events unfolded this past week over President George Bush’s escalation of the Iraq occupation, one was left wondering if the United States is now a military dictatorship or is fast becoming one.
Here we sit, some four years into a botched, unpopular occupation of another country, with a parade of revolving, sycophantic generals on our television screens, with more reports of continued U.S. torturing of so-called enemy combatants, and, now, with a tyrant’s open-ended commitment to continue the Iraq debacle for at least another two years and probably more.
All of this is done against the will of the American people who spoke clearly in November by electing a majority of representatives and senators who want an end to the Iraq occupation. Reliable, nonpartisan polls show 70 percent of Americans do no support the “dictator’s” plan to add 21,000 more troops to an already failed adventure.
Some will argue the military dictatorship designation is hyperbole or extremism.
But consider this:
If your child was thirteen when the Iraq occupation began, she or he will be nineteen or probably even older when the war is finally over. By then, if the Bush administration has its way, we will be involved in other wars, probably against Iran and Syria.
We are indoctrinating an entire generation of children in violence and war and torture.
Our children live under the nightmarish background of thousands upon thousands of dead American soldiers and dead innocent Iraqis. They live under the violent rhetoric of a president who wants the ill-defined, always changing, enemy to “bring it on” and retired generals who are actually paid to point out the killing power of the latest weaponry on the cable news shows.
They have seen images of Americans torturing prisoners in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib Prison, images of naked men, bleeding, covered in feces, men cowering in front of attack dogs and their sadistic captors. They have seen a video of Nick Berg’s decapitation. They had seen charred bodies hanging from a bridge in Fallujah. They have watched Bush’s barbaric lynching of Saddam Hussein on YouTube.
Everywhere they go, sporting events, their schools, churches, our children are forced by authority figures to worship the symbols and culture of the United States military, to worship violence and death over peaceful resolution.
This is what today’s American children know.
Most importantly, our children have grown up watching one man, George W. Bush, manipulate the American military for political power and to enrich his friends and, by extension, his political party, through war profiteering. He has fired generals (General Eric Shinseki, for example) who were right about strategy and did not lick his boots, and he has promoted those generals who sacrifice their honor and country for careerism. (Is this not the very definition of a military dictatorship?) And our children have been told by the country's mainstream media this is normal.
Think of other world military dictators, frightening despots with delusional and radical ideas, gesturing widely in military uniforms before groups of adoring, nationalistic people, and then remember Bush on that aircraft carrier, dressed in his flight suit, pandering to the cameras, remember Bush speaking at all those military institutions to scripted applause.
Meanwhile, our country’s opposition party has done nothing to stop the country’s descent into what increasingly seems to be a military dictatorship.
Some will argue that elections in two years will change things, but will they? Will Republican political operatives and warmongers allow fair elections? Has Republican election-district gerrymandering and our country’s constitutional but unfair allocation of United States Senators create a dangerous dynamic in which the overwhelming will of the people can be thwarted by warmongering dictators?
Will the Democrats finally step up and restore our Democratic structures? Who will lead this effort? Does it seem plausible at any level that people like Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama can get past their own media-created hubris, their own cravings for personal power? I do not think so. I do not have anything against these two politicians, but I do not think so.
Yet I do believe that today Americans eagerly await leaders who will restore and rejuvenate the democratic structures in this country.
But when will it become too late?
The clock is clicking on our fragile democracy.
Right Wins Again
It should be increasingly clear by now that progressive commentators, from Sidney Blumenthal to Joe Conason to Hendrik Hertzberg, were duped recently by a simplistic right-wing media effort to manipulate the rhetorical frame of the Iraq war.
The ruse’s successfulness is quite disconcerting, even astounding in its implications. It should make every American progressive wonder if political change is really possible in this country within the current mainstream media discourse.
When the country’s so-called liberal intellectuals can be duped by such obvious political and rhetorical ploys as the Iraq Study Group Report, then it’s seriously time to wonder if our current media system, even our precarious progressive network, has been corrupted or indoctrinated beyond redemption.
As President George Bush prepares his speech in which he will call for adding up to 20,000 more troops in Iraq, the Iraq Study Group’s report, hailed initially by many progressive writers as a huge condemnation of the war, has slowly disappeared from the media landscape. The report, as I wrote soon after it was published, was merely a cover for Bush to add more troops and to escalate the war on his terms until his presidency ends. A handful of other academics, mostly published on Common Dreams and other progressive Internet web sites, also condemned the report as nothing new.
But the elite progressive writers literally gushed their enthusiasm for the report as other liberal voices—myself included, of course—were once again systematically and deliberately ignored.
Here’s what Hertzberg wrote in The New Yorker’s “The Talk of the Town” (December 18, 2006) after the report: “”Given the provenance, authorship, and purpose of the ‘Iraq Study Group Report,' no one need be astonished that it eschews the language of over culpability. But because it does indeed, ‘take the situation as it exists,' and because the present is simply the past’s ever-moving outer edge, it cannot help looking back. The indictment is there to see, and it is devastating.”
Apparently the report wasn’t devastating enough to make anyone in Washington do anything to end the war, which has resulted in the deaths of more than 3,000 American soldiers and more than 100,000 innocent Iraqis.
All along the report was designed merely to give Bush more time and cover to wage the war on his terms. Its ideas and “findings” had been discussed for years. When progressive writers—and there were many more than those I mention here—gushed ecstatically over its findings, it allowed Bush the rhetorical space to marginalize it as extreme and then offer his troop-increase plan as a compromise.
If writers like Hertzberg and the legendary Blumenthal, who celebrated the report in Salon.com, would have simply dismissed it for the political ploy it was and called for troop withdrawals, then Bush would have been hard pressed to offer his new plan as anything but extremism in the sense of mainstream media frames about the war.
At this point, only investigations into the Bush administration will offer the country any help in resolving the war in the next two years. As these investigations reveal publicly for the first time the staggering corruption and incompetence related to the war under the Bush administration, the American people may be able to use them as leverage for some type of troop withdrawal plan.
The Gerald Ford Mythology
The recent inane, never-ending, government-promoted mourning over the death of former Gerald Ford is yet another victory for right-wing propagandists.
Here was the Ford story sold to America by virtually every mainstream media outlet in America over the last week or so: Ford was a great man who healed the nation by pardoning former President Richard Nixon.
That story line is a tremendous lie perpetuated on the American people.
Here is the truth: Ford was appointed vice president by Nixon because his first vice president, Spiro Agnew, had to resign because of tax evasion charges in 1973. When Nixon’s own hubris caught up with him, Ford became president and in one of the most dastardly acts in American history, he then pardoned his former benefactor in 1974, thus preventing the American people from immediately learning the full truth about Nixon’s sordid administration.
Millions upon millions of Americans were enraged that Ford and, by extension, the corrupt GOP, would simply sweep away the ruins of Nixon’s corrupt actions through the pardon.
Ford then ran for president and lost. His vice presidential and presidential career was hardly stellar by any definition. In any event, he was actually never elected vice president or president.
Democracies only work when their governments are transparent, but the mainstream media in this country is so lazy and corrupt these days, it presents right-wing storylines and fictions as truth.
To encourage the country to honor Ford in his death in an endless parade of televised media events is a right-wing tactic designed to rewrite a significant time period in American history.
Ford did a tremendous disservice to his country when he pardoned Nixon, a disservice that still affects us today as we contend with yet another corrupt, lying Republican president.
(You say you want a revolution? Read The Left End of the Dial.)
Here are some reasons the U.S. House of Representatives should begin investigations immediately next year leading to impeachment proceedings against President George Bush:
The nation must reaffirm its democratic structures. Even if the investigations do not lead to Bush’s impeachment, they create the type of public transparency and discourse democratic governments need to survive. Bush’s lies about the war in Iraq, his ordering of illegal wiretapping of American citizens, and his sanctioning of torture of anyone declared an enemy combatant threaten American democracy. The nation must acknowledge this or risk its democracy. (Articles of impeachment have actually already been filed in the House, an action mostly ignored or dismissed by the mainstream media.)
Honorable and wise civilian leadership of the military must be restored. Bush and his surrogates—former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in particular—have treated the United States military with disdain. By starting a war on lies and with no clear mission and by dismissing the concerns of the country’s top generals about his Iraq war strategy, the president has created a frightening schism between the military and its civilian leaders. Where will this schism lead? The investigations will force reconciliation.
They could end the Iraq war. The investigations would clearly expose the Bush administration’s incompetence regarding the Iraq debacle. Such exposure could force Bush to change course and begin a necessary withdrawal of troops. If this doesn’t happen, then the next president—most likely a Democrat—will have to deal with the quagmire and chaos Bush created in Iraq. This will mean more deaths of American soldiers and innocent Iraqi soldiers. Bush will not change course in Iraq unless he is forced to by the will of the people.
Taxpayers must receive an accounting of war costs. The investigations will allow Americans, for the first time, to see how their tax dollars have been spent on the Iraq war. This accounting could lead to future savings and force war profiteers—many with connections to the Bush administration— to refund money to the treasury. This would also allow taxpayers more scrutiny of all spending under the Bush administration.
People must become empowered again. The investigations will serve as a powerful symbol of the people’s right to hold public officials accountable for their actions. The Bush administration and the GOP-led Congress have violated the people’s trust through corruption and secrecy. They have operated the government in recent years as a one-party fascisti. The investigations will restore the people’s voices in government.
The corporate media must be exposed for its right-wing bias. The investigations will obviously expose the mainstream media’s complicity with the Bush administration. From The New York Times to the The Washington Post, corporate news outlets have allowed this presidential administration to trample on people’s rights, plunder the treasury, and take the country to war on lies. Let the right-wing nut cases and blowhards like Rush Limbaugh scream all they want about liberal bias in the media. The truth is the corporate media exists to line the pockets of a relatively few super rich people. These people would apparently rather live under a fascist government than give up even a small fraction of their wealth. Thus, the investigations will validate the netroots even further and help wean people off the lies, distortions, and biases of the mainstream media.
It’s the right thing to do. What will you tell your grandchildren? That you did nothing when one man, ensconced in his own hubris and delusions, destroyed the country’s democratic foundations? Investigations into the nefarious acts of this presidential administration are just and right. It’s your duty as American and world citizens to support them. Affirm the United States as a beacon of democracy by supporting investigations into the president’s impeachable offenses.