Democrats have been tragically duped again by the right-wing frame machine that creates the terms and boundaries under which the nation views the Iraq war.
The right-wing’s recent deconstructive discourse about the Iraq debacle, under the guise of a supposed important report, allows the military occupation to continue under the control of an extremely unpopular and misguided president.
One side of the binary calls the Iraq Study Group’s report a product of wise, prudent leaders who understand the “grave and deteriorating” conditions in Iraq. This group supposedly criticizes the president for his decisions about the war. The members of this group are known as “realists,” though none of them opposed the war at its conception or spoke up when the president actually made his decisions.
The other side of the binary is represented by the stylistics and nomenclature of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. They call the panel, among other things, “surrender monkeys” and the “Iraq Surrender Group.” They contend we should continue to occupy Iraq despite the cost in lives and money. The Iraq Study Group, they argue, is calling for a retreat.
Thus, as the late philosopher Jacques Derrida would argue, the two sides cancel each other out, leaving us with little direction and no insight about what may well be the country’s worst foreign policy blunder in its history. This cancellation of opposites creates a void that gives rhetorical space in the mainstream media for President George Bush to conduct the war on his terms. (Yet it also gives progressives an opportunity to create their own binaries about the war.)
The mainstream media hands the nation this deconstructive discourse as urgent and vital, referring to the right-wing’s complaints about the report, privileging the binary, and, in most cases, ignoring those who see the report as simply cover for the president to subvert the will of the people.
Some progressive writers—Sidney Blumenthal and Joe Conason are two examples—have taken the bait. They argue the report criticizes the president’s war leadership on a substantial level. The problem is, they argue, the president will not listen. But they miss the deconstructive frame, and then it is too late. The dichotomy of “realistic” advice to an indifferent president and “surrender monkeys” has saturated the American electorate. The frame has been set. Each side becomes extreme. The middle way, at least in terms of the mainstream media, becomes Bush’s Way.
Many Democratic leaders, as well, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, argue the study group has done a “tremendous service” and shows the president has made bad decisions. Reid, unknowingly perhaps, consequently supports Bush’s debacle by not recognizing how the report creates the right-wing frame between the two competing arguments. His sanctioning of the report only propagates the frame.
The report says nothing new about the war. Its recommendations have been circulating in public for years. It does not hold the president to a troop withdrawal timetable. Its critique of Bush’s policy is outdated and useless. These facts about the report should be painfully obvious to any Democrat or progressive.
U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), for example, who has been right about the war since its beginning, has refused to sign off on the report as anything new. He sees it as establishment spin. New York Times columnist Frank Rich is also highly critical of the report, calling its recommendations “bogus.” Author Robert Shetterly argues the report does nothing to “avert the mythic disaster.”
It is long past time progressives create their own rhetorical frame about the war. It goes like this: An American president has threatened the democratic structures and safety of our nation by lying, incompetence, and hubris surrounding the military occupation of another country. He governs without considering the will of the people on this issue. This is unacceptable tyranny. He should be held accountable through impeachment proceedings unless he drastically changes course in Iraq once the new Congress convenes.
There is our frame, Mr. President: Acknowledge the will of the people, which is the bare minimum for democracies to exist, or be impeached for willful fraud.
The media’s framing of the Iraq Study Group’s report—an absurd, surreal spin of establishment discourse—should lead any thinking person to this conclusion: The only way to change direction in Iraq is to bring articles of impeachment against President Bush and force him politically to withdraw American troops.
This is a war of choice for the imperial president, but it’s also a war sponsored by the New York Times and most of the mainstream media. The newspaper’s erroneous, unbalanced reporting by Judith Miller before the war has now resulted in more than 2,900 American deaths and 21,000 injuries. It continues to distort information about the war.
The New York Times, along with most others in the mainstream media, frame the report as the result of a wise, non-partisan group of people finally affronting a misdirected president with reality. But the report offers no new ideas—is training Iraqi security forces a new idea?—and only allows Bush more cover to continue the war on his terms over the next two years.
Much has been made in the mainstream media, as well, about how the report repudiates the neocon’s mythology about creating a massive democratic groundswell in the Middle East. But, really, who cares at this juncture? Of course, Bush’s grandiosity has failed. It failed years ago. It was inevitable. And, make no mistake about it, these ideas have been out in the public for literally years now.
For the good of the country, Okie Funk calls on Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to resign and allow a new presidential administration to get the country out of the Iraq quagmire as efficiently and as painlessly as possible.
This is an unrealistic call, of course, but investigating the administration’s lies leading up to the war, its lack of oversight of war spending, and its torture of so-called enemy combatants might make the president more willing to bring the troops home if it results in some type of political compromise. Once the investigative committees bring articles of impeachment against Bush, for example, he would probably order troop withdrawals if a political deal could be struck.
Meanwhile, any study group associated with studying the war should be focused on how we should withdraw the troops, not “if” we should withdraw the troops.
Here are some ideas:
(1) Iraqis who have associated themselves with the U.S. should be given visas and allowed to come to this country or another country that will accept them. This should be happening now. Any secular, modern Iraqis still in the country need to get out now as the nation turns itself into a radical theocracy, much like Iran’s theocracy, courtesy of George Bush.
(2) Funding to the remaining private contractors in the country, such as Haliburton, should be immediately cut off, and their employees should be told to leave the country as soon as possible. The government should help them get out of the country, but the companies’ executives should be held accountable for how they spent American taxpayers’ dollars in Iraq.
(3) The country should create refugee camps (we might call these places Bushvilles) in Kuwait for fleeing Iraqis who want to escape the violence in the country. These camps should be temporary, but it could take two or three years before the refugees could go back to Iraq or be placed in other countries. The U.S. has a special responsibility to take as many refugees as possible.
(4) All American troops should withdraw with as much equipment as they can take at the same time to Kuwait. Bush’s Retreat will be supported by air power, of course. The idea here is to limit causalities. Once there, some American troops could remain to protect the refugee camps.
This is not a definitive list of ideas about a troop withdrawal, and some of these ideas have been floating around for quite some time now. The point is we need to think about Iraq realistically. We can never “win” in the grandiose and delusional terms expressed by Bush over the last four years or so. In fact, we’ve already lost our credibility and world standing as a democratic superpower that acts rationally in world affairs. (Let’s hope countries like China, which support our currency, continue to do.) Our presence in Iraq merely exasperates the problem.
It’s tragic that something so politicized and generic as the Iraq Study Group’s report is actually thought of as realistic by the mainstream media. When will the mainstream media allow a plurality of realistic voices again in its columns and on its stations?
“Anyone seeking to understand what has become the central conundrum of the Iraq war—how it is that so many highly accomplished, experienced, and intelligent officials came together to make such monumental, consequential, and, above all, obvious mistakes, mistakes that much of the government knew very well at the time were mistakes . . .”—Mark Danner, “Iraq: The War of the Imagination,” New York Review of Books, December 21, 2006
“As has always been the case, the only option for the United States in Iraq is victory. Yet more than ever before, the real responsibility for victory rests with the Iraqis themselves.”—Unsigned Editorial, “Victory Plan: Iraqi government must take charge,” The Daily Oklahoman, December 2, 2006
The Daily Oklahoman has failed Oklahomans miserably by not providing comprehensive commentary of the Iraq War, a debacle that will go down in history as perhaps the worst presidential deception ever.
The newspaper’s editorial board needs to immediately issue a mea culpa about its radical pro-war position and then allow alternative views on its opinion pages. By keeping readers oblivious to the war’s facts and by framing the war with the propagandistic rhetoric of President George Bush on its editorial pages, the newspaper duped thousands of Oklahomans.
What the newspaper will not give its readers is the type of information contained in a recent article by Mark Danner in the New York Review of Books. Danner outlines mistake after mistake (these mistakes have been recorded here on Okie Funk) made by the Bush administration in regards to the war. Here are some of them:
(1) The administration exaggerated claims (I would say “lied) about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Danner writes, “Anyone wanting to answer the question of ‘how we began’ in Iraq has to confront the monumental fact that the United States, the most powerful country in the world, invaded Iraq with no particular and specific idea of what it was going to do there, and then must try to explain how this could have happened.”
(2) The administration did not plan for the postwar security of the country. (The country’s security would have obviously required a much larger commitment of American troops and an overall plan.)
(3) By removing Baathists (these people were from Hussein’s political party, the Baath Party) from government positions, the administration created a sense that an educated professional segment of people would not be allowed to participate in the new Iraq. They were summarily judged on a collective level. This pushed many qualified people out of critical jobs related to the Iraq infrastructure.
(4) By abolishing the Iraqi military, it sent thousands of trained military men underground. The Iraqi army did not fight the Americans, but its soldiers were punished anyway. These men now form the Iraqi insurgency. Segments of this insurgency are now engaged in a civil war with Shiite militias, the powerful of which are operated by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who is the most powerful person in the country right now. They also attack American soldiers, of course, on a consistent basis.
(5) The Iraq War and the resulting Iraq Civil War has resulted in a huge loss of credibility for American interests in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world.
Paul Bremer was head of the Coalition Provision Authority in Iraq from May 11, 2003 to June 29, 2004. He reported to the Department of Defense. This is how Danner describes the morass created by Bremer and the Bush administration after the initial invasion of the country:
“One can make arguments for a ‘deep de-Baathification’ of Iraq. One can make arguments also for dismantling the Iraqi army. It is hard, though, to make an argument that such steps did not stand in dramatic and irresolvable contradiction to the Pentagon's plan to withdraw all but 30,000 American troops from Iraq within a few months. With no Iraqi army, with all Baath Party members thrown out of the ministries and the agencies of government, with all of Saddam's formidable security forces summarily sacked—and with all of these forces transformed into sworn enemies of the American occupation—who precisely was going to keep order in Iraq? And who was going to build that "new and fresh army" that Bremer was talking about?”
The actual death and casualty toll and the botched decisions made by the Bush administration do not appear in The Oklahoman’s editorials about the war. Certainly, the newspaper can exercise its right to be a conservative toady to one of the most corrupt presidential administration in the country’s history, but as a monopoly newspaper it does owe its readers realism when it comes to issues such as war.
In its most recent editorial about the war (“Victory Plan: Iraqi government must take charge,” December 2, 2006), The Oklahoman puts all responsibility for Iraq on the most recent government there. It does not refer to the growing American death toll or the daily carnage there. It does not even offer one clue that there is great division over the war in the country and that those who oppose the Bush’s administration’s folly now far outnumber those who support it.
The American public no longer supports Bush’s war, and many prominent leaders are now weighing in with their interpretations of the administration’s mistakes. For the sake of Oklahoma’s citizens, Okie Funk calls on the newspaper to offer different points of view about the war. The Oklahoman was wrong about the war; others were right. The newspaper needs to apologize for its one-side commentary that was absolutely wrong and then come clean about Bush’s mistakes or at least allow debate about the issues. The newspaper intentionally strives to keep a segment of Oklahomans ignorant about the world around them by not allowing diverse voices about the war on its editorial page. How else can you describe it?