Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Confessions of a Conservative Republican on drinking the Cool-aid

It seems to be a ubiquitous Bush Administration excuse
for everything that hurts that we're in a war. But, in
fact, we are acting as if we are at war with a global
system akin to Communism. The threat to our survival
is an"axis of evil," the thesis goes, serving
"Islamofascism," to use Frank Gafney's favorite word.
Our lone outpost status is invoked by many neocon
think-tanks, insisting that so far we lost Europe to
""Islamrope"" so it is imperative that we and Israel
win in the Middle East.

I can imagine that President Bush will refer to Iraq
aplenty in his State of the Union address tonight and
will seek to deflect despair by pointing to our
success in Afghanistan as lodestar to our prospective
success in Iraq only if we persevere. If he does, I
recommend that he pass out the Cool-aid so we too can
wash that down, lest we be unable to swallow his
Afghan-Iraqi analysis. At the Defense Dept. it is said
of military men who spout the Rumsfeld-Cheney line
that they "drank the Cool-aid." Surely many did. As
one begins to hallucinate one finds one's self thus
earning another star before retiring.

A Democrat, today, would be jubilant. Mr. Bush seems
to be stuck at a 39% approval rating for two months
now-- both cover his speech-making blitz-- and the
sticking point, according to the pollsters, seems to
be Iraq. While no one could rejoice at the sad fate of
Iraqis, American soldiers and international relations
in general as a result of Mr. Bush following his gut--
he now denies that he ever invoked God as his guiding
policy voice-- one can take some small comfort in the
obvious fact that the American people were not take in
by his word-smiths' efforts to make him seem, "in
charge." White House Assistant Dan Bartlett had said
on PBS, last month, that the American people expect
President Bush to prove that-- his words-- he "can
walk and chew gum" at the same time. Apparently, he
could not convince more that 39% of us. More
interesting, when asked who should lead America in a
new direction, only 25% said Mr. Bush but 52% said
Congress!

To understand how this came about, though in its last
term Congress was notorious for little more that
outrageous pork bills and is awaiting anxiously for
the Abramoff revelations, we should really take note
of how the Bush Administration, led by a self- avowed
"war president," handles war. A good insight comes
from the court scribe, of all people, Bod Woodard. His
two books, "Bush at War" and "Plan of Attack"
dubiously place the President in the middle of things,
making decisions, but clearly the National Security
Council therein flies by the seat of its pants as if
he were not there. We now also have a number of other
books from officials that add to the story
confirmation of at least my worst nightmares that led
me to rue by heart and soul support for Mr. Bush.

But, all the deceptions and untruths aside, the one
big question the Bush Administration never answered is
why did we thin out in Afghanistan without finishing
it off and proceeded to Iraq, where we've been stuck
in a tar pit, losing blood and money, only to be now
pulling out empty-handed?

In the meantime, Afghanistan looks more and more like
a place where the Taliban decided to come back, stand
and fight, according to TERRORISM MONITOR of the most
reliable Jamestown Foundation. And Iraq looks more and
more like a place where we may be forced to choose
between Iran and alQaeda.

I would argue that Mr. Bush unashamedly took the
policies John Kerry and the Democrats advocated during
the 2004 campaign and made them his own. But by then
the patient had already long been in the intensive
care unit misattended. What might have turned a crash
by the seat of Uncle Sam's pants a soaring flight into
success in 2004, in 2006, may just be too little too
late. It thus seems that the Bush Administration seeks
to recapture public approval by November by simply
bringing back of a lot of the troops, period-- mission
UN-accomplished.

Back in 2003, I marveled at the yeoman's job the media
was doing exposing the current battered condition of
the Bush ship of state. What had from the start seemed
like a hermetically sealed vessel suddenly sprang
leaks at the waterline as middle level apolitic career
bureaucrats in government felt honor bound to let the
American people know what kind of people are in charge
and what they are doing.

But after the 2004 election, Karl Rove decided to
spend Mr. Bush's "political capital" playing hardball.
Instead of just selectively giving "inside dope" to
favorite journalists, as LBJ used to do, Rove
threatened them all with loss of access if they do not
cooperate. In these days of 24/7 TV news, that's the
professional reporter's kiss of death. So the second
term saw many leaks unreported. Seymour Hersh, the
most prolific digger-upper journalist, recently
expressed utter despair at how the stories disappeared
from the media though the leaks are running as fast as
ever. But there is no need to despair. For, since the
leak to British media of utterly embarrassing
information about how the Blair Cabinet functions and
then the Downing Street Memos, the British side of the
alliance in Iraq has been running like a facet fully
open and in print.

I was one of the early young conservatives there when
Bill Buckley started Young Americans for Freedom and
during the Goldwater Campaign. Together with the Cal
Conservatives for Political Action I helped take back
the UC Berkeley campus from the New Left in the 1960s.
I was also at one time the New Jersey Chairman of YAF.
But while there were many young conservative activists
and intellectuals back then that I will always admire,
I do recall that many were self-serving opportunists
who thought that the only way to succeed was to "think
outside of the box" and do things the opposition would
never think of. Mr. Abramoff and the K Street Project
indicate what "thinking outside the box" really means.
Corruption, graft and pork in Congress know no party
bounds. But what makes the K Street Project unique, it
seems, is that it takes the graft and spends it to
make a giant edifice, an institutionalized exclusive
Republican graft and influence peddling factory. On
the other side of the ledger, where one would hope
there would be ideas, national institutions and
policies that benefit America, Americans and the
globalized world, we get only the equivalent of toxic
brain damage from overindulging in Cool-aid. Such
incompetence I had never seen in US government. If one
were to drive a car with such reckless abandon, one
would be arrested for negligent homicide. And yet,
though it was THEIR sons and daughters that died or
were mutilated in Iraq (I won't mention the hundreds
of thousands of Iraqis) the American people did not
face-up to that reckless incompetence until it hit
close to home with the assault on America by Hurricane
Katrina.

At this point, no one-- no matter how much one might
despise Bush and the people around him-- can possibly
want an American defeat in Iraq. The cost to mankind,
the Iraqis and we Americans is incalculable; such
madness institutionalized suicide-murder and terror as
the best and cheapest way to overwhelm America's
power.
Now things are desperate, somehow we must all
contribute to, in some way, finding a way out that
does the maximum good for Iraq and world security and
the minimum good for the terrorists.

In Mr. Bush's first term, he was desperately seeking
advice from academia, professionals and the public.
After 9/11, that despair became hysterical; yet, many
said: no way, you stole the election, now sink as
president. But the Ship of State, for better or worse,
is the ship we are all on. It sinks, we sink. That is
why Prof. Juan Cole and other academic colleagues in
social sciences, some experts on Eastern Europe,
sought to form bodies that remove from the president's
eyes the veil of ignorance. Alas, by the time their
scholars' operation got going, the Bush Administration
was already usurped by the Cheney- Rumsfeld
axis-of-utterly-incompetent-evil. Lies and idiocy
alternated, dragging America down, down, down. At
first there was hope in Mr. Bush's second term, for he
had locked Cheney in the basement and turned to Condi
Rice to lead him out of his blindness. In Iraq, she
let loose Amb. Kalilzad, who may yet make the best of
a bad situation. Academia should contact her and offer
her all the help it can to regain global alliances
lost to mindless hubris.

But the biggest danger now is that Bush was right
when, called on to think of how he will be viewed by
history, he simply said: who cares, by then we'll all
be dead. None of us will be dead by this November,
hopefully. And, if the Democrats take at least one
House of Congress, there is much hope that the public
will be treated to numerous investigations that today
are suppressed by a Republican majority of the types
setting the record straight on things like Congressman
Cunningham's criminal thinking "out of the box" and
getting caught.

I was, am and will remain a Republican. A life as a
refugee from Communism taught me how to hope. But I
realize that the dream I dared dream of-- Republican
control of both the Executive and Congress-- is as
close as you can get to Fascism, ie. incompetence
covered by lies, covered by incompetence, covered by
lies....with power maintained by erosion of power from
where it ultimately belongs, in the hands of the
citizens. If we as a nation are lucky and survive this
vicious cycle of incompetence and deception protected
by erosion of citizen power, one more repeat of such a
Bush Era and we will not survive as a free nation.
Whether it be Republican or Democrat, we need to raise
much higher the bar on the minimal cognitive ability
and statesmanship skills required. The Bush
Administration cannot be allowed to remain as a lesson
unlearned about intellectual and administrative
corruption and incompetence.

The REAL problem is that the facts were always out
there for us to imbibe. Thus, those who don't know,
don't know only because they don't want to know. With
a Democrat Congress two things will happen: (1) the
foibles and failures of this Administration totally
drunk of Cool-aid will be paraded before the voters.
(2) They will thus have to face what was done in their
name and at their responsibility. Perhaps then, they
might realize that alQaeda came no where near at
killing American democracy as we came at killing it
ourselves.

The Bush Administration can only serve as a sort flu
vaccine if we treat it as a history we must all learn
in detail. In truth, the Bush mantra-- getting them
there so they don't get us here-- was a lie, campaign
gimmick that goes with the self-anointed title "war
president." In truth, Pogo said it: we have met the
enemy and he is us.

Daniel E. Teodoru

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