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It's Time to Play Beat-the-Bully

By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers



We all know this from our schooldays and our workplaces. The thing about
bullies, especially the really cocky ones, is that they're often really insecure.
They strut their stuff, and get in your face aggressively, but once you
organize opposition and indicate you're not afraid of them anymore, thus stripping
them of their essential power over you, they're lost in the world of ordinary
mortals.

Bullies need to seem successful, which helps explain why so many cheat and
lie and threaten in order to get their way; they don't believe they can make it
on their own abilities. This behavior also helps explain why they avoid
responsibility by blaming others for their own faults.

I got to thinking about this the other day when learning that the Bush
Administration secretly paid for pro-U.S. stories in Iraqi newspapers. That reminded
me of how Bush&Co. got caught secretly paying a number of U.S. journalists to
write pro-Administration articles and plant them in various media outlets.
And that reminded me of how the Pentagon and other Administration departments
created their own fake "TV news stories" about Bush policies and sent them out
to small-town stations around the country, who ran them as real news.

And that reminded me of how Bush during the campaign almost always appeared
before hand-picked supportive audiences, and how he almost never gives major
foreign-policy speeches these days except before supportive military audiences.
Ordinary American civilians who may or may not agree with all his policies are
not to be included in the democratic process; as Bush famously told one
citizen who expressed mild disapproval, "What do I care what you think?"

It's plain that the Bush Administration believes (or at least suspects) that
its own arguments, if presented straight, won't pass muster with the American
populace, or, in the case of the purchased news stories in Iraq, that
country's public. The Administration's versions of the truth won't be enough to
convince readers, viewers or voters-- for good reason, as they derive from a greedy,
mean-spirited ideology -- so propaganda is employed to fool the public.

Such deception can be carried out in microcosm by, say, writing a story,
getting it translated into Arabic and then paying to have it run in a Baghdad
newspaper. Or the deception can be on the macrocosmic Big Lie scale: Asserting
that Saddam Hussein is in cahoots with Osama bin Laden and is going to pass some
of his supposed huge store of biological and chemical and nuclear WMD to
Al-Qaida. The bigger the lie, in some ways, the easier it is to sell to the public
-- especially when your highest officials spend months and months engaged in
such falsehoods and deceptions. Then you add the mainstream media into the
equation: by not doing their job and questioning the Bush assertions early on,
they appeased the bullies, thereby giving them more power.

RECALLING HOW WE GOT IN THIS MESS

You'll recall that the White House Iraq Group, the unit established to
"market" the war to the American people, had a devil of a time coming up with a
successful selling tool. Should they tell the truth, that the war was necessary as
part of a long-term campaign to control the huge oil/gas energy fields in the
Mideast and to alter the geopolitical map of that region? No, that wouldn't
fly with the citizenry, they figured; nobody wants their kids killed or maimed
for imperial adventures created by ivory-tower ideologues who made sure never
to put on their country's uniform in times of war.

So, according to Paul Wolfowitz, one of the key neo-con architects of the
war, the Bush Administration finally settled on the scary bogeyman of "weapons of
mass destruction" that Saddam Hussein supposedly was ready to unleash on
America -- biological and chemical agents dropped or sprayed from drone planes off
the East Coast, "mushroom clouds" over American cities, and so on.

Even though U.S. leaders knew Saddam was a paper tiger and no longer
possessed such weaponry or even active programs to acquire such capabilities, they
launched their WMD-scare offense on the American public and provided
cherry-picked intelligence (devoid of the doubts, caveats and demurrers of the
intelligence analysts) to the Congress.

To help push the propaganda campaign along, they added one more powerful
deception to their arsenal of lies. Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and others began
conflating Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terror attacks. There was no such
linkage, of course; the Administration was informed by their counter-terrorism
experts shortly after 9/11 that the attacks were pure al-Qaida, with no Iraqi
involvement. (Further, Saddam slaughtered any Islamicists he could find in Iraq,
and Osama bin Laden had targeted him as a secular enemy.)

The Iraq/9/11 linkage was all B.S., of course, but most American leaders
swallowed it -- including those of the supposed Democrat "opposition" -- while the
rest of the world, more savvy about the reality and complexity of the
situation, were not afraid to confront the Superpower bully and angrily denounced the
Bush lies. More than 10,000,000 citizens demonstrated worldwide against the
impending war. Maybe they were more willing to take on the U.S. because they
remembered what happened in Europe when appeasement of a war-hungry Adolph
Hitler led to World War II, in which 60 million were slaughtered.

Two years after the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the suspicions
raised by the anti-war forces around the globe about the Bush Administration's
duplicity and lies were verified when the top-secret Downing Street Memos --
minutes from inside the Blair war cabinet, detailing the invasion preparations of
the U.S. and U.K. leadership -- were leaked to the British press, and, of
course, were given little attention by the American corporate mainstream media.

TODAY: LYNNE CHENEY'S TWISTED KNICKERS

In the wake of the recent indictment of Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Scooter
Libby, for obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame case, the run-up to
the Iraq War again has become the subject of great scrutiny. And it turns out
that the duplicitous war campaign is non-stop, because the lies are non-stop.
The other day, Lynne Cheney expressed outrage that her husband was being accused
once more of making those links to Iraq and 9/11. He never expressed such
linkages, she said adamantly.

Too bad, Lynne, there are such things as videotape and audiotape, and that
record still exists of his ##intertwining 9/11 and Iraq. (
http://thinkprogress.org/2005 /12/01/lynne-cheney-unhinged )

And the linkage deceptions still go on. In Bush's Annapolis speech the other
day, he correctly laid out the three main components of the Iraqi insurgency
early: "The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and
terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary
Iraqis. ...The second group...contains former regime loyalists who held
positions of power under Saddam ...The third group is the smallest but the most
lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al-Qaida." But throughout the
rest of the speech, he often used the term "terrorists" to describe all those
fighting the U.S. occupation.

In other words, to deflect attention away from the true nature of the bulk of
the Iraqi insurgency -- nationalists and ex-Baathists angry at being invaded
by foreigners, and enraged by an occupying army that brutalizes and tortures
Iraqi civilians at will -- the insurgency suddenly is given the rubric of
"terrorists."

But the situation in Iraq, in the world, is much more complex than labels,
with all sorts of competing tribes and clans, and those representing diverse
economic, political, religious, and ethnic interests. To understand those
complexities, and devise equally as nuanced responses to them would take real
creativity and hard work. It's much easier to simply divide Iraq and the world into
black and white categories, "those who are with us and those who are against
us." The latter category is given the hated title "terrorists," and the
propaganda flows much more easily from that designation, aided enormously by a
generally quiescent, at times cooperative, mass media.

(Speaking of cooperative reporters who abdicated their journalistic
responsibilities, mostly recently it was Bob Woodward of the Washington Post. Once an
outsider press hero doing battle against the Nixon bullies, Woodward for years
has been a shameless insider protecting the powerful; he knew of the
intelligence community's doubts about the Bush Administration's broad WMD assertions --
three high-level sources told him about the deceptions -- but he kept silent,
apparently in order to guarantee total access to Bush for the book he was
writing about the run-up to the war. For shame!)

MURTHA SPEAKS FOR THE GENERALS

Not much changes over time, only the justifications, the spin. Now Bush,
trying to avoid culpability for the disaster that is the Iraq War, is trying to
deflect criticism by (as usual) blaming others: It's the CIA's fault, or, in
essence, the American public's fault, since they re-elected him during wartime,
and Congress' fault since they voted to authorize the war in the first place.
The administration spinmeisters claim that Congress voted for the war based on
the same intelligence that Bush saw -- an assertion that is patently false,
since the White House provided only summaries cleansed of all doubts and caveats
having to do with the supposed stockpiles of WMD.

Finally, belatedly, even with blood on their hands, some Democrats are
speaking up forcefully against Bush's war policies: the deceptive way we were led
into the war, and the gross incompetencies of the Occupation -- and so the
entire history of that war is once again Topic A for public discussion. Recent
reports that the Vietnam War decades before (where millions died) also rested on
lies, exaggerations and deceptions, sheds new light on the current situation.

Rep. John Murtha, who earned his bravery medals in 'Nam, spoke with great
force the other day, calling for the U.S. to withdraw quickly from Iraq before
more senseless slaughter occurs. What is plainly apparent is that Murtha is not
speaking only for himself in his denunciation of Bush policy and in calling
for a speedy American withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Murtha, a militarist hawk
for decades with close ties to the officer corps, also is speaking for those
generals inside the services who revealed their strong disagreements with
Bush's Iraq policy openly to him but who are afraid to voice their objections in
public, lest they be fired or otherwise have their career-advancements closed
off.

So where are we? Though there are differences in emphasis and approach, there
is a wide, strong opposition to the continuing U.S. presence in Iraq, coming
from supposedly disparate groups: Officers inside the military, Establishment
conservatives, liberals and radicals and mainstream Democrats, the peace
movement, nearly two-thirds of the American people. But, even with all this
opposition, Bush&Co. remain in power and, if Bush's Annapolis speech is to be taken
seriously, the Iraq War will continue until some vague, undefinable thing
called "victory" is obtained. Which is to say the 12th of Never.

Bush may make a few accommodations prior to the 2006 election -- withdraw
thousands of Guard and Reserve troops, for example, and promise more withdrawals
-- in order to seem to be in line with the public mood. But the war will
continue, with bombing from the air taking the place of any  boots missing on the
ground, and the imperial goals of dominating the region and controlling the
energy fields will remain operative. No matter how long it takes, Bush is willing
to sacrifice the lives of U.S. troops and spend the treasury into bankruptcy
for "the mission"; he believes the war against radical Muslims is his holy
work and he won't back down unless absolutely required to do so. Besides, keeping
the American citizenry on a constant fear-boil, Rove believes, provides
openings through which to slip Bush&Co.'s domestic agenda.

In short, it's long since time for us to respond to the bullies in charge of
our foreign and domestic policy, to remember the lessons of history when
insecure leaders are not confronted early enough -- Hitler in Europe, Presidents
Johnson and Nixon enlarging the disastrous Vietnam War, Sen. Joe McCarthy
running roughshod over Americans' civil liberties in his mad hunt for supposed
"communists" in 1950s America, et al. We have the proper role models: Fannie Lou
Hamer taking on the segregationist Mississippi Democrats, Edward R. Murrow and
Joseph Welch finally taking on Joe McCarthy, John W. Dean and the Washington
Post stepping forward to reveal the lawless Richard Nixon, Daniel Ellsberg
making sure the Pentagon Papers got published about the Vietnam debacle, and other
such brave souls, Cindy Sheehan speaking truth to power about the shameful
lies that continue to fuel the slaughter in Iraq. They stood up to the bullyboys
when it was vital that they do so, and we all are the better for their
fortitude.

So, if we American citizens truly want to get the U.S. out of its Iraq War
quagmire before more thousands of U.S. troops are killed and maimed, along with
thousands of Iraqi civilians as "collateral damage" -- before America has to
get out of Iraq anyway years down the road -- we simply must organize our
opposition and confront our own bullies head on.

PRYING THEIR FINGERS OFF POWER LEVERS

We don't have a parliamentary system in this country whereby a vote of
no-confidence can remove incompetent, corrupt or ideologically dangerous fools from
office. The only way to pry their fingers off the levers of power is to either
vote them out of office or to impeach them and send them packing, either with
a conviction or with their resignations. Both take lots of time, and the
current election option is plagued by a voting and vote-counting system that is
easily corruptible and has already demonstrably been corrupted.

One would hope Bush&Co. would see the handwriting on the wall and, for the
good of the country, would resign their offices now, but we know these
power-hungry zealots are not going to go willingly. So we -- progressives, moderate
conservatives, libertarians, right wingers, leftwingers -- must join together and
put our efforts into passing laws mandating honest elections and hand-counted
votes, and then sweeping enough Republicans out of office in the House and
Senate next November so that the proper investigations finally can be conducted
that will lead to impeachment and removal.

We can work long-range toward either drastic reform of the Democrat Party or
the founding of an electable alternative party. But our immediate goal, our
immediate job -- because the stakes are so extraordinarily high -- is to do
everything possible to close down this war, to ensure honest elections, and to
protect the Constitution from further ravaging. We can do this.#

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at
various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco
Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). For
comments: >> [email protected] <<.

Originally published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 12/6/05.

Copyright 2005 by Bernard Weiner

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