12 Political Insights: A Starter-Kit for 2006
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
Bush&Co.'s scandals are coming so rapidly and getting so huge that it's hard
to lay off talking about them at length, but in this new year, let's step back a
bit for some longer-range perspectives.
In no particular order, here from decades of politics-watching are a dozen bits
of insight, most of which were reinforced by events in year 2005. Below each is
some discussion of how those truisms flowered in the Bush era.
1. If you have a sturdy dam that develops a crack, fix it quickly before the
seeping water enlarges the opening and a flood pours down on the populace.
Given their history and first year in office, the Bush Administration should
have been seen early for what they were -- a pack of rapacious, power-hungry
incompetents. But, after 9/11 and the anthrax attacks, a frightened citizenry
and Congress trusted them to do the right thing. The nominal opposition party
caved early and often. The Patriot Act, rushed through Congress right after
9/11, opened the floodgates to shredding Constitutional protections of civil
liberties, which then led to the accumulation of more and more police powers in
the Executive Branch. (Let us never forget Lord Acton's warning: "Power
tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.") Now,
four-plus years later, because the governmental breech wasn't repaired quickly
enough, it probably will take impeachment and conviction to even begin to
restore Constitutional rule in this country.
2. If you persist in trying to force a square peg into a round opening, you will
cause great damage to the peg, to the opening, and frustration for yourself,
because it simply won't go. Corollary: If you're in a deep hole, first thing to
do: stop digging.
The Iraq War was worked out years before the invasion by neo-con intellectuals
who thought their goals would be met quickly once Saddam was toppled. They did
what was necessary to convince Congress and the American people to support the
war -- lied, deceived, swore falsely -- and then ran headlong into a reality for
which they were totally unprepared. As occupiers, they did everything late,
wrong or backasswards, including bringing Iraq full-scale corruption, massive
torture and constant humiliation, and likely civil war and disintegration of its
unitary state. The end result will be a religiously-dominated state of some sort
opposed to U.S. interests, heavily influenced by Iran. The U.S. eventually will
have to leave Iraq, but even though the handwriting long has been on the wall,
Bush refuses to find a quick, face-saving way out and will "stay the
course" until "victory." Translated: many more thousands of
Americans and Iraqis will have to die because Bush cannot, will not, admit the
gross political miscalculation that led to that war and the need to drastically
change his goals. In all things Iraq, Bush turns out to be extremist Islam's top
recruiting agent. Yet another brief for the impeachment of Bush/Cheney.
THE "COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF" DODGE
3. Secrets eventually surface, especially the worst ones you're trying to hide.
The Bush Administration is the most secretive in U.S. history -- for a good
reason: They have much to hide, a lot of it criminal in nature. The latest
secret is an outgrowth of the false reasoning that grew out of the Iraq War and
the official policy permitting torture. According to this twisted logic, Bush
can do whatever he wants, including violate laws passed by Congress, whenever he
asserts that he's acting as "commander-in-chief" during
"wartime." Yes, of course, there is no official declaration of war,
but Bush says we're at "wartime," and that war will last forever --
ergo, shut up, lie back and don't resist your fate. The latest secret to leak
involves his illegal orders to the National Security Administration to
"monitor" (data-mine) phone calls and emails of millions of American
citizens, without first obtaining court warrants, as required by law. Breaking
that law is an impeachable offense. (Note: These classified secrets are being
leaked, by and large, by Bush Administration military and security officials,
conservatives, anxious to get this reckless crew out of the White House before
they sail our country into even more dangerous waters and crash us on rocks and
4. It's not who votes that counts, it's who counts the votes. -- J. Stalin
We have a long way to go to restore integrity and transparency to the
touchscreen and vote-tabulation system in this country -- right now it's the
major political scandal of our time. Secret software controlled by
Republican-supporting corporations can easily be manipulated and vote-tallies
altered without leaving any evidence of the fraud. But a goodly number of states
and localities are raising serious questions about the legitimacy of the
process. Several states have threatened to decertify touch-screen machines, and
some have done so. It is anticipated that class-action and private
lawsuits will be filed shortly against Diebold, and that the Securities &
Exchange Commission may begin a fraud probe of this leading e-voting company.
One can almost spot a growing trend questioning the viability of e-voting. But,
as I say, we're still in for manipulated tallies in 2006 and 2008 unless major
reforms are demanded and implemented nationwide by the citizenry. Ironically,
when manipulated elections are held in foreign countries, and hundreds of
thousands of aggrieved citizens pour into the streets to demand an overturning
of the tampered-with vote results, the American media and Bush Administration
officials celebrate this example of democracy in action. Notice any difference
when it comes even to raising the question of whether our elections are honest?
5. Most people passively accept a lot, but when a lot becomes way too much, they
get very angry and usually look to exact revenge on those doing them dirt.
There is a "tipping point" in all major social upheavals; one day,
things go on as normal and then the next day, when critical mass is just right,
citizens move in a forthright manner. Examples: the American and French
revolutions, the overthrow of Soviet communism, the '60s civil rights, anti-war
and feminist movements. It's taken a while, but the American people -- including
an increasing number of conservative Republicans -- more and more are indicating
that they've lost trust and faith in the Bush Administration's officials and
policies. Keys to this eye-opening have been the Administration's bumbling Iraq
policy, its utter incompetence in dealing with the Katrina disaster, and its
lies and deceits with regard to running roughshod over citizens' privacy rights
by a Chief Executive who is acting more like a banana-republic dictator than the
leader of a democratic republic. In addition, half a trillion dollars are being
spent on Bush's never-ending Iraq adventure, while the upkeep of streets and
infrastructure, and popular social programs, are being cut way back. The
middle-class is being pushed more toward the lower end of the economic and
cultural spectrum while the wealthy get virtually all the goodies. The economy
remains in the doldrums. The citizenry are getting fed up and increasingly
indicate their willingness to take out their anger on GOP members of the House
and Senate in 2006.
DEMS IN SEARCH OF COURAGE
6. Bullies feed off submission and acquiescence, and retreat in the face of
It is beyond comprehension why it took an entire first term for the Democrats to
understand that you can't make nice with those who are working to destroy you as
an effective political force. But the Dems did act as if politics could be
conducted as usual, thus becoming enablers of Bush's most destructive policies
and, by so doing, made themselves essentially irrelevant. In the first year of
Bush's second term, the Democrats occasionally were more feisty, behaving as an
Opposition Party should. But they still tend to tiptoe around controversial
topics (electoral integrity and fraud, for example, which they won't touch with
an 11-foot pole, and withdrawal from Iraq ASAP), still terrified of being called
"unpatriotic" or "soft on terrorism" or "sore
losers." Reid exhibits some starch in the Senate, and Pelosi at times in
the House, and they've been able to keep their forces united on enough occasions
so that, in alliance with GOP moderates, they've been able to give Bush&Co.
fits. Note to Democratic leaders: Stand up straight and fight back, or you'll
wind up on the dung-heap of history, tossed there by your aroused, angry
Democratic base. If they can get no leverage in turning around their party, they
may go the third-party route, along with many disaffected moderate Republicans.
7. If you compromise on morality at the top, inventing rationales for bad
behavior, eventually that weakened ethical system will work its way down the
chain of command.
For example, if you assert the right of the government to torture prisoners in
your care, eventually torture will be widespread throughout the system. If you
set up secret CIA prisons around the world where especially recalcitrant
prisoners are interrogated with "enhanced" methods, and you
"render" prisoners to countries where excrutiatingly painful torture
methods are employed, you have lost any moral high ground you might have once
possessed. In addition, you guarantee that U.S. soldiers held prisoner will be
treated in the same manner, and you provide effective recruiting arguments for
militant Islamists around the globe. In short, torture is a self-destructive
policy -- "stupid" would be another word for it. And, of course, once
the feds began massive spying on ordinary citizens, the states and cities
followed suit by spying on local peace groups and non-violent activists.
8. If you invade a country, you automatically become occupiers and de facto
governors of that country. Ergo, you get blamed for everything that goes wrong.
Addendum: It is always easier to get in than to get out.
The U.S. invaded Iraq based on a neo-con belief that victory would come cheap,
and they could mold the country into a lackey state easily and quickly. There
was no Plan B. Its military Occupation ran into a deadly reality on the ground:
nationalism, tribalism, religious fervor demonstrated their solid strength (as
they do around the world). The U.S. can not "win" in Iraq, in the same
way the U.S. could not "win" in Vietnam; eventually, America, in a
prolonged and unwinnable stalemate, will have to leave. Better now than later,
after tens of thousands more American troops and Iraqi civilians will have been
slaughtered or maimed. Bush could declare "victory" now: We helped get
them on their feet, they've chosen their own government, they desire us to go,
and now it's time for us to feel good about our contributions and bring our
soldiers home. But he won't. He and his friends still covet all that oil, and
still want to topple a few more regimes in the Middle East; it's not outside the
realm of possibility that as Bush's poll numbers continue to head for the
cellar, Iran's nuclear power plants will be bombed or Syria will be attacked.
Anything to change the subject away from Bush&Co./GOP crimes and corruption.
IMPOTENCE OF IMPERALISM
9. Imperialism is even more difficult to maintain in the 21st Century than it
was in earlier times.
All imperial countries, blinded by greed and power-hunger (or sometimes even by
idealism), eventually are forced out of their colonies. Ask the Romans, the
French in Indochina and North Africa, the Russians in Eastern Europe and
Afghanistan. The U.S. is no different, and is learning to its chagrin that
ultimate military power doesn't mean control on the ground. The U.S. is running
up a half-trillion in debt fighting this unnecessary war of choice in Iraq,
bringing corruption on a grand scale to that country, losing its moral soul with
its torture policies; to top it all off, the citizens of Iraq in poll after poll
indicate they'd like us to leave. It's time to learn what history has to
teach about the high price paid for imperial arrogance and intransigence and get
out of there. In short, native populations over time tend to defend their
homelands successfully against foreign invaders. Even if the U.S. left Iraq,
America still would be the 800-lb. gorilla in the world, and probably could get
most of what it wants through diplomacy and economic power -- "soft
imperalism." Overt imperialism, controlling the world at gunpoint, is on
its way out; the U.S. quagmire in Iraq demonstrates the limits of superpower
status. But Bush&Co. believe history (and the laws of science) don't apply
to them. So much the worse for them, for those around the globe, and for us U.S.
citizens. In the Bush worldview, it doesn't matter that the U.S. is not liked,
it's enough that it is feared; taking and controlling -- that's mostly what's
important to these guys.
10. Ethics always will be years, sometimes decades, behind the ramifactions of
technological/scentific breakthroughs; the passage of laws dealing with those
ramification often will lag even further behind.
Whatever the weapon or technology, if you invent it, it will be used, and
abused. Our high-tech computing and surveillance systems, for example, permit
the government to mine data on millions of emails and phone calls at a time --
and so it's doing so, supposedly directed at foreign terrorists but involving
American citizens in the process. (Since everything connected to this
eavesdropping is top-secret, it's possible that political "enemies" of
Bush&Co. are deliberately being targeted. Absolute power corrupts
absolutely.) This type of domestic spying is against the law -- and should be
enough to impeach Bush and Cheney. Bush is shameless, saying he'll continue to
violate the law, because he's the "commander-in-chief" during
"wartime" and thus has the authority and power to do whatever he
chooses to do, so what are you going to do about it? Similarly, there are
technological breakthroughs that permit even more violations of the right to
privacy, and they are being utilized also, or will be soon. The laws haven't
even come close to catching up with the ramifications of those scientific
11. When logic meets faith, most of the time the rational mind disappears, until
the day when brute facts intervene to such an extent as to demand attention,
action and forsaking of denial.
The world is moving so fast, forcing social and cultural changes so quickly,
that many people become frightened, confused, irritated, and long for simpler,
more stable societies of old. Religious fundamentalism provides all the
black-and-white answers; doesn't matter if it's Christianity, Judasim, Islam,
the syndrome is the same. Islam has its Taliban and strict ayatollahs, we have
our conservative religious leaders, our own tight-assed Christian Taliban and
ayatollahs, who preach the old verities and simplified nostrums that are so
attractive to many of our fellow Americans. No matter what the Bush scandal, he
can always count on that 25-30% who support him on religious grounds. But more
and more citizens are starting to realize the inherent dangers in permitting
such religious power to go unchecked, especially when those beliefs come into
conflict with science -- on, say, global warming -- and are starting to rebel.
YOU HAVE TO KNOW REALITY
12. An organism -- a human being, a nation -- needs accurate information in
order to compose a reasonable assessment of reality and thus survive the dangers
out there. Without that accurate assessment of reality, you can expect disaster.
Rarely does one get accurate information from the Bush Administration about
anything. Down in their isolated bunker, they either are fooling themselves, or
trying to fool us -- more likely both. The mass-media, corporate-owned and
largely conservative in nature, are complicit in keeping the truth from their
readers, viewers and listeners. (The so-called "liberal" New York
Times, for just one example, had the NSA data-mining story and could have
released it a year earlier than it did -- and thus probably affected the outcome
of the 2004 election -- but, at the behest of the Bush Administration, chose not
to publish it.) To get a more accurate assessment of reality, one has to go to
less-controlled media: the foreign press, smaller and independent publications
and media outlets (for example, The Nation, Air America, and a few liberal radio
talk-show hosts), and, especially, to the largely uncensored internet
journalists, websites and bloggers. Only when the wealthy liberal/progressive
opposition is willing to put its money where its politics are -- by buying up
and founding cable networks, newspapers, radio stations and think tanks -- will
there be some political parity in the mass-media. If you want a free press, as
A.J. Liebling said, set up one of your own.
Let us not ignore reporter I.F. Stone's famous maxim: "The first rule of
journalism is that governments lie. All governments lie, but disaster lies in
wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out."
Not a bad description of the Bush Administration. Amen, Izzy.#
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at
various universities, was formerly a writer/editor with the San Francisco
Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
To comment: >> [email protected]
Originally published by The Crisis Papers 1/3/06.
Copyright 2005 by Bernard Weiner.