Happy Birthday, Shock & Awe

You can find my comments on this, the fifth year anniversary of the Iraq War in the pages and bytes of this week’s City Beat. Meet you all at Dick’s Last Resort (that would be the one run by Dick Cheney in that party capital, Baghdad) after work for the party. First round of Mujehedin Martinis–Bombay (emphasis on the “Bomb”) Star Saphire straight up and dirty. With, of course, an IED instead of an olive.


Lone Star

If you want to have fun listening to the President’s inevitable next pep talk on Iraq (or has it been officially renamed Iwreck yet?) you should try doing what I did listening to last night’s speech. You’ll be sure to have a blast (from the past).

Every time the President says “terrorists”, “radicals”, “extremists” or “Al Qaeda”, substitute “communist”; every time he says “Iran” substitute “China” or “Soviet Union” (fielder’s choice); and every time he says “Iraq” substitute “Vietnam”. Then slip into a tie die tee-shirt, fire up a lava lamp, put some Stones on the CD (or dig out some real vinyl if you have any lying around) and next thing you’ll know you’ll have the full sensation of having been time-traveled back to 1966. You’ll practically feel Elvis rocking and LBJ rolling (over the American people, that is) as Vietnam rages.

At least, that’s how I felt watching the President last night. Just about every platitude he trotted out to justify a continuation of a policy just about everyone but he admits to be a failure (which I’m sure, by this point, even includes Dick Cheney—only Cheney just doesn’t give a damn) harked back to similar phrases and arguments used by LBJ and other war supporters (like Dick Cheney, Donny Rumsfeld and a younger but no less unwise George W) to justify sticking with the morass of South East Asia.

What a blast from the past.

And what’s with Presidents from Texas anyway? The Lone Star State has had two chances (not counting Bush I who was and is about as Texan as a Maine lobster) to prove the mettle of its favorite presidential sons. Both dragged the nation through divisive, costly and, ultimately, futile wars , wrecking the economy in the process. Can we all agree to swear off Texans for a while-say, four hundred years–America? Virginia has a good track record in providing chief executives – Washington, Jefferson, Madison, etc.—why not give them another try? Or a Minnesotan or Oregonian – haven’t given them a shot yet.

But please, not another Texan. Unless we want to time warp back to the 1960s again….

Don’t Know Much About History

It’s baaaack. Actually it never left. The ghost of Vietnam, that is. Except this time it’s the administration and defenders of its Iraq policy that are raising the zombie of Vietnam from its uneasy slumber in the dead sleep of history.

Okay, history is a Rorschach test for everyone to read their own meanings into. It’s yesterday’s tea leaves being used to predict tomorrow’s events. Fair enough. Everybody does it. But as subjective as history is, can we at least get the history straight that everyone basically agrees on. And in the right chronological order?

Take, for example, the claim made by the administration and echoed by its rah-rah Iraq media chorus that American withdrawal from Vietnam resulted in, amongst other calamities, added to our vocabulary new terms like “boat people,” “re-education camps,” and “killing fields.”

The killing fields of Cambodia were a huge humanitarian horror, no doubt, the Pol Pot regime one of the most ideologically genocidal in history. But the killing fields of Cambodia did not occur because of US withdrawal from Vietnam. They occurred because the Nixon administration saw the bombing—and subsequent destabilization—of Cambodia in the early 1970s as acceptable collateral damage in its goal to drive North Vietnam to the peace table. The US actually never directly intervened in Cambodia – no US troops were committed to a strategy of permanently occupying the country, unlike in neighboring Vietnam.

The Killing Fields were a consequence of American intervention, not American de-intervention. And, for the record, it was the communist Government in Hanoi that intervened to stop the killing in the killing fields. Communist Cambodia was allied with China and was actually hostile to the Viet regime which suited American purposes just fine, thus the US did not seek to intervene to overthrow Pol Pot. That would be Realpolitik written large in real blood.

As for the reeducation camps and boat people, both horrors were consequences of American failure to plan for its withdrawal rather than the actual withdrawal itself. Nixon’s grand strategy on Vietnam was simple: bomb the hell out of the North Vietnamese to drive them to the negotiating table, then negotiate a gentlemen’s agreement in which we pull out in exchange for the North withholding a final invasion and conquest of the South until a decent interval of time had transpired. After we were gone, what happened in Vietnam stayed in Vietnam. If the South couldn’t hold on, it was their own fault. (Which is a rhetoric one increasingly hears in regards to Iraq today, least anyone miss it.) Nixon’s (and Ford’s) failure was to not realize the North Vietnamese might cheat and invade the South with its straw man army before the last Americans were safely away. The North wanted to humiliate the US as payback for twenty years of American meddling in their affairs. (And killing at least a million of their people, bye the bye.) And payback is a bee-atch.

The US cut and ran in Vietnam with little consideration of the impact on former erstwhile allies left behind. There was no systematic policy in place to relocate American loyalists in South Vietnam during the phase out period of 1973 to 1975. There was not a sufficient policy in place to deal with the two million pro-American refugees who predictably fled the country when it was overrun by the communist north.

And whose hands were on the tiller when this horrific debacle ensued –- the very same debacle President Bush now uses to justify continuing the debacle in Iraq? That would be current war architects Dick Cheney and Donny “Youngest Secretary of Defense in History and, Boy, Did It Show” Rumsfeld. Having botched the end of the Vietnam War, Cheney now seeks redemption in “winning” the war in Iraq. Except, having botched this war, too, winning (establishing a viable, stable, pro-American multi ethnic and sectarian democracy with a minimal continued cost to America in terms of money and men) seems less and less of an option.

Geez. How many times do you have to lose before everyone understands you are a Loser. Dick “0 & 2” Cheney?

Meanwhile his Loserness seems committed to repeating every mistake made in Vietnam, right down to having no contingency plan on how to avoid a sectarian blood bath should the US pull out of Iraq.

This has been this Administration’s fatal weakness since George W. decided to run for the Presidency: a systematic, deliberate distortion of history to support current political objectives, no matter what objective history says. The truly tragic (though perhaps the term “criminal” might be more apropos) irony in all of this is that, in their deliberate misrepresentation of past history, the Bush gang has held true to the old adage that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

Unfortunately they are dragging the rest of us along for the ride.

This and That


Election 2008 is shaping up to be a bit of a local yawn. For all the vitriol aimed his way, 4MA (that would be Much Maligned Mauling Mike Aguire – 4MA would be his handle if he were a rapper of song as opposed to municipal knuckes) seems to remain too intimidating a figure for anyone to challenge. This even with his poll numbers beginning to sag. Even his arch nemesis Scott Peters, soon t be politically unemployed due to term limits, has ruled out a challenge run. (So, if not City, where to now, SP? Perhaps biding time hoping for a Sanders’ meltdown opening up a run for Mayor in ’08?)

An Idea’s Whose Time Actually Came Decades Ago

Kudos to the Mayor’s Charter Review Committee for making several sensible suggestions (and any “sensible suggestions” coming out of City Hall these days is worthy of kudos simply because there’ve been so few of them in recent days/weeks/months/years) Expanding the City Council from eight to eleven Districts would end both the insane situation of having an even number of votes on a legislative body and provide for more hands-on local access and interchange between councilc members and their constituents.

Increasing the Council vote to override a mayoral veto from simple majority to two-thirds also makes imminent sense. As it is now the same majority that passes a resolution can override a veto – which makes no sense under any theory of government I’ve ever seen. Unless, of course, you just want to admit that this whole business about having created a Strong Mayor was a sham in the first place. Which many members of the City Council would just as soon admit. Fixing the current faux veto would be a be step forward in creating the checks and balance system the Strong Mayor was supposed to bring to City governance.

Now all we have to do is find a strong Mayor.

In His Own Words

Check out the Youtube video of Dick “Cakewalk” Cheney from back in 1994, justifying why the Bush I administration (or the “grownups” as I like to call them) chose not to march on Baghdad in 1991. So what changed between 1994 and 2003, one might wonder? The amazing thing is how, no matter how outrageous, disingenuous and just plain dangerous anything he says might be, Cheney can always keep a chillingly cold straight face.

Which leads me to wonder: Can you impeach someone for being a horse’s ass?

Shaddup Already

Now that the debate to non-bind has concluded in the House of Representatives and moves to the Senate, I have only one thing to say to Congressional Republicans. All that “sending the wrong message to the troops,” emboldening the enemy stuff,” and similar debate-equals-debacle rhetoric?

Shaddup already!

Note to Republicans and media apologists for the Bush Administration far and wide: Democratic debate is not the first, middle, nor last casualty of war. Not, at least, in a true Republic.

Says who? How about history? The Federalist Party (ancestor of the modern Republican Party) was so incensed with Madison and the Democratic Republicans leaning toward France over England in the lead up to the War of 1812 that their more reactionary members even concerned New England sucsession from the pro-French rest of the country.

During the Civil War election year of 1864, not only was the “savior of the union” Abraham Lincoln challenged for re-election, he was challenged by one of his own former military commanders, General George McClellan, who vociferously criticized his commander in chief for failed military policies in dealing with the South.

During the run up to and after American entry in World War I Congressional Republicans were staunch critics of both Wilson’s war and post-war policies. Republicans ran candidates critical of FDR’s pro-English stance war record in 1940 and against his domestic and foreign policy record in 1944. (And, least we forget, across the Atlantic, the English people fired Winston Churchill in July of 1945 while war still raged in Asia.)

Republican isolationists like Robert Taft vocally criticized both Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower from the floor of the Congress for their international commitments to stop the Soviets after World War II. Ike himself was elected to the Presidency in large part for his repudiation of Harry Truman’s Korea strategy. Was Ike, therefore, guilty of emboldening Mao Zedung? Richard Nixon, meanwhile, ran for President in 1968 with the promise to get us out of Vietnam (though it would take seven more years to do so), attacking LBJ for getting us into that quagmire. And, in each case, American boots were on the ground in harms way.

More recently, least we forget, many of the same Republicans whom today excoriate Democrats for criticizing a GOP commander-in-chief tripped over each other in their rush to criticize Bill Clinton’s military policy when he had boots on the ground in Somalia, troops in the air over over Haiti, troops on the ground in Bosnia, and planes in the air over Kosovo. I don’t remember Democrats attacking Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott (and the rest of the chorus of Republican partisan patriots–e.g. when we do it, it’s for America, when Democrats do it, it’s against America, regardless of whatever “it” is) for “emboldening” Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda when Republicans attacked Clinton for trying to off Bin Laden with cruise missile attacks in 1998 on Sudan and Afghanistan.

Or how about the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, as an expert on how Congressional debate over foreign policy affects our military. Just a day before the debate began he said:

“Fundamentally, debate in the Congress of the United States is good for the health of our democracy, All of us who wear the uniform … believe that, fight for that, and would be very upset if anyone tried to take that opportunity away…The problem is that our enemies, who have no clue what democracy is all about, don’t understand that debate. The trash heap of history has a lot of corpses on it, of nations that misunderstood the will of the American people. The ( enemy ) should not repeat the mistake that many have made about our country.”

What part of any of that don’t Republican Congressman (and their AM squawk radio apologists)—the vast majority of which have never worn the uniform–get? I love hearing all these Republican politicians whose closest experience to combat have been junkets to Iraq and Afghanistan where they get the VIP Universal Studios behind the scenes tour and come back to Washington sounding like they’re George Patton. (Which is, to me, the ultimate in “I’m not an expert on democracy and the military—but I did stay at the Baghdad Holiday Inn!”)

But these are modern Congressional Republicans we’re talking about, for whom facts, history and truth always takes a back seat to ideological dogma and political expediency. These are the guys and gals who, confronted with four solid years of evidence to the contrary, still like to slip in innuendo that Saddam Hussein had nukes (he just slipped them into Iran or Syria) and was best buds with Osama. (And these are the same crew that are already rushing to their war drums to back up their commander-in-clueless’ march to war with Iran.)

So, I conclude my little tirade by actually withdrawing my original plea to Republicans to shut up and stop squelching legitimate democratic debate.

Let Republicans condemn anyone with the audacity to use their First Amendment rights to criticize a war policy gone incredibly bad all they want. All it shows is their fundamental ignorance of, and contempt for, the very principles of Democracy our soldiers are trying to bring to the peoples of the Iraq. All it shows is just how craven Congressional Republicans are in putting the interests of their own Party, around whose neck the legacy of a horrifically failed Iraqi policy hangs like a millstone, ahead of that of both our soldiers in the field and the American people back home.

Then the American people can remember how Republicans put partisan politics first, the good of our soldiers in the field and our nation as a whole a distant second come November, 2008.

Now that’s democracy.