As a parent, I faced the challenge of helping my kids learn the new math. But how do you help kids grasp contemporary reality when the equivalent of the cognitive shift in numbers hits politics? She asked for help in her Poli Sci course.
Does your "new political math" rest on different axioms than the old political math, the teenager inquired?
Not too different, I said. Math axioms apply universally. But this axiom supposes that the United States bombing raids, invasions and occupations of foreign countries derives from God-driven motives.
Oh, so when Saddam and other evil men kill, it’s not for God, but to satisfy their personal power lusts?
Yes, I said, you learn fast.
And post war contracts of billions of dollars to Halliburton, VP Dick Cheney’s old company, do not appear in this new axiom; nor does the fact that Iraq grows oil, not apples, she added.
Right. Now, go to Sicily for the next piece of the new math. The "You can say anything lemma," derives from an aged Mafia Don complaining to his doctor about his 95 year old cousin’s boast of having frequent intimate relations with a young woman.
"Help me, doctor," the Don beseeches, "what can I do?"
"You could say the same thing," the doctor advises the old Mafioso.
So, Bush’s neo-con speech writers have him say anything? she asked. Like, "We found the weapons of mass destruction," which he triumphantly declared in late May 2003 to Polish television.
What was the context for that statement? I asked.
The army discovered two tractor-trailers in Iraq, and Bush said that the CIA was sure that these were mobile bio-weapons plants. But, like your mafioso’s "intimate" relationship, nothing materialized. Apparently, the sinister trucks had been designed to produce hydrogen for weather balloons.
That’s great, I complimented her. Did you get this on Fox News?
Please, she said, on Fox I watch "The Simpsons," not the nonsense they call news, which reports that Iraq actually had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda. I also read your NY Times. On October 30, I read Thomas Friedman.
Well, he has not interviewed Iraqi guerrilla leaders, nor read their writing, but he may have majored in mind-reading since he knows that the Iraqi resistors "understand that this is the most radical-liberal revolutionary war the U.S. has ever launched – a war of choice to install some democracy in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world." But how do older political math experts calculate the foreseeable future in Iraq, she asked.
The November 13, 2003 Guardian cites a CIA report, I said, showing her the paper. "We could lose this situation unless there is a rapid and dramatic change of course." According to the leaked document, one analyst thought claimed up to 50,000 people have joined the Iraqi insurgency. The new math team scoffed at such postulates. But Guardian reporters Julian Borger and Rory McCarthy insist that those in the Administration who have resisted the new political math programming responded to danger signals about losing control and "drew up emergency plans to accelerate the transfer of power in Iraq."
I get it, she said. The new math advocates predicted millions of Iraqis would throw flowers at US troops and they ridiculed the CIA report, even though Bush’ pro consul in Iraq, Paul Bremer, endorsed it.
Good. The new political math team, headed by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, wanted to wait patiently until a real Iraqi government existed, after the flotsam and jetsam of the US appointed counsel wrote a constitution and held elections.
So after guerrillas whacked some 19 Italian soldiers in a bombing on November 12, the new math guys must have felt uneasy.
Yes, I said, whipping out the November 14, 2003 Le Monde. "Accelerated `Iraqization’ of Iraq," it says, would reverse the neo con formula in light of new numbers that even Bush can add up to a rapid deterioration of the US ability to resurrect colonialism in the name of democracy.
So, do you think Wolfowitz and his allies feared losing their ideological domain, and leaned on Rummy to launch bombings of urban targets and tank-led attacks on supposed guerrilla hideouts in and around Baghdad?
Rummy has become a new political math covert, I said. He continues to insist that the resistance movement amounts to no more than a handful of evil followers of Saddam and his Ba’ath Party plus terrorists who have infiltrated Iraq from other Arab countries.
Ok, she said, and the old math gang fears that bombing and brutal raids on houses will turn even more Iraqis away from their love of our democracy and toward support for the guerrillas?
Yes, you got it. If Euclid and Pythagoras are turning over in their respective graves over what they see as glaring flaws in the revisionist approach, imagine how non-mathematicians must feel?
OK, what’s new political math in a formula I can remember?
Place "Lying as the route to liberating" over "Taunting as the tactic against terrorism," and multiply by "Cut taxes for the rich and tell the poor it’s good for them."
So what’s the answer, she demanded.
A proven fundraising Republican strategy for the 2004 election and, if Bush’s political new math proves correct, a formula for November victory.
Explain, she says.
Start with Karl Rove, master manipulator of these Pythagorean revisions. He studied at the PT Barnum University of Cynical Calculus. He uses the axiom "there’s a sucker born every minute" as his foundation. Given that approximately 100 million Americans turn out to vote – well, you can go to your slide rule (ancient technology) for the result: Bush wins in 2004.
Are you saying that any people that voted in large numbers — albeit not the majority, thank God — for George W. Bush, would also be inclined to buy the Brooklyn Bridge, she asked. If character mattered, as the conservatives argued, then why pick a man who has spent his life sucking off the breast of privilege, was convicted of drunk driving and has a history of addiction? Hey, she added, don’t forget some shadowy business deals and an AWOL record for his Air National Guard service. I can’t think of any noble deeds or sacrifices attributed to him; yet, he’s promoted as a caring, wise and prudent leader. Have we reached the point in our political process where charlatanry poses as wisdom? Look at his November 6 speech about how our mission to spread democracy to Iraq will succeed, and that accomplishment will infect the entire region.
Yes. Rove and company count on the Thomas Friedmans, chicken hawks who assume a liberal mantel, to push this new Republican math line to new limits. In his TheLexus and Olive Tree, Friedman writes how "the hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15, and the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."
I read a Susan George pamphlet "The Corporate Utopian Dream: The WTO and the Global War System," (Seattle, November 1999) in which a US soldier said it more succinctly: "The de facto role of the United States Armed Forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing."
Good, I said, quoting Johann Galtung’s The Fall of Empire. He added the political dimension that includes "a fair amount of bullying" or "arm-twisting" after killing.
Sounds like Charles Krauthammer writing in the March 5, 2001 Time magazine. She read it to me: ("The Bush Doctrine, In American foreign policy, a new motto: Don’t ask. Tell.") "America is no mere international citizen. It is the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome. Accordingly, America is in a position to reshape norms, alter expectations, and create new realities. How? By unapologetic and implacable demonstrations of will."
Well, I said, Wolfowitz said a similar thing in his October 31, 2003 Georgetown University remarks. "A lot of innocents were sacrificed and the alternative would have been far more brutal, there is no question in my mind," I read to her.
The axiom rests on the notion of innate US goodness, she said. Does this check out historically?
I quoted from Eduardo Galeano in the March 19, 2003 La Jornada: "Will this be a democracy like in Haiti, the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua? They occupied Haiti for 19 years and set up a military power base that eventually became the dictatorship of Francois Duvalier. They occupied the Dominican Republic for nine years and laid the foundations for the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. They occupied Nicaragua for 21 years and founded the dictatorship of the Somoza family….The Somoza dynasty, set on the throne by the Marines, lasted half a century before being swept away by popular fury in 1979."
Was Shakespeare a political math guy? She changed the subject.
Mark Antony, Caesar’s chief lieutenant, comments on Brutus and Cassius’ attempt to divert the populace by whipping up violent sentiment for revenge. "Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war," says Mark Antony.
SAUL LANDAU is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. He teaches at Cal Poly Pomona University. For Landau’s writing in Spanish visit: www.rprogreso.com. His new book, PRE-EMPTIVE EMPIRE: A GUIDE TO BUSH S KINGDOM, has just been published by Pluto Press. He can be reached at: email@example.com