Bush, Ba’ath and Beyond


In Karl Rove’s ideal world, Iraq today would be a model country, a nation at peace, with scenes of happy children boarding schoolbuses, women working in computer facilities, families enjoying themselves in fairgrounds, and a smooth-running administration manned by smooth-talking Iraqis.

And his candidate would be unbeatable.

Timing was everything to this scenario. Enough time before November 2004 to settle any lingering problems after the conquest: hence the need to short-circuit diplomacy, dump the allies, bypass the Arabs and jettison weapons inspections, and rush to war.

The White House makes up its own reality, as Ron Susskind learned in his interviews there [1]. More, it does so with cold deliberation. So they made up this fictional reality of an impending threat, using trigger words like ‘mushroom cloud’, ‘American cities’, ‘gassing his own people’, etc. They succeeded in roping Congress into the act, using the 2002 elections as a bogeyman, giving the illegal war an aura of legitimacy. They had already browbeaten a corporate press which really gave no cause to browbeat, more’s the pity, for its corporate masters were happy to be on the winning side. Recall how enthusiastically the Washington Post supported the war, and how well Bob Woodward served the president afterwards.

But as in real fiction, fictional reality soon ran into real reality, as it must. The strategy demanded some extraordinary sleight of hand to cover up this crossing. All magicians use misdirection — the art of making you look at one place while the mischief is happening at another. And so did Rove’s crew, for a long while. But all magicians have one trait in common. They cannot be clumsy – competence is everything in magic. And the prime hallmark of this administration, combined with an innate mendacity and a natural chicanery, is a pristine incompetence. Rove is a master strategist, his success all the more creditable given the material he has to work with. Long ago, after Clinton’s victory in 1992, James Carville and Paul Begala wrote a piece saying that it was the prime actor, not they, who was responsible for the win. I don’t recall the exact words, but it went like this, “He’ll take his side and beat you, and he’ll take your side and beat you too!”

So spare a thought for poor Karl. Capping a year’s worth of bad news from Falluja and Najaf, and daily red alerts in the Green Zone, this week brings news from Baghdad of a huge explosives cache left unguarded and allowed to be looted following the Iraq invasion. No one knows where the explosives have gone, and the IAEA, which had been monitoring the cache prior to the war, said it had warned the US about it. To put the loss in perspective, one paper noted the Lockerbie bombing used about a pound of the same kind of explosive. Gone missing from Al Quaqa are 380 tons of explosive.

If it’s been a while since you left school, 1 ton = 2000 pounds.

OK, so we didn’t guard the Baghdad Museum and watched some of mankind’s greatest wealth destroyed. But what about nuclear and biological sites? Peter Galbraith, a diplomat who was in Iraq at the time of the invasion, has written a chastening piece in the Boston Globe [2] giving instances of such facilities being left unguarded.

Last time, as Al Gore wrote in the New York Times, Bush did not have a record. Not any more. The bankruptcy of ideas and failure of execution are there for all who would open their eyes. No one seriously believes that Bush knows the first thing about economics. No one thinks he is an education president. One would not even call his instincts Christian in any genuine sense, for it is impossible to reconcile his calls to revenge with the words of the Sermon on the Mount. And Bush proved in the debates that he could not even talk cogently for two minutes without a teleprompter, regardless of subject. It has been an administration bereft of achievement, cunning in all its doings, enveloped in secrecy and terrified of admitting either frailty or fallibility.

So what’s left? The final fiction of Bush being the only man who can stand between middle-eastern terror and Fortress America. We are fighting in Iraq because otherwise we would be dying in our cities, is the theme of the Bush-Cheney camp. Well, people are seeing that Americans are dying, 1100 of them so far, in Iraq too.

Kerry does not ask why this administration failed us on 9-11 — perhaps thinking it bad form. It is a hugely relevant question, however, for its incompetence was revealed early by that disaster. But despite Kerry’s plodding, the facts are out stumping for themselves. Bush’s final argument fell this week. Among the missing items at Al Quaqa is the last pillar of Bush’s case for reelection.

As this election approaches I am reminded of a joke I heard long ago: A man enters the doctor’s office with the left ear and a wide patch of his left cheek burned. The doctor was aghast. “How did that happen?”, he asks. The man answers slowly, “Well, I was ironing some clothes when the phone rang. I absentmindedly answered by picking up the iron and putting it to my ear….Ouch!”. The doctor suppresses a smile and prepares to take out some ointments and bandages. Then he suddenly notices that there is an identical bruise on the right side of the man’s face. “What happened on the other side?”, he asks. The man says sheepishly, “Well, the guy called again…”

Four years later, Bush is calling again. Will America, with all of Rove’s evangelical base, burn the other cheek?

NIRANJAN RAMAKRISHNAN is a writer living on the West Coast. His writings can be found on http://www.indogram.com/gramsabha/articles. His blog is at http://njn-blogogram.blogspot.com. He can be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.


[1] Without a Doubt by Ron Susskind, New York Times Magazine, Oct 17, 2004

[2] Eyewitness to a failure in Iraq by Peter K. Galbraith, Boston Globe, October 27, 2004


/>Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast.  His book, “Reading Gandhi In the Twenty-First Century” was published last year by Palgrave.  He may be reached at njn_2003@yahoo.com.

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving