Exclusively in the new print issue of CounterPunch
PARIS, THE NEW NORMAL? — Diana Johnstone files an in-depth report from Paris on the political reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shootings; The Treachery of the Black Political Class: Margaret Kimberley charts the rise and fall of the Congressional Black Caucus; The New Great Game: Pepe Escobar assays the game-changing new alliance between Russia and Turkey; Will the Frackers Go Bust? Joshua Frank reports on how the collapse of global oil prices might spell the end of the fracking frenzy in the Bakken Shale; The Future of the Giraffe: Ecologist Monica Bond reports from Tanzania on the frantic efforts to save one of the world’s most iconic species. Plus: Jeffrey St. Clair on Satire in the Service of Power; Chris Floyd on the Age of Terrorism and Absurdity; Mike Whitney on the Drop Dead Fed; John Wight on the rampant racism of Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper;” John Walsh on Hillary Clinton and Lee Ballinger on the Gift of Anger.
Departing from "Stay the Course?"

The Return of James Baker, III


So James Baker III, co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan team strategizing about the situation in Iraq and U.S interests in the region, is attempting to create an exit plan for our troops that will leave George Bush without a bruise and smelling like the roses all those Iraqis were supposed to present us for liberating them. The distillate is that Bush’s utopian plan for Iraq, a Xanadu of Starbuck’s ‘pleasure domes’ and American fast-food restaurants is a catastrophic failure. Bush has McMuffin all over his face no matter how many horses or king’s men try to wipe him clean.

James Baker is talking departure from "stay the course."

Meanwhile, the president has continued his Desperation Comeback Tour, crisscrossing the country to campaign for Republicans, stating at every stop that a vote for Democrats aids the enemy and appeases terrorists. His lyrics are the same and he is not harmonizing with the opinion of the public. In fact, George is off key and tone deaf.

Baker has just said, "it’s not appeasement to talk to your enemies," something George Bush has stubbornly refused to do during his performance as occupier of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. James Baker has already talked with leaders of Syria and Iran about the future of Iraq.

The task to clean up after Bush is tremendous. Baker is a Bush family loyalist with years of experience. In other words, he is your typical politico, reluctant to rock any boats before the vote. If he were a statesman, he’d say "troops out now." He knows that polls taken in Iraq show that most Iraqis want us out of their country and believe that violence will abate once the occupiers have left. Baker is also aware that al-Qaeda leaders regard U.S. presence in Iraq as their greatest recruitment tool. Further, Baker certainly has examined the National Intelligence Estimate report that terrorism has increased because of the invasion of Iraq. But most importantly, he sees the mounting casualties in Iraq. During the first nine days of October, the U.S. lost 33 troops. Two other coalition soldiers were killed. Hundreds of Iraqis have died this month. And there is this staggering truth: for every soldier killed, eight are wounded.

Is Baker losing sleep, asking himself as he tosses and turns, "What to do…what to do?" After all, if we continue to lose two or three young men and women a day while he protects Republicans who are on the ballot, a lot of doorbells will be ringing, followed by the military messengers’ words, "We regret to inform you."

This has to be a dilemma for Baker. Allegiance to Bush who could be forced to exit the building if Democrats take back Congress in November or the huge weight on his conscience if, perhaps, 60 to 100 more troops die in Iraq? And if 800 more are wounded?

I know what I would do. But I’m just an ordinary citizen, not a member of the political elite.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com