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Falling Dominos and Failing Presidencies



There was a word missing from President Bush’s pathetic State of the Union Address. That word was “domino.”

With all his arguments for continued war in Iraq now exposed as lies and shams, our “war president” and would-be generalissimo has fallen back on the same last straw that Tricky Dick Nixon clutched to the end of his sorry presidency: the domino theory.

As Bush the Lesser put it last night, to a skeptical Congress and an even more disbelieving American public: “If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists backed by Al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country, and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.”

Sound familiar?

It should. Back in the Vietnam War days, we were told that if Vietnam “fell,” then Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia would “fall,” and who knows what other countries after that, like a chain of dominos–leading, the hoary argument went, right back to America.

Of course, it didn’t quite happen that way. Vietnam won its war against the U.S. The indigenous revolutionaries of Laos, the Pathet Lao, defeated the CIA-backed royal government in Laos, too, but in Cambodia, it was the U.S., not Vietnam, which spread the war to that neutral kingdom, by overthrowing the existing government and setting up a vicious right-wing dictatorship under Lon Nol, which was later ousted by a Maoist movement, the Khmer Rouge. But that nominally communist government was no ally of the Vietnamese. It was indeed the Vietnamese who rescued the Cambodian people from the genocidal Khmer Rouge, who ended up, incredibly, being backed by the U.S.

Thailand and Malaysia, of course, were never at risk of “falling.”

The domino theory made no sense in Southeast Asia in 1970, and it is equally ridiculous in the Middle East today. It is simply the last desperate ploy of an administration that is terrified about having to face the reality that the U.S. has lost its war in Iraq.

* * *

Digging Himself a Bigger Hole on Global Warming

While we’re at it, let’s mention the president’s energy plans, if they can be called that. The biggie would be his pledge to cut gasoline consumption by 20 percent. Two points here. First of all, it turns out that if you read the fine print, he wasn’t talking about cutting gasoline use from current levels by 20 percent, but only about cutting future projected use in 2017 by 20 percent. That would really mean he was not talking about cutting gasoline use, or imports, at all since gasoline use is projected to rise nearly 20 percent over the next decade. Furthermore, he said he wanted to achieve that so-called “reduction” not by making cars more efficient, but by increasing the amount of ethanol in our gasoline. This would have precious little impact on the climate change which the president finally, for the first time in his life and his presidency, publicly admitted to be a serious problem, since ethanol 1) takes a tremendous amount of energy (and carbon emissions) to produce and 2) produces carbon emissions when it burns. (Not to mention that cars burning an ethanol/gasoline mix actually get worse mileage than cars burning 100% gasoline.)

Meanwhile, the president said nothing about reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, which are at least as serious contributors to global warming as are automobiles.

The real joke came when Bush called for a doubling of the size of the National Petroleum Reserve, that giant hole down in Louisiana’s salt domes, where the U.S. has pumped vast quantities of crude oil (and taxpayer dollars) to create an artificial oil patch. The tax money that would go into doubling that huge hole, and into buying oil at upwards of $50/barrel to fill it up, might be much better spent drilling steam holes into the earth’s crust to make large numbers of geothermal generating plants which could replace some or all of the coal-fired generators around the country, thereby seriously reducing America’s carbon emissions–and producing clean electricity which could, besides lighting our homes, power a new generation of electric or hydrogen-powered cars.

Oops. I guess that’s not an idea that would be real popular with the oil industry or the coal industry.

My bad.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is “The Case for Impeachment“,
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at:


Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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