On the Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we are drawn away from contemplations of peaceful development and Asia’s rapid rise*, back to the gritty Earth of America’s current predicament.
Even as General Petraeus asked Congress for yet another nine months of “surge” before we can “pull out” back to pre-surge levels, it has become clear that the Iraq War has everybody transfixed. So, contrarian that I am, let me take this opportunity to remind people that Iraq is not the principal issue before us, right now.
In fact, I feel it is a grotesque distraction from the real issue that lies before us. The issue of America.
Some people already grasp this. Take an interview with Prof. Gregory Cochran that appeared on the online intellectual salon “The Edge.”
What would be the consequences of a rapid USA exit from Iraq?
Cochran: Someone would win the civil war and then they'd sell oil.
So, why don’t we get out?
Yes, the Iraq War is a terrible thing. A wretched repeat of every blunder made in Vietnam, all the way down to “meddling in military matters by inept, draft-dodging politician armchair generals.” (The rant we heard for thirty years from the far right, but strangely absent from their rhetoric today. I wonder why.) Spurred by lies and arm waving motivations that shift with every week, the has accomplished a long list of things that even conservatives ought to find repellant, if they were true patriots:
* erosion of United States military strength and reputation
* devastation of our alliances and standing in the world
* ruination of the National Guard and Reserves
* squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars, including some billions that went missing when left by the side of an Iraqi road (an event that would have led to impeachment calls, if it happened under Clinton)
* destruction of American social cohesion, unity, confidence and belief in ourselves
* feeding the sense of resentment in the Muslim world and increasing, steadily, the number of recruits available to radical anti-western causes
* almost complete abandonment of standards of accountability, including contracting rules that used to prevent the handshake passing of billions of taxpayer dollars directly to “companies” owned by friends of the administration... another impeachment-level scandal, if Clinton had done it. Yet, no journalist even cares....
... and so on, and on. With no tangible results to show for this wasted trillion dollar calamity, but a long list of negatives, I have been asking: “If you were an enemy power, who suddenly found itself in secret control over a U.S. administration - able to make it do whatever you wanted - isn’t all of this EXACTLY what you would have ordered?”
After a century of amazing success in nearly all things... even miraculously controlling our own budget (under Clinton)... what great American mistake would such a foreign power have us make, if it had the chance to steer us from the top? What other than a repeat of the biggest and dopiest error we ever made. Abandoning every recent military and political doctrine of agility and care, turning away from jiu jitsu to sumo, and getting mired in a land war of attrition in Asia?
Oh, this war has only been a means to many ends, achieving deepening rifts in America’s “culture war” for example. And providing a competition-free gravy train to every contractor who has Bush family ties. But I refuse to be distracted.
Because the real issue... the only important one... is the issue of America.
Will this nation manage to thwart those who have their eye on permanent political power?
A monopoly of power sufficient to prevent a thousand cohorts from going to jail for defrauding the public and stealing billions?
A grip that will let them continue to degrade our professional civil service, intelligence community, law enforcement and military, so they cannot be used by the people as tools of accountability?
A trend toward secrecy that is already undermining the operation of all four of our basic processes: democracy, courts, science and markets, all of which depend ultimately on players who are well-informed?
Yes, the political winds seem to be blowing against these guys. Hence they now seem to be turning toward another actor-politician. Trying the tactic of criticizing and dissing the previous GOP administration. Claiming the next one will be different... while shouting the same slogans.
And yet - (God how I hope that what I see is just an author's over-active imagination at work!) - one can point to plenty of signs that they are confident for some unknown reason. The reason that they are stupid? Or mad?
Or for the reason that we haven't even glimpsed yet their real trump card. The big one that the Bushites haven’t played yet. A trump card that they already seem to be bidding toward, for example by striving furiously to strengthen a presidency that they seem about to lose.
As if they (or their masters) know something that none of us do.
* The twinge I felt, seeing THREE Asian buildings shooting skyward, each aiming to take a turn being tallest in the world. 9/11 was reason for bold determination. But not the thuggish, stupid kind that we have been led toward.