One of the key points I keep trying to raise is that our core problem is not the War in Iraq, per se.
The real issue people should be talking about is what is being done to America. A nation that has been -- and remains -- historically vastly more important to the future of our descendants, and humanity in general. A country and civilization that is steadily being diminished, crippled, robbed and distracted. Not by a party or a movement, but by a bona fide criminal gang.
We need to remember that the Iraq war is a horror, but its core effect has been to divide, corrupt, cheat, demoralize and steal from the people of the United States.
This time, specifically, I want to aim at one aspect of the betrayal of America. One that I was among the very first (anywhere!) to point out, as long ago as 2004...
... that the number one accomplishment of the Bush Administration has been the partial-destruction of the United States military. Accompanied by (in some ways even worse) a near-complete demolition of its hardwon reputation for overwhelming invincibility.
This problem lies not only at the feet of the mad, neocon right, but also on some bad habits that Bush opponents have to break. It will be impossible for liberals to deal with the devastation of the Bush Era, if they nurse even a scintilla of simplistic hostility toward our men and women in uniform. That silly reflex is not only inaccurate and unjust -- picking on the wrong target -- but also self-defeating. We need these people. They are the Bushites’ worst victims.
Moreover, they are a large part of our hope, for the restoration of a lawful, constitutional and confident American Republic.
* But first, some preliminary data dumps.
One of you wrote in about an article in this month’s Rolling Stone "The great Iraq Swindle," covering a topic I have long spoken-of - that the Iraq incursion features truly vast amounts of contractor graft and corruption. So much that theft from the US taxpayer may plausibly have been one of the principal drivers of the entire misguided campaign.
Consider that our ongoing “Mess o’ Potamia” never followed the standard leftist scenario preached by Michael Moore and others, of being "about grabbing oil."
What oil? Do you see any Iraqi oil on the market? Standard left-wing excuses -- that the Bushites simply botched the oil grab -- look tired, after so many years. Especially since the FOBs (friends of Bush) have proved stunningly competent at getting rich off this war, by other means. (Indeed, keeping Iraqi oil OFF the market serves the desire of the world’s very top FOBs.)
No, the swindle is simple. In a "war" or "emergency," normal competitive contracting rules can be thrown away, enabling a Decider Presidency (look up "autarchy") to privatize anything it wants, any way it wants, and hand deals to its favorite, family friends.
Note that defenders of privatization do not even try any longer to justify it as "more efficient," since it takes four times as much (on average) to pay contractors in Iraq to accomplish nothing, as it took soldiers and civil servants.
This is one of a dozen issues that would let Democrats attack the Bushites from a conservative perspective, awakening “ostrich Republicans” and tearing apart Karl Rove's Big Tent coalition. That is, if any of the dems had enough savvy to look at the big picture.
Here is sad and worrisome news. Two US soldiers who helped write an article from the front saying America had "failed on every promise" in the Iraq war have been killed in Baghdad. Staff Sergeant Yance Gray, 26, and Sergeant Omar Mora, 28, were among a group of seven soldiers serving in Iraq who wrote a piece excoriating America's conduct of the war, published in The New York Times last month. ... Their public criticism caused a flurry of debate in the US because of the candor with which the men, all serving in the elite 82nd Airborne, described the war. "Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise," the seven wrote. "When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages."
View Keith Olbermann’s latest “J’accuse” polemic toward the Gang of Crooks and Liars.
* And now, on to the main part of this missive.
To reiterate, our main focus here concerns the number one accomplishment of the Bush Administration -- the ongoing demolition of the United States military.
...accompanied by (in some ways even worse) a near-complete evaporation of its hardwon reputation for overwhelming invincibility.
* The illusion is as important as the substance
Let there be no mistake. When it comes to practical politics in a dangerous world, these two things -- both actual and real power -- are equally important. For perception often guides what others do. Indeed, as recently as 2002, it seemed that the US military services could do nothing wrong. That their skills and equipment and elan were so far ahead of any possible combination of foes, that any future adversaries would have to act against us in secret, or not at all.
This impression was doubly reinforced after stunning military (though not political) success in the first Gulf War (1991), followed by almost perfect execution of skilled diplomacy and policy in the Balkans Intervention. (All stated goals were achieved within weeks, at zero cost in US lives, clear exit strategies were followed to the letter, all “nation building” chores were delegated to others, readiness and budgets were unaffected and our popularity in the Muslim world went up.)
Moreover, if anyone was still unconvinced of US prowess, there came 9/11, followed by our swift intervention in Afghanistan when President GW Bush said “Go!” to an existing Clinton-Clark plan - one that hewed closely to the Powell Doctrine of professionalism, intense diplomacy and selective application of overwhelming (if surgical) force.
If Osama’s ultimate 9/11 plan was (according to many experts) to draw us into the Kush Mountains’ killing zone, where he had already helped to humble one superpower, he was shocked and bitterly disappointed when the US led a coordinated campaign, combining local forces with air power and extensive local expertise, swiftly eliminated the Taliban regime that had succored bin Laden. An entire enemy regime toppled - fair enough retaliation for 9/11... and Osama was running for his life.
And all of these successes (since 1992) were accomplished without any truly substantial stains upon our nation’s or the military’s honor. (Indeed, at that point -- with the Taliban toppled -- shouldn’t we all have been allowed to get back to our lives? Would not that have been the ultimate punishment of terrorists?)
At this point, there also seemed to be a peak in international acceptance of unipolarity... the notion that having just one superpower is a good thing. Despite some gnashing of teeth in Moscow, Paris and Beijing, very few other nations sent delegates to meetings on the topic “what shall be done about America?” We were that popular. That strong. And apparently that unbeatable.
Only now... where is that reputation?
Reiterating: even if you put aside all the unnecessary death and theft and incompetence and immorality of recent years, you would still be left with a Bush Administration that has squandered and spoiled something both pragmatic and precious -- an appearance of invincibility that helped to keep the peace, better than whole divisions.
Now that inestimable aura is gone. Ask anyone, around the world, what their perception is, of a US Army that flounders, mired up to its neck in a quagmire of confusion, sloppy waste, plummeting morale and blurry goals. Is our current reputation an effective deterrent? Or does it encourage others to restore a multipolar, militarily competitive world?
Even (especially) American conservatives should find this a case of utter - and possibly criminal - betrayal of leadership.
A multi-part series on the GOP vs. the U.S. Military:
Next time... Part 2: But it Gets Even Worse: Neocons vs. the U.S. Military
Part 3: Destroying Readiness
Part 4: Botching Both Kinds of War
Part 5: Let the Excuses Roll!
Part 6: Purging the Officer Corps
and More on the War Against Professionalism in Government
==Also see: How Republicans and Democrats wage war