Most of this posting will be political miscellany about desertion rates and the steady (possibly deliberate) destruction of the United States Army -- plus some new material from Russ Daggatt. Still, I do want to lay a seed for pondering, till next time.
In the bestiary of supporters of the neocon madness, it is important to make a distinction
I call an Ostrich any "decent conservative" who retains some basic common sense, courtesy and openness to argument, despite having been led astray by Fox, down a road of step-by-step reversing every principle that Conservatism used to stand for. While prudent restraint swerves into recless adventurism, while devotion to accountability transforms into secrecy and crony dealings, while fiscal responsibility becomes spendthrift profligacy, and dedication to defense readiness has transformed into spasmodic willingness to spend our forces like a gambler at a slot machine... your typical ostrich covers his eyes and ears and recites the mantra "Clinton was worse..." over and over again, desperately trying not to wake up.
These people aren't hopeless! If we each adopted even just one -- like that sweet but troglodytic uncle of yours -- and hammered away relentlessly (using some of the ostrich ammo that I've offered), each victory would be like a spear through the heart of Karl Rove's coalition.
But let's admit it. There is another, far more common type of beast.
I call this other kind "Rabid Lemmings" and the name speaks for itself. Angry, vicious, narrowminded and dogmatic, these are the culture warriors who are hell-bent to stampede off a cliff, and take America with them. Just like the great majority of Confederate troops, who fought and died valorously, gloriously for a thin veneer of aristocratic slave-owners that treated them like dirt, today's lemmings will do anything, believe anything, for the very same criminal gang that is getting super-rich at their expense, not through enterprise or capitalism but the far older process of parisitism.
Alas, there is no point in trying to grab the lapels of a Limbaughite lemming. Unlike the ostriches, who retain dim memories of a genteel and polite conservatism, led by men of reason and principle, like Barry Goldwater and Robert Dole, your lemming actually likes culture war. It gives him a rush (so to speak) to picture a majority of his fellow citizens as purely evil agents of liberal darkness. I am not foolish enough to suggest that we reach out to such people.
On the other hand, I believe that one of the stupidest things that liberals and moderates and decent conservatives can do, is to continue shrugging off the insanity that is spewed at millions of lemmings, in order to keep them stoked-up, in a state of actinic fury.
What? You say that we -- the moderate and openminded majority of Americans -- seem headed for a big win in 2008?
Well, maybe. I wouldn't rule out Rovean cleverness -- or some horrid distraction -- in the meantime. But suppose we are? Will even a victory at the polls, in '08, be worth anything at all, if it isn't overwhelming?
Next time, I'll elaborate on why we need to get far more aggressive. Far more pro-active. Far more determined to accept nothing less than total repudiation of culture war.
On to miscellany... some of it disturbing...
Soldiers strained by six years at war are deserting their posts at the highest rate since 1980, with the number of Army deserters this year showing an 80 percent increase since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. Figures show a steady increase over the past four years and a 42 percent jump since last year. The increase comes as the Army continues to bear the brunt of the war demands with many soldiers serving repeated, lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Military leaders — including Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey — have acknowledged that the Army has been stretched nearly to the breaking point by the combat. Efforts are under way to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps to lessen the burden and give troops more time off between deployments.
In contrast, the Navy - the one service that has most effectively resisted the Bush Administration’s reckless and spendthrift-amateur adventurism -has seen a steady decline in deserters since 2001, going from 3,665 that year to 1,129 in 2007.
Despite the continued increase in Army desertions, an Associated Press examination of Pentagon figures earlier this year showed that the military does little to find those who bolt, and rarely prosecutes the ones they find. Some are allowed to simply return to their units, while most are given less-than-honorable discharges.
And yet, the right keeps foisting upon us inflammatory tirades about “unpatriotic liberals” who won’t vote to make English formally the nation’s sole, official language. For the Patriotism Card to be played, relentlessly, by a gang who has destroyed the US Army, would seem hysterically funny... if any Democrats had the gumption to point this out. More on this in the next political screed.
Meanwhile, Russ Daggatt suggests some “ostrich ammo” in the form of a simple set of questions for your obstinate republican friend or uncle. Asks RD:
1/ Who is "the enemy" in Iraq?
2/ How do we "win" another country's civil war?
3/ What end game to we hope to achieve by arming both the local Sunni militia and the majority Shiite "government"?
4/ The result of arming both (all?) sides in the Iraqi civil war is likely to be: a) pretty b) not pretty
5/ Is this “fighting for a clearcut goal”? Is it even nation building?
Bear these questions in mind while dropping by a cogent article: Iraqis Wasting An Opportunity, U.S. Officers Say. “Senior military commanders here now portray the intransigence of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government as the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq, rather than al-Qaeda terrorists, Sunni insurgents or Iranian-backed militias.”
RD: Whomever "the enemy" in Iraq is at any given time should always be referred to generically as "the terrorists." Then, if "the enemy" later changes, you can still refer to the new "enemy" generically as "the terrorists" without having to amend all previous statements. Note, for example, how the Sunni insurgents were, until recently, simply "the terrorists." Now, however, it can be said of the Sunni insurgents, that we are now arming, that they have "shown great patience" and "they have got to eat." Meanwhile, the Shiite "government" that we installed is now "the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq."
In the end, your typical ostrich cannot describe a cogent view of who our allies are in Iraq (because we have none) or why this exercise in “nation building” is wise (when Republicans used to howl at the very notion.) Nor even what our goals are, anymore. (Who are the “Iraqis” we are asking to “stand up”? The ones in the government who are sure to ally themselves with... Iran?)
What it DOES boil down to is personal trust. “I like and trust the leaders of my political side and if they say this is the right course then those who disagree are fools or traitors.” Recent work in social psychology has shown that this really is a key part of the conservative mind set. It helps to explain how nearly every principle of Goldwater-Dole conservatism has been reversed in recent years, without engendering any rebellion among the ranks of GOP members -- except the furiously angry military officers and civil servants, who have to deal with the real-life mess these policies produce.
Think of all the reversals of conservatism that have been rationalized away, simply because the movement’s leaders (and Fox) have said so. A proclivity for prudence has transformed into recklessness. Insularity has become international adventurism. Pinch-penny fiscal circumspection has become spendthrift budget-busting. Belief in accountability has swerved into passion for secrecy and crony-management. Demure courtesy has switched over to bilious rage, nastiness and a belief that we can “lead the world” by relentlessly insulting every foreigner. Courtesy transforms into shrill wrath. From a belief in States Rights, we now see the movement stand for unprecedented centralization of federal power. The list goes on and on. But (except among the professionals) none of this swerving and swiveling causes any cognitive dissonance in the typical ostrich, because loyalty to one’s social side is the paramount conservative -- and ostrich -- virtue.
Do not get me wrong. As an ornery contrarian, I can criticize in all directions. Both lefties and liberals (two entirely different species) have their own psychological drives, some of them relentlessly self-destructive, as we see so many opponents of the neocons start lining up to march to Karl Rove’s election year drumbeat, like lemmings, yet again. But these character flaws are nothing compared to what’s exhibited by the ostrich millions on the right, who rationalize away the tsunami of evidence that their “side” is being led by bona fide monsters.
Rant mode off. Anyway, I am p[reaching to folk who’ve heard it all before, alas.
MORE POLITICAL MISCELLANY
“Flush with cash, Canada plans to slash taxes.” Reuters, Oct 30. So THAT’s what happened to the real Republican Party; it moved to Canada!
Under the “we’re STILL WAITING” department... remember when Republicans accused Bill Clinton of murdering an Arkansas state trooper to supposedly cover up alleged "evidence" of Clinton's multiple rapes. At one point, the endlessly futile “most investigated in US history.” even centered around Bill Clinton's Christmas card list!
Ah, remember when Stephen Hess called Clinton Admin the “most investigated in US history?” But with what kind of results?
Will there ever come a time when this kind of calumny butts up against the test of reasonableness? After billions of dollars and diverting FBI agents from protecting us, to search for ANY Clinton smoking guns, will any amount of failed investigations finally get those people to apologize?
Be angry. In 2006, a Blackwater SUV collided with a US Army Humvee. Blackwater guards disarmed the U.S. Army soldiers and made them lie on the ground at gunpoint until they could disentangle the SUV.That's US soldiers being assaulted and held at gunpoint by Blackwater. Oh, if this had happened under Clinton!
12 former army captains speak out about the futility of the Iraq intervention and its destructive effects upon the US Army.
Enough. The lesson is clear. Don't get complacent. Stay angry. Think of the celebrations that will explode, around the world, when the Bushites lose power. The litmus between mad neocons and the rest of us is basically this. To them, America's present unpopularity is proof that Bush is right. To the rest of us, it is clear evidence that we are losing any power, influence or right to lead the world.