The Rip Post


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The Big Picture. . .
        Daniel Schorr implied in a recent NPR commentary that the Iraq Attack has psyched out the other team; that the "axis of evil"---Iran, and North Korea---and that "rogue nation" debutante, Syria, have shown signs of compromise. To wit:
      *Iran is apparently mullah-ing over compromise; a Tehran official announced that it is in the country's best interests to deal with the U.S.. (Still, Iran  is said to be supporting and even helping to organize the anti-U.S. Shi'ites in Iraq.)
      *Syria claims to have sealed its borders under orders from Bush, and is rolling out the magic carpet for that genie of good cop-ism, Colin Powell.
      *North Korea had a meet-and-greet with the U.S. and China---changing its previous demand for a private chat with Uncle Sam. Of course, everybody stopped talking when Rumsfeld's office leaked plans for bombing North Korea's nuke plant, and North Korea threatened to roast North America on a radioactive spit. . .
       So, has the Bush policy of pre-emptive military attack, as Schorr suggested in his commentary, really intimidated other nations into a more agreeable posture?
       If so, this would be a good thing, as is the apparent demise of Saddam Hussein. Yet it is not surprising that brutal, bullying regimes of colossally overmatched countries would respond well to. . .bullying. That brutes should best understand brute force is ancient postulation, sad and usually true. (It is worth noting, though, that Jimmy Carter's freelance diplomacy, not threat, defused a near-war with North Korea in 1994.)
       The positive fallout from the Iraq attack has prompted some negative fallout at home. The American people are drunk with imaginary 9/11 vengence (even though Saddam didn't do it, folks), self-righteousness, and chauvinism (and U.S. corporations are drunk with new contracts.) The I-told-you-so's are up on their hind legs, chanting "a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged!" Andy Rooney has said he's sorry, the Dixie Chicks are whistling a different tune, Sheryl Crow has changed her liberal lyric, and the administration is crowing morality, morality, morality. Break out your "Chemical Ali" dolls, Old Glory visors, and punch a peacenik in the nose!
       Well, that's the tone this week. Whether it will remain next week, or next month, next year, is anyone's guess.
       Somehow, it all got me to thinking about the movie, "The Quiet American," in which Pyle, the CIA operative in '50s Vietnam, extolls the "big picture" as he engineers bombings and killings of innocent civilians in order to manipulate the country's future. He is a sociopath; comfortable that death and suffering, the tools of his trade, will result in a "greater good."
       Pyle of Vietnam has much in common with Condoleezza of Arabia and the other architects of Bush Administration foreign policy: Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle. They share his cynicism about humanity---or realism, some would say---that employing mayhem with the goal of effecting a "greater good" is perfectly acceptable.
       It's an idea that boils down to this, in the Iraq context: was it worth killing thousands of innocent people--- maiming children, destroying families, plunging the country into chaos---to achieve U.S. goals? Difficult question, when confronted with images of armless children burned over 60 percent of their bodies by U.S. bombs. This is where "the big picture" apparently comes to the aid of all the Pyles in the Washington. They somehow shut their eyes to the monstrosity of war in favor of what they believe will be a "greater good."
        But what exactly is this "greater good?" To listen to the big guns in the administration pop off for the past few weeks, you'd think that the sole purpose of invasion was moral: to get rid of Saddam and "liberate" the Iraqi people. That this was just a gift from Uncle Sam and the good folks at Democracy "R" Us.
         Is this true? If so, why, then did the U.S. not invade at some point during the past twenty years, when "we" knew of Saddam's torture chambers, and sold him chemical weapons of mass destruction. Why did Rumsfeld spend two years negotiating a (failed) oil pipeline deal with Saddam in the '80s, knowing full-well he used those same chemical weapons? Why did Cheney's Halliburton do business (through a subsidiary) with Saddam in the late '90s, while he claimed it didn't?
         If the U.S. design was so humanitarian, why did we not depose a fiendish dictator elsewhere? Why do we suddenly "care" about the Iraqi people? Why not the Cambodian people? Why did we do nothing during the "Killing Fields" era, for instance, when millions died at the hands of the Khymer Rouge? In some African nations, tribal butchery and genocide are a way of life. Why do we not invade and "nation build" there?
         Two reasons gush to mind: Iraq sits on one-third of the world's oil; Iraq affords easy access for a full-scale invasion and occupation of the Middle East---which is a stated goal of the Project for a New American Century, the Bush Administration's foreign policy blueprint of "pre-emptive" strikes in the name of national security.
         And here's a third reason: it was no-contest! Iraq posed as much military threat to the U.S. as Custer posed to the Sioux. It was a hell of a lot easier than starting "Global Pax Americana" in North Korea, or Iran. (Intending no slight to U.S. armed forces, Cheney's claim that this was one of the greatest military achievements in history is one of the more ludicrous statements of the day.)
         So scratch morality as primary, or even secondary motive. The indisputable good of Saddamizing Hussein is windfall profit in the administration's "big picture" of occupying the Middle East, controlling its oil, securing massive contracts for U.S. corpse-o-rations, and threatening other "rogue nations" in the name of U.S. security. (Remember that troops took control of the Iraqi oil ministry while the country roiled in anarchy and looting. )
         Oh, and let's not forget that ol' time religion! That's part of the "big picture," too. Bush constantly invokes "God" and "prayer" in his speeches, clearly implying that "God is on our side." (Soldiers were asked to---get this---mail little pre-printed postcards to Bush, saying they were praying for the Prez.) Televangelists testify to it outright, every Sunday, all across the country---that we are the world's only good, righteous people. Frank "Son of Billy" Graham---he who declared Islam "evil"---has already set up shop in Iraq, to impose his corporate Christianity on the Muslim populace. (That should go over big with those bloodied, self-flaggelating Shi'ites.) All Iraqis will be given free health care (unlike all Americans), but it will not cover abortion. Hey, is this a democracy or theocracy we are imposing---er, offering?
         And what of the WMD, and the much ballyhooed threat they posed to this country--- despite a lack of evidence, and Iraq's last-minute willingness to destroy a couple of dozen missiles? This was the main excuse for invasion! Well, where are they? Why did Iraq not use any in the "war?" Answer: odds are that the Sad-Man was incapable of using whatever WMD he had, and probably didn't own such weapons in the quantities the admini- stration claimed. "Containment," it seems, was doing the job! Unless, that is, you believe a new report from an "anonymous" Iraqi military official, who claims that Saddam mysteriously destroyed all bio-chem weapons just before the big Iraq-and-Roll party began. . .
         The point here is to remember another kind of "big picture," even as constructive fallout from this "pre- emptive" strike appears. That is the picture presented by the Bush administration National Security Strategy (a rewrite of the PNAC precepts): a world remade by a bellicose United States through economic and military domination.
           According to this scheme, the president can instigate war at will---including nuclear---against any nation, on mere suspicion, without congressional approval (unconstitutional, incidentally.) Translation: the United States becomes exactly the thing that Bush derided in many a campaign speech: "the policeman of the world."
          Is this moral? Should the U.S.---already bankrupt by a trillion bucks or so---gamble on the unimaginably costly and dangerous "greater good" of "imposing democracy" on barely stable countries that have only known dictatorships? No matter the amount of money, death and mayhem involved?
        What if China were the "lone superpower" in the world, and sought to exert domination through "pre-emptive" strikes? The Chinese certainly think their system is as moral as ours. Or to make the argument more irksome to neo-cons, what if France were the dominant power, seeking to impose its Gitanes and fais grais on the planet? Would that be moral? France is a free democracy, after all. Mon dieu!
        So as the administration continues to swagger all over the moral high ground, it behooves good citizens everywhere to remember another "big picture"---one that is is staggeringly overlooked, forgotten, or dismissed amid all the red-white-and-bluebris:
        The Bush administration is largely comprised of former oil and energy executives (Cheney is still being paid by Halliburton, while in office!). Corpse-o-rations lined up long ago for a piece of "rebuilding" Iraq, from Bechtel on down. This is only the most spectacular conflict of interest in U.S. government history, that's all---yet is astoundingly ignored by the public and press. The money to be made from "rebuilding Iraq"---now being mapped out by the ever-looming, shadowy Carlyle Group--- is beyond imagination. Neither the taxpaying Ameican nor sorely taxed Iraqi people will share the profits, except by, at best, "trickle down."
        Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .
        Bush wants to slash taxes for the kingmakers and robber-baron looters of the corporate world (What? Kenny Lay is still rich, and free?), 25,000 teachers are being laid off in California, layoffs and mergers are a way of life, countless Americans are unable to pay for health care, environmental protections are becoming as extinct as lions and tigers, Constitutionally-guaranteed privacy and freedom are shrugged off in the interests of "security," gun manufacturers continue to knowingly sell to companies that supply firearms to criminals, utter hatred of the left edges toward McCarthyism, the Bush administration is consolidating power as no previous administration ever has, $90 billion (first installment) has been spent on Iraq instead of shoring up security at home, much of the world opposes Bush's policies, and Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda roam free.
       Is this moral?
        Pyle, a fictional character whose "big picture" created the worst mistake in U.S. history, Vietnam, would say yes, sir!

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