Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What They Don't Say

“No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.”

-- Carl von Clausewitz

Two years after the fall of Baghdad, and despite the Pentagon's blitz of the political talk shows last weekend, we still don't have the answers to two basic questions: what did we hope to achieve by invading Iraq, and how do we intend to achieve it?

According to US Central Command chief General John Abizaid, "the troops" need for Americans to know why we're fighting in Iraq, and what we're fighting for, and how we're going to win. But things are so complicated over there that he can't explain them to us in the "common sense" necessary for us to talk about it back home.

Any strategy that's too complicated to explain is too complicated to work, and a strategy without specific goals is no strategy at all. Can it really be that the Bush administration has committed us to an aimless, never-ending war? Or does it have specific aims in mind that it doesn't want to tell us about? If the latter is the case, what might those aims be?

A cursory look through the web site of the neo-conservative think tank Project for the New American Century provides some interesting clues. The PNAC--whose members included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, and others presently in key Bush administration positions--called for President Clinton to unilaterally remove Saddam Hussein from power in January of 1998.

The PNAC letter to Clinton stated that if Saddam acquired weapons of mass destruction, "a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard." (Let's see, now, what was Dick Cheney doing around the time he was helping the PNAC formulate this policy? Oh, that's right--he was CEO of Halliburton, wasn't he? Gee. You think there's a connection?)

Also at hazard, the letter stated, would be "our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states." What better way would there be to protect our friends and allies in the Middle East than to establish permanent military facilities--maybe 14 of them--in the geographic heart of the region? Militarily, this would gives us a secure base of operations with interior lines of communication and diverging lines of operation directly into Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan. And combined with our bases in Afghanistan, we'd literally have Iran surrounded.

What better way to, as the PNAC put it back in June of 1997, to establish and secure "American global leadership?"

America's first president was a guy named George who could not tell a lie. Tonight, another president named George will address the nation on network television--before an adoring audience of Army Rangers--to tell us why we're in the war and what we expect to get out of it. Do you think the George we have now will come clean with us?

I don't.


  1. I have no doubt your analysis is correct. Except for the WMDs -- I have to wonder if Bush et al ever took that seriously, or if it was a line from the start.

    Can't remember if it was in Harper's or perhaps another magazine, but a year or two ago I read an analysis that showed a clear development in US policy towards the region beginning in the Carter administration. Seeds of empire, that sort of thing. And now, with Afghanistan on the verge of collapse, and Iraq worse than ever (man those throes are violent), the empire is starting to fold. What next?

  2. My biggest concern:

    Nothing short of the vision I described (my opinion) will constitute victory. US control of that region--military, energy, political, and economic--is the only objective that justifies the risks and costs of this excursion into Iraq.

    I can just see eyes bugging out in the planning rooms when they went "Oh, we can get Afghanistan too!"


    My next question--how long before the American people come to terms with this reality, and how will they react to it?


  3. So far only one network is carrying Bush's speech live -- if Bush thinks he's going to reach those few American's who haven't heard his platitudes and bullshit rosy scenarios before, he really is living in Fantasyland, USA.

    I can't imagine WHAT team Bush thinks Bush can say tonight that'll sway public opinion back in his favor.

    I predict more of the same. Same blah blah blah speech, same low polling numbers afterward.

  4. The broadcast networks using the airwaves should all carry it, in my view. They have licenses to use public airwaves, and I think they have an obligation to carry this sort of thing, regardless of who the present is or what party they are from. If we're in a war and the President is making a prime-time speech about the war, it is irresponsible not to carry it.

  5. Interesting thought, Scott. Part of me thinks they should all carry it, part of me thinks they shouldn't be obliged to carry government propaganda (which this speech absolutely will be--another military town hall meeting.)

  6. But Scott, doesn't the president have an obligation to say something?

    Karen and I listened to it. We didn't hear a damn thing. Just the sound of one ass farting. (Thought you'd appreciate a bit of Zen humor, Master Kimsey.)

    He kept up the lie of the connection between 9/11 and Saddam. Mentioned it four times, by Karen's count. Say it enough times, and people will believe it?

  7. The new GOP motto:

    "You can fool most of the people most of the time."


  8. Doug:

    Sure, but displeasure with the content of what an elected official says is expressed at the ballot box. It isn't up to tv networks using public airwaves to decide they don't like the content of political speech (or lack thereof) and are not going to air it. I think that is a breach of the responsibility they should be undertaking when they get their license.

  9. Scott,

    I'm somewhat on the fence regarding this. Political use of the media for propaganda purposes is a serious issue right now, as is control of the media by the FCC and other agencies.

    Bush giving a critical policy speech in front of a hand-picked audience smacks of political rally, which was why the networks were leery of carrying it. IMO, an address from the Oval Office would have been far more appropriate.


  10. Jeff:

    I doubt very much that is why the networks are leery of carrying it. I suspect, rather, that the networks would be just as reluctant to carry a speech by Bush from the oval office. I think it is partially a reluctance to interrupt their program and partially a dislike of Bush.

    Bush's speech before a favorable audience is no different than what other presidents have done since the advent of television, and given the fact that is it a speech about a war the country is currently in, I think it should be carried. If the opposition party wants to put together a rebuttal, that should be carried as well.

    I am also suspicious of labeling an opposing viewpoint as 'propaganda,' just because the person is going to be saying something you don't like. If you want to go with that definition, all political speech is propaganda for one side's viewpoints or policies.

  11. You're welcome to your doubts. In any case, it appears Bush drew the lowest ratings of his tenure in office.