Thursday, July 26, 2007

Taking Bush Seriously

Here's another one from the "Irony is Dead" file.

On Wednesday, Jim Rutenberg and Alissa J. Rubin of the New York Times revealed that George W. Bush has taken beleaguered Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki under his wing. Once every two weeks, sometimes more often, Mr. Bush gathers up Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Steven Hadley and they all head to the White House situation room for a videoconference with Maliki. These sessions last over an hour, during which the two heads of state discuss leadership, democracy, troop deployments and their domestic challenges.

Too bad for Maliki that his main mentor on leadership, democracy and troop deployment is a man who has clearly illustrated total lack of understanding of any of those subjects. On the other hand, if Maliki wanted to learn how to create domestic challenges, he couldn't have picked a better role model than Bush. And just in case Bush can't tell Maliki the best way to screw up things in his country, Cheney and Hadley are there to pick up the slack.

Thus it is that we find ourselves in the kind of mess we're in. The leader of the world's most notable failing state is taking advice from the most failed presidency in the history of the United States.

But Seriously, Folks

If Maliki is really taking Bush seriously, he's among an ever-dwindling minority of the global population that does. The problem is that as laughable as Bush and his self-parodying rhetoric has become, we all need to take him seriously because he's still the president of the United States, one who thinks he has absolute powers to conduct his woebegone "war on terror" in any manner he chooses without so much as passing go, collecting two hundred dollars or asking permission from Congress.

In his speech at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina on Tuesday, Mr. Bush made one of his most convoluted, nonsensical arguments to date attempting to tie al-Qaeda in Iraq to the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Bush accused his opponents of having a problem with the facts, but as usual, the only person in this debate playing fast and loose with the facts is Mr. Bush himself. Al Qaeda in Iraq did not exist prior to the 9/11 attacks, and its original leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, did not swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and the larger al-Qaeda movement until October of 2004, more than a year and a half after the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq.

Bush's assertions were part and parcel of the administration's recent propaganda campaign to re-associate the Iraq war with 9/11 and the greater war on terror in the public mind, but there's an even more sinister motivation behind the attempt to relate all things terrible and scary to al Qaeda.

Remember that little resolution both houses of Congress passed a week after the 9/11 attacks called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)? The AUMF is a short and sweet piece of legislation that many consider to have been a blank check that gave Bush the virtually unlimited executive war powers he claims to have. Here's the money clause:
…the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

This gives Mr. Bush "specific statutory authorization" under the War Powers Resolution of 1973 to use armed force against anybody he determines had anything whatsoever to do with the 911 attacks.

Bush doesn't need to prove the al-Qaeda connection to continue U.S. involvement in Iraq. That's covered by a separate authorization passed by Congress in October 2002. But the 2001 AUMF leaves Bush with a virtually unlimited option for expanding his war on terror whenever, wherever and however he wants to. We've been running air strikes on villages in Somalia since January 2007, ostensibly for the sake of terminating "top al-Qaeda members." We've heard hints that Iran has provided safe haven to members of al-Qaeda. Now, the Bush administration is talking about dropping bombs on al Qaeda targets in Pakistan or anywhere else it deems necessary. On the July 22 edition of CNN's Late Edition, Bush's Homeland Security Adviser Frances Townsend told Wolf Blitzer that if the U.S. had "actionable targets anywhere in the world," including Pakistan, "then we would pursue those targets."

Of Iraq, Mr. Bush recently , "I don't think Congress ought to be running the war." Based on their performance since September 11, 2001, I don't think Mr. Bush or his advisers or his generals ought to be running the war, either the war in Iraq or the so-called "war" on terror. I won't pretend to have a definitive diagnosis of Mr. Bush's mental state, but his words and actions, as well as those of his subordinates and supporters, are not sane.

Congress may not yet be poised to legislate us out of Iraq, but it should do everything it can to put our out of control executive branch back in its box. One of the first steps the newly installed Democratic majority should have taken in January was to repeal the 2001 AUMF. The longer it waits to take this necessary action, the longer it risks allowing the Bush administration to commit this country to even further unrecoverable fiascos.


  1. re: Bush's mental state, Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst writes a
    to John Conyers
    in which he ennlists the services of Justin Frank, M.D., a psychiatrist in Washington, who wrote a book, Bush on the Couch, in which he provided insights into the president’s mode of thinking. Here is an exerpt from the letter, and alhough the validity of his analysis is debatable, the conclusion is nonetheless interesting.

    In a quick note to us this morning [July 23], Dr. Frank noted we are "dealing with a potentially cornered man [who] could lash out, and it is possible that the best way would be to bomb Iran.... Whatever the root causes of Bush’s pathology, we have a dangerous man running things...grandiose and unchecked."

    Some snippets from the Memorandum that Dr. Frank is drafting for issuance under VIPS auspices:

    "George W. Bush is without conscience...and destructive, willfully so. He has always liked to break things...most shocking is the way he is breaking our armed forces.

    "He doesn’t care about others, is indifferent to their suffering...He is almost constitutionally missing the ability to sympathize or empathize...More indifferent to reality than out of touch with it, he makes up whatever story he wants.

    "Ultimately, he is psychologically unstable...His goal is to destroy things [and he can do that] without experiencing anxiety or a sense of responsibility. An equally important goal is to protect himself from shame, from being wrong, from being found small and weak."

  2. Aditya,

    Thanks for the info.


  3. Jeff, I couldn't agree more with this post...

    I posted very similar ones HERE and HERE and in that 2nd link I made the exact same point you did on the al-Qaida in Iraq timeline...

    Bush is a delusional man, and he IS dangerous, it's like having an angry child in charge of the launch codes...

    You and I may disagree on a point or 2 here and there but overall we're on the same page most of the time..

  4. Anonymous9:22 PM

    Drug and alcohol addled behavior. There comes a time when a life of drinking and drugs (at least till the reported age of 40) causes a toll on the mind and body. I would not even say "I told you so" if Bush suspended the Constitution post a 2008 October surprise. He has demonstrated enough contempt for the other two branches of government that he might just pull it off. Yeah I'm crazy.

    Left Coast

  5. Jeff,
    Here is the follow up to my earlier comment,
    The full freakin scary as hell analysis

  6. Thanks for the link, Aditya.

  7. Anonymous4:06 AM

    You said "Al Qaeda in Iraq did not exist prior to the 9/11 attacks, and its original leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, did not swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and the larger al-Qaeda movement until October of 2004, more than a year and a half after the U.S. and its allies invaded Iraq." and you contrast that with the war authorization language. All true. ...If our national security existed soley within the confines of an American court of law you might have a point. Unfortunatley it does not. Our enemies are not bound by contracts or US expectations of fair play. AQI is part of a movement (Salafi Jihadists)that has modern roots back to the 50s and 60s. We are not at war with a finite group of individuals hiding in a cave. This threat changes as the war unfolds (like most long wars). The operative phrase from the 02 war authorization in this case is "in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons." That is the Presidents responsibility. I know the lawyers out there will take me to task on this one but I think keeping the enemy in mind during a war is pretty important. We can and should fault the administration of aspects of how the war was fought but we hand AQ (and associated movements) a huge victory if we step back from a fight that they themselves have declared central to their mid-term objectives.

  8. "...we hand AQ (and associated movements) a huge victory if we step back from a fight that they themselves have declared central to their mid-term objectives."


    In my considered opinion, this business of fighting a war according to al Qaeda's agenda is handing them the initiative by allowing them to dictate the terms of engagement. Frankly, I think all this talk of theirs about the central aspect of Iraq is mere taunting that suckers Dubya and his followers into adopting bad courses of action.



  9. Anonymous4:32 PM

    In the end only AQs strategists know the full answer. However, I suggest you look carefully at the very well documented history of the Salafi Jihadist Movement back to Sayyid Qutb and his follower in the ealry 60s. There are amazingly consistant over the past 4 decades at describing their strategic goals, operational objectives, and the means to bring them together. Every adversary should be this transparent. It is too easy for us to look at this as a one sided game where we are making all of the mistakes. The other team is playing for keeps - we still think all things are optional. The 2nd and 3rd order impact of an AQ in victory in Iraq may be beyond our powers to predict but the fact that it will be a physical, propoganda, and significant moral victory for their movement is beyond dispute.

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