No matter one’s ideological or political preferences the twin evils of incompetence and deceit must finally have taken a toll on even the most committed administration loyalists. For despite all the rhetoric about “cut-and-run” Democrats, the poorly-intelligenced, poorly-planned and poorly-executed foreign adventures in which we are currently engaged should by now have become painfully obvious.
Oddly enough, there is still some dispute about such things among Republican politicians and right-wing talk-show hosts. It’s as if there’s an invisible force field that keeps the truth from getting through, and the president and vice president keep repeating the deceptions that have sullied our reputation, re-calibrated our moral compass and brought us to our knees in Iraq – – and not in that religious manner the president suggested recently.
How did the American people come to be saddled with such profoundly incompetent and duplicitous leaders – – people who continue to obfuscate the true nature of the reasons we invaded Iraq and the increasingly violent outcome our policies there have engendered? Columnist David Brooks has suggested that the Bush managers haven’t been careful enough to shield him from confrontations with the press in which he often comes off as inept and confused. Michael Deaver, Brooks contends, was able to protect President Reagan from the pitfalls of carelessly monitored press encounters. Brooks’ contention seems to be that the public should, at all costs, be kept from learning how truly mediocre, venal, dishonest, ignorant and incredibly ill-suited to the task of leading a great nation its leaders are.
Now, of all things, the president has engaged in a political maneuver to embarrass Democrats that isn’t working quite as he intended. His broadside against the Geneva Conventions has reached fever pitch and created a confrontation with three Republican political leaders who actually served in combat, as opposed to many in the White House and the Pentagon. In fact it should be an easy matter to define what “cruel and degrading” treatment is, and it would re-affirm the foundations of our democracy to grant those being tried the right to hear the evidence against them, to know their accusers, and for evidence extracted by means of torture to be so described.
But there’s the president calling Congress’ bluff by saying that no interrogations will go forward unless intelligence teams can be assured they will not be considered “war criminals” for using inappropriate methods. It seems unlikely that such accusations would likely be made, however, since, to date, over-zealous interrogations that have resulted in the deaths of detainees have not resulted in convictions of those responsible even in those rare instances where legal action has been undertaken.
Republicans like Rick Santorum use re-election gambits like ‘Democrats want to talk about Iraq. I want to talk about terrorism’ – – as if he or anyone in government actually has a viable plan for containing the terrorist threat that has only increased as a result of our failed mission in Iraq, and yes, Democrats sure do want to talk about that. It’s the same old false premise that Santorum and his ilk continue to use in the run-up to elections, and it is still just as phony.
One wonders if there isn’t someone somewhere in the political world who thinks outside the box? Mightn’t we gain some traction in Iraq, for example, if we pacified an area, a gated community let’s say – – sealed it off, made the streets safe, the water potable and the electricity ongoing? One of the more ludicrous pronouncements often made by our leaders is about how many schools have been built. But if parents are afraid to send children out into a lawless environment what good are the schools? A safe neighborhood within a city, however, or a few of them, if achieved, could create a sense of balance and security and perhaps engage the larger community, in much the same way magnet schools in this country accomplished a kind of back-door integration.
In any case whatever plan may be brought to bear in the future it is clear that our present course of action is not working to effect long-range solutions for Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East. We have not led by example, nor have we provided security or basic amenities for a country we claim to have liberated.
The American people hunger for something resembling intellectual depth – – an understanding of geo-political forces and an end to the politicization of issues that require straightforward analysis, something other than the simplistic, flag-waving, lapel-pin wearing, fear-mongering, lock-step walking leadership currently at the country’s helm. New blood is needed here, not just more of the blood letting our military and the Iraqi people have endured as this administration muddles through.

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