‘Tis the season of anomalies. Campaign rhetoric is a morass of contradictions, veiled threats and rosy promises; all geared to entice voters into supporting one candidate or another. With the war(s), health care, immigration, the economy and employment on the table voter wish fulfillment is the carrot being dangled on all sides of the political spectrum no matter how unrealistic the prospect for resolution of these thorny issues may be.
For supporters of the Iraq invasion and ensuing occupation, the argument is couched in terms of national security despite the fact that the world is in greater turmoil than ever. And the reasons for our involvement in Iraq have changed repeatedly over time – – from WMD to unseating a demonic dictator to spreading democracy in the Middle East. Yet in Saudi Arabia a female rape victim is sentenced to jail time and lashing for, apparently, allowing herself to be found in a car with a man thus creating conditions encouraging rape. And these folks are our pals and so-called moderates in the area. And lest we forget, the majority of 9/11 attackers were Saudis. But never mind, on we go with the fantasies we most prefer.
Lately we are told that things are looking up in Iraq – – because of the surge it is said. The ethnic cleansing already accomplished in many communities has no doubt helped reduce violence with some Iraqis returning to their homes and beginning to frequent local markets and eateries. But a number of US troops are due to leave soon no matter what the conditions on the ground so it remains to be seen if the relative calm of recent days can be sustained.
However, if indeed things are going so well one might be inclined to conclude that US troops could be reduced significantly and the beginnings of a withdrawal begun. If violence and disorder were reasons to increase troops levels, doesn’t a calmer landscape suggest that “mission accomplished” has been realized at last? It is unlikely that such logic will prevail, but shouldn’t it at least be part of the discussion.
And what of Afghanistan? Supporters of current administration policy tend to talk about our military efforts there as if a major victory had been accomplished and democracy established in great measure. But reports indicate the Taliban is making significant inroads in a number of areas, turning back gains in education and reconstruction that had been realized before most of our troops were reassigned to Iraq. Real experts on the Middle East discuss the unstable conditions in Afghanistan with growing concern but it is rare for the general public to be informed by this White House about the fact that victory there was short-lived, the future rather more problematic than we have been led to believe.
In Pakistan our ally General Musharraf faces significant political opposition, and the country is in state of an emergency he has declared. Currently the Supreme Court there does Musharraf’s bidding and supports his emergency fiat that could tilt upcoming elections in his favor. And, although he is a nominal supporter of our “war on terrorism” and has at times been helpful, he made a hands-off deal with terrorist groups on the Pakistani border, so our relationship with him is not without its drawbacks and non sequiturs.
Of course our own Supreme Court made its mark on the electoral process here in what may, in retrospect, be seen as an even bigger assault on the health of our political system than originally thought. What has been called ‘strict constructionist’ has come to mean a Supreme Court that is tending towards a right-wing religious agenda and corporate America. And by failing to call the president to account for such excesses as “extraordinary rendition” it has failed to stand behind our fundamental national premise of “liberty and justice for all”.
Our world is one where nothing remains constant for long and where leaders try to create substance out of sham. With growing cynicism and the realization of having been lied to for seven years, voters are having a tough time working through the issues and wondering as well if just liking someone’s personality is reason enough to vote for them. Candidates of small stature and questionable virtue are discussed by pundits as if they actually had merits beyond their carefully articulated political personas.
Rudy Giuliani, for example, is according to political commentator Jonah Goldberg, a “viable candidate”. That’s if his long association with what some have referred to as his “mobbed-up” police chief, business partner, choice for head of Homeland Security Kerik doesn’t reflect badly on his judgment – – and if his performance after 9/11 can serve as requisite training for handling the affairs of state. Many have said and of course he agrees that he “turned NYC around” and reduced crime during his tenure as Mayor. It is worth noting in this regard that President Clinton’s crime bill providing 100,000 police personnel around the country, 16,000 for the NYC police force, was passed in 1994 right at the start of Giuliani’s first term.
Are logic and reason incompatible with the conduct of the nation’s business? Will political rhetoric continue to be confused with rational thought? Imagine Jeb Bush and Karl Rove of all people at Regent University of all places discussing foreign policy with retired General Barry McCaffrey and former Senator Max Cleland. Things can’t get any screwier than that. It’s hard to say which is the greatest incongruity – – that McCaffrey and Cleland would agree to such a debate, that it took place at Pat Robertson’s University or the ominous possibility that Karl Rove is engineering a potential Jeb Bush presidential run.