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QUOTATION: People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing. - Walter H. Judd

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2004-09-03 - 12:30 p.m.

The United States of Amnesia and Its Star Spangled Cock-Ups

A Safer World? Safer for Whom, Mr. Bush? For a fantabulous list of suggestions compiled by Pandionna or read Katie Doyle todayfor her thoughts on Dubya’s speech…

Today’s word is feckless:
1. generally incompetent and ineffectual: "We accidentally mixed up our passports before we got to customs, but the feckless official took no notice and sent us on our way."

2. not fit to assume responsibility
adverb form: fecklessly
noun form: fecklessness

"First came 'Against All Enemies,' by Richard Clarke, director of counter-terrorism at the National Security Council under both Clinton and Bush. The book said that, before Sept. 11, 2001, Bush had ignored repeated warnings of an impending al-Qaida attack, that his immediate responses thereafter were 'obvious yet insufficient,' and that he had then 'launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide.'

Next was 'Imperial Hubris.' The author, listed as 'Anonymous,' is Michael Scheuer, a still-serving veteran CIA intelligence officer who headed the unit charged with tracking Osama bin Laden. U.S. tactics in the war in Afghanistan reflected a feckless misreading of Afghan history, he writes, the war in Iraq even worse -- a gratuitous gift to bin Laden that 'will haunt, hurt and hound Americans for years to come.'"

Jon Sawyer. "Unprecedented highs, lows mark Bush's term,"
The Seattle Times (August 29, 2004).

Maureen Dowd today in the N. Y. Times

Despite the fact that the economy is cratering, Iraq is teetering, Afghanistan is reverting to warlords, Dick Cheney is glowering at the world, the war on terror has created more acts of terror, Ahmad Chalabi is an accused spy for Iran and the Pentagon has an accused spy for Israel, Republicans felt so good about themselves that when Arnold Schwarzenegger said he was inspired to become a Republican by Richard Nixon, they exploded. When Tricky Dick is a hot applause line, they're feeling cocky.

Republicans are political killers. They are confident that Americans, in a 9/11 world, are going to be more drawn to political killers who have made some "miscalculations" on Iraq, as W. put it, than with a shaggy-haired Vietnam War protester whom Bush 41 compares to Hanoi Jane.

Mail & Guardian

And as for those miscalculations in Iraq, no one is saying it better than the Mail & Guardian of Johannesburg, July 1, 2004:

United States of Amnesia

How far it was from the triumphant departure of the much-hailed liberator, with young women blowing kisses and throwing flowers and children waving miniature American flags! A furtive ceremony behind acres of concrete, blade-wire and sandbags (three days before schedule, to wrong-foot the bombers), a two-sentence handover, and the liberator-in-chief hops into a helicopter and hot-tails it to safety. It was a fitting climax to a uniquely American shambles, born of a stubborn refusal to learn from history, a macho faith in arms and national hubris.

But of course it is not over — the Americans have not left Iraq, and real authority has not been transferred to the interim Iraqi government. The powers of the new regime are severely circumscribed, and it would not survive one minute without the firepower of 140 000 US soldiers and 20 000 other foreign troops. The new government must rebuild a country shattered by sanctions, war and sabotage, with an oil industry under constant terrorist threat as its only resource. The killing of three more GIs less than 24 hours after the handover underscores the stark reality that the resistance war continues, directed as much against a government viewed as an American stooge as against US forces themselves. In recent weeks, there has been a significant shift in the targets of violent insurgency, towards policemen and other servants of the new Iraqi state.

American author Gore Vidal speaks of the “United States of Amnesia”. So much of what is happening in Iraq, and seems doomed to happen in the months ahead, recalls the tragic US misadventure in Vietnam. There, also, the US tried to create and shore up a “friendly” government, allegedly founded on democratic values. As in Iraq, the mightiest military behemoth the world had seen floundered in a morass of unconventional warfare. Because it could not win and dared not be seen to lose, it poured more and more men and material into the conflict. More bombs fell on Vietnam and Cambodia than were dropped by all sides during World War II — without changing the outcome.

The Mail & Guardian would like to think that peace, democracy and economic progress will at last come to the Iraqi people. But the likelihood is that the $126-billion the US has already spent on the war will continue to escalate as military spending did in Vietnam, until casualties, the drainage of resources and American public opinion force an ignominious troop withdrawal. And, as in Vietnam, the likelihood is that the interim government, and any American-sponsored successor, will become more authoritarian, more isolated and more unpopular as insurrectionary violence and economic sabotage continue. Already there is talk of imposing martial law.

Far from bolstering security in Iraq and the Middle East, the US has stoked an ideological hornet’s nest. The mass of ordinary Iraqis may indeed want peace — but the hardliners drawn to the Iraqi jihad from every corner of the Islamic world will not rest until the US is driven from the region. Is it too far-fetched to imagine that Iraq, once under the essentially secular dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, may emerge from its current US-inspired upheavals as a theocratic tyranny, or set of tyrannies, along Afghani or Iranian lines? That would be richly — and tragically — ironic.

It is hard to be optimistic about Iraq’s future, but some good may yet come from this star-spangled cock-up. One large gain could be George W Bush’s growing domestic unpopularity and defeat in the US presidential election later this year — opinion polls encouragingly signal that he may be on the skids. As salutary as Bush’s downfall would be the toppling from power of the hard-eyed neo-conservative dogmatists that surround him, men and women who believe implicitly in the grand civilising mission of US arms and US big business.

Is it too much to hope that Americans, like children who burn their fingers once too often, will learn lessons from Iraq that Vietnam failed to teach them? The first of these is that unilateral force, without the sanction and collective wisdom of the international community, is both likely to fail and destructive of human solidarity. The second is that the most sophisticated military hardware is powerless in the face of an unconventional, “people’s” war — a lesson the British army should have learned in Northern Ireland. The third, as The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland argues in this edition of the M&G, is that democracy cannot be imposed at the sharp end of a smart bomb. The effect of the US invasions of both Vietnam and Iraq was to heighten nationalist resistance and recast the “liberator” as a sanguinary oppressor.

And just for the record...

Prism Distorts Some Kerry Positions

By Glenn Kessler and Dan Morgan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, September 3, 2004; Page A01

Speakers at this week's Republican convention have relentlessly attacked John F. Kerry for statements he has made and votes he has taken in his long political career, but a number of their specific claims -- such as his votes on military programs -- are at best selective and in many cases stripped of their context, according to a review of the documentation provided by the Bush campaign.

As a senator, Kerry has long been skeptical of big-ticket weapons systems, especially when measured against rising budget deficits, and to some extent he opened himself to this line of attack when he chose to largely skip over his Senate career during his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention last month. But the barrage by Republicans at their own convention has often misportrayed statements or votes that are years, if not decades, old.

• Kerry did not cast a series of votes against individual weapons systems, as Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) suggested in a slashing convention speech in New York late Wednesday, but instead Kerry voted against a Pentagon spending package in 1990 as part of deliberations over restructuring and downsizing the military in the post-Cold War era.

• Both Vice President Cheney and Miller have said that Kerry would like to see U.S. troops deployed only at the direction of the United Nations, with Cheney noting that the remark had been made at the start of Kerry's political career. This refers to a statement made nearly 35 years ago, when Kerry gave an interview to the Harvard Crimson, 10 months after he had returned from the Vietnam War angry and disillusioned by his experiences there. (President Bush at the time was in the Air National Guard, about to earn his wings.)

• President Bush, Cheney and Miller faulted Kerry for voting against body armor for troops in Iraq. But much of the funding for body armor was added to the bill by House Democrats, not the administration, and Kerry's vote against the entire bill was rooted in a dispute with the administration over how to pay for $20 billion earmarked for reconstruction of Iraq.

Did anyone see Colin Powell at the convention...or anywhere else these days?

As they say..."It's not over 'til the fat lady sings!

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