Bush Against the Generals

by , August 16, 2005

The tipping point against this immoral, ill-conceived and in-every-way disastrous war seems to have been reached, as hundreds – and soon to be thousands – of Gold Star Mothers and sympathizers march against the war in Crawford, Texas. Popular support for George W. Bush’s Napoleonic foreign policy has plummeted to its lowest point ever. “Like the Japanese soldier marooned on an island for years after V-J Day, President George W. Bush may be the last person in the United States to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over,” avers Frank Rich:

“‘We will stay the course,’ he insistently tells us from his Texas ranch. What do you mean we, white man? A president can’t stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won’t stay with him. The approval rate for Bush’s handling of Iraq plunged to 34 percent in last weekend’s Newsweek poll – a match for the 32 percent that approved President Lyndon Johnson’s handling of Vietnam in early March 1968.’”

The war against Ba’athist Iraq may be over, but the war against the mullahs of Iran is just beginning. What else are we to make of the president’s recent interview with Israeli public television:

“When asked if the use of force was an alternative to faltering diplomatic efforts, Bush said: ‘All options are on the table.’ ‘The use of force is the last option for any president. You know we have used force in the recent past to secure our country,’ he said in a clear reference to Iraq. ‘I have been willing to do so as a last resort in order to secure the country and provide the opportunity for people to live in free societies,’ he added.”

A “last resort”? Don’t make me laugh. The Bushies came to Washington all primed up to invade Iraq: 9/11 gave them the excuse they needed to carry out their plan – a plan, by the way, not limited to the conquest of Iraq. The confluence of the president’s pronouncement with news of Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent request that the military come up with a plan to attack the Iranians – using nuclear weapons – as a response to a terrorist attack in the U.S., should send a good-sized shiver down your spine, dear reader, as it does mine.

Frank Rich believes Bush “can’t stay the course when his own citizens” refuse to go along, but that is nonsense: he can and will do exactly as he pleases. The constitutional provision assigning exclusively to Congress the power to declare war has long been a dead letter, killed by Harry Truman when he sent U.S. troops to Korea. Aside from a few old-fashioned conservative Republicans, the peoples’ elected representatives uttered hardly a peep of protest. Just as Congress – aside from a few isolated, and heroic, cases – will stay silent today. As long as the Democratic party is successfully neutered on foreign policy issues by the neocon-influenced Democratic Leadership Council, the War Party will encounter no opposition on that front.

The political groundwork for an assault on Iran has already been laid, as Joshua Kurlantzick points out in an excellent piece in Vanity Fair magazine, and these preparations ought to evoke in us an eerie sense of déjà vu: the same playbook is being used as was followed in Iraq, even including a mysterious (and, in this case, uniquely kooky) group of exiles funneling fake “intelligence” to the war hawks in the Pentagon.

You say Chalabi, I say Rajavi – let’s call the whole thing off!

As the president of the United States cowers in his ranch, afraid to meet with a 48-year-old mother who wants to know why her son had to die, he hurls anathemas at Tehran and gathers his hosts for fresh conquests. Bush can safely ignore Congress – not that they’ll give him any trouble – and he can tell the chauffeur to speed up when he passes Cindy Sheehan on the way to a fundraiser for the Republican War Machine. However, he can’t safely ignore the grumbling of his generals – who may be just short of joining the Crawford peace camp, along with a few divisions from the North American Command. Bush has just slapped down the top American commander in Iraq, General George Casey, for daring to suggest that troop reductions were in the offing. The London Telegraph reports:

“The top American commander in Iraq has been privately rebuked by the Bush administration for openly discussing plans to reduce troop levels there next year, The Sunday Telegraph has learned. … Gen George Casey, the U.S. ground commander in Iraq, was given his dressing-down after he briefed that troop levels – now 138,000 – could be reduced by 30,000 in the early months of next year as Iraqi security forces take on a greater role.”

If the troops are going into Iran – or, as some say, Syria – then bringing them home is out of the question. Is the president facing an officers’ rebellion as he ratchets up the rhetoric against Tehran?

The firing of General Kevin Byrnes, allegedly for “adultery” – even though he’s already been separated from his wife – a few months before he’s due to retire, is awfully suspicious in this context: General Byrnes reportedly made an enemy of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for opposing the Rumsfeldian “transformation” of the military into a more “flexible” instrument of the Bush Doctrine and the neocons’ imperial vision. In essentially firing a four-star general – a vicious act of retribution that certainly bears the personal stamp of the chimp-in-chief – the White House engaged in a preemptive strike against the War Party’s enemies in the military. This is no doubt a sore spot for the White House: opposition from American’s military leaders to the Iraq adventure made headlines in the run-up to war, and their continuing objection to this administration’s policy of unconstrained aggression was summed up in the remark of a retired general to the Washington Times: “The Army is just too small for what they want it to do.”

General Eric Shinseki, the former chief of staff of the Army, dared face down Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz in estimating “several hundred thousand” U.S. troops as the required size of an Iraq occupation force – and was forced into retirement. Now Casey has been rebuked and is presumably on the way out, while Byrnes has been purged, along with no one knows how many others. It’s the night of the long knives in the Pentagon, as the War Party cleans out suspected dissidents from the top ranks of the military and prepares for the next move on the Middle Eastern chessboard.

It doesn’t matter if the majority of Americans overwhelmingly oppose the president’s war plans, just as long as organized opposition can be effectively neutralized. Is a housewife from Vacaville threatening to show up the president as a coward and a liar? Then smear her and make her the issue – anything to divert attention away from the president’s own cowardice and the monstrous immorality of his foreign policy. Is a four-star general standing in the way of the neocons? Then smear him, too, on trumped-up charges and haul him out of his office in disgrace. Is the antiwar movement beginning to gain momentum? Then bring out the smear artists and begin a media campaign of demonization.

The regime has a two-note strategy: fear and smear. This summer, they’re firing with both barrels, and we can expect the noise level to rise appreciably as we approach the fourth anniversary of 9/11 – the catalytic event that catapulted us into this Bizarro World, where up is down, all morals are inverted, and we live in a “democracy” where a war opposed by a clear majority is about to be escalated, not ended.

If I were president in such a world, I, too, would be nervous about opposition to my crazed war policy emanating from the military. In Bizarro America, after all, anything might happen – including uniformed generals leading the antiwar movement.

Finally taking seriously their sworn duty to defend the Constitution, will they take up their positions next to Cindy Sheehan and march on the president’s Crawford compound? We can dream, can’t we? Who knows, but in Bizarro America, it just might happen, and wouldn’t that be a sight to see? The final rout of the chickenhawks, as they meet their Waterloo!

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

I have a review of Colin Wilson’s recently published autobiography, Dreaming to Some Purpose, in the current (August 29) issue of The American Conservative. They don’t put a lot of their stuff online, but here’s a taste:

“Book reviewers are literary guides, gently leading readers in the right direction: with the publication of Colin Wilson’s autobiography, I am happy to assist in the rediscovery of a hidden treasure. Wilson’s meteoric career – from the heights of his 1956 success, The Outsider, a study of the creative misfit in modern literature, to his current state of exile from the ‘literary’ community – is a testament to the theme that energizes all 120 of his published books: the idea that human beings can rise above the muck and pettiness of ordinary human existence if only they keep their gaze fixed on the stars.”

The American Conservative is available at all the better newstands, but if you haven’t subscribed, you have only yourself to blame for missing out. Go here to subscribe, if you haven’t already.

Read more by Justin Raimondo