Outrage Overload

I guess most of us have become numb to the ‘outrage-a-day’ policies of the Bush administration. The primary tactic of this gaggle of traitors, liars, and thieves seems to have been to do at least one unbelievably stupid, arrogant, questionable, or downright illegal thing each day. While the press corps focuses (for a moment, at least) on that act, they’re already onto the next. The net result is the accrual of a sludge-pile of aberrant behavior so deep that no one can (or wants to) slog through it. It’s virtually impossible to achieve even a modicum of justice or truth. Make the scandal so dense, complex and multi-faceted that few have the time or inclination to attempt to challenge or even make sense of it.

Couple this modus operandi with the general malaise and scandal-fatigue of the American people, and you have a recipe for the deterioration of our government and our very way of life, the likes of which I believe this nation has never seen.

All that being said, there seems to be an escalation of the Bushies’ strategy of scandal bombardment. It seems like they take pride in outdoing themselves, and the events of the last few days seem to confirm that.

First, we have George once again attempting — like a broken record — to justify our continued involvement in Iraq. His entreaties have become less and less convincing, so much so that even many of those who have always marched in lockstep with him are publicly demanding a ‘change of course.’ (Unfortunately, in the Republican’s playbook, that’s not a euphemism for withdrawal of troops but rather for a change in policy. But at least it represents a small amount of progress.)

When George and his cronies realize that he’s not making any headway, welcome to the stage once again Michael ‘Mephistopheles’ Chertoff, our head of Homeland Security, informing us about his ‘gut feeling‘ that we’re about to have another attack by Al Qaeda on U.S. soil. (Am I crazy, or shouldn’t we expect better of our government than that? I seem to recall that the Department of Homeland Security was created and the rest of our government restructured around it so that we would be basing our policies and our actions on something a little bit more sound than opinions, fears, and folklore.)

But this, too, is a familiar play from the neo-con playbook: When public opinion turns against you, fill the populace with as much fear and anxiety as possible. It doesn’t matter whether it’s substantiated or not; in fact, the neo-cons seem to have learned that it’s actually better if it’s vague and unnamed. The more vague the fear is — using the ‘broken-clock-is-right-twice-a-day’ analogy — the better the opportunity down the line of using whatever may happen to falsely substantiate their claims.

You may want to take a deep breath here, because all of this is happening against a backdrop of Sara Taylor, the former White House political director, claiming executive privilege in order to refuse to answer any questions regarding the firings and hirings of U.S. Attorneys, in spite of a subpoena by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Then comes the news that Bush has ordered former White House counsel Harriet ‘Love Note’ Miers not only not to answer questions but also not even to appear before the Committee. On the count of three, everybody say ‘Jeezus H. Christ!’

Now add to the mix that former Surgeon General Richard Carmona told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the Bush administration demanded that he withhold medical findings from the American public when those findings weren’t in synch with the non-scientific right-wing-religion-driven agenda. For example, he was forbidden from stating that abstinence-only programs don’t work. (Don’t forget, millions of taxpayer dollars got passed along to those faith-based organizations that W loves so much to espouse the bullshit that abstinence is the only way to prevent AIDS. Worse than the loss of taxpayer money is the loss of life that results from their failure to state the truth and consequent dissemination of misinformation.)

Now, I’m still reeling from the commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence and the subsequent payment of his fine by an unnamed source. (I can’t seem to rid my brain of the image of some low-level neo-con operative going into an inside-the-beltway 7-Eleven and asking for a banana Slurpee, a pack of Marlboro lights, and a money order for $250,000. Oh, yeah, and one of them scratch tickets.)

So when things start stacking up like this, is it any wonder that most Americans simply short circuit from the overload?

News Flash: Senate Republicans Cut and Run

I guess I was expecting too much of the Senate Republicans. I mean, clearly by now they must have realized that they’re no longer in the majority and that the reason for that fact is that the nation was adamantly opposed to their policies, particularly their dogged support of the President and his war of choice. I had presumed that they now might behave in a manner that reflected the desires of the people they purport to represent.

I admit it. I wasn’t expecting humility because I don’t think these blowhards are capable of that. But I wasn’t expecting them to be such chickenshits that they wouldn’t even allow discussion of the issue. But that’s exactly what happened. The band of Bush loyalists used what limited power they have to block debate about their leader’s Iraq war policy. They apparently believe it’s OK to cut and run when it comes to actually allowing free and open debate on the most important issue of the day.

Today, the New York Times and the Washington Post report on this fiasco. But the Times and the Post are too responsible to speculate that this stonewalling might be a ploy by Republicans to do something so outrageous that the media might not focus so much on Bush’s proposed budget. If that was the case, they calculated incorrectly (like they have about so many things), because the media are all over the budget. Close to $700 billion (with a B) for this war, through 2009. Count up the number of people in your family, multiply it by 2,300, and that’s the number of dollars you owe the government for this war. Get out your checkbooks.

Wow! That Guy Is So Hanged!

Oh, they’ve just gone too far this time. The New York Times (and lots of other sources) are reporting that another hanging in Iraq has gone too far.

Why am I missing the nuance in all of this? Apparently, it’s OK to tie a rope around someone’s neck, drop him through a trap door, snap his neck, cut off his blood supply, and sever the nerves between his brain and the rest of his body. But if, somehow, the head pops off, that’s just too brutal.

I must have been skipping school the day they taught that logic in my Torture and Executions class.

Twin Turds

No matter what one’s feelings are about the U.S.’s involvement in Iraq, it’s hard not to believe that the world is a little bit better place today with Uday and Qusay dead. These two turd-loafs pinched from the arse of Beelzebub did more evil before 9:00 am than most people do all day. I’m sorry, but there just aren’t enough shoes in all of the Middle East to throw at their vile, hirsute corpses.

There’s a feeling of disappointment, though, for a couple of reasons. First, we didn’t capture them alive, so we won’t be able to get any new information from them. Second, they died too simple a death. (Of course, I suppose there isn’t a death cruel enough for these two, so perhaps this second disappointment is just an exercise in vengeful futility.)

One can only hope that the next ones on the hit list are big daddy turd-loaf Saddam and his sister Osama.

Bunker-Busters to the Rescue!

Some news agencies are reporting that Saddam Hussein’s body now may be reduced to a collection of bloody shreds at the bottom of a pile of rubble, along with the shreds of his sons Qusay and Uday, those wacky chips off the old block. (Sons Ebay and Duvet are reportedly still at large.)

I suppose this is what Americans are looking for — a single, simple photographic image (like the ones of Mussolini hanging) that will reassure them that this is a simple process and we’ve won because we got the bad guy.

If only it were that simplistic. The death, capture, or exile of Saddam Hussein and his cronies will only be the beginning.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

There’s a subject that keeps surfacing whenever the war in Iraq comes up in my discussions with friends and co-workers. It has to do with outcomes of this war.

It looks pretty clear that the U.S. will prevail and that the so-called ‘coalition of the willing’ will have the opportunity to build the foundation for a new government in Iraq. But what about those pesky weapons of mass destruction?

There are two scenarios:

The first scenario is that we scour the country and do not find any compelling evidence of nuclear or biological weapons. (This, of course, still would not mean that they were not part of Saddam’s regime, just that we haven’t found them or that he moved them to some allied nation or offshore. But for all intents and purposes, they don’t exist.) In this case, for all the world, the U.S. looks like it has gone into this endeavor looking like the revenge-seeking bullies that so much of the world has portrayed us to be. Our international relations are permanently damaged.

The second scenario, on the other hand, is that the coalition does find such weapons. In this case, we will have a gloating president and a public that is stirred into patriotic frenzy by this perceived vindication. Worldwide, the cliche of Americans being arrogant is borne out by our actions. Our international relations are permanently damaged.

Oh, yes. This second scenario virtually guarantees another 4-year term for the Bushster.

And let’s face it: either of these scenarios virtually guarantees that we will have more terrorist activity against the United States and U.S. interests, both at home and abroad. We may be able to unseat a dictator through brute force. But the application of such force only incites the Al Qaeda’s of the world into action.

Get that duct tape ready.

Conspiracy Theory of the Day

O.K., so here’s that ‘divided Europe’ post.

Many have pondered how George W. could be so seemingly oblivious to the diplomatic consequences of his actions, especially the severing of ties with some of our strongest and oldest allies. Now, I’m the last to defend the French, because some of the stupidest things I’ve heard said in recent weeks have come from the lips of Jacques Chirac and his posse. But George W.’s actions have triggered a change in the status of the French from benign narcissists to hostile obstructionists.

If one were of a cynical mind, one might speculate that W. is being calculating. In W.’s belief system about the new world order, it seems to be a given that the U.S. will prevail in Iraq and all will go back to normal. But a few years down the road, doesn’t it also stand to reason that W. might think it’s in the U.S.’s best economic and political interests to have a divided Europe? In a post-Cold War era, the E.U. itself is the only viable economic competitor for the U.S. The stronger the bonds are within Europe, the bigger the threat is to U.S. dominance in the world. So, on some level, it makes perfect sense that the bumbling Bush, when faced with the reality that his attempts at so-called coalition building were failing miserably, might think there was a distinct fringe benefit to him. The legacy of his actions, by intent or by mistake, would conceivably position the U.S. more strongly in the world.

Now, of course, this line or reasoning could also backfire louder than a Scud missile. And maybe it has already. Because, yes, officially we may have France and Germany at odds with Spain and the U.K., and — oh, yes — Bulgaria. (No offense, Bulgaria — it’s just too easy to use our alliance with Bulgaria as a punchline.)

But those alliances are only the official governmental ones. Polls in both Spain and the U.K. reveal that the vast majority of citizens of those countries are opposed to being involved in the war. That may translate into long-term solidarity among the European nations.

Hope we all live long enough to find out.

Talking Turkey

Thinking about this war makes me think about the ulterior motives of some of the players in this epic international drama.

Let’s talk Turkey. So Turkey chose to lose out on $30 billion in payments from the U.S., all because they didn’t want to play host to America’s troops on the northeast border of Iraq. That also happens to be the region where the Kurds reside. The Iraqi’s, at Saddam Hussein’s request, used chemical weapons on those Kurds in that area. (These are the people who W. is referring to when he repeatedly says that Saddam Hussein ‘used chemical weapons on his own people.’)

The Turks claimed that they were afraid that these people — outcasts in both Turkey and Iraq — would demand their own state if U.S. troops created too much of a stronghold in that area.

American forces are now attempting to encircle Bagdhad, coming from all directions except the northeast. It’s the missing spoke. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that, if Saddam’s Republican Guard is facing imminent destruction (which we are all promised that they are), that they would attempt to make their escape from Bagdhad to the northeast, where resistance is likely to be the lightest, because of Turkey’s decision not to allow troops there? And wouldn’t it also stand to reason that, as one last desperate act of defiance, the Republican Guard and other forces loyal to Saddam would attempt to take out as many Kurds as they possibly could?

That scenario makes a tidy little package for Turkey. They miss out on a few aid dollars, but they get their neighbors to the south, the Iraqis, to do their dirty work of getting rid of that pesky Kurd problem.

This is not a good time be a Kurd. (Is it ever?)

Next ulterior motive: a divided Europe.

Conflict About Conflict

I cannot remember a time in my life when I have been so conflicted about the world situation.

On the one hand, you have a dictator who, by all accounts, is as despotic as they come. (I won’t reiterate the ‘used-weapons-of-mass-destruction-on-his-own-people’ rhetoric, lest I sound like the George W. tape loop.) Clearly, Saddam Hussein is not a nice guy and, clearly, everyone seems to agree that he should no longer be in power. But he’s surely not leaving power of his own free will anytime soon.

On the other hand, we have a President whose singleness of vision rivals my dog’s. (She is simply incapable of keeping more than one thought in her head at one time, so if you offer her a toy while she’s eating a treat, she gets way too confused. This trait is endearing in an Australian cattle dog, but not so desirable in a world leader.)

George’s narrow focus has been such that he has managed to alienate our long-standing allies in ways that no one could have imagined. By announcing right out of the starting gate his intentions to unseat Saddam, he set up international opposition to his plan from the outset. This is a man for whom the word ‘schmooze’ is too Jewish to have entered his consciousness.

No matter what one feels about the impending war, the argument could easily be made that George could have gotten everything he wanted, if he had only had a little finesse in the beginning of his process. If he had worked behind the scenes with foreign leaders to build consensus prior to announcing what his intentions were, he probably could have even gotten the stinky old French on board. But, instead, he treated the world like it was just one big extension of Texas, and he galloped onto the international scene with six-guns a-blazin’ and with diplomatic skills in short supply.

Consequently, we now go blithely marching into Iraq with the world polarized, leaving a trail of jilted international friends in the dust behind us.

Oh. I forgot. Maybe I’m overreacting. I mean, after all, we’ve got Bulgaria on our side. Whew. Thank God for that. Now we can sleep at night, knowing our soldiers will be safe. If we’re lucky, maybe we can also have the formidable armed forces of Monaco and Luxembourg on our side, too.