kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Name:
Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ignorance

I'm back, with my basketball brackets in shreds and my eyes almost completely glazed over from watching the tournament. Every now and then I peek out to look at the world, and see various things about Iraq and how things are going there.

1) A new book, Cobra II, by Michael Gordon, the chief military correspondent for The New York Times, and retired Marine general Bernard Trainor, indicates that virtually the entire war was designed and implemented by the "troika" of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. This is, perhaps, the usual strategy of conservatives ignoring the State Department, which is viewed with serious suspicion by conservatives: the State Department has been frequently and traditionally criticized by them as harboring communists, communist sympathizers (even when there aren't all that many communists around), soft, "internationalist," and, on occasion, treasonous. Pat Robertson famously suggested bombing it (in a Christian way, of course); the Bush administration, according to Gordon and Wood, simply ignored it. The international experience of Bush and Cheney is well-known, of course; Bush speaks Spanish and now has a passport, and I believe Cheney has expressed his commitment to globalism by offering to shoot lawyers from a large number of different countries. Colin Powell and Richard Armitage--clearly communists, frequently advocating state seizure of private property and delineating their subtle attacks on bourgeois values in a way that many of us can't recognize as genuinely Marxist--have a little experience in dealing with foreign countries, even in invading them (including the same one we re-invaded three years ago). Bush chose, apparently, to ignore their advice, but Powell's remark "You break it, you've bought it," relative to Iraq, seems prescient and perhaps the kind of thing that may come back to haunt his former boss.

As Trainor remarked in a recent interview about Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld:
the three of them were joined at the hip, if I can use that expression. They all thought basically the same way, and their perceptions became reality. I think the President, I would describe it as the man who presided over the troika. I think Vice President Cheney was very influential in terms of the policy. And certainly, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was a man in charge of the execution of the policy. Everybody else was what I would describe as in the outer circle. The National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and even the neo-cons, which gained so much blame for things going wrong. But those people were -- they were in the outside of the private sanctum of the President, Vice President and Secretary of Defense. Those three thought alike and acted in unison.
He adds
. . . the joint chiefs of staff were largely marginalized in this process, and in certain respects, the National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of State Powell were pretty much cut out of it, too.
The right has been pushing Rice to run for President; they argue that black people will be more likely to vote for her and that liberals will hesitate against voting for an African-American woman. I think those views are probably both oversimplified and generally incorrect, but since we know very little about Rice's positions on much--she likes football--it is interesting that they are pushing a candidate whose views are so unknown. (Her candidacy has been pushed by Dick Morris, former consultant to Bill Clinton, and a frequent "expert" on FOX News. FOX doesn't seem to mind very much that Morris spends most of his time pushing his most recent book, or that he used to hire prostitutes to suck his toes.)

It will be interesting to see Dr. Rice explain why she played such a minor role in such a major decision, while head of the NSA. I woulda thunk that the Director of the National Security Agency might be an important player in determining issues having to do with national security, but I've been wrong before.

"So, Dr. Rice, how did it make you feel to be so ignored? And then to be promoted (I guess) to a position that had also been ignored?"

2) There is some debate over whether Iraq is in a civil war or not. This is tricky, because (last time I checked) there aren't either Aristotelian essences that must be satisfied, or even less stringent necessary and sufficient conditions, to determine whether something is a civil war or not. Ayad Allawi, who used to be our kind of guy, seems to think so:

"It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more," Allawi told the BBC. "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."
I get the queasy feeling that Iran is playing us for dupes, and, of course, the real losers here are those who would like to live a normal life in Iraq, if such a thing is or will be possible.

Again, the dilemma the Bush administration has put us in: stay, and things get worse. Leave, and things get worse. The choice among conservatives, moderates, and others seems to be stay, hope for the best, accentuate the positive, and keep on message: democracy is a messy thing, it can't be done overnight, and we're there for the duration.

But please, Mr. Bush, quit talking about the War on Terror as if it is a traditional war that gives you carte blanche to do whatever you wish, such as warrantless wiretaps and physical searches, suspension of habeas corpus, approving of torture, disappearing people, etc.. This war doesn't give you those rights any more than the War on Poverty gave them to LBJ. As a critic I saw recently observed, there are no obvious security reasons to prevent the Administration from going to the FISA court and getting the appropriate warrants, unless they want to do something that court won't approve. Given the latitude that court has granted, that's a bit scary.

3) Democracy is, indeed, a messy thing, although I would like someone in the media (you know, the communists in the mainstream media, or the clearer thinkers at FOX, who somehow are able to brag that they are watched by more people than any other network yet aren't mainstream) to remind us that "democracy" is a term fraught with ambiguity. I love talking to my students about democracy (in the context of Socrates and Plato); they recognize that democracy is a good thing, they know that many people have died (and are currently dying) in its defense, but they aren't very sure what precisely democracy is, and they are more than a little stymied in trying to say why it is a good thing. Personally, just as I think one should be able to pronounce a city or country one is bombing, one should be able to defend verbally a concept one is willing to die for (or make others die for).

An interesting article in The Guardian makes the point well:

elections keep on producing the wrong results. Hamas is in power in Palestine; René Préval, the protege of Jean-Bertrand Aristide whom the US helped remove in a coup two years ago, won the presidency in Haiti; Ahmed Chalabi, the protege of the neocons whom the US wanted to impose on the Iraqi people at the outset of the war, could not win a single seat. Elsewhere, voters in Latin America have opted for leaders who campaigned against the neoliberal economic strictures imposed by Washington.

The issue is not whether the developing world is ready for democracy - as the administration keeps arguing - but if the US is ready for the democratic choices made by the developing world.

If we describe a democracy as one that (minimally) guarantees one person one vote, free and fair elections, and maintains safeguards for minorities and those who are otherwise at risk, then the problem is fairly clear: lots of people in this world want democracy, but they don't necessarily agree with the positions of the Bush administration. Hugo Chavez, Hamas, Aristide, etc., may win democratic elections and adopt positions "we" don't like. (I put that in scare quotes, because I think there is a tendency to say that what the Bush administration does represents America. I'm not so sure.) So aren't some really a bit more comfortable with the old days, such as the elder Somoza running Nicaragua, about whom FDR famously said "He's a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch"? If Sadaam Hussein had been more amenable to US Administrations--while continuing to violate human rights, torture and kill his own citizens, etc.--would we have deposed him?

The tragedy of realpolitik, I guess. Perhaps the Algerians had it right, when one of its political parties ran, in Algeria's first democractic election, on a platform of getting rid of the democracy. (They won, but then were overthrown by a military coup.)

4) Some of the most trenchant criticisms of the Bush administration are coming from the "right," unless Sandra Day O'Connor has suddenly fallen under the spell of noted Svengali David Souter (or, perhaps, Bruce Sutter?). She said this in a speech that was reported very sparingly (primary sources were, again, The Guardian, and NPR; why is it that a British newspaper is doing a better job on this than domestic news sources?). The NY Times eventually got to it, but a quick Google search indicates that the places to find accounts of the speech were more likely to be in Seattle or Charleston than Chicago.

Just listen to what this com-lib had to say (as reported by The Boise Weekly):

"'I,' said O'Connor, 'am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning.' Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and former communist countries where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O'Connor said we must be ever vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. 'It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship,' she said, 'but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.'"

She said this to a group of Texas attorneys. As far as I know, she didn't shoot any of them.

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could someone define Democracy in America? Can anyone show me the difference between England with colonization and America with the developing countries? Does Democracy promote things like the School of Americas? Yes? I think so. Does anyone think we are in Iraq for reasons differing from why we are in any country? The US government doesn't care about Democracy, in our country or any other. We want imperialism. And that is what we have. Just look South of the US border. Who put Aristide into power and who took him out? Democracy/Facism/Communism/Imperialism are all essentially the same the difference is the spelling. Democratism. Democracy likes Ignorance. Because only the ignorant believe it truely exists.
JRaunick

1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could someone define Democracy in America? Can anyone show me the difference between England with colonization and America with the developing countries? Does Democracy promote things like the School of Americas? Yes? I think so. Does anyone think we are in Iraq for reasons differing from why we are in any country? The US government doesn't care about Democracy, in our country or any other. We want imperialism. And that is what we have. Just look South of the US border. Who put Aristide into power and who took him out? Democracy/Facism/Communism/Imperialism are all essentially the same the difference is the spelling. Democratism. Democracy likes Ignorance. Because only the ignorant believe it truely exists.
JRaunick

1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could someone define Democracy in America? Can anyone show me the difference between England with colonization and America with the developing countries? Does Democracy promote things like the School of Americas? Yes? I think so. Does anyone think we are in Iraq for reasons differing from why we are in any country? The US government doesn't care about Democracy, in our country or any other. We want imperialism. And that is what we have. Just look South of the US border. Who put Aristide into power and who took him out? Democracy/Facism/Communism/Imperialism are all essentially the same the difference is the spelling. Democratism. Democracy likes Ignorance. Because only the ignorant believe it truely exists.
JRaunick

1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok I meant to make a point, but not 3x.

1:34 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

Button trauma?

9:20 AM  
Blogger Bazarov said...

Someone posted a comment before me! Excellent post and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I can't add much, but I will point this out to see if anyone else has seen this.
I've noticed that the Administration and it's ass-lickers will say people who are for this or that stance are extremists. Now, they say, are the democrats gonna show us their moderate, reasonable side or are they going to side with these whacky extremists? These radical stances would be things like thinking the President is not above the law; that we were misled about the war and that we should leave; that the media should actually keep an eye on the government and not be its bullhorn for crowd control; that freespeech zones are a violation of our rights
I heard Cheney say this in reference to people who were discussing the possibility of impeachment for the wiretaps. I love how the right (and their marionettes that all blabber the nonsense in unison to the sheep) can frame the issues. This goes back to the previous blog you posted about the misinformation and where people get their sources. Turns out if you say something enough, people start to think that way.
In any event, nice post. I'm glad it wasn't about baseball.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Bobcat said...

Given that Iraq has a population of about 23 million (last I heard), and given that we have a population of about 300 million, it follows that 50-60 Iraqis killed a day would translate into about 550-660 Americans a day. If that were happening, we might want to call that a pretty serious crime wave, if not a civil war.

The only thing that would stop me from calling it a civil war, given the tremendous number of casualties involved, is the lack of clearly organized fighting factions on both sides duking it out over territory. From what I know, at least that hasn't happened yet.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes. button trauma...and I like your bloggers. jennifer

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Frodo said...

Sorry my comment is late...

Just a late throw away political factoid: Dick Morris the FAUXNEWS likes to characterize as a Political Consultant who worked for Bill Clinton, just in case you only remember his extramarital affair during his Clinton tenure. Dickie was a Republican consultant and he vowed to work only for republicans, and my contention is he kept his word, look at the further havoc he brought to the Clinton House another Toe sucker scandal.

Wikipedia summary:
Morris makes it known that he is a bipartisan consultant. In addition to his work with Bill Clinton, he once worked for senators Trent Lott and Jesse Helms, as well as former governors William Weld of Massachusetts and Pete Wilson of California and current governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. As early as 1988, he has said, he decided to work only for Republicans, a claim reiterated in 1995; his role in Clinton's 1992 campaign and presidency was kept secret from the staff.

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