Checking Out the Administration Scorecard
Checking Out the Administration Scorecard
More than two years after the
Let's just start with terrorists and allies (as identified by the administration); you know, the ones we were going to get "dead or alive."
First and foremost, of course, was Osama bin Laden (still free); then the man who reputedly kept him safe, Mullah Omar, head of the vile Taliban (still free); add in the man/men or woman/women who sent anthrax through the mail along with letters implying that it came from some anti-Israeli Arab cell in the United States, though it now seems certain that he/they were actually human fallout from our own Cold War weapons labs (still free, still nameless); finally, Saddam Hussein, fingered by the administration as the most dangerous potential terrorist of all, linked by them to al-Qaeda and proclaimed ready to turn over to any terrorist in sight a massive trove of weapons of mass destruction (still free).
And -- to ask that old college reunion question -- where are they now? Omar, hunted mercilessly by American forces of every sort, has managed to start a new holy war in
Saddam, hunted mercilessly by American forces of every sort, has also launched a tape-producing operation and is thumbing his nose at our President while conceivably having a hand (the one not thumbing) in organizing or funding parts of the Iraqi resistance. (Eric Margolis, Sunday columnist for the Toronto Sun, catches a Bush bind in this way in his Nov. 23 column: "Bush dares not withdraw American troops from
Now, toss into the mix a fervent hunt for the inanimate -- weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- a search at which staggering sums of money have been thrown (while the weapons inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency have been carefully barred from the country). This has resulted in the discovery of a few old machine parts for nuclear-weapons production that were buried in a scientist's garden in 1991.
So consider: If this were baseball and your centerfielder were batting .000 somewhere in the middle of a long season, you might at least consider a trade, or send him down to the minors. Think of it, 0 for 5 on the people and objects this administration most wanted to find. That's a record of unmitigated failure. I mean, let's remember that we're talking about the 800-pound gorilla of planet Earth, which spends more money on military and intelligence resources and high-tech whatever than, I believe, the rest of the world's countries combined -- and we're talking here about finding three men (leaving the Anthrax killer aside) who have next to no resources, are known to multimillions, and whose locations must be known at any given moment by hundreds if not thousands of people. This is possibly the single worst militarized detective record in history. If it were Law and Order, it would have been summarily yanked off the air. Why the American people aren't, as of this second, calling up someone from the minors I'll never know.
But, you may say, what about George Bush's two great victories in the war on terror -- his short, happy wars in
Checking out the Bush Wars:
A recent "Daily Mojo" round-up at Mother Jones on-line (The other war) puts the Afghan matter politely.
"Two years after the
In fact, the situation looks disastrous enough to the United Nations that, after the murder of a French UN worker, it has just pulled its people out of the southern part of the country. Jonathan Steele of the Guardian recently offered an eerie summary/memory piece, "Red Kabul Revisited," (Nov. 13) on where we are and what it brings to mind, writing in part:
"Fighting is on a heavier scale [than before], with US helicopters and aircraft conducting almost daily raids on Taliban groups. Swathes of the south have become no-go areas for UN aid workers and NGOs. More than 350 people have been killed by Taliban attackers or
Modernizing Kabul is itself isolated; the NATO troops patrolling the capital, short on support and helicopters, are largely prevented from moving anywhere else in the country, while the 10,000-odd American troops garrisoned outside the capital have upped the level of their strikes, are experiencing higher casualties (a helicopter crashed today near one of our bases killing at least 5 soldiers), and seem to be having little luck suppressing the new Taliban movement in the south or bringing order to a warlord-riven country where opium is once again the only cash crop.
"With the White House finally acknowledging that the challenge in
In the meantime, in neighboring
"Judging by the death toll that continues to rise from terrorist attacks around the world, the success of the
And just as a sideline issue, the former Indian ambassador to Turkey, K. Gajendra Singh, in a Nov. 22 piece in the Asia Times on where all the suicidal Islamist fanatics of the present moment came from and how they got there, reminds us of a recent but hardly noticed moment in history -- between when the CIA (along with Pakistan's secret service) trained and armed the Mujahedeen, including Osama bin Laden, to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan and the attacks of 9/11. Let me quote just part of this important piece:
"The Pentagon's alliance with Islamic elements permitted mujahideen fighters to be 'flown in' as shock troops for particularly hazardous operations against Serb forcesâ€¦ [A]s many as 4,000 mujahideen from the
And, horrible as it is to say,
Jonathan Steele, in a Nov. 22 piece in the Guardian, "A war that can never be won" notes how bizarre it is that Bush and Blair are ever more committed to a kind of total "war" to deal with terrorism, which is a method of action, not a body of people or even a state. He comments on how helpful such wars are to the Osamas of the world.
"Coming after the war on
The war in
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the
"President Bush believes the current phase of the war in
Without changing anything but the names in these quotes, they could come directly from our losing war in
Thirty-odd years later, it's remarkable actually to run across the same claims that all is going according to plan and that "they" are incapable of defeating us militarily -- as if that made the slightest difference. Ever since von Clausewitz, it's been clear enough that at the heart of war is politics. The Vietnamese certainly "lost" every major engagement that might qualify as a military battle, but those like me of a certain age should still be able to remember the scenes of American helicopters being pushed over the sides of aircraft carriers to make room for Americans and Vietnamese fleeing
Already on this Sunday night, the usual supply of horrors for the long weekend has accumulated: suicide bombers blasting into police stations; an Iraqi police chief assassinated; two American soldiers in Mosul (outside the "Sunni Triangle") shot, their vehicle looted, and their bodies pummeled and mutilated by teenage passers-by; Thai troops in the south mortared for the first time; the first hit on a plane taking off from Baghdad International Airport by a shoulder fired missile (it managed to land safely with its wing on fire), and so on and on and on.
Here's part of a summary of the present situation in
"Since Mr Bush declared an end to major combat in May, guerrillas have assassinated Iraqi politicians for co-operating with the
"The Americans argued that 'Iron Hammer' won support from peaceable Iraqis. But a tragic cameo illustrated how they are at times the recruiting sergeant for their opponents.
If you don't think this is a scary mess, don't trust me, check out people who, in other circumstances, would be most sympathetic. I suggest you read, for instance, a fascinating Council of Foreign Relation's interview with Lawrence Korb. Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, just visited
"It is better[outside the Sunni Triangle], but they would like you to come away with the impression that 80 percent of the country is great and that just the so-called Sunni Triangle is bad. That's not trueâ€¦ Even when we were in safe areas and were driving to see a Shiite cleric, they made us wear flak jackets, and they had Humvees and armored personnel carriers escorting us with guns pointed at the population. This is in the so-called safe Shiite area."
But check it out for yourself. It bears careful reading. In pieces like this - or, for instance, in an op-ed in the Nov. 23 Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section, "Wars of Choice," by Richard Haass, until last June the director of policy planning in the State Department ("Any number of lessons can be learned from the handling of the aftermath of the war in Iraq, but none is more basic than this: Democracies, in particular American democracy, do not mix well with empire.") -- you can feel the increasing isolation of the Bush administration and the shiver of genuine fear that is running ever more strongly through an elite in our country that sees the light at the end of the tunnel and is ever more convinced that it's the headlight of a train bearing down on us. Watch Nightline. Check out Charlie Rose. Read the New York Times editorials of recent weeks. There's a sea change going on - and it's based on a new kind of fear.
Then add things up: on stated war aims, ranging from the capture of the Evil Trio to our conflicts "of choice" in Iran and Afghanistan, this administration is indeed batting a big, fat .000 and its fielding average seems to be just about .000 as well. Every chance so far essentially muffed. You can measure the depths of this failure by the heights of the recent spate of "stay the course" "win the war" rhetoric during George and Tony's amazing adventure in
Oh, and throw in some collateral damage like the long-term carnage being done to the economy, the further militarization of our society (check out a chilling piece by William Arkin in the Los Angeles Times, Nov. 23 -- "Under the banner of 'homeland security,' the military and intelligence communities are implementing far-reaching changes that blur the lines between terrorism and other kinds of crises and will break down long-established barriers to military action and surveillance within the U.S."), the return of the FBI to large-scale domestic surveillance of the opposition (NYT, Nov. 23), the potential passage of ever newer additions to the Patriot Act, and, lest I forget it, the harm being done to the planet. And, well, you would think that these guys couldn't get elected dog-catcher in 2004. (If they were, they'd immediately fortify the pound and begin hunting strays down with helicopters and Hellfire missiles.)
But as we all know, looking at those endlessly Florida-split national polls ("The [newest Time magazine-CNN] poll showed that 47 percent were somewhat likely or very likely to vote to re-elect Bush and 48 percent were somewhat unlikely or very unlikely to do so." Reuters, Nov. 23), when it comes to the 2004 election, the ledger looks a good deal brighter for the Busheviks. As electoral shortstops the question is: Already 2 for 2 in electoral contests (ignore the pine tar), are they Derek Jeter and forever heading for the World Series, or Alex Rodriguez, with money to burn but fated to exist in the cellar next year?
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]