Richard Perle, neoconservative icon who resigned last year from his position as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, has turned against the administration that once was believed to be an indispensable home to all his ilk. According to today's Toronto Star, Perle
described U.S. policy in post-war Iraq as a failure. "I would be the first to acknowledge we allowed the liberation (of Iraq) to subside into an occupation. And I think that was a grave error, and in some ways a continuing error," [...]Perle said the biggest mistake in post-war policy "was the failure to turn Iraq back to the Iraqis more or less immediately. "We didn't have to find ourselves in the role of occupier. We could have made the transition that is going to be made at the end of June more or less immediately," he told BBC radio, referring to the U.S. and British plan to transfer political authority in Iraq to an interim government on June 30. This public criticism of U.S. policy from one of the leading advocates of the war - and a firm political ally of U.S. President George W. Bush - indicates just how much Bush's political fortunes are being damaged by post-war chaos.
The same article mentions that Tony Blair and Colin Powell are at odds over what the U.S.-led occupation's exit strategy really is. Blair insists that the new government of Iraq will have the power to order foreign troops to leave the country, while Powell says troops will still be under U.S. command and will do whatever they need to protect themselves. The position that Iraq can order troops out of the country is not, however, mentioned in the new UN Resolution, although China, Russia, France and Germany have proposed changes to the resolution that will allow Iraq to do just that.
The normally complacent and cheerleading mainstream media has also turned against Bush's seeming assumption that anything the administration, or major agencies say about terrorism must be automatically assumed to be true. For months, I have been asking the question: Why is it that whenever this administration is in political trouble, the terror alert level increases, or some videotape is conveniently found, or, in general, the terror-talk rhetoric goes up? Well, this time, Reuters ain't buying it. According to Caroline Drees, Security Correspondent:
A vague new U.S. warning that al Qaeda may be planning a massive attack smacks of political back-covering and campaigning, not just a call for heightened vigilance, analysts and former government officials say. [...]One former national security official in the Bush administration told
Reuters: "This is more butt-covering than anything else."
Critics say the new threat warnings may also just be a ploy to shore up the president's job approval ratings or divert attention from the increasingly unpopular Iraq campaign.
[...] But beyond urging citizens to be on their guard, officials failed to suggest what Americans should do to help mitigate the threat. They said the government had no plans to raise the terror threat level or announce new precautions, and gave no details on when, where or how it might occur.
[...]Some critical voices say the government may also be hoping the warnings could score political points on national security that could boost President Bush's flagging popularity ahead of the November elections.[...]One prominent terrorism expert, who would only speak on condition of
anonymity, said Bush may also be trying to staunch increasing criticism of the Iraq campaign by underlining the link in the public's mind between Iraq and security at home. "The president is running as a war president, so the timing is
interesting," he said, pointing to a speech by Bush on Monday that made frequent references to terrorist threats. "I wonder if there's not a connection to the president's speech when he
mentioned terrorism 18 times in the context of Iraq. Isn't this a very convenient way of linking back to the United States that Iraq is part of the broader war on terrorism?" he said.
Of course, we can delightedly add to this the Chalabi fiasco, wherein Ahmad Chalabi, the gangster-embezzler who, along with his faux Iraqi National Congress, had been championed by American neoconservatives, who goaded the U.S. into funding Chalabi and the I.N.C. in return for lies about Iraqi WMD and exaggerated speculations about a successful invasion of Iraq. Chalabi has now hopped on the anti-U.S. bandwagon, apparently incensed that he's lost his sugar daddy.
Is the house of cards falling down? Well, let me make two caveats here:
1. Islamo-fascism is certainly alive and well, and U.S. capitalism is its sworn enemy (ironic that Islamo-fascism is funded by Islamo-capitalists). Its preferred method is terrorism, a morally and politically bankrupt strategy that utilizes innocent life as a weapon in a much more brazen way than capitalism does. Terrorism is absurdly wrong on more levels than I could possibly cover here. It strengthens U.S. imperialism by turning public opinion against genuinely oppressed peoples (unlike millionaires like Bin Laden), and justifying repressive police-state measures. Each instance of terrorism, or even the ongoing threat of terrorism, undermines the creativity and revolutionary vision needed to transcend the dichotomy between corporate brutality and Islamo-fascism.
2. Some progressives are taking delight in Bush's plummeting approval ratings, as well as some surveys that show John Kerry leading Bush in the race for the U.S. presidency. But Kerry does not, in any meaningful sense, offer an alternative to Bush that would be optimal for the kind of world progressives want. He is not the "peace" candidate McGovern supposedly was. He would make U.S. intervention cleaner and less controversial by using the United Nations as a stalking horse for that wonderfully innocuous term, "U.S. interests." As one group puts it, better than I could:
The UN and its Security Council is only a space of bargaining between rival imperialisms using the smaller states as proxies and weapon to legitimate the aggression against an oppressed country. [...] The line proposed by pacifist organizers and sections of the Left [...] produces deadly illusions and adaptation to European, particularly French and German, imperialisms and to the "kitchen of the thieves", the UN, guilty already for a series of disasters from Korea, Cyprus and Congo to the Balkan wars in the 90s and Iraq itself.
So yeah, Kerry might be a little better on the environment, workers' rights, and a few other things (and I don't mean to trivialize those things), but fighting against war itself is going to require an independent course, one that rejects all extremism and manipulation by the powerful, all deployment of human beings for purposes in which they have no control. The fact that neither side makes it particularly easy to chart an independent course is no reason to reject the indisputable fact that such a course is necessary.
So where does this all cohere with Perle (and other former Bushies) attacking Bush, or Reuters calling B.S. on the administration's brilliantly-timed terror threats? Those battles, those revealed inconsistencies, can, with some germination and propagation, slowly whittle away confidence in ruling ideologies. We should celebrate news that Powell can't get along with the neocons, or that folks like Perle, and Richard Clarke, and others, leave the administration and then backbite. They aren't heroes (there are few heroes at that level of material power), but they are barometers. And there are more barometers every day.
Is cheering for Bush's misfortunes equivalent to cheering for the death of U.S. soldiers, or the triumph of backwards, medieval-minded terrorists? Of course not. That assumes the very dichotomy both sides insist we buy into. It means that Bush, who is quite possibly the worst of the worst among U.S. presidents, can hold us hostage, hold our common sense and critical thinking hostage, to a world that his cronies have been busy creating for the past thirty years. "You have to take sides sometimes," cry the shallow pragmatists. I do take a side. The side I take is the side of U.S. soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, and the men, women and children who are losing their lives because we live in a mean world, an uncreative world, a world where a few rich people make all the decisions, and where those decisions are increasingly brutal, violent, and short-sighted. There has got to be another way, and that way can only be found among those who yearn for empowerment and enlightenment. In the meantime, enjoy how the fearless leaders stumble and fall.