Sunday | June 15, 2003
The New Radicals
In Saturday's Washington Post, adminisrtration officials talked about their plan to shift taxes away from investments and towards consumption. Down this road lies an increased tax burden on the middle class, while the rich would pay far less than any time anyone can remember. While the White House has shied away from this effort, it is clear that we have something unprecidented in the White House: radicals.
Imagine if George McGovern had beaten Nixon in 1972, and then appointed Howard Zinn, John Kenneth Galbraith and Tom Hayden as his core advisors, and routinely entertained Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, while Ralph Nader held forums at which Sargeant Shriver regularly spoke and William Kunstler was Attorney General.
The people now in charge, using stealth methods devised over 20 years of practice, want to eliminate much of the social safety net Americans have come to expect since 1933 and replace it with market driven solutions.
This bizarre hybrid of dogmatic financial fundamentalism and idealism is only one symptom of this radical remaking of American policy and ultimately, society. Like good radicals, they coopt people along the way, Zell Miller on taxes, Joe Lieberman on moral issues, Joe Biden on the RAVE Act. All agree with a piece of the pie, but because they don't see or don't want to see the whole picture, they don't get what they're constructing. They appeal on one argument or another, and while you don't agree with the ehtire package, you help support it.
Then you get the religious fundamentalist John Ashcroft pushing for rules which would allow the sitting administration to define citizenship and basic rights under law. At the same time, the Treasury Department is saddled with figurehead secretaries while staffers, who have the club key and face time with the White House make real policy.
Americans have been persuaded to try and reshape human nature on occasion, most notably during prohibition, which then turned ordinary people into criminals and made a few unscrupulous men rich. Americans thrive on simple solutions to complex problems. It is the side effect of our optimism and belief in self. The same impulse which allows us to think we can prevent teenagers from having sex allows us to create an airlift to save Berlin. We strive to achieve the impossible without understanding it's limits
But nowhere has this policy been exposed as fundamentally flawed as in Iraq.
Instead of having the State Department devise policy, the President and his henchman, Donald Rumsfeld, try to create a foreign policy which is not only militarily unsustainable, but financially ruinous. As US officials quietly negotiate with the Taliban after 18 months of combat, our political plans for Iraq are meeting across the board opposition.
How did we wind up in this mess?
Because the policy was shaped by ideologues who's real world experience consisted of being the most clever man in a Washington policy knife fight. Iraqis, from Saddam to the the average teenager, has a vision of their country and it doesn't include Humvees and being handed rations.
Their entire case, from the WMD to the reception we'd get in Iraq was based not on practical realities or clear indications, but the worst and most unlikely assessments of Iraqi military strength and politics. We were listening to people who had NO knowledge or modern Iraq.
They used argument and invective to coopt Congress and create an image of Iraq which clearly doesn't match reality.
Let's start with the image of Saddam. Was he really some unpredictable agent, prone to illogical risks? Was he Idi Amin in the sand? Or was he playing the cards he was dealt the best he could? All the evidence is that despite his brutality, he was barely holding on to power. He could not trust his own army, and they were more than willing to take US dollars if it would eliminate him.
Now, we're supposed to believe a man who had the ability to kill whole families at whim, and was still sold out by his kin, is now leading some phantom resistance movement?
The same goes with WMD. US soldiers were sent to check one of Uday Hussein's residences
Other team leaders complained that most intelligence folders appeared to be based solely on analysis of satellite imagery. Again and again, the intelligence proved wildly off-base.
"The target folder for Uday's palace at Lake Habbaniyah was real clean," said U.S. Army Maj. Ronald Hann Jr., a highly decorated arms control expert who heads SST-6, referring to a complex for Hussein's older son. " 'There's the warehouse. There's the poison gas storage tanks.' Well, the warehouse was a carport. It still had two cars inside. And the tanks had propane for the kitchen."
A veteran U.S. intelligence official here said he is furious over the inaccurate intelligence reports that have sent weapons teams racing to a series of empty sites.
"I'm sitting here, and frustrated isn't the word anymore," said the official, who has a senior role in the hunt and spoke on condition of anonymity. "I feel almost duped."
Before you laugh, realize US soldiers risked their lives to check out the propane tanks of death. They could have easily walked into an ambush.
People looking for some evil scheme of lying by the Bush Administration are unlikely to find one. Because this is not the act of malice, but of ideology. The whole ethos of Team B is that if a regime is evil, there is nothing it will not do. This comes, obviously, from the experience of dealing with Hitler and Nazi Germany. Most states are not Nazi Germany. Following this line of logic, that the people who live under that regime would be grateful for their "liberation" and accept US ideas on rebuilding their country gracefully.
The idea that the people who lived in Iraq actually had their own ideas never occured to them. While Rumsfeld and the Iraqi exiles were planning to remake Iraq, so was another group, men who were also idealists and equally as radical.
The Shia clerics, from exile in Iran and from those who survived Saddam. have their own ideas on what Iraq should look like. The difference between them and our Beltway Imperialists, is that they will do whatever it takes to win. They survived Saddam and they have no intention of letting the Americans steal their prize. These are the same people who rose up against Saddam and paid a fearful price. I doubt the Americans scare them.
Radicals do not listen to those who do not share their vision. They have their solutions and we are supposed to follow them. If they don't work, it is never their fault. The flaw lies elsewhere. That is why goons have to rampage on Iranian campuses and why Rumsfeld has to pick his Army Chief of Staff based on their enthusiasm for his speeches.