“When we catch you playing a nonconstructive role, there will be a price to pay.”
--President Bush, to Iran, in a news conference last Thursday.
"Your name's Lebowski, Lebowski...You're not dealing with morons here."
"It's a complicated case, Maude. Lotta ins. Lotta outs. And a lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands..."
--The Dude, The Big Lebowski
"You run it because people think you run it. Once they stop thinking it, you stop running it."
-- Miller's Crossing
"Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun."
-- The Army of Darkness
Can I be forgiven for wondering if that creepy chill wind on the back of my sun-burnt neck was a time-traveling echo of the approaching Fall, or the Administration taking advantage of the summer idyll to quietly set the premise for war with Iran? At this point I half expect that when President Bush announces the bombing campaign later this month he will muffle his words by coughing into his fist.
The unfortunate debate-corrupting effect of the presidential campaign (and the presumptive Democratic nominee's inconvenient complicity in the same catastrophic foreign policy that promises to deliver the White House, and her desire to signal to certain interested bureaucracies that she can be reasoned with—what the Pentagon's firing across the bow of the HMS Hillary, and the glee with which Clinton contrasted herself with Obama's callow enthusiasm for diplomatic promiscuity is all ultimately about, perhaps) produces a Congress for whom discretion is the better part of power.
Congress can't or won't act. Not by repealing the effected-through-deception Iraq War Resolution; not by de-funding the resulting fraudulent war; not by impeaching the President and Vice President for their astonishing culpability and incompetence.
The Democrats will be content to nip about the edges of the Bush Administration's colossal failure just enough to redeem this effective co-operation for a term in the White House. This is unmistakably a Republican war, but those additional casualties sacrificed to the Democrats' craven discretion represent yet another shameful misappropriation of American blood (and of the civilian innocents who will be sacrificed to the next Clinton Administration, well, even I, here in full puffed-up outrage mode, haven't the stomach to consider the brutality of that).
But I wouldn't detain you to bring your attention to the obvious.
The Iraq War was an "expression of power as its own justification."
The possession of unparalleled military might by the world's greatest democracy, under challenge by Islamist reaction, radically changed the political and moral calculus. The confident and bold application of overwhelming military force by this enlightened power, followed by the speedy introduction of Western governance, would so swiftly improve life for so many that when compared against the cost of inaction it is revealed as a moral responsibility. This then justified a radical break with custom and law, a re-figuring of the nation-state system.
Folderol from front to back, of course. More important is where this sort of thought originates. This heady talk, this swooning before military might, is entirely a product of that military might. It serves it. The mirage of absolute military primacy lures the intemperate into these delusions of grandeur.
Of course the swagger and confidence had to be backed up by holding down Iraq. Needless to say we have failed to deliver the much-hyped AmericaWorld franchise, thwarted by a handful of networks of the world's most heavily armed neighborhood toughs. George Bush adds the protection racket to his resume of failure. Pimpin' ain't easy, George.
And still there is no one to hold us to account. Except us. In the world community we come to increasingly rely on intimidation. But the reality of Iraq, plain to the world--of just how horribly wrong we were, and are, remains. The American media maintains the fiction that we're still a virgin, physical evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Summer. Equestrian Camp. Yeah.
So twice we trump decency with power. First for the fraud of the invasion, and now for incompetence of the occupation. Consequences await. Out there, in the future, waiting to take form. Oh the things you'll see...
We are unable to pacify Iraq, but capable of expanding the effort into neighboring Iran. Indeed, the failure in Iraq will provide the pretext. In a disturbing suggestion that we really have crossed over into something altogether new, our response is not to recognize the error of Iraq and the failure of force to deliver as promised, and to stand down with as much dignity and order as possible, but to indict neighboring nations in our failure as a pretext to expand the war. To expand our domain of chaos. The disaster of military riches that lured us past the bounds of common decency now strands us there.
America the unstoppable force is checked in Iraq not by an immovable object, but absorbed by a black hole into which our effort disappears to no effect.
We are powerful and powerless at once. Remarkably, we don't see it yet. We still operate on the assumption of absolute moral authority--having discarded morality and failing to establish authority. We throw our weight around, oblivious to our rapidly eroding relevance. The world's resentment will outlast our brittle military strength.
The Iranians, for their part, share a border and a recent war with Iraq. Still, we expect them to sit still for the chaos we've created on their frontier, even as the MEK, an organization we ourselves have designated as terrorist, uses Iraq (with our support and against Iraqi wishes) as a base of operations that include collecting intelligence to be used in building a case for war against them. The Iranians are, as well, expected to content themselves with our official policy of undermining their government and funding its political opposition.
As we arm Sunni "allies" opposed to the Shi'ite government (ahead of an almost certain civil war), we characterize Iranian arming and training of Shi'ite militias as sinister. Yet these militias enjoy more popular support than the bunkered government, and are not armed against it, as are the previously mentioned Sunnis.
We would appear to be working against ourselves, backing factions that oppose the government we've spent so much to preserve on one hand, complaining of Iranian involvement in the south but cultivating our own relationship with Iranian-originated Sciri and its leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim on the other.
Muktada al-Sadr opposes the American military presence; al-Hakim has proven more malleable abut this and the all-important oil law. Words may have been rendered meaningless by our postmodern revolutionaries, but the course of real interest and power as it plays out reassures us that reality still holds. The oil law will be the last piece of Iraq we leave behind.
Perhaps the ultimate irony is that after playing the farce of an Iraqi threat to the United States, we now threaten the country with the most to legitimately fear from Iraq (where's Iranian gratitude, you say?--welcome to the city, kid).
The question isn't, is Iran responsible for arming Shi'ite militias against us in Iraq?, but why is the War Party pushing this question? The contingency plan to maintain the expansion of the war into Iran involves repeating this question with enough volume and frequency that the public will be fooled into over-estimating its relevance. It is a red herring.
Americans now must be fooled into thinking that their most exigent concern is Iranian involvement in Iraq, just as they once thought of Iraqi WMD (don't you just cringe a little with embarrassment when you read it now?). Be angry at the thought of American blood on Iranian hands, but remember, Iranian weaponry in the hands of Iraqis have killed far fewer Americans than Saudi money, Arab jihadis, and, sadly, our own weapons and money diverted through incompetence and corruption into the hands of insurgents, or given outright by us in our haste to stand up Iraqi armed forces that later faded into the chaos.
The proposed executive order floated on Tuesday, seemingly designed as much to thwart our own diplomatic efforts as to further pressure Iran, moving the bulk of Iran's army and virtually all of its intelligence apparatus into the terrorist category, combines the stupidity of leaving our adversary without an exit with the madness of leaving ourselves without one. The Administration quietly burns another ship.
Ironic, how the current president, always making such a show of "faith", proved tragically unable to recognize the real thing, when and where it has consequences. Bush's retail-outlet redemption is so cheaply purchased and pawned ("Mr. President, what role does faith play in your life?"), shamelessly minting and re-minting the base coin of conspicuous religiosity--that it not only fails to check but fortifies our hero's catastrophic pride.
The President is now capable of nearly anything, even pulling the trigger on Iran to stick it to his political opponents at home. Pride, thy name is Bush.
Meanwhile, we still operate on the assumption that we have both moral authority and material control. The American media maintains the fiction for us, and we all manage to avoid the obvious question: how would we judge our actions if they came from another? How then will history judge us?