Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Friday, March 03, 2006

US Diary: thoughts on having a fuckup as a President

1. The Bungling Bush Presidency is Falling Apart -- by James Klurfeld

An old acquaintance in Washington - a former member of Republican administrations whose foreign policy views are decidedly hard-line - recently had this to say to a friend about the Bush administration: This might be the most inept administration in American history.

Considering some of the bozos who have served in the White House - James Buchanan and Warren Harding are two names that come to mind - that is a breathtaking statement. Considering the stakes involved with the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, it is also frightening.

But it should come as no surprise that President George W. Bush has fallen to an approval rating of 34 percent in a recent national poll. Just look at the events in this winter of his discontent:

Iraq appears to be on the cusp of a civil war even as U.S. soldiers continue to be killed each week.

A just-released tape shows Bush was warned before Hurricane Katrina that New Orleans' levees could be breached and the city devastated. The president, as we all remember, said he was taken by surprise.

Members of his own party have turned against him on the issues of whether a company owned by the United Arab Emirates should control six major ports in the United States.

As more and more information leaks out about the unauthorized and very likely illegal eavesdropping by the National Security Administration, there is more talk - only whispered at the moment - that there ought to be an impeachment inquiry into Bush's behavior.

While I've not been a big fan of most of Bush's policies, I have occasionally marveled at his decisiveness and willingness to take bold stances. Bush has proved to be a much stronger leader than I ever could have anticipated, especially given the lack of any electoral mandate from the American people.

But I fear we are now seeing the other side of the coin with Bush. His lack of historical perspective, his crusading religiousness, his Texas-style shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach to complex problems - that is, all the shortcomings that were obvious from the beginning of his presidency - seem to be catching up with him now. It's one thing to be a decisive leader. It is quite another to be consistently making the wrong decisions.

The tape of him being briefed on Katrina by Federal Emergency Management Agency officials is particularly damning. It's a glimpse of the man without his eloquent speechwriter, Michael Gerson, putting words into his mouth. Bush doesn't ask a single question about the government's level of preparedness even while being told how concerned officials are. He manages only the most cliched assurance that the government is prepared to do whatever will be necessary. Not only was that not true, but when the finger-pointing started, Bush said he was surprised by the storm's impact.

In short, Bush was not only unprepared; he seemed to be detached from what was happening and then, worst of all, lied about it. That 34 percent approval rating was registered before the Katrina tape came out.

The White House said not to make too much of the tape because it doesn't reflect the totality of the president's effort on the storm. Fair enough. But over the past six months Bush has failed to react to the devastation in New Orleans except for one stage-managed speech from the French Quarter.

This is a presidency coming unraveled before our eyes. It is not a pretty sight, and it is not good for the country. What a difference a year makes. After his re-election, Bush said that he would use his political capital.

Soon he won't have any left. Then what?

2. Bush and Gandhi: Humanity Comes to a Fork in the Road -- by Robert C. Koehler

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?”

There is a terrible profanity in George Bush’s intention to lay a wreath at the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi, the man who uttered those words, during the president’s trip to India on a mission of nuclear proliferation and at a time when his draconian occupation of Iraq is spinning into all-out civil war. “It will be as though he has poured a pint of blood” on the great pacifist’s memory, writes novelist Arundhati Roy.

Few world leaders today less embody the ideals Gandhi represents than Bush. Does he not know this? Does he think some PR advantage will accrue from his hollow gesture in Rajghat, or that it will mask the horror of his incompetence?

“Grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week’s bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine have killed more than 1,300 Iraqis, making the past few days the deadliest of the war outside of major U.S. offensives, according to Baghdad’s main morgue,” the Washington Post reported this week. “The toll was more than three times higher than the figure previously reported by the U.S. military and the news media.”

“Violent means will give violent freedom.”

Bush’s visit to the memorial is sure to generate enormous protest, as well it should, but I think it also presents a rare opportunity to bring Gandhi’s philosophy of “satyagraha” — truth-seeking, self-sacrifice and nonviolent resistance — to bear on the world Bush has wrought.

While the president and his supporters don’t dare mock Gandhi, they take endless delight in mocking, in their self-satisfied ignorance and selective blindness, everything he stood for.

Yet as far as I can tell, human society has never been at a more crucial divide over how to proceed into its own future, and Bush kneeling cynically at Gandhi’s memorial — in the midst of a trip whose purpose is to finalize a deal beefing up India’s nuclear technology — symbolizes this juncture with unbearable clarity.

“The moral to be legitimately drawn from the supreme tragedy of the bomb is that it will not be destroyed by counter-bomb, even as violence cannot be by counter-violence. Mankind has to get out of violence only through non-violence. Hatred can be overcome only by love.”

This is old thought vs. new. One side represents fossil fuels, enemy-based patriotism, endless war and an Old Testament belief in the righteousness of violence (when the good guys use it).

Here, for instance, is Wall Street Journal deputy editor George Melloan’s description of Donald Rumsfeld, as quoted by Robert Fisk, when Melloan interviewed the secretary of defense aboard a Boeing 737: “Bright sunlight streams in and lights his face. ... Sitting across from him at a desk high above the clouds, one wonders if the ability of this modern Jove to call down lightning on transgressors will be equal to the tasks ahead.”

The other side has stopped believing in Jove. It represents complexity, ambiguity and the reach for a deeper god.

“It is the law of love that rules mankind. Had violence, i.e., hate, ruled us, we should have become extinct long ago. And yet, the tragedy of it is that the so-called civilized men and nations conduct themselves as if the basis of society was violence.”

I used to think there was an inevitability to this confrontation, that humanity could not help but evolve beyond its reliance on violence and war, so the future was secure even if the present moment is chaotic. Now I have the permanent jitters. The forces that will destroy us have almost all the money, almost all the political power, and time is running out.

The wreath Bush lays at the base of Gandhi’s memorial comes wrapped in the front page of the Washington Post, as it reports on the hemorrhaging “democracy” the president has brought to the Middle East: “Hundreds of unclaimed dead lay at the morgue at midday Monday — blood-caked men who had been shot, knifed, garroted or apparently suffocated by the plastic bags still over their heads. Many of the bodies were sprawled with their hands still bound . . .”

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind.”

(Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer. You can respond to this column at

3.  Civil War and Ending the War -- by David Swanson (Remarks: March 3, 2006, at University of California - San Diego)

    Fox News titled a recent segment "All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?" Presumably, it could from the point of view of the Bush-Cheney gang, if it gets in the way of all-out resistance to the occupation. That is, Bush almost certainly would prefer to see Sunnis fighting Shias than to see both fighting Americans and collaborators.

    From the point of view of the Iraqi people, the people of the Middle East, and the people of the United States either type of civil war is just more very bad news. In either type of war, or a combination of the two, it makes sense to call it a CIVIL war, since Iraqis are doing most of the killing and dying - and most of those dying are civilians.

    In any case, the war cannot be resolved without the US soldiers leaving. Only leaving provides the chance for a peaceful solution. Financial aid for reconstruction, combined with assistance from the United Nations, can increase the likelihood of a democratic and peaceful Iraq. There are no guarantees, except that the present course will make things worse.

    The idea that the US occupation must continue because things would get worse if it ended is clearly not what the White House actually cares about behind closed doors. But, taking the claim on its own terms, it quickly falls apart. Things in Iraq have been getting steadily worse during the occupation, and the escalating violence is driven largely by anger at the occupation.

    After three years and a quarter trillion dollars, infrastructure, water and electricity are worse than before the war. Investment is going into prisons, oil pipelines and waste at Halliburton. And there is no functioning government even able to police the streets. Security is being privatized, and assassinations and torture are everyday occurrences.

    Most of the corpses in Baghdad's mortuary show signs of torture and execution. And much of it appears to be done by groups working for the government. Meanwhile the US government lacks the moral authority to even speak, since there is no behavior so foul that our government is not doing it.

    We are also aggravating sectarian tensions that have historically been fairly low. The longer the chaos created by the occupation persists, the more people will look to religious identity groups for protection.

    And as long as the occupation actually works with one group to abuse another, this process will accelerate. Already Sunnis and Shias are forcing each other out of certain neighborhoods.

    Still, I think there is reason to believe that reports of religious hatred are overblown.

    I have heard from various Iraqis who say that this is a Western myth along the same lines as the WMDs and ties to 9-11.

    The BBC reported that al Sadr called for revenge on Sunnis following the recent bombing of a Shiite Mosque. In reality, he said no Sunni could have done it and all Iraqis should protest the occupation.

    Other sectarian leaders said the same.

    Al Sistani said people should "express their protests through peaceful means. The extent of their sorrow and shock should not drag them into taking actions that serve the enemies who have been working to lead Iraq into sectarian strife."

    It's possible that we will see sectarian violence generate intense anger which is then directed toward the longstanding source of anger: the US occupation. 82% of Iraqis want the US out, and 47% support attacks on US troops.

    But our role is neither to analyze this, nor to wait for it to happen, nor to support violence. Our role is to make clear to the world that this is NOT a US occupation. It is merely an occupation by Bush, Cheney and the US Congress. It does NOT belong to the American public.

    I saw an editorial in Le Monde that said the US should get out, but do so in such a way that the "jihadists" don't think they've won.

    But what could be more advantageous for unifying the Iraqi people than a collective victory? It seemed to work wonders for our 13 colonies.

    I think the US military should get out in such a way that Iraqis, Americans, the world and the rule of law all win.

    Even more important than what happens in Iraq when our kids come home is whether or not international law survives the blatant violation that this war is. Otherwise any nation is free to attack any other.

    That means the US must completely withdraw, that we must leave neither bases nor corporations behind (unless a democratic Iraq chooses freely to work with US corporations), and we must not bomb Iraq after pulling our troops out.

    But, most importantly, those guilty of launching this war must be held accountable for it. Or what is to prevent the next one?

    That begins with a process that may actually need to be achieved before we can end the war.

    Imagine that Congress votes to end funding for this criminal adventure. Will that end the war? 435 times Bush has signed bills and added a signing statement. That's over 100 more times than all previous presidents combined. These statements have made clear that torture is a form of self-defense, revenge can be taken against someone who didn't do anything, and Congress no longer exists as a meaningful institution.

    How does a nonexistent Congress end a war being waged by a unitary executive?

    One word. We can IMPEACH.

    We who support impeachment are a majority according to the polls. We CAN impeach.

    The Center for Constitutional Rights has laid out a strong case for four articles of impeachment, so strong that if we do not act we will effectively be removing impeachment from the Constitution.

    Usually when I give a speech, I like to rattle off some of the latest pieces of evidence. But lately we seem to have hit smoking gun fatigue. People are tired of the evidence and want to know what we can do about it.

    We must impeach.

    Start by making sure that your Congress Member co-sponsors House Resolution 635 for an investigation into grounds for impeachment.

    Then come to to see what else you can do.


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