Friday, April 20, 2007

Defending their war - the "press corps" should pay closer attention

I assume that everyone's heard the really important news of the day, namely Britney's explanations for some of the more controversial events in her life recently. So I won't dwell on that.

But it strikes me that our Dear Leader Bush may have been fortunate to have his last two speeches on the Iraq War overshadowed, buried even, by other news events. But that may not be entirely a good thing, because they seem to show him embracing an even more intransigent and radical position on the war and the war critics.

Monday's speech saw Dear Leader promoting and endorsing Merrilee Carlson and her hard right group, Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission, whose real purpose seems to be promoting "culture war" stereotypes of war critics being dirty hippies who hang around with black people, still the favorite nightmare for lots of Republican white folks, even some that weren't even born yet when Nixon left office. At the Families United blog for 04/19/07 (which doesn't allow links to individual posts), Carlson linked to this post (The Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Gathering of Eagles [GOE] GOE Web site, 04/14/07) concerning the "Gathering of Eagles" group, which is essentially a group whose purpose is to organize prowar demonstrations that piggy-back on antiwar demonstrations by promoting themselves as anti-antiwar protests. The author, Henry Cook III, writes the following about the ANSWER antiwar group:

Who were these people ? A.N. S. W. E. R. , purely an arm of the communist party of the United States , joined by Code Pink, the National Council of Arab Americans, the Muslim American Society, the 9-11 Truth Movement (They claim 9-11 was a hoax.) a number of Palestinian and Lebanese support groups, pro-Castro and Che Gueverra groups, the Viet Nam Veterans against the war, at least one Anarchist group and a numberof hippie-throwbacks, all receiving encouragement by Hanoi Jane Fonda, Ramsey Clark, Sean Penn, Ed Asner with Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and the newest anti-war poster child, Cindy Sheehan. (my emphasis)
By Apollo who strikes from afar, these people just cannot get over their own obsession with the 1960s! It's over, folks! Yes, some guys let their hair grow long and young men and women had sex without being married, as shocking and unprecedented in the history of the world as that may have been. But it was 40 years ago, people. And as enticing as all those forbidden pleases with the dope-smoking and all may have always sounded to you, it couldn't possibly have been as much fun as you think it was. Really. Now most of the guys who grew their hair long don't have enough hair to grow it long even if they wanted to, unless they go for the ponytail look, which is kind of an investment-banker thing. And the people in all those orgies you imagined were going on have gone through pretty much the same things that the boring Young Republicans of those days have: marriages and divorces, kids with the usual issues kids have, regular jobs, boring commutes, stints in rehab for this or that addiction, and so on and so forth. So, just. Get. Over. It.

Now, International ANSWER does have leftwing (as distinct from "liberal" in the American sense) ties, supposedly starting out as a "front group" of the Workers World Party, which actually began as a Trotskyist group but evolved into more of a Brezhnev-type (Brezhnevite?) group. The WWP, so far as I've ever heard, exists mostly in New York City, though Chicago always seems to wind up with outpost of small leftwing groups. But the larger antiwar demonstrations have been organized by broader coalitions, including people like the Quakers' American Friends Service Committee.

But here we see the difference between an accurate statement and a McCarthyist smear. It may be true that John takes drugs. But if the drugs John is taking are allergy medicine, that doesn't make it true to say that he's a heroin addict that sells crack to preteens. And to say that ANSWER is "purely an arm of the communist party of the United States" is just doofus stuff.
But this is the kind of political allies Dear Leader Bush was celebrating on Monday. I wish some reporter would take a while and research Families United a little more closely.

Gauleiter Cook also makes this interesting comment about the demonstrators that the GOE group was bringing to Washington in March:
Warnings had been given by the Park Service Police that no flagpoles, staffs or other items that could be used as weapons would be allowed in the vicinity of the memorials. However, we urged our members to not forget their walking canes. Those who did not have a cane quickly learned that each hotel’s lost and found department had canes that only needed someone to claim them. (my emphasis)
Along with his own account of a counter-demo, which I would not recommend taking simply on his word in that post because it doesn't give with news reports I remember of the event, he says:

Some of our members ventured into "Indian country" seeking to further provoke the protesters but later reported that such was not possible. It was reported that there was a serious lack of commitment on the part of the moon-bats when it came to standing up for their alleged beliefs when confronted by a veteran. One member of the Order even ventured up to the stage at the moon-bat rally, hopped up on the stage and whipped out a MOPH Memorial Plaque inscribed with the picture and name of Casey Sheehan and presented it to Cindy Sheehan on behalf of the Order. To say that she was shocked speechless would be an understatement.
We should be clear about what these people are saying here. Of course, we always have to remember that the blowhard white-guy crowd like nothing better than to huff and puff about how they're ready to kick somebody's ass and how they intimidate their wimpy enemies. So most of these people are more likely to get drunk and whack each other with those sticks than to use them against an "anarchist".

But still, this Hook article is encouraging people to go their counter-demonstrations with sticks that can be used to club people, to try to provoke confronatations with antiwar demonstrators and even try to forcibly disrupt antiwar speeches.

In other words, they are hoping for some kind of media re-enactment of the fabled hard-hats fighting protesters scene which the Nixon administration managed to set up one time, in a scene with became a "culture war" symbol of how working-class people supposedly loved the Vietnam War and hated the dirty hippies. It's also worth remembering that for that purpose, Nixon "plumbers" (secret political police operation) hired some steelworker goons specifically to do that.

Like I say, it would be good if some reporter paid closer attention to these rightwing groups, including their donors.

Even by Cook's own dubious factual account, the antiwar demonstrators they confronted in Washington were nonviolent, and apparently pretty sensible about avoiding getting sucked into provocations from thugs with sticks looking and hoping for a fight.

This is what the Families United group that Dear Leader highlighted this week and whose president Marilee Carlson he singled out for special recognition. This is worth paying attention to. Any Congressional investigators looking into public funds going to Blackwater or other "private security" companies should pay close attention for funds that may be winding up with groups like Families United that the President so warmly approves.

Then on Thursday, we had
President Bush Discusses the Global War on Terror in Tipp City, Ohio. Dear Leader was less articulate than usual, and bloggers like Atrios and Digby noticed that he was spacier than usual, especially in wrestling with his talking points on "Iraq and Vietnam".

But even more striking to me in that particular speech is how Our Leader is promoting the most simplistic talking points, including Dick Cheney favorite of trying to make the Iraq War sound like a response to the 9/11 attacks:

My decision making was deeply affected by the attack of September the 11th, 2001. It was a - it was a moment that defined a dangerous world to me with absolute clarity. I realized then that this country was no longer invulnerable to attack from what may be happening overseas. [As opposed to all those decades where Soviet and American nuclear missiles were pointed at each other during the Cold War?]

I realized that there is an enemy of the United States that is active and is lethal. At further study of that enemy, I realized that they share an ideology, that these weren't - that the - and when you really think about it, the September the 11th attack was not the first attack. There was a 1993 World Trade Center attack, there was attacks on our embassies in East Africa, there was an attack on the USS Cole, there have been other attacks on U.S. citizens, and that these attacks were instigated and carried out by cold-blooded killers who have a belief system. They are threatened by free societies. They can't stand the thought of freedom being the prevailing attitude in the world because their view is, if you don't believe in what I believe in, you probably shouldn't be around.

This enemy is smart, capable, and unpredictable. They have defined a war on the United States, and I believe we're at war. I believe the attack on America made it clear that we're at war. I wish that wasn't the case. Nobody ought to ever hope to be a war President, or a presidency - a President during war.

But that's how I see the world. And I made a vow that I would do everything I could, and work with members of Congress to do everything they could, to protect the United States. It is the most solemn duty of our country, is to protect our country from harm. (my emphasis)
He continues with his version of the neocons conservative-Trotskyist idea of grand wars of liberation:

A lesson learned was that, at least in my opinion, that in order to protect us, we must aggressively pursue the enemy and defeat them elsewhere so we don't have to face them here. In other words, if what happens overseas matters to the United States, therefore, the best way to protect us is to deal with threats overseas. In other words, we just can't let a threat idle; we can't hope that a threat doesn't come home to hurt us. A lesson of that terrible day was, threats overseas can come home to hurt us. And so the fundamental question - and this has led to constructive debate - it's, what do you do about it?

I've chosen a path that says we will go overseas and defeat them there. I also know full well that it's important for us if we're facing an ideology, if we're facing ideologues, if we're confronting people who believe something, that we have got to defeat their belief system with a better belief system. Forms of government matter, in my opinion. It matters how - the nature of the government in which people live. And therefore, I have put as part of our foreign policy not only an aggressive plan to find extremists and radicals and bring them to justice before they hurt us, but also to help people live in liberty - free societies, as the great alternative to people living under a tyrant, for example.

And so my decision making was based upon those principles. And now we're involved in - I call it a global war against terror. You can't call it a global war against extremists, a global war against radicals, a global war against people who want to hurt America; you can call it whatever you want, but it is a global effort. And by the way, the United States is not alone in this effort. We're helping lead an effort. And the major battlefield in this global war is Iraq. And I want to spend some time talking about Iraq. (my emphasis)
The following passage reflects a pretty compact collection of faith-based associations around the Iraq War:

A couple of points I want to make, and then I promise to stop talking and answer your questions. People often ask me, what are we seeing on TV? What's happening with the violence? Here's my best analysis: One, the spectaculars you see are al Qaeda inspired. They claim credit for a lot of the big bombings. The bombing of the parliament was al Qaeda; the bombing of the Golden Samarra was al Qaeda. These are the Sunni extremists inspired by Osama bin Laden who attacked the United States. I keep repeating that because I want you to understand what matters overseas, in my judgment, affects the security of the United States of America in this new era.

Their objective is twofold: One, shake the confidence of the average Iraqi that their government is incapable of providing security, and therefore, people will turn to militias in order to protect themselves. Their second objective is to shake our confidence. It's an interesting war, isn't it, where asymmetrical warfare is - and that means people being able to use suicide bombers - not only, obviously, kills a lot of innocent people, like which happened yesterday in Iraq, but also helps define whether or not we're successful.

If the definition of success in Iraq or anywhere is no suicide bombers, we'll never be successful. We will have handed al Qaeda "that's what it takes" in order to determine whether or not these young democracies, for example, can survive. Think about that: if our definition is no more suiciders, you've just basically said to the suiciders, go ahead.

Iran is influential inside of Iraq. They are influential by providing advanced weaponry. They are influential by dealing with some militias, tend to be Shia militias, all aiming to create discomfort, all aiming to kind of - according to some - to create enough discomfort for the United States, but in doing so, they're making it harder for this young democracy to emerge.
Isn't it interesting, when you really take a step back and think about what I just said, that al Qaeda is making serious moves in Iraq, as is surrogates for Iran.

Two of the biggest issues we face for the security of this country today and tomorrow is al Qaeda and Iran.
(my emphasis)
Apart from the demagoguery about Al Qaida and Iran, there is also that hardcore authoritarian point, garbled though it was: "Their second objective is to shake our confidence. It's an interesting war, isn't it, where asymmetrical warfare is ... not only, obviously, kills a lot of innocent people ... but also helps define whether or not we're successful."

Now, to do a close reading, Dear Leader could have been talking about his administration when he refers to "our confidence". But in the context of his speech and his general push for his version of supplemental war funding, it's clear by "our confidence" that he means the support of Democrats for his disastrous war policies. Besides being sleazy, it's also a tremendous alibi for his own administration's failures and shortcomings in this war, and also for those of our infallible generals.

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