Monday, May 28, 2007

The incompetence scam

Standard political wisdom: George W. Bush, and his Administration, are a bunch of incompetent bunglers. All they do is screw up. Bush's two terms seem to be an unending catalogue of ineptness, from 9/11 through Katrina to the so called War in Iraq. It's like Dubya is some sort of dark King Midas; everything the Bush II Administration puts its collective hand to seems to turn to shit.

Equally standard political wisdom: The Democratic Party is also a bunch of dimwits and weenies who couldn't operate a hot dog concession in a Super Bowl parking lot without having the thing catch fire and burn to the ground.

I don't buy this assumption for either set of politicians. Both the Bush Administration and the new Democratic Congress are certainly corrupt, and, yes, many elected and appointed officials on both sides of the aisle are, individually, far from the sharpest pencils in the box. Bush II himself has made a career of failing upward again and again, driving various business operations into bankruptcy and being bailed out of the consequences of his own disastrous mismanagement by his family connections... but anyone who thinks Dubya makes any actual decisions in his Administration is really too naive to be taken seriously. Dubya, like Reagan before him, is a figurehead; the actions and policies of his Administration are set into motion by others... and those others know what they are doing.

And now we're being told that the latest Democratic dominated Congress is also a batch of blithering bunglers, for allowing themselves to be outmaneuvered by a person one of their own most revered figures has recently derisively labeled "the worst American President ever".

Glenn Greenwald, probably the man most widely hailed throughout the blogosphere for his acute political insights, has this to say about this latest Democratic 'misstep':

our Iraq war policy was just determined, in large part if not principally, by a complete myth: that de-funding proposals constitute an abandonment or, more ludicrously still, "endangerment" of the troops.

It is difficult to overstate how irrational this theme is, and yet it is equally difficult to overstate what a decisive role it just played in ensuring the continuation of the war. Polls consistently demonstrate that Americans overwhelmingly favor compelled withdrawal of the troops from Iraq. Other than defunding, they overwhelmingly favor every legislative mechanism for achieving that goal -- from a straightforward bill setting a mandatory time deadline to a rescission of the resolution authorizing military force to compulsory benchmarks. Yet polls are equally uniform in showing that a solid majority of Americans oppose de-funding.

Yet, rationally speaking, this makes absolutely no sense. De-funding is nothing more than a legislative instrument for ending the war, and is substantively indistinguishable in every way from the other war-ending legislative means which Americans favor. Congress has used de-funding or the threat of de-funding multiple times in the past to compel the President to cease military action, and to invoke it, Congress simply consults with the military, determines how much time is needed to effectuate a safe withdrawal, and then de-funds the war accordingly...

...The whole debate we just had was centrally premised on an idea that is not merely unpersuasive, but factually false, just ridiculous on its face. That a blatant myth could be outcome-determinative in such an important debate is a depressingly commonplace indictment of our dysfunctional media and political institutions.

But the real reason this happened is because Democrats not only allowed it to occur, but eagerly helped it. As much as anyone else, even leading anti-war Democrats such as Carl Levin and Barack Obama continuously equated de-funding with a failure to "support the troops."

Time and again, even those Democrats who supported a mandatory troop withdrawal would talk about de-funding like it was some sort of grotesque act of betrayal ("oh, absolutely not, we will not de-fund the war. We will support our troops").

Greenwald's central thesis is that this pernicious myth -- de-funding a war is the equivalent of refusing to support, or, infinitely worse, actively endangering, the troops currently prosecuting that war -- has been somehow allowed to enter into the American collective consciousness and therein attain the status of sacred truth, due to the witless ineffectuality of the Democratic Party. Not only have the Democrats made no real effort to debunk this myth, they have themselves frequently supported it by repeatedly making public statements such as this one (also as reported by Greenwald):

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has called for initiating a withdrawal but has rejected a cutoff in funding. "I think that sends the wrong message to our troops," he said a few days ago. "We're going to support our troops, and one way to support them is to find a way out of Iraq earlier, rather than later."

And so, as Greenwald points out, the myth that de-funding will endanger the troops becomes 'cemented' in the collective consciousness as actual truth... all because of Democratic cowardice and incompetence.


These guys aren't incompetent, they know exactly what they're doing. And one of the things they are very competently doing, with the unwitting help of pundits like Greenwald, is putting forward the constant 'myth' that they are all hapless klutzes who cannot do anything right. It's a myth that serves them well because, while Americans may get exasperated and irritated with bumbling dimwits, our culture has also been programmed for generations to find such shenanigans essentially endearing. The American people can always find a place in their collective hearts for the good natured, kindly clown who means well but who never quite manages to accomplish precisely what it is he sets out to do at any given time.

In the end, we are always willing to forgive a bumbling boob, because we find them entertaining, and, anyway, we all see a little bit of ourselves in such ineffectual antics. We cannot find it in us to become truly enraged or infuriated with these people; it is a part of our cultural mythology that we cannot seem to overcome that we must always give such people another chance, no matter how many they've already had and fumbled, and no matter how urgent the current situation they seem to be screwing up may be.

Thus, the guise of ineffectual fumbler serves our so-called public servants well. Ultimately, it deflects us from the outrage we should almost certainly feel, and causes us to, inevitably, come to feel a sort of grudging affection for these poor dimwits. Clearly out of their depth, stumbling around flailing their arms and only making everything worse, and yet, in the end we love them for it, as generations of Americans have loved their own fictional bumblers like Charlie Chaplin, the Keystone Cops, the Three Stooges... and their modern day inheritors like Adam Sandler, Paulie Shore, Paris Hilton, and all those dimwit semi-celebrity culture critiques on VH-1 and MTV.

Let's get this straight -- dolts don't manage to get elected to high office anywhere, much less America. Dubya himself may be a drunken dimwit, but the political machine that lurks in the shadows behind him knows exactly what it is doing every second of every minute of every day. Every 'blunder' they make puts another billion dollars of our money into their pockets, and edges them one or two steps closer to a position of complete and overwhelming perpetual authority over the rest of us. When it seems to us that they are not accomplishing their goals in any particular area, it is not because they are actually dimbulbs who couldn't find their asses with both hands and a flashlight, it is because we have profoundly misunderstood their goals... generally because that's what they want us to do.

The goal has never been 'democracy in Iraq', or, even, a docile American puppet state in Iraq. For some reason we do not at this point understand, the goal of the Iraq War is now and always has been the same -- creating chaos in the Middle East. Why? I couldn't tell you. But nothing else makes sense; if Bush Inc. really wanted to pacify Iraq using military means, and conventional forces wouldn't work, there's no reason they wouldn't do what I've been dreading for six years -- deploy unconventional weapons, like nukes, chemicals, and biologicals. Who or what would stop them? What possible consequences to them could there be? No, if we're still fighting, and apparently not winning, a conventional war in Iraq, and the only effect is to create and continually spread more and more civil chaos, then that must be what the people making the decisions want. I don't know what they get out of it -- other than billions of dollars a day in war profits, which could be enough -- but I know that the chaos itself must be, in and of itself, their goal, and it's one they have achieved admirably.

Similarly, if the Democratic Party has allowed the meme of 'de-funding the war equates to endangering our troops' to become 'cemented' as a sacred truth in the minds of the American public, it's because that's how they want it. De-funding a war is the one irrefutably effective mechanism for overruling a battle-crazed President that Congress has; it's the one trick that always works. Greenwald wants us to believe that this one singularly effective weapon has been rendered inert by Democratic incompetence -- well, I don't believe it for a second.

The Democratic Party wants this war to continue, just as much or more as the Republicans do. Now that they have a majority in Congress, they could bring it to an immediate end simply by refusing to continue to spend tax money on it... so that method, above all others, must be put off limits. This is why they not only do nothing to defang the pernicous lie that 'de-funding the war will endanger our troops', but they actually do everything they can to strengthen and maintain that public misperception. As long as the American people believe that the one thing Congress could do to end this war is the one thing they should never do, well, the Democratic Congress is helpless. It's not their fault! It's all on us... we want the War ended, and yet, we refuse to allow our elected representatives to do the one thing that would accomplish that.

That this is idiotic nonsense should be immediately obvious to anyone capable of three consecutive seconds of political analysis. Our elected representatives constantly take actions and enact policies that their constituencies oppose, especially immediately following elections, because as an unfailing general principle, voters forget about such things by the time the next election rolls around. Even if we all believe that 'de-funding the war will endanger the troops', the next elections are more than a year away. There is plenty of time to demonstrate the fallacy of that misperception through practical action; if Congress went ahead and de-funded the War, by the next elections, we would all have seen that in point of fact, it did not endanger the troops at all and it actually just did what we wanted it to do -- got us the hell out of Iraq again.

This myth that 'defunding the War will endanger the troops' is just political cover for the Democratic dominated Congress, in exactly the same way that the 'bungler' facade is a helpful, shielding charade for every elected and appointed government official we have. They are not bunglers who are doing their best, but just find themselves strugging out of their depths. These are corrupt, amoral men and women who are evil by the only standards of evil I understand -- they regard their fellow human beings as mere abstractions, whose lives and deaths, cripplings and maimings, sufferings and miseries are merely fuel to be thrown on the flames of their own ambitions.

These government officials support our troops -- in what? An ongoing, illegal, immoral and outright evil campaign of illicit terror against an innocent populace? How? By sending them off to kill or be killed, torture and be tortured, maim and be maimed? By bringing them home again in coffins and wheelchairs, with their balls shot off or their faces burned away or their limbs destroyed or their spines shattered, to be buried and forgotten in either beautifully maintained, well funded and elaborately staffed military cemetaries or shoddily run, terribly underfunded and incompetently staffed military hospitals?

These government officials are not incompetent, they are not helpless, they are not foolish, or bungling, or ineffectual, or somehow victims of a confused and petulant American electorate... what Al Gore disingenously calls 'good people in a bad system'. These government officials know exactly what they are doing. They want this War, for whatever reasons they may have to want it... profits for themselves and their major corporate contributors, enhancing their own prestige and power, using it as a lever to attain higher office, whatever.

People are dying, Americans and Iraqis and others, right now, and our government has the power to bring it to an end, and they won't. All they do is try to insulate themselves from any eventual blame or responsibility for the consequences of their own actions.

Our government is both shameless and shameful. And to the extent that our government represents us, the American people, we are deeply shamed by their actions.

They could stop this war today or tomorrow, and they will not. We could stop this War... if not today, or tomorrow, then, at least, at some point, if we were willing to do what has to be done -- which is a great deal more than sign electronic petitions, send email to our Congressmen or Senators, put bumper stickers on our cars, or spend an hour a month holding a placard on a street corner outside a coffee shop somewhere.

They could stop it, but they won't. We could stop it... but honestly, we just don't care that much about it. We care a little... we care enough to piss and moan and bitch and whine and shake our fists about it... but we only really get motivated when something happens to one of our kids. A sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, a niece, a nephew, a cousin... one of our neighbor's children. But until that, the 'troops' that we 'support' are only abstractions to us. The Iraqi people that the troops we support are killing, maiming, torturing, and raping every day are barely even that to us.

We aren't benefiting from the war. We aren't making any money off of it, we aren't using it to leverage our careers. But we know what's going on over there, and it's being done by people wearing our uniform, representing our country, our culture, our government... us.

Our government could stop all this, but they won't. They claim to be incompetent, although they aren't. They know exactly what they're doing.

What's our excuse?


At 2:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More paranoid delusions from the Left. Sad really. This is a war between civilizations that has been going on for almost 1500 year and that the other side intends to win. The government's main failing has been an ineptness at communicating this very clear and essential fact and marshalling the will of the Nation and our allies to this cause. Iraq is simply a battlefied

At 10:05 AM, Blogger The Bunnyman said...

Ahhh. More cowardly propaganda from the Right, straight out of Rush Limbaugh's most recently circulated list of talking points. That 'war between civilizations that has been going on for almost 1500 year' [sic] is a fabulous way to describe the ongoing rape-torture-murder of an entire nation, but, honestly, if 'the government's main failing has been an ineptness at communicating this very clear and essential fact and marshalling the will of the Nation to this cause', well, where do YOU fit in, slick?

Clearly YOU've gotten the memo (and drunk nearly all the Kool-Aid your damn self, too). YOU understand how important this is, YOUR mighty National will has been marshalled. I presume you're in uniform in some Middle Eastern hot zone right now, fighting the good fight to preserve and protect all of Western Civilization? After all, this is very, very important stuff here...

No? But, of course. Iraq is simply a battlefied... er... I mean, 'battlefield', you left out an 'l' there, skippy, glad to help you with that... and you leave that minor little unpleasantness to others better suited to it. YOUR time and energies and precious life force are better spent warring on other 'battlefieds'... like the comment threads of an obscure lefty blogger who gets, maybe, 9 hits a day.

It's a tough life, and you're an admirable bravo indeed to take up the gauntlet like this. Where others dodge bullets and disarm IEDs by the side of a road, risking death, maiming, capture, and/or torture every second of every minute of every day, you grimly sit down in a comfie chair, brush the corn chip crumbs off your sweater vest and fire up your keyboard. Once more into the breech, dear friend!

This is a war between civilizations that has been going on for almost 1500 year(s). Thank God nowadays we have the Internet, and dauntless soldiers like you to constantly patrol it against paranoid delusions from the Left.

At 5:25 PM, Blogger AaA said...

Ahh, a new crusade for me.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Opus P. Penguin said...

I think the bulk of our populace is simply too fat and happy to care. They act the same way they do when taxes are increased: shrug, and pull out their wallets.

And Congress? There's no excuse for them. Even my own representative, Maurice Hinchey, usually the leftest of the left, is on a crusade not to end the war, but to revive the "Fairness Doctrine" so he can get more face time on the Sunday talk shows. Probably to forward his own future politicial stature.


At 5:44 PM, Blogger AaA said...

Actually, in investigating the history of western civ and islam, I've learned that I'm rapidly not giving a tinker's dam about either. There's precious little to be proud of in either.

At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I recently added a news widget from to my blog. It shows the latest news, and just took a copy and paste to implement. Might interest you too.

At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Captain Slack said...

I think they want this war for the reasons outlined by Emmanuel Goldstein (in The Theory and Practice of Oligarchic Collectivism) and Michael Moore (in the "We Need a New Cold War" chapter of Downsize This!) — to justify their rape of our economy and our rights, or at least to be able to answer any questions about those rapes with some version of "Don't You Know There's A War On?"™


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