Friday, July 11, 2008


Andrew Bacevich, retired Army officer, reviews two of the latest crop of books coming out of the Iraq War (“Fault Lines: Inside Rumsfeld’s Pentagon”

In keeping with the Autumn-’44 scenario, several of the then-major players are already writing books to explain that they weren’t really major players or – more predictably – that they were major players but that interference of some sort ruined their fine and wise plans … seeking to strike a sort of a “Look what they done to my song, Ma” note.

Who can blame them? After all, history demonstrates that after such maniac – and failed – blunders of this magnitude, inquiries will be made. Their concern is only modestly justified. In the first place, many gentlepersons who should have had to explain themselves escaped having to do so in Germany and Italy in the years immediately following 1945 for the simple reason that too many people had gone along with the regime, the Party, and the war and the remainder of the citizenry had more pressing matters to deal with.

And the commanders of the American forces of occupation, possessed both of a sense of perspective that today would be considered grossly ‘insensitive’ and a military competence well in the above-average range, realized that no matter how many boots on the ground the U.S. could muster, the task of ferreting out and identifying every single Nazi – especially if that definition were expanded to include Party member, collaborator, sympathizer, and relative thereof – would be impossible enough to be unachievable, but intrusive enough to weaken the occupation and deeply anger the German citizenry. 'Zero tolerance' was not a wise option, and most wisely it was not deployed. As them Kathliks have always known, total purity or total perfection or total anything is not an option in this world. Not possible, therefore not wise. Americans knew that once in the not so distant past.

In the second place, Our modern American reality is so fundamentally comprised of an inability to process information maturely that the chances are better than average that the Iraq-perps will walk. And better than walk, they will remain on assorted A-lists, or B-lists at the worst. This thanks to the aforementioned regressed-imbecility of Our national maturity and the complicity of a corporatized media that gets the best of both worlds: keeping the powerful happy while keeping the peanut-gallery excited.

Already we see that Douglas Feith – described, if memory serves, by General Tommy Franks as the ‘dumbest such-and-such alive’ (and Franks should be an expert in that regard) – has wound up in a tenured position at Georgetown, a university founded by the Jesuits at a time now clearly long past when they were at the top of their institutional game. Who the hell has he been sleeping with? (figuratively speaking, I’d like to imagine).

Retired Major-General Ricardo Sanchez is also positioning himself, out of the line of fire and into the limelight. He wasn’t the best man for the job, but he was willing to go along to get along – the dark side of being a crisp and snappy ‘team player’. The perennial military dilemma of keeping an essential order and cohesion and enthusiastic institutional identity while remaining open to vital institutional self-criticism … well, it’s safe to say that there is no working balance currently operating. Corporations are even more besotted in this regard, and one wonders if the historical corporate bias against ‘bachelors’ has not been so much a matter of ‘homophobia’ so-called, but rather a matter of control: men with no families have far fewer hostages to fortune who might be taken, leaving them far freer to speak out, being free of the responsibility to keep a paycheck at any cost for the sake of supporting a family.

Such short-comings as these two exemplify might have been debilitating once upon a time. But not now, with a citizenry unable to any longer effectively function as a People, as The People, because of its disorganized and infantilized capacity both individually and communally to continuously demand, obtain, consider, and accurately judge essential information, and to communicate the results clearly to its representatives. And its hired Executive.

The result has been the horses running away with the proverbial wagon or – less charitably – the clowns running the circus. Though very dark and dangerous clowns. Sleazy ones. Treacherous ones. But each and all capable of playing to the citizenry’s increasingly pathetic reliance on ‘feelings’ and ‘appearances’ to chart a course through life and the world.

In this regard, the matter of John McCain’s military experiences has always intrigued me. Imagine you are a military commander. Your nation is fighting a long war against a powerful enemy on your own territory, and the enemy’s aircraft are inflicting great damage to your people. One of those pilots is shot down; he turns out to be the grandson of one of the most famous commanders in your enemy’s greatest war, and the son of the theater commander of your own present enemy. He is somewhat injured.

Do you torture him? Do you simply let him disappear into the quotidian miasm of POW camps until – whenever it may be – the war will end? Do you give him special treatment, including the best available medical treatment, in order to use him to your advantage in some inscrutable (sorta stereotypically ‘oriental’) way?

And if you are said flyer, considered by your military peers from the get-go as bratty, too cocky, and not altogether sound in the framework department, and you find yourself thus shot down and captured, do you not-identify yourself? Fight to the death to avoid a capture that will only complicate your nation’s (and your father’s) war effort? Get too cocky and then have to buy your way out of some unpleasant impending punishment? Just try to use whatever chips you’ve got to make things easier for yourself ‘cuz deep down you’ve always been kind of unripe beneath all the boozy bluster?

It’s a set of questions that certainly beg to be asked, nowadays when We are being asked to elect somebody in that situation to the Presidency.

In an article on Counterpunch ( Douglas Valentine considers the possibilities, while also noting that U.S. losses along the air routes used in McCain’s ops increased 60% in the year after he was captured, until finally the routes and some of the tactics had to be abandoned. Good pilots were lost. While not conclusive, these facts raise hugely significant possibilities. Little attention has so far been paid.

I am not at all suggesting the scurrility of a Swift-Boast style campaign except this time mounted by Democrats. Name-calling and a raw blurting of ‘feelings’ – two modes of ‘discussion’ unhappily introduced into mainstream national discourse long before the Republican Ascendancy - are unworthy of the seriousness of the issues: of the election and of Mr. McCain’s competence and worthiness as a candidate.

We as a People and a nation are – as it were – running out of flight deck here. We either have to get into the air or plan to take an unhappy swim, and there is little window left for the decision. The world has put up with Our increasingly erratic and unserious carrying-on for a number of decades now, but there’s little chance that this state of affairs will continue. Especially nowadays when to ‘erratic’ and ‘unserious’ must be added ‘aggressive’ and ‘unilaterally willful’.

As We now see with Congress’s cave on the FISA telecom immunity, the new President is going to be facing monstrous interlocked problems, foreign and domestic, but in addition will face even with his own Party a widespread, deep and long established avoidance of authentic representative government and an addiction to the financial, political and personal gain that can be achieved by holding high elective office. Before tackling the huge issues, he will have to fight the entrenched, well-coiffed but greasy treacheries that have long been resident on Capitol Hill.

If it will be wondrous should he manage to succeed even modestly against such a matrix of unlovely habits and addictions, it will be nothing short of miraculous should the Congress manage to heal itself.

Entering this Augean stable, if the new President has even a modest chance of being Hercules, it is The People who must be his cleansing river, whose powerful freshets can start to clear away the accumulated choking muck.

But only in the mode of a mature citizenry and a mature democratic politics. We have had 40 years in the desert of ‘revolutionary’ politics, of the Left even before the Right, and have little to show for it except a stunning loss of Our heritage and competence as The People and a now-astounding record of incompetence and aggression.

No lazy hazy crazy days this year. Summer school for all. Expect very hard knocks. Pray as if everything depends on God, work as if everything depends on Us. (This last a variant on the wisdom of St. Ignatius, founder and now probably widower/relict of the once-great Jesuit Order that is presently brunching with Feith and all his pomps and all his works.)

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