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From Fear to Farce

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Posted on Sep 13, 2007

By Ellen Goodman

BOSTON—After 9/11, my husband started each morning reaching for the remote and saying, “Let’s see if they caught Osama.” This greeting began as an expectation, evolved into a lingering hope, and finally deteriorated into irony.

    Six years later, our ritual preceded an early morning appearance by the newly trimmed and black-bearded terrorist. Thus fear descends into farce.

    It was no accident that bin Laden timed his videos for Sept. 11. But then again, how fitting it was that the hearings on the Iraq war coincided with the anniversary of his attack.

    The testimony was dotted with overt and subtle messages about Iraq as the center of the war on terrorism without acknowledging how it became the center. In opening statements, Ambassador Ryan Crocker used “al-Qaida” nine times and Gen. David Petraeus used it 17 times without mentioning that there was no al-Qaida in Iraq before we were in Iraq.

    There was nothing new in this false connection. For that matter, there was no news at all from the hearings, if by “news” we mean something unexpected:  “General Bites Commander in Chief.” 


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    Was there any doubt that Petraeus wanted to keep the “surge” troops as long as possible? Was there any doubt that Bush would claim to follow the advice of the man he commands and announce plans to withdraw those 30,000 troops by next summer?

    Nevertheless, to my surprise, these hearings did mark a turning point. In place of swagger, we saw sobriety. There was no presidential voice in these rooms telling the senators and representatives, as he told the Aussies, “we’re kicking ass.” The cockeyed optimism of “Mission Accomplished” was replaced by the controlled pessimism in Crocker’s voice as he claimed, simply, that “success is attainable.”

    One word leaked out of both men repeatedly: “frustration.” It’s a word that every American shares. The general who came bearing medals as well as a Ph.D. admitted, “I’m as frustrated with the situation as anybody else.” But if you need more proof of sobriety, there was the moment of the hearings when Petraeus was asked whether Americans were safer now. After a pregnant pause, he answered: “Sir, I don’t know, actually.”

    This was supposed to be the week of Osama’s makeover or Bush’s do-over. It was the week when the public conversation may have shifted permanently. We have entered the debate over the lesser of two catastrophes.

    Americans gave up the belief in Iraqi WMDs long ago. Gradually, most of us have given up the idea that we can create democracy in Iraq. Now we have also lost confidence that the surge can create the “breathing space” in which the Iraqis will achieve reconciliation in their disintegrated society.

    Mission creep has become “mission shrink.” The real role of American troops in Iraq now is to try and keep a lid on the terrible violence unleashed by our own invasion. Our job in Iraq, as Crocker put it, is preventing a “big, nasty street fight.”

    So we get down to the tale of two catastrophes. On the one hand the war’s supporters claim only that things will get horrifically worse if we leave. “Make no mistake,” said John McCain, “the consequences of American defeat in Iraq will be terrible and long-lasting.”

    On the other hand, the war’s opponents insist that staying the course will only stay the disaster. All we get from prolonging the war are more casualties of the war. “Buy time?” asked Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican retiring from the Senate. “For what?”

    These clashing catastrophes will be the central theme of the next presidential election. The choices facing voters will be these: Chaos in Iraq, or casualties in America. The forces of terrorism let loose in the world, or the real war against terrorism distracted by the war in Iraq. One side will ask how we can justify the massacres and mayhem that may well follow our departure. The other side will ask how we can justify asking one more, or 1,000, or 5,000 Americans to die—for what? A mistake.

    Between these two unbearable options, I choose leaving. But any choice comes with a bitter recognition of the financial, moral and political fallout from this president’s decision and deception.

    In Robert Draper’s aptly named book on the Bush presidency, “Dead Certain,” the president muses on his retirement. “I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers,” he says. “We’ll have a nice place in Dallas,” he adds, where he will run “a fantastic Freedom Institute. I can just envision getting in the car, getting bored, going down to the ranch.”

    Just think. Osama is on the loose with his hair stylist. Iraq is coming apart at the seams. How swell that one American has an exit strategy.

    Ellen Goodman’s e-mail address is ellengoodman(at)

    © 2007, Washington Post Writers Group

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By boggs, September 14, 2007 at 7:16 pm Link to this comment

I think Fred is a “symbol” of Hollywood.
I also think that besides being dumb he is very ugly!

He is an extension of the Busheology.

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By rhbee, September 14, 2007 at 7:19 am Link to this comment

I have to say at this point I agree with Mos Def’s comments on the Bill Maher show. I am sick and tired of this Boogie Man climate of fear.  What I don’t understand is now that we are in the process of acknowledging what denial has done to our national will why aren’t the actions the Democrats more overt.  What is holding them back?  I think I want Dean scream and all.

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By 911truthdotorg, September 13, 2007 at 8:27 pm Link to this comment

The bush crime family got their game plan from their Nazi masters. This is how they’ve gotten away with 9/11, Iraq, next, Iran and ultimately, martial law.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” - Joseph Goebbels

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By Conservative Yankee, September 13, 2007 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

...“Why does the Right repeatedly revert to violence to solve what they perceives as threats?”

“Part of the answer comes from a women’s violence counselor, who once me that it’s an easy way out for those lacking in the skills and intellect to handle the manner any other way.

So in essence, those of the Republican persuasion may be ‘really’ retarded.  Seriously.”

Are you saying that “peaceful, left-wing Presidents” like Truman, Johnson, and Clinton are “less retarded” (Careful the left doesn’t use “retarded” anymore…., politically incorrect you know.) Then war-hawks like Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and Eisenhower?

I heard on the radio that during the 20th Century the United States was involved in over 200 wars.  Personally, I am unable to verify this, BUT if it’s even half correct that is a war for every year of the past century. I would suggest you stop blaming others and look in the mirror. We are the employers. WE can fire the whole bunch at any time we see fit.  As a conservative and also a registered Republican, I am disgusted my party AND the other one have not thrown these constitution-hating-bums OUT!  Is partisanship so strong that we Republicans, or the Democrats are bound to follow mistakes like sheep?

Bush isn’t “conservative.” Conservatives do not preside over a 9 trillion dollar credit-card debt. Conservatives do not sell American liabilities to Communist China, nor do they finance the “People’s Republic” military build-up. Conservatives do not throw US lives and Billions of dollars at a war which did not need to be fought, nor one predicated on lies.

Conservatives do hold our sovereignty dear, and w3e do not open our borders to illegals, decimate the coast guard, or disregard safety issues so international traitors like Walmart can make more money.

I’d be happy to see Bush Cheney, Gulliani, and Thompson tarred and feathered. BUT we’d need extra tar for Bill, Hill, Obama and Edwards,  The bunch of corporate front people who have only their own interests forefront…. and that’s not conservative either.

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By ocjim, September 13, 2007 at 1:44 pm Link to this comment

Actually Fred was right. The capture/killing of Osama was abandoned because Fred’s buddy, Bush, wanted Osama as a symbol of terrorism, fear, evil. He fit right into Bush’s Manichean world of good vs. evil.

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By hazmaq, September 13, 2007 at 11:41 am Link to this comment

Here’s more real Fear and Farce, in a literal nutshell.

Is Fred trying to grab your breast or your ribs?

Fred Thompson, the new love of the Republican
party now says Osama is just a ‘symbol’.

Like our Flag is a ‘symbol’, is that what he means?

Oh I’m sure the Right would just love that!  It would be the new Right-wing ‘symbol’ to replace the old ‘symbol’ of the same group, who’s previous Presidential candidate chose to hang in his office, resulting in his being thrown out of the 21st century.

Why does the Right repeatedly revert to violence to solve what they perceives as threats?
Part of the answer comes from a women’s violence counselor, who once me that it’s an easy way out for those lacking in the skills and intellect to handle the manner any other way.

So in essence, those of the Republican persuasion may be ‘really’ retarded.  Seriously.

And, we should quit wasting good taxpayer dollars and just exile Charlie Manson in Tennessee.  He’s just a little ol’ symbol too, after all.

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By Dale Headley, September 13, 2007 at 11:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Goodman’s husband didn’t understand.  This war was NEVER about Osama, or terrorists, or WMD, or regime change, or freedom and democracy.  It was from the very beginning about three things: oil, American empire, and the chance for George Bush to strut around as though he were a great war hero, instead of the chickenhawk he actually is.  Oh, I forgot; there was a fourth thing, Dick Cheney’s desire to raise the value of his Halliburton stock exponentially.  And did I mention OIL?

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By sophrosyne, September 13, 2007 at 11:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

One has to blush at the utter foolishness of the Bushies hiding behind Petraus’ shirt.  Bush is the policy maker, not the general.  Let us stop the phony claims to only be following what the general says.  The hagiography of General P., a nice but ordinary man, is embarrassing.

Yes, Obama has fulfilled his purposes as a manufactured onmipotent enemy and is written off by Bush as irrelevant.  Bush has cast this toy away like a China-made lead doll.

Not to worry though.  The Neo-Cons have a lock on the inexperienced and embarrassing Giulianni.  They love his manliness and “strength” and will find him useful in again duping the American people.

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By farmertx, September 13, 2007 at 10:52 am Link to this comment

One of the problems most American politician’s have is failing to understand that the rest of the world is not American in thought, culture nor deeds.
Shrub claimed to want to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. He failed to see that freedom and democracy to them meant doing what they are doing now; killing off each other over religious beliefs or tribal disputes.
Shrubs’ inability to know that someone who hadn’t voted Republican could know something about Iraq led him to appoint politically reliable operatives to ‘oversee the emergence of democracy’ in Iraq.
These operatives’ heavy handed dealings ruined any chance of an internal political solution to governing Iraq after Saddam.
His master war planner insured that the forces available on the ground would be inadequate to maintain law and order.
Once Rummy allowed things to get totally out of control, and Shrub realized the important Republican’s would blame him fot the Republican’s losses in ‘06, it was time to change tactic’s. Despite his assurances that the original tactic’s were working just fine.
So his speech writer’s dusted off their Thesaurus to offer a change, in spelling if nothing else, of the tactic’s.
All that money spent (wasted) and more importantly, all the lives wasted and ruined for the maimed, and then it was decided that a ‘fresh’ approach was needed. Fresh in the sense of cosmetic’s.
The Iraqi leadership cannot come to a consensus (like our own Congress can’t agree on anything) and their military still needs another year or so of training before it can do more than line up in ranks.
We are shown photo’s of 1 Iraqi soldier on patrol with 6 American troops as proof that the Iraqis’ are taking the defense of their country.
And the lock step Republican’s say, See, it is working!

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By David, September 13, 2007 at 10:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why do they even bother making up stories anymoe?  Just invade the whole region.  People’s opinion doesn’t matter anymore. Why even bother with all this BS?,2933,296686,00.html

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By Ed, September 13, 2007 at 8:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, since we’re kicking 9-11 around again ....

The execution of OBL’s 2001 plan to create hysteria and change america has worked very well (Bill Maher and Ward Churchill get fired, the Patrioit Act, et al). With the U.S.‘s newly elected executive branch lead by people with big egos and small IQ’s, OBL’s timing was perfect. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was a bonus.

I thought giving the Taliban a certain number of days to hand-over OBL was foolish. A military response on 9-12-2001 was the logical response; an immediate obliteration of all known Al Queda training camps followed soon by divisions of airborne troops. Apparently the administration was still focused on an Afghani pipeline deal.

Instead the U.S. responded timidly; letting Afghani warlords do much of the dirty work to topple the Taliban. That must be the compassionate conservative way of doing things.

If the U.S. can’t or won’t use its military effectively then it should cut funding and slash the Pentagon budget (at least) in half. That’s logical thing to do when a ragtag bunch of religious nuts kicks a superpower’s ass.

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By rhbee, September 13, 2007 at 7:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So now we can join the gods, lets all look at the plans and laugh.

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By GW=MCHammered, September 13, 2007 at 7:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

KY Bu$hCo makes Slick Willie feel like a dry hump. But history should show that the winning voters and their supreme court jesters were all willing crack whores. Some are still so addicted to the gdubya delusion, they insist it’s chocolate, this drowning in their own US-BS.

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By ocjim, September 13, 2007 at 7:11 am Link to this comment

First we must remember that the Bush administration is a user. It uses anything and everything to achieve its purposes: troops, people, money, and even the enemy. Bin Laden is not an exception. Bush didn’t want him dead, for he can be used to fan the flames of fear and terrorism.
It’s incredible how journalists, politicians and some experts follow Bush’s lead regarding important figures such as Osama [bin Laden. Bush doesn’t really have an interest in Osama now, for Bush has already exploited Osama as a specter of fear. [Republican presidential hopeful] Fred Thompson even added his superficial evaluation of bin Laden being a symbol (irrelevant), then changed it twice. The trend has already been established of shallow thinking and wrong-headed, self-serving actions regarding terrorism with our entry into Iraq. So bin Laden is not taken seriously by agenda-bound leaders and candidates. Everything is centered [on] them: Bush and the political candidates. There are some candidates less narcissistic, but they are not the front-runners.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, September 13, 2007 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

Even if they said they caught the self-anointed god of the world, tried and executed him in public view, average people in the world and America, given the way the Bush administration works, could never be sure if in fact OBL was dead.  Lying is the MO in America now.  We know it.  The world knows it.  Our reputation as liers has done us far more harm than OBL could or ever would do.  We have to get beyond OBL and, starting with GWB, stop the lying and tell the truth for a change.  Everyone’s waiting for that.

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By purplewolf, September 13, 2007 at 6:10 am Link to this comment

Actually Bushies nice little place is a compound in Paraquay.And as for the fantastic Freedom Institute, it should be the fantastic Lack of Freedom Institute, since he and Dicko has been overly zealous at taking away the freedoms of the American people.

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By Skruff, September 13, 2007 at 5:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m convinced I saw Bin Laden in Williamsburg last time I was in Brooklyn…. He was sporting a sandwichboard-sign which read “Repent the end is near” his twin was doing the same thing on the opposite corner.

Please send the 25 million to my bank account in Switzerland

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