May 21, 2013
Campaign 2006: The Issues, the Stakes, the Prospects
Posted on Sep 24, 2006
At present, an air of suspended belief hangs over the radical changes of the past five and a half years. That is because Bush’s economic policy has been obscured by the events of Sept. 11, the nation’s focus on terrorist alerts—which seem to occur whenever Bush takes a nose dive in the polls—and the Iraq war. But layoffs, shutdowns, cutbacks, outsourcing, gas prices, local tax hikes and reduced paychecks are taking a huge toll. Bush’s economic policy, which in turn determines social policy, is much like the iceberg waiting in the path of a steaming Titanic.
Bush does not seem to understand that, while it is not a sin to be born to privilege, it is a sin to spend your life defending it. John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt understood that. They knew the narrowness that privilege can breed. This administration, despite its early pledges of “compassionate conservatism,” has in fact adopted policies that amount to a war against the poor and the middle class.
The Bush tax and budget cuts were not made in order to jump-start the economy or balance the budget; they were simply massive cash transfers. Social programs are being slashed to pay for the war in Iraq, tax giveaways for the wealthy, and new defense contracts for arms makers who just happen to be big Republican campaign contributors.
Moreover, the administration has not provided the American people with a strategic vision as to how the war in Iraq and this excessive and bloated arms buildup fit into our larger defense, anti-terrorist and foreign policy. Is it in the national interest to relegate our most precious assets—our human, natural and financial resources—to the junk pile? Is it in the national interest to throw more lives and money into the quagmire in Iraq? To increase the pace of an arms race where overkill has long been achieved and is useless, militarily, in land wars?
Foreign Policy: The Iraq War and National Security
Since Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush want to invoke history, let’s look at real-world history, instead of the mindless drivel they are peddling. The Bush spin-meisters desperately want to undermine the simple truth that most Democrats understand history and complexity, particularly in regard to the most important decision a president can make: that of taking our country to war, with all its drastic consequences in terms of human lives and the expenditure of national treasure.
Bush does not seem to understand that those who do not learn from history are condemned to make the same mistakes. Both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, in leading the victorious WWII allies in the war against fascism, understood the suffering, the human costs and the scourge of war. (Note that Bush kicked off his propaganda offensive with a speech at an American Legion convention. One wonders if there were any Vietnam vets in the audience who thought to themselves, “Oh yeah, this guy has a lot of experience in fighting for freedom. While I was getting shot at and dragging my sorry ass through the muck and mire of Vietnam jungles, he was doing drugs, getting drunk, and practicing his golf swing at Houston country clubs. Ditto for that freedom-fighting draft-dodger Cheney.”) Roosevelt and Churchill understood only too well the need for international cooperation, both diplomatic and military. They understood the critical need for the exchange of intelligence and multinational action by and among traditional allies. They understood the need for strategic alliances that every single president since then, Republican and Democrat, has understood, with the glaring exception of Bush. That’s why he is dangerous and why we need a Democratic Congress to hold him accountable.
Roosevelt, before his death, was quite clear. He said that the United Nations was the place to go not to end wars but to end the beginnings of wars. And Churchill was just as explicit when he warned us, “The United Nations is an imperfect institution that is a reflection of an imperfect world. Its purpose is not to lead us into an ascent to heaven but to prevent us from going into a descent to hell.” Those words are just as true and prescient today as they were in the aftermath of WWII. The Democrats understand what they mean. Bush either isn’t interested or he’s too arrogant to grasp their meaning.
Saddam Hussein was a despicable tyrant, but overthrowing him and invading Iraq did not lessen the threat of terror; it increased it. It did not strengthen American military capability; it weakened it. It did not make Americans at home or abroad safer; it had the opposite effect of increasing recruitment and support for Al Qaeda and other anti-American militant groups throughout the world. Invading Iraq did not increase international cooperation for anti-terrorist efforts or the respect for America’s diplomatic leadership that is indispensable to the war on terror; it diminished them.
For five and a half years, I have listened carefully to the president and his chief advisers. All of it has reminded me of a passage in “The Heart of Darkness.” Joseph Conrad put it this way: “Their talk was the talk of sordid buccaneers: it was reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage; there was not an atom of foresight ... in the whole batch of them, and they did not seem aware these things are wanted for the work of the world.”
Conrad’s words capture the political machinations of the Bush administration’s years in Washington. They reflect the mood and the moral nullity of the reactionary enterprise that seeks to tear apart the public good at home and to promote the neoconservative fantasy of world domination that led us into a risky and tragic preemptive war in Iraq. The Bush administration just doesn’t get it. No country can sustain itself, much less grow, on a political fare of one-liners, secrecy, rerun ideas, deliberate distortions, arrogance, paranoia and official policy pronouncements borrowed from Orwell’s “1984”—where recession is recovery, war is peace, and a social policy based on aggressive hostility is compassion.
Finally, let me leave you with 25 reasons as to why this election is important and why you should get involved. They are:
You could probably add a number of reasons of your own. What’s of paramount importance, though, is that the issues are basic, the choices are stark, the stakes are high and the consequences could be devastating.
It’s your country.
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