Friday, September 27, 2002

Skiing Ahead of the Avalanche



Pardon me for thinking and saying so, but doesn't it feel as if even the left is sorta acquiescing to the possibility of war? Sorta the way even the most resistant sphincter eventually surrenders to the proctologist's probing digit? Maybe the lube jelly is the hope that the coming splendid little war is all a wonderful bluff, and we'll have our way with Saddam without even having to streetfight first in Baghdad.

Part of Jacob Weisberg’s "liberal" defense of the war (Slate, 9/26/02) goes something like this: Sure it's a distraction to invade Iraq while we still haven't caught Osama. And the Bushies are ramming war down our throats instead of letting us debate it before ramming us. But Saddam is a bad man, a very bad man, and is working on perfecting his WMD’s even if his army was Desert-Stormed to smithereens and his country is starving. And while we can't invade every rogue terrorist state, we can kick this bully's ass and thereby put fear in the hearts of other wouldbe rogues.

What the writer doesn't engage is the matter of deterrence. That is, Saddam is not a free agent terrorist. If he ever DID try something against us, we'd stomp him in a second and he knows it and he knows we know where to find him. And he's not a suicide bomber, he's a survivor. Moreover, Saddam and Al Qaeda are very different animals who don't work in tandem, as far as anyone has been able to establish. So just what IS the URGENT threat Saddam offers now? If he ever drew close to perfecting an A-bomb, wouldn't we promptly bomb the plant, just as the Israelis bombed his atomic plant in the early 80's? So what's the rush? Why ARE the Bushies racing to war now, weeks before the hotly contested House elections? Could there be anything cynical or political about this gratuitous sabre rattling? Naaaw. Not from the party of Enron, Halliburton, Irangate, and the 2000 stolen election. Let me ask again: What's wrong with the little war we're already supposed to be waging in Afghanistan/Pakistan against proven wreakers of mass destruction? Isn't that one sexy enough? For Pete's sake, it earned the Numbskull 70% approval ratings! Isn't that popular enough? Or is he so worried the collapse of his domestic agenda will damage the House Republicans' 2002 chances that he feels he has to engineer a war, any war, to lock in control of the House and maybe the Senate for the next two years?

Weirdly, this feels like Halliburton and Enron all over again---executives hiding the collapse of real profitability behind pyramiding phony "profitable" acquisitions designed to prop up share value. If they can keep share value inflated long enough, they can sell and get out and leave the collapse to the little people. And if Bush and Cheney can jack up popularity polls with war fever long enough, they can lock up the House for the next two years despite the collapse of the economy and their domestic agenda. That will give them time to raid, er ah privatize, Social Security and protect tax breaks for the superrich and pillage the National Forests and dereg public energy utilities and protect themselves from Congressional investigations into past malfeasance (defense failure prior to 9/11, for example, as well as Cheney's collusion with the big energy crooks in the disastrous energy policies which led to the rape of the West in the Spring of 2001). And who knows? If the international situation continues to grow more violent, all semblance of democracy and debate in America may just wither away by the 2004 Presidential Elections and the battered, frightened, electorate may just meekly & permanently hand governmental responsibility over to Daddy Dubyuh's paternal police state. "Do what you have to to protect us, Daddy Bush. Just don't make us think about it too hard. The Constitution? That old yellow thing? It's history, dude. Let Ashcroft use it for asswipe. In our hearts, we'd rather live shackled than take responsibility for our own lives, our own government. Just let us keep our 7 mpg SUV's. If our consciences bother us too much because we're violent bullying greedy pigs who refuse to consider the consequences of our nation's warlike actions, we'll just go to the shrink for some designer anti-depressants." Or has that ALREADY happened?

Remember that feeling we had during the big Nasdaq bubble? That the prosperity was unbelievable and too good to be true and that there was bound to be a collapse but somehow WE would get off the trading floor with our winnings before the roof fell on us? Well doesn't it feel that way again, except this time the nation's riding high on war fever, and we're free to squash whomever we feel like squashing because we are the world's 700 pound gorilla and we don't need no steenkeeng United Nations or International Judicial Agreement or Nuclear Disarmament Treaty or Kyoto Accord? We've stubbed our toe and we don't have to count to ten. We can just vent and binge. Start smashing shit. Freedom’s just another word for “Who’s gonna stop us?” We're free to be utterly infantile and thoughtless and start winging feces at the rest of the world

It's going to be OK, really it is. George and Donald and Dick promise. Just like Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling and Gary Winnick and Bernie Ebbers promised their shareholders. And it WAS OK. For Ken and Gary and Bernie. They got out with their big bucks intact, and all the disgrace and legal fees in the world won't eat up the hundreds of millions they made. As for their employees and shareholders? Well, tough shit. They're the little people. The big executives of the world are only really interested in the welfare of the fattest of the fatcats.

So what if thousands of American soldiers are killed and wounded in Iraq? So what if tens of thousands of Iraqis are killed? So what if the Arab world goes berserk with hatred for us? If this lovely little war can keep Bush Admin share values aloft through the 2002 elections, it'll be worth all the blood it spills and all the terrorist ill-will and suicide bombers it eventually generates.

Reagan avoided the consequences of his acts because he scarcely knew what was going on during his administration and he certainly couldn't remember anything after it happened. And Bush figures he'll manage to keep skiing ahead of the present avalanche. After all, Poppa Bush, 41, despite les mains sales, never got in trouble over Irangate. And even if 43 eventually gets caught by and in the avalanche, he'll dig his way out when things settle down. After all, didn't even Richard Nixon eventually rehab his rep and get his own library?

Same thing happened with Michael Milken, the Junkbond King. Sure, Milken got punished, but then he got out of country club jail and respun his reputation and managed to hold onto most of his centi-millions. And Ken Lay and Gary Winnick (who literally was Milken's protege) figure they can do the same after this latest round of collapses; only these gonifs figure they probably won't even land in jail like Milken did. And if they do, they’ll promptly tunnel their way out with a Presidential pardon and some good PR. After all, here in America you can’t keep a good man down.

And the merry-go-round goes round and round.