Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Are You Better Off...
On one of my email accounts, I have a tagline:
"I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." --
Dick Cheney on the Iraq insurgency, June 20, 2005
Yesterday, apparently, Cheney admitted that he was wrong when he made that statement. I had to hear the story on the radio a second time to actually believe that he'd admitted that he was wrong.
He then, of course, made up some half-assed explanation of why we should be in Iraq.
One of the things that irks me in what passes for political dialogue in this country is that liberals, progressives, anyone left of center basically, is portrayed as unrealistic, pie in the sky, head in the clouds.
Lets look at the real picture.
One of my favorite Onion headlines was when George W. Bush was "elected" in blatently fraudulent elections: "Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over." They had no idea how prescient they would end up being.
One of the first things Bill Clinton did during his eight year tenure was to work with Congress to end deficit spending. The United States was spending one-third of its national budget paying interest on debts incurred to continue with the massive deficits that began with conservative icon Ronald Reagan's administrations, and continued through George Bush's.
With this money freed up to lend to others, there was an economic boom in the United States, as that money was used to build new factories, stores, etc. With the great increase in commerce, manufacturing, and of course, employment and tax income, there was not only no deficit at every level of government-- federal, state, munipal-- there were budget surpluses. The coffers of states and cities were overflowing. Do you remember the talk of a surplus so huge that we might not be able to spend it all in 30 or 40 years?
It would be funny if it weren't so sad, remembering that. This adminstration has managed to not only burn off that 40 year surplus, with massive tax cuts for the super-rich and a disasterous war, we are back to huge deficits again.
But hey, it's the conservatives that are the realists, right?
In 1993, when Clinton took office, he inherited a "situation" in Somalia from George Bush's administration. Warring clans in Somalia had made the country a humanitarian disaster. The United States and other countries sent "peacekeeping" troops to try to get food to starving civilians.
On October 3, 1993, a group of U.S. Army Rangers trying to capture a Somalian warlord were caught in an ambush. In the resulting rescue attempts and firefight, 18 U.S. soldiers, and perhaps 1,000 Somalians died. This was the fight chronicled in Mark Bowden's book Black Hawk Down. It was clear that the situation was unstable and untenable, and that the presence of U.S. troops was not helping the situation. Clinton ended the military mission.
Like Kennedy learning valuable lessons during the Bay of Pigs disaster (he'd inherited the invasion plan from the Eisenhower administration) that would help him in the Cuban Missle Crisis, Clinton learned to make sure there were tangible and limited political goals to military actions. This was proven by the success of the Kosovo campaign.
I don't need to go much into the military follies of this administration. We know now that the George W. Bush administration was working hard to go to war in Iraq. The 9/11 attacks provided an oppurtunity to do this. In fact, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, Bush's Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfield suggested that Iraq, which had had, as we all know, nothing to do with the attacks (or Al Queda-- Saddam Hussein vigourously opposed Al Queda), be bombed, as Afghanistan had few targets to bomb.
Why am I reminded of the joke I heard as a kid about the kid looking for a quarter he dropped? A friend asks him where he dropped it, and he says "In the alley." The friend asks him why he was looking for the quarter down the street, and the little boy replies "Because the light is better here."
But hey, the conservatives are the realistic ones.
In order to get to this war, they had to vet important intelligence. In fact they had to out and out deny intelligence. In order to try to build their case for war, they sent veteran diplomat Joseph Wilson to investigate whether or not Iraq had tried to purchase uranium "yellowcake" from the African country of Niger in order to build atomic bombs. When Wilson gave them the answer they didn't want-- the truth-- that Iraq had not made the purchase, they went to war against him. They leaked information to right-wing newspaper hack Robert Novak that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a CIA operative. Novak published this information.
Can you imagine if this had happened in the Clinton Administration? There would be right-wingers with nooses on the White House lawn.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, the only major player in the adminstration with actual military experience, in addition to being a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cautioned the administration and admonished them that it was like shopping in a china shop-- "If you break it you bought it."
What was the result? He was blackballed by Dick Cheney. Shut out. That is, after being made to be the person to present the case for war to Congress, fake evidence and all.
But hey, it's the liberals who don't have a grip on reality, right?
In the 1980 Presidential debates between President Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, Reagan famously asked the question "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"
Maybe we liberals and progressives, in the general political debate, need to turn that question back on the conservatives.
"Unless you are a hedge fund executive, are you better off today than you were eight years ago?"