Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Comment on Hersh's Nov 2006 New Yorker Article

Here's how Sy Hersh's excellent article in The New Yorker begins:
A month before the November elections, Vice-President Dick Cheney was sitting in on a national-security discussion at the Executive Office Building. The talk took a political turn: what if the Democrats won both the Senate and the House? How would that affect policy toward Iran, which is believed to be on the verge of becoming a nuclear power? At that point, according to someone familiar with the discussion, Cheney began reminiscing about his job as a lineman, in the early nineteen-sixties, for a power company in Wyoming. Copper wire was expensive, and the linemen were instructed to return all unused pieces three feet or longer. No one wanted to deal with the paperwork that resulted, Cheney said, so he and his colleagues found a solution: putting “shorteners” on the wire—that is, cutting it into short pieces and tossing the leftovers at the end of the workday. If the Democrats won on November 7th the Vice-President said, that victory would not stop the Administration from pursuing a military option with Iran. The White House would put “shorteners” on any legislative restrictions, Cheney said, and thus stop Congress from getting in its way.

If true, this story illustrates a number of things about Cheney. First, there's a level of pettiness to Cheney that ought to go down in the history books when comparing famous Americans from the past to people like our vice president. Second, although there's nothing unusual about Cheney's dishonesty, it's the weird pride in his pettiness, his mental smirk, and his vain belief in his ability to win no matter the stakes (or the damage) that comes through. Third, we learn that Cheney likes to play games, particularly when power is involved. Fourth, he equates foreign and military policy to petty rule breaking (since Cheney and his associates are always complaining about foreign countries breaking rules, it put things in perspective). Fifth, no doubt his lawyers would play words games with what Cheney said but Americans who pay attention know that Cheney is admitting he's not shy about breaking the law when it comes to Congress, a co-equal branch of the government, and he's not shy about ignoring the US Constitution; after all, he equates those things with the juvenile act of snipping wires or lying about how many cookies he stole. In other words, he's amoral. That's not too broad a generalization to make.

Here's more from the Hersh article:
In interviews, current and former Administration officials returned to one question: whether Cheney would be as influential in the last two years of George W. Bush’s Presidency as he was in its first six. Cheney is emphatic about Iraq. In late October, he told Time, “I know what the President thinks,” about Iraq. “I know what I think. And we’re not looking for an exit strategy. We’re looking for victory.” He is equally clear that the Administration would, if necessary, use force against Iran.

Like Bush, Cheney lives in a bubble. He can smirk as much as he likes or surround himself with right wing admirers at carefully controlled events. But Cheney is delusional. Delusional people generally continue to make bad mistakes. Cheney has repeatedly demonstrated his incompetence and poor judgment and is no different than Donald Rumsfeld. It's true that Cheney knows how to push and pull levers and that makes him dangerous, but he seems unaware that people at all levels of our society and our government are finally catching on to the fiasco that exists not just in Iraq but in the White House and in the Bush inner circle of which Cheney is a star member.

Even before the midterm elections, it was becoming obvious that 'stay the course' is not an option the United States can afford. The elections, however, make it loud and clear that there's a call for change. Every American knows it and everyone in the world knows it.

Let's get to some specifics in Hersh's useful article:
A retired four-star general who worked closely with the first Bush Administration told me that the Gates nomination means that Scowcroft, Baker, the elder Bush, and his son “are saying that winning the election in 2008 is more important than the individual. The issue for them is how to preserve the Republican agenda. The Old Guard wants to isolate Cheney and give their girl, Condoleezza Rice”—the Secretary of State—“a chance to perform.”


...Joseph Cirincione, the vice-president for national security at the liberal Center for American Progress, said ... “Gates will be in favor of talking to Iran and listening to the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but the neoconservatives are still there”—in the White House—“and still believe that chaos would be a small price for getting rid of the threat. The danger is that Gates could be the new Colin Powell—the one who opposes the policy but ends up briefing the Congress and publicly supporting it.”


...on the question of whether Gates would actively stand up to Cheney, the former official said, after a pause, “I don’t know.”


... In the past six months, Israel and the United States have also been working together in support of a Kurdish resistance group known as the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan. The group has been conducting clandestine cross-border forays into Iran, I was told by a government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon civilian leadership, as “part of an effort to explore alternative means of applying pressure on Iran. (The Pentagon has established cover relationships with Kurdish, Azeri, and Baluchi tribesmen, and has encouraged their efforts to undermine the regime’s authority in northern and southeastern Iran.) The government consultant said that Israel is giving the Kurdish group “equipment and training. ...

It's the last paragraph about supporting Kurds and other resistance groups in Iran that is perhaps the most worrisome since it has the potential to be the 'excuse' used to start a war against Iran; this is the kind of activity that needs to be reined in (with Rumsfeld leaving, it's essential to make sure there is someone identified in the Bush Adminisration who is in charge of this stuff and not some vague trailing off of deniability). As for dealing with Cheney, it's important to remember that he has a number of loyalists working for him throughout the administration. This is very strange behavior for a vice president; no vice president has ever had such personal power. It's long past time for the media to take a much closer look at Cheney. Congress should consider whether it might be worth examining limiting the budget for the office of the vice president and examining the role of Cheney loyalists in other departments, including, and particularly, our unconfirmed UN Ambassador, John Bolton.

As for Gates and the future, I don't have a read on him yet though it should be noted that some of the right wing media are already trying to shred him into small pieces and most of them are disdainful of a report that Gates coauthored with Zbigniew Brzezinski; then again, where's the credibility of the right wing media these days? Nevertheless, I haven't seen any comment yet from Brzezinski and some in the right wing media are supportive of Gates. As for Condi Rice, and giving her a "chance to perform," I have seen no sign that she knows what she's doing beyond her public relations duties (though, for once, she's been more active in the last two weeks since the elections); the same goes for National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. If Bush is prodded by the 'old guard' and Congress and the media and other quarters to pursue a new direction, Cheney has to be isolated and Dr. Rice, if she is to have a chance of being effective, needs to be supplemented with one or two big-name experienced hands to act as some kind of special assignment ambassadors and/or troubleshooters.

The neoconservatives and the right wing media have hardly learned a thing from the last four years and are currently making all kinds of calls for all kinds of nonsense. If we are to repair our foreign policy, we need to negotiate with several nations in the region, including Iran. Backing off one or two steps from our aggressive posture toward Iran while leaving military force on the table as an unspoken pressure point is probably necessary. But the threat of an attack on Iran has to be sufficiently minimized through some kind of action to reassure the Democratic leadership and the world that we're not going to be dragged into a war through White House deception or accidentally led there by gross negligience (this may mean pulling away some of our ships). As for Iraq, no last extra push will be meaningful there; it is time to clean up the fiasco. And time to begin focusing on urgent issues that would be piling on Bush's desk if his advisers were not so busy making sure they were ignored and filed away in the dark corners of the White House. Come to think of it, ignored reports is exactly how the Bush Administration began.


Blogger Chris said...

Well, my liberal friend, the Iranians and the Syrians just bumped off Siniora's main Christian ally, Pierre Gemayel, just like the "neocons", the Joooooos, and Condi said they would. Which means that the war is about to start up again. And you clowns want us to give the store away to those people?

Is there a sucker born every minute, or what?

Thanks, but I think I'd rather let Condi handle this before I let the liberals arrange a second Munich.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Craig said...

Chris, when President Kennedy was assassinated, hot heads might have made the argument that we needed to go to war with the Soviet Union; after all, Oswald had lived there. Some made that argument. But they were ignored without much thought.

Foreign policy is not a game and it's not for hot heads.

Regurgitating slogans and emotional right wing talking points don't impress me. And they no longer impress the average American.

I would say more, but I would rather sit down and enjoy dinner.

7:45 PM  

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