Saturday, November 19, 2005

Neocons and neoconvicts

PV Vivekanand

US PRESIDENT George W Bush is facing the most critical phase of his second-term presidency. American commentators say he could quit office or be forced to do so before his term ends because of the mounting evidence that he was being string-pulled by the neoconservative camp into his undoings in foreign as well as domestic policies.
The Watergate scandal which brought down the Nixon administration in the 70s is seen by many as paling in comparison with the track record of the Bush administration, which is described by majority of Americans as the worst government they ever had.
The Bush administration is seen as bulldozing its way through regardless of the founding principles of the United States of America and binding international conventions and treaties and thus bringing shame and indignation to the American people, for whom their status as the world's most admirable democracy and transparently governed country used to be a source of pride.
On the foreign policy front, it is becoming increasingly clear that notwithstanding all claims to the contrary by Bush and people close to him, Iraq has been and remains a misadventure.
Starting with revelations that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was based on a pack of deliberate lies — make no mistake, it was not intelligence failures but doctored intelligence that went into the plot — and that the US military had been committing serious war crimes against the people of Iraq, the trap is closing around the Bush administration with disclosures that some of his senior staff members also indulged in crimes bordering on treason in their effort to defend the Iraq war and silence all critics.
The almost unlimited support in every sphere that the US is extending to Israel at the cost of American interests at home and abroad has become a talking point among American people who wonder whether their decision-makers are more loyal to the Jewish state that their own country.
Bush and his vice-president, Robert Cheney, are continuing to draw scathing criticism for their defence of torture against terror suspects both from the American Congress and people.
The US president suffered one of the worst humiliations in his South American backyard during in his recent visit to Argentina and his arch enemy, Chavez of Venezuela, thumped his nose at Bush, with massive anti-US demonstrations using some of the most vile languages being used to denounce American policy.
Add to that a perpetual fear of insecurity for the people of the US and a worsening economy.
Bush's personality has also come under close scrutiny, with claims that he is increasingly turning to tantrums, and access to the president is being limited to a handful of family members and senior aides.
And then there are opinion surveys which show that an overwhelming number of Americans who believe that their president lied to them into accepting the war against Iraq as a matter of their national security.
The US military has been forced to admit that Iraqi detainees were systematically subjected to brutal torture and dehumanisation, and that American forces used chemical weapons — white phosphorus is a chemical weapon regardless of all "technical" arguments — in their offensives in Iraq.
More than 2,000 American soldiers have died and more than 17,000 maimed since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Between 30,000 and 100,000 Iraqis have died as a direct or indirect result of the American invasion and occupation.
The US has spent over $200 billion for the wars in Afghanistan, but it has lost control over Iraq.
A recent commentary in Pravda focused on the security situation in Iraq and said:
"The US forces have lost control of the situation. Eyewitnesses (say) that the troops are rarely to be seen on the streets — they spend their time avoiding the population in huge convoys travelling back and forth on the outskirts of the cities and the ones who exert direct control are the gangs of armed men on practically every street corner.
"The tactic used by the Bush regime is to repeat that the Iraq policy was a resounding success because the people are now free. Free? To do what? They can't even go down the road for bread these days without fearing for their lives. Women can't walk around freely. They aren't even free to wear what they like.
"So who is responsible and who is accountable? In any state of law, in any civilised nation in the world, this regime would have been deposed for gross incompetence, and worse, mass murder, war crimes, being responsible for acts of torture and for breaking practically every law in the international code. The finger points at the Bush regime, each and every one of this clique of elitists who put their corporate interests before the dignity of their country."
Pravda quotes Houzan Mahmoud, an Iraqi political activist who fights for women's rights and is a member of the Worker Communist Party of Iraq, as saying that women were better off under Saddam Hussein.
"We used to have one reactionary dictator. Now we have tens of them springing up, who deny women the rights they had achieved before. Women are expected to walk around in veils and if they refuse, they can be beheaded in daylight."
The internal crisis that Bush is facing is continuing to mushroom. It started with the indictment of Cheney's powerful neocon chief of staff, Lewis Libby, for perjury and obstruction of justice for outing Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) covert agent Valerie Plame.
Administration officials are trying to portray the affair as a case of leakage of Plame's name to the media. However, it is now an open secret that the "outing" was not just a leakage but was part of the wider conspiracy that led to the war against Iraq and the neocons behind it were ready to sacrifice US intelligence agents to serve their purpose.
However, they might be held to account, reports indicate. And there seems to be panic in the neocon camp ahead of presentation of evidence by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to a grand jury in his two year-old investigation into the Plame outing. Fitzgerald, known as a no-nonsense prosecutor, is seeking a criminal indictment against an undetermined number of senior officials in the Bush administration for playing some sort of role in the leak.
What has clearly emerged in Washington is a network that involves senior officials in the administration, including top aides to the president and vice-president, and in every position of any power of significance who are interlinked, whether in the case of doctored Iraq intelligence or spying for Israel or covering up the tell-tale tracks that lead to the conclusion that whatever policy decisions were taken and implemented were not coincidence or shortcomings, but deliberate moves to carry out the neoconservative agenda.
The defences put up by the administration against criticism are far from convincing.
While Bush's Republican camp in Capitol Hill is protecting the administration to an extent, there are also some Republicans who willing to question Bush on Iraq. Apparently, they are apprehensive of how the public's concerns will affect next year's mid-term congressional elections. Both the US Senate and House of Representatives are controlled by the Republicans, but chinks are appearing in the armour.
The US Senate recently voted down a Democratic call for a definite timetable for the US military to leave Iraq, but the Republicans told the president that he should have a clear strategy for "the successful completion of the mission" in Iraq.
On Friday, Representative John Murth a, a Democrat, who is known for his strong views on matters of national defence and military, demanded that the US military quit Iraq "at the earliest practicable date."
"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It's a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of the members of Congress," said Murtha.
"The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq. But it's time for a change in direction," Murtha said. "Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the ... Gulf region. "
The criticism is significant because Murtha had argued for the war and had accepted at face value intelligence reports presented to Congress setting out the justification for action against Iraq.
However, his latest call was voted down with an overwhelming majority.
Apparently in reply to the Democrats' push, the president declared on Saturday that there would be no early troop withdrawal before Iraq is stabilised.
However, those defences are not getting anywhere. The anti-war movement is growing momentum both in the US Congress and American people.
Senator Chuck Hagel, delivered a scathing speech in Washington last week.
"Trust and confidence in the United States has been seriously eroded," Hagel said. "We are seen by many in the Middle East as an obstacle to peace, an aggressor and an occupier. Our policies are a significant source of friction. ... We have made very bad decision we could possibly make. ... The problem now is how to get out without further destabilising the Middle East."
Well, withdrawing from Iraq appears to the last thing in the administration's consideration because quitting the country without installing a US-friendly government and firmly establishing a constitutional basis for maintaining a strong American military presence there was never an option.
On the face of that determination, any call for ending the military presence in Iraq would remain lines drawn in water.
In the meantime, the growing voice of dissent within the US could mushroom and engulf the administration if the judicial process takes its right course. It looks like doing so, and that could prove to be the straw that broke the camel's back. The latest slogan coming out of Washington is: "The neocons should be turned into neoconvicts."