Alan Greenspan Greenspin

I was quite ready to add Alan Greenspan to my sold-out list today. Surprise– he came down hard against the Bush tax plan, for the obvious reason that it will create huge government deficits and necessitate strenuous borrowings by future administrations to pay the bills.  Kudos to Alan Greenspan for consistency!

July 2005: I spoke too soon.

Greenspan shamefully “righted” himself and endorsed Bush’s tax-cutting strategy. Ironically, it is now demonstrable that Bush’s argument that tax cuts rev up the economy thus producing off-setting increases in tax revenues is wrong, wrong, wrong.

He still buys into the stupid “double-taxation” joke on dividends (as if wages aren’t taxed twice as well, once as income, and secondly as social security).

2011-05 It is now obvious that Greenspan was right the first time: the Bush tax cuts are a major contributing factor to the massive government deficits facing the current administration. But then, his reputation is pretty well destroyed by now anyway

Colin Powell’s Big Lie

According to Colin Powell, the tape that was recently released by Osama Bin Laden and broadcast on the Al Jazeera network, “proves” that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein are linked.

Ari Fleischer, White House spokesman, was less coy. Forgetting, perhaps, that one of the initial reasons for America’s inevitable invasion of Iraq was its links to the terrorist organization, Fleischer said that the tape showed that Al Qaeda and Saddam were “linking up” (New York Times, February 12, 2003). Ooops. I meant “had linked up”.

These guys have spun out of control here. They are beginning to believe their own propaganda. If, like me, you read the text of the tape first and then saw Colin Powell, you wondered what the hell he was talking about. If, like most Americans, you heard Powell speak first, and never read the transcript, you thought, what’s with those crazy French? Don’t they realize we have proof?

George Tenet of the CIA is somewhat more circumspect. I think he is embarrassed, but, like Powell, has had his arm twisted and has decided he’d rather ride in circles whooping and wheezing with this posse of yahoos than exit quietly out the back door. A few years from now, he’ll need to make some money and you don’t get $50K a speech if you can’t talk about something exciting like plotting the extra-judicial killing of a foreign leader or terrorist.

The scale of the Bush administration’s mendacity has become breathtaking. This government does not “feel it’s way” carefully, with scrutiny and foresight. It acts like it believes it is receiving direct messages from the Almighty on stone tablets that are carefully dusted for anthrax before being smashed over the heads of the Democrats.

How does this play out in 2004? I’m old enough to know better than to think too wishfully. I suspect that Bush will shortly crash and burn– the economy is not perking up and probably won’t perk up until after the war. The war is obviously scheduled for political reasons this year, so it can be done with and celebrated in early 2004, but late enough so that the inevitable debacle afterwards– regional instability, new terrorist attacks, Osama thumbing his nose– won’t happen until after the 2004 elections.

I made the mistake before of believing that U.S. military victory would not come easy. I now tend to think that it will, indeed, come very easily. That’s why Bush has chosen Iraq to bear the brunt of his Mosaic complex. It has no air force. It has no real defense. Bush and Powell keep raving about the “threats” from Iraq as if Iraq had any kind of military strength, but that is essential to their political survival: if Americans see that they are the bully and Iraq is the 90 pound weakling, the medal ceremonies and flag-waving afterwards won’t have much resonance.

Colin Powell Sells His Soul for a Bauble

Powell Sells Out

You could believe that Colin Powell has come around to the Administration’s way of thinking, and now sees the sense in Donald Rumsveld’s mindless aggression. Or you could believe his arm is so twisted behind this back that he can pick his nose without bending an elbow. I think both are true to a certain extent. It is to Bush’s credit– a credit to his shrewdness– that Powell hasn’t been driven out of this administration. But a day may come when Powell looks back at a rather dubious episode in his career and wonders where he lost his soundness of mind, his prudence, and his wisdom.

Ironically, I used to have more of a problem with the other side of Powell. During the Serbian crisis, Powell insisted he could not send U.S. troops into a region solely for the purpose of keeping the peace, without vital U.S. interests at stake.

I still have a problem with that, and obviously, Iraq is not Serbia.

The Evidence Comes After the Verdict

One of the many problems with George Bush’s position on Iraq is so embedded in the entire debate that I doubt most people even pay it much thought it any more.

Bush announced that Saddam Hussein was evil and must be deposed and Iraq must be invaded right from the get go. He didn’t say, we have some concerns about Iraq’s adherence to the U.N. disarmament pact. He didn’t say, let’s investigate the issue and communicate our concerns to the world community and to Iraq so that groundwork for a solution can be laid. He didn’t say, here’s the proof. He said, guilty. Let’s invade. He said that more than a year ago.

The U.N. decided to be silly and weigh all the evidence first, as well as the real issue– regardless of Iraq’s alleged infractions, is a military invasion and a war the best way to handle the problem? Is there a downside? Has the U.S. jerked Iraq around, by supporting them against Iran, encouraging them to invade Kuwait, then invading and defeating them and inciting rebel groups to rise against Saddam, only to ensure that he remained in power in the name of stability?

The fact is, the U.S. changed the rules half way through the game.

Most people could see some common sense in a policy of containment. It actually appears to have been working. And most people can see the sense in a line in the sand: if you invade Kuwait, or Iran, or Turkey, or whatever, or you sponsor terrorists, we will take this or that action. In fact, I’m in favor of a clear policy like that, with clear, direct consequences. No negotiations, no extensions, no exceptions. All that is required is for all sides to understand the policy. And of course for a little something called “evidence”.

But when the U.S. blows off North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs, it is clear that there is no policy at all. But that’s been clear all along. Bush wants to whack Iraq, and it was only at Powell’s insistence that he even bothered notifying the U.N. The deck is stacked, however.

Some pundits claim that Powell’s presentation to the U.N. means that Iraq now has “the burden of proof”. Is there a bigger piece of bullshit out there in pundit-land right now? The burden of proof never shifts. It has always been the burden of the United States to show that Iraq’s actions justify war. The absurd insistence that Iraq must prove that they don’t have weapons of mass destruction is surely the emperor’s new clothes of this era. How can you prove that you don’t have something? For some reason, commentators like the New York Times’ William Safire see no absurdity here. That’s how crazy this whole Bush administration is.

You know what I suspect is actually happening here.

1. The Pentagon with it’s $300 billion a year in weapons of mass destruction is always itching for war. It’s in the nature of things. Carpenters want to make things, architects want to design things, actors want to act, Generals want to kill. They look at the world and see all kinds of things that need killing. They look at their chests and see all kinds of space for medals. They look at their billions of dollars worth of bombs and ordnance and jets and submarines, and want to blow things up. It’s human nature. You don’t invest that scale of resources into tools that you really don’t want to use. And military men, of course, see violence and intimidation and plain military might as the solution to everything, just as diplomats see negotiation as the solution to everything, and mothers see an all-knowing beneficent authority as the solution to everything.

2. The Clinton administration was unresponsive, by and large, to the generals’ constant clattering for action, action, action. I’ll bet they had meetings in the situation room in the White House where the generals simply listed hot-spot after hot-spot and begged for authority to act. And Clinton probably said, calm down boys, we’ll try some diplomatic channels first and see if we can get the two sides talking.

3. Enter George Bush. He has a couple of meetings with the generals. They say the same thing they said to Clinton– like, hey, Iraq scares us, lets go over and whack them. He’s a bad guy. And Bush went, he is? By golly, I didn’t know that. Where is Iraq? Why don’t the Iraqians elect a new leader? In short, the generals realized they had an enormously sympathetic, paranoid ear for their ravings and continued to build their case, and reinforce it, and exaggerate it, and accumulate every scrap of evidence they could muster in support of their case. Still, with Powell in State, they weren’t quite able to get the action they wanted until….

4. 9/11. A bunch of Saudis, likely indirectly financed by the Saudi Arabian government which pays off Islamic fundamentalists to go screw up other country’s regimes, attack the WTC. Now the generals sense their opening. There is a mushy, irrational, uneasy shift from Osama, whom they let slip away, to Saddam, whom they are able to locate in the vicinity of Yasser Arafat. Let’s whack him. If he hasn’t already done something evil, he probably will.

5. At this point, the Bush administration is not in analysis mode. They are in prosecutorial mode, and you know how that works.

But I think the world intuitively understands this. The U.N. speeches are not about making a case. They are about twisting arms and bullying for a case that the U.S. does not believe needs to be made. The fundamental arrogance of the U.S. is that they believe that if they prove that Saddam Hussein is willing to resist their ultimatums, that alone is enough to justify a full-scale invasion and the deaths of 250,000 people. They really believe they are “good”, that God has imbued President Bush with the authority to make sophisticated moral judgments about different cultures and histories, and that Jesus is returning soon anyway.

The mocking tone of recent New York Times editorials on the issue make it plain– we’re now into calling the French and Germans weenies and wimps. And how dare they label genetically modified food when the always trustworthy American corporations have determined that this process does no harm whatsoever?

Obviously, these people are serious about weighing all points of view.