September 19, 2003
Doomed To Repetition
Max Cleland is a Vietnam war veteran who lost both legs and an arm as a result of that conflict.
He also was, up until the 2002 election, a U.S. senator from Georgia. Needless to say, Vietnam is a living, breathing memory for him each and every day of his life, so it was with great conviction that he voted against authorizing the President to use military force against Iraq.
Cleland's opponent in the election, Saxby Chambliss, the President's hand-picked candidate, ran a campaign where they painted this man who gave 3 out of 4 limbs for his country as a coward and a traitor for not supporting the Iraq war resolution.
Cleland lost by 7%.
Supporters of Wesley Clark, take note. Your candidates credentials are not necessarily enough to drown out the lies.
In this op-ed Cleland wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he draws a direct line between Donald Rumsfeld and Robert MacNamara, LBJ's Secretary of Defense who lobbied the President to follow a policy that led to the needless deaths of hundreds of American soldiers. My brother, a solid Republican military guy, says MacNamara should burn in Hell for what he did. And he's not too keen on Rumsfeld either.
Supports of President Bush, take note: Don't assume the Army will let your President needlessly march them to their deaths and still vote for him in droves by absentee ballot next year.
Ultimately, Cleland's predicament drives home a point about Vietnam. The military learned their lessons there all too well. Vets as diverse as Wesley Clark, Colin Powell, John Kerry, Anthony Zinni, & Cleland have all voiced various levels of opposition to the way Iraq was handled. Only the draft dodgers like Bush, Cheney, Rumfeld, Wolfowitz, etc. who want to prove how tough they are without firing a shot themselves are all pumped up to "bring it on".
So, you've heard me mention Paul Krugman, New York Times economic columnist, on more than one occasion. I just recently learned that he's also on faculty at dear Old Nassau, which, of course, is instant brownie points in my book.
He's a very precise and consistant critic of the insanity of the Bush fiscal policy (see previous Macroscope posts "Turning Back The Clock" and "Great Expectations")
There were two things in this article from the Guardian about Krugman himself that really caught my attention:
1. Krugman has been receiving death threats for his criticism of President Bush.
And I thought for a moment: have I ever heard of anyone on the right receiving death threats for criticizing, for instance, Bill Clinton? I mean, Clinton has a very deep reservoir of love and good will among his constituents, but I've never, ever heard of anyone who was willing to even suggest they would hurt someone for talking bad about him.
Who are these people who love George Bush so much that they would threaten death if you dare impune his character? See, this is the part of American politics that I find the most disturbing. Sure, we can all talk about the importance of voting and going to rallies and wearing butttons and contributing money (see above) to support parties & platforms & politicians. But it's all predicated on the assumption that we're all playing by the same rules.
We've forgotten that there was a time that people not unlike yours truly were abducted, beaten, mutilated, killed, and hung from a tree like a f'n pinata for trying to vote. Those kinds of things didn't happen that long ago, and alot of the people who did that are still alive & kicking. They have friends. They have money. They have an agenda. And, most importantly, they are willing to do ANYTHING to get what they want.
I'm reminded of a Watergate retrospective I saw on PBS, where a reporter said he asked Nixon Attorney General John Mitchell if he was willing to commit murder to keep Nixon in office. The guy said he puffed on his pipe, thought about it, and said with a straight face "let me get back to you on that".
I understand crimes of passion. I understand killing out of hunger-induced desperation. I understand revenge. I simply have a hard time fitting my brain around killing innocent strangers for political power. But, as they say, power is it's own narcotic. And, at that point, John Mitchell putting out a hit on someone is the moral equivalent of a crackhead busting you with a pipe to steal your last nickel.
2. Henry Kissinger is an evil genius. And that's not a good thing.
Let's not even get into Christopher Hitchens' book, "The Trial of Henry Kissinger", where the author makes the case that Nixon's former Secretary of State should be tried as a war criminal for, among other things, sabotaging LBJ's peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese to solidify Tricky Dick's position as the only candidate who could end the war in 1968.
But, for his part, Krugman was the most terrified by the seeming prescience showed in the introduction to A World Restored, a history text Kissinger penned in the 1950s. Kissinger referred to Napoleon in 18th & 19th Century France as a revolutionary power that fundamentally rejected the basic tenants of the stable system the dictator sought to control. But Napoleon's greatest advantage was that no one in the opposition could ever fully accept that Napoleon wanted to completely undo the system, despite all the evidence to the contrary, until he had actually undone the system.
So, if Hitler is too incendiary a model to use for the way the Bush neo-conservatives are deconstructing America, perhaps a 200 year old French dictator is, ironically, more appropriate.