07/16/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Bush Has Won in Iraq and the Rest of Us Have Lost

From a human viewpoint, the invasion of Iraq has been an unmitigated disaster. It has caused regional instability for the foreseeable future. But seen from Bush's White House, the war has been "won" and victory is being consolidated. Bush meant it when he said "Mission Accomplished." He had four main objectives in invading Iraq. They have all been met. That more than a million innocent civilians have been killed or driven from their homes is [for him] beside the point. The fulfilled objectives are:

· Depose the no longer useful Saddam Hussein and install puppets--DONE.

· Take the oil out of the hands of a renegade Arab leader. Get sweetheart deals for American and allied oil companies--NEARLY DONE.

· Make huge war-profits for friends, allies and campaign contributors, like Halliburton, Blackwater, and U.S. arms manufacturers. Let Cheney still brazenly draw income from Halliburton. Stop Congress from passing a law against war profiteering--ALL DONE.

· Establish permanent bases [to protect it all]--DONE.

Bush thinks he's won the damned war on the ground in Iraq. Who's counting bodies? What he's lost is the public relations war--a mere nuisance. [And with the "Surge" he's even winning that back.] It cost him Congress in 2006. But did that matter? Judging by how feeble the Democrats have been? Why have they been so weak? Take your pick: They are bought; they lack courage; they are trying to keep their jobs; the administration has ways of keeping tabs on them.

The above is an excerpt from A Political Odyssey: The Rise of American Militarism and One Man's Fight to Stop It. Sen. Mike Gravel will join me for a reading and discussion at the Barnes and Nobles at 82nd Street and Broadway in Manhattan on Wed. evening, Jul 9, at 7 pm:

A Political Odyssey is a parallel history of one man's political career and the rise of the American military industry, the expansion of US territory and the growth of presidential power. Conceived and written by Joe Lauria, it is told through the eyes of Senator Mike Gravel. The stories collide when Gravel enters the Senate in the 1970s. After every war the US had demobilized and returned to a civilian economy, until after the Second World War. To avoid a new Depression and to keep the enormous profits from defense spending, false fears of an exaggerated Soviet threat were trumped up through the news media to induce Americans to support a war economy in peacetime. After three decades of coups, assassinations, wasteful weapons systems and invasions American militarists were defeated in the jungles of Vietnam. That opened a unique period of national self-examination: what had America done with the unprecedented power and wealth it accrued in a world devastated by World War Two? Was it used for human progress or simply to multiply that wealth and power? Congressional commissions in the mid-seventies unearthed the misdeeds of U.S. power wielded in the fantasy of continually re-fighting WWII.

In the Senate at that time, Gravel fought the militarists' by opposing their nuclear weapons tests; filibustering against the military draft and releasing the top Secret Pentagon Papers, which caused Nixon to sue Gravel to the Supreme Court. But militarism was restored when the Reagan counter-revolution swept out Democrats like Gravel and gave Congress to the Republicans. The fear mongering and militarism of the 1950s were back, the cloud under which we still live. The victors in that militarist restoration started with small probes: a landing on Grenada here, an invasion of Panama there, working themselves up to a limited ground campaign in Iraq in 1991. By 2003--just 23 years later--the resurgent militarists, with support from their courtiers in Congress and the press, felt bold enough to try for a Vietnam-sized invasion--in Iraq. The rise of the Cold War and the War on Terror--in personalities and tactics--are closely linked in the book. As the replacement for Communism, terrorism is the exaggerated threat to justify outlandish military spending leaving health care, transportation, education and alternative energy in crisis.

The book is full of gossip too: It delves into Gravel's private life, his affairs and his friendship with Frank Sinatra and other Hollywood stars. Gravel and his nemesis Scoop Jackson have it out in the Senate cloakroom after Jackson had taken Gravel to a private meeting in the Oval Office with Nixon, but Gravel still voted against Jackson on the militarists' prize ABM system. Gravel tangles with Ted Kennedy too, swearing at him to get his people off his back because he wouldn't become a Kennedy Man. Gravel and Carter did not get along and Reagan is called one the biggest knaves to occupy the White House.

After deep personal depression during the Reagan resurgence, Gravel makes a comeback arguing for a new form of citizenship, having been convinced through his experiences that representative government has failed. He runs for president in 2007 confronting the militarism of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the stage of the Democratic primary debates, which is where the book opens and closes. Gravel looks forward to the 2008 election and beyond, offering what he sees as a last hope for Americans to reject militarism, the central problem of our day.

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