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Larry Beinhart Headshot

2007 -- Year of Madness

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PART ONE: THE GREAT AWAKENING

The vote in 2006 made it clear that people's eyes are actually open.

Since the Busheviks began to run with the hysteria of 9/11, clear vision and voices of reasons were sent to wander in the wilderness, mocked like bearded hermits riding asses.

But suddenly, "War on Terror" didn't make people jump up and burn their constitutions. CNN ran a series on what was broken in America - including the media. Even though the government, the Wall Street analysts, and, astonishingly, most professional economists said the economy was terrific, ordinary people were able to tell that something was wrong. Books attacking the idiocies and excesses of religion flowered on the best seller lists like crocuses in the spring. Then we voted. The rubber stamp, neo-con, neo-Christ, corporate owned congress and senate, lost their Republican majorities.

We felt incredible relief. As if the black cloud of Mordor was suddenly blown away and the sun was shining again.

All that is true.

But my guess is that 2007 will not be a time of renewal and restoration. It will be a time of conflict, in-fighting and meanness. Of madness.

PART TWO: IRAQ

George Bush can't leave Iraq.

Look at if from where he sits.

Getting Saddam was going to be Bush's jackpot.

He was going to go in, win it, bring democracy to the Middle East, make it clear that no should ever dare challenge America, and establish America's vision as the world's vision. If Bush had won that hand he would have been declared one of history's great men.

He went all in.

He used all the political capital he'd acquired from 9/11. Plus he gave up on Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and Afghanistan. He told lies about why we went to war. He violated the basics of international law. He alienated our allies. If he won, all that would be forgotten and forgiven. Worth the price. Proof of his daring manliness. Success erases more sins than being born again ever will. Just ask Jimmy Carter.

But he lost.

Can he get up and walk away from the table?

No.

The moment he folds his Iraq hand, all that's left is to ride out of history on a Greyhound bus. There he goes, President Loser, bet his poke on the wrong war. Played the hand all wrong. Was he the worst president ever, or just second or third worst?

His only choice is to stubbornly stay at the table, ignore the voices telling him that he's broke, and chase his loses. Maybe a miracle will happen. People do win the lottery. But you do have to be in it to win it.

Maybe he won't hit the jackpot, but he has to hope he can at least break even. Cut his loses. Something. At this point, he, personally, has nothing more to lose. He's playing with other people's lives and money.

Even if the war remains a quagmire, death and destruction with no end in sight, Bush - personally - is better off. American service men and women, Americans who are paying the bills, Iraqis, and the rest of the world, may not be. But he's better off. Because that will force someone else to pull the plug. Bush will then maintain that had we just stuck to it, it would have succeeded eventually. He will then hire an army of payable pundits and whorish historians to churn out books and papers to say so. That's what the half billion dollar presidential library is for.

Bush is "commander-in-chief." Congress can't undeclare the war they so foolishly gave him permission for. The generals won't mutiny or organize a coup (and we should be very thankful for that).

The war will continue.

The opposition to the war will grow. The more it grows, the more Bush will hunker down and the more he will insist that it continue. Either as a small force, to be whittled away, death by death, cripple after cripple, or, as much as he can, he will escalate. Doubling down. There is no formula for getting out of the war that eliminates the moment of recognition that he is a failure, an abject and utter failure.

PART THREE: WHY WE'RE IN IRAQ - THE THEOLOGY OF IT

Right wing Republicans and right wing religionists have been offering a peculiar faith of Might demonstrates Right. Victory is proof of virtue.

Their mythology, and there's a lot of truth in it, is this. America won World War I, World War II and the Cold War. That a lot of proof - if any more were needed - that America is the most virtuous thing on the planet.

What is America? We define ourselves - as everyone does - against our enemies. In modern times, that was Fascism and then atheistic Communism, that makes us a trinity of democracy, free market capitalism and the Christian religion (usually called the Judeo-Christian religion to prove that we are not anti-Semites like our Nazi enemies were).

If America is the most virtuous thing on the planet, that trinity is both the most righteous and the mightiest way to go.

Therefore, all its manifestations of power - military, corporate, religious - should be released to do what they do. Good must, of necessity, flow from that. The more freely and powerfully they flow, the more good will be produced.

Therefore, anything that stands in their way, should be removed.

When it was the Soviet Union and Red China that stood in our way, and their competing philosophy - which made many idealistic sounds, even if their actions were oppressive - we had to move with care and restraint in international affairs and we had to compete, domestically, with their social welfare ideals.

But once the Soviet Union fell and China became a sort of totalitarian capitalist factoryland, it seemed as if there was nothing left to hold us back. Now we could kick over all sort of irritating impediments: treaties, constitutional protections, war crimes laws, regulations, national boundaries, the uniform code of military justice, taxes, environmental regulations, and unions. Make no mistake, this is based on true belief.

Of course, it's self-serving. Of course, there are huge elements of greed and ego involved. Of course, it is extremely profitable, most especially for the already rich and powerful. But it is also, without doubt, a matter of real belief that American world dominance, our style of democracy, free market economics and Christianity will make the world a better place, every time and inevitably.

That's the underlying impulse, the theology, that led us to war in Iraq.

Saddam was a symbol of the frustration of restraint.

The most revealing story in Hubris, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn is this: "'Do you want to know what the foreign policy of Iraq is to the United States?' Bush asked angrily. The president then answered his own question by raising his middle finger and thrusting it inches in front of Sen. Daschle's face, according to a witness, 'Fuck the United States!' Bush continued. 'That's what it is - and that's why we're going to get him!'"

Saddam was protected by the most sacred tenet of international law: the sanctity of the sovereign state and its national boundaries.

Bluntly stated - except in self-defense or with a Security Council resolution - the invasion of foreign country is a war of aggression. A war of aggression is a war crime. After World War II, we hung Germans and Japanese for doing that. The principle was additionally codified in the UN Charter. The UN Charter has the status of a treaty. According to the Constitution "all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."

The reason that starting a war - a war of aggression - is a war crime is that it contains within it all the other crimes of war. If there was any doubt of the horrors released by war, or if we have somehow forgotten them, this war in Iraq is a clear reminder. There have been somewhere between 70,000 and 600,000 more Iraqi deaths than there would have been if the regime of Saddam Hussein had continued. Murder, dismemberment, rape, torture, bombings, disease and chaos are common fare. There have been additional deaths from the lack of medical services and medical supplies, of electricity, clean water, transportation and emergency services. All of this clearly unleashed by the American invasion.

Nonetheless, this administration wanted a war.

So they invented a new theory of preventive war. If a country was run by someone who someday might have the weapons and the will to attack the United States, we could invade them now. This is the equivalent of changing our criminal statutes to permit police to shoot someone down on the street because they feel they have reason to believe that if he could get a gun, he might likely decide to use it.

The actual facts of this case are even more extreme. It was the equivalent of shooting someone who had just been searched and had policemen on either side of him who had been assigned to watch him to make sure he didn't get a gun.

It is true that the United States has gone to war on thin grounds before. But, with the exception of Grenada, rarely with so little excuse, and certainly not establishing far reaching new principals that tear down fundamentals of world order.

The intent was to remove all restraints against the use of military power. The administration wanted the world to know America was free to go to war anytime it wanted. In the words of Richard Perle, "We could deliver a short message, a two-word message: 'You're next.'"

PART III: THE IMPULSE REMAINS.

The War in Iraq is clearly a failure.

Instead of demonstrating American omnipotence - as the world's sole remaining super power - it sent the opposite message. Even a small, weak country, even in a nation in chaos, can fight the United States to a standstill.

Meanwhile, other states can freely pursue their ambitions, including nuclear ones, while Americans keep themselves busy trying to clear the highway to the airport of improvised explosive devices.

The right wing business mentality sees the world as a thing to be strip-mined to achieve the greatest profits, in the quickest way, for whoever can get their hands on them. When they see something like the vast sums that pass through the social security system or imagine the oil wealth beneath the Alaskan wilderness they react like Ebenezer Scrooge looking at a pile of gold - a big, big pile - and they lunge forward, only to discover that there are chains on them, that keep all those riches just out of reach. They don't stop and reflect that those chains are there for good reasons. If someone tells them the reasons, they don't believe them and make up other ones that involve extremists plotting to destroy the American way of life and our moral fiber.

The Bush Administration's great innovation was to stop seeing government as the enemy of wealth, but to see it as a tool to transfer wealth from normal people to the very rich. They did this through tax policy, by running up debts, privatizing as many government functions as they could (the reconstruction of Iraq is the poster child for their successes), and by increasing the size of government so that there was more money to be handed out. They were willing to throw away the chains that Republican believed in - fiscal restraint, balanced budgets, smaller government - to get at the gold piles.

The Republican congress enthusiastically went along with those programs and that transfer of wealth and with it, they hoped, a permanent transfer in power.

Presumably, the new majority doesn't see government that way.

They will put forth their own initiatives and resist the administration's plans.

However, the administration won't go away. The Republican minority won't roll over and die. The right-wing propaganda and spin industry won't pack it in. The rich people, corporations and institutions who benefit from such policies aren't going to stop.

We are currently having something of a boom, at least in the financial markets.

Obviously, it has not been created by new industries, investment in infrastructure, or a widening of the middle class. Where, then, is the money coming from? It seems obvious to me that it has been created primarily by hollowing out our assets. Both public and private.

Where is the mainstream school of economists who should be explaining that? Warning of its dangers? Offering alternatives?

Where are the academic departments and think tanks to house them and to publicize their views? Where are the formulas, slogans, catch-phrases and sound bites to make them easily understood and memorable?

In 2006, we had the vote in which the realists defeated the true believers.

True believers don't lose their beliefs. Corporations don't loose the machinery by which they reach for power and influence. The greedy don't lose their greed. The corrupt don't attain purity.
2007 will be the year in which they fight back.