Thursday, November 01, 2007

Each Game Its End Must Find

Rather than fight the good fight against the war - the fight of Bush's choice, and the peoples' as well - Congress has until now opted to give the warmaking bully just enough rope to hang himself. He is beginning to gasp for air. This is, after all, the only way to deal with bullies.

Never get trapped in a fight with a bully. That's where he succeeds.

The failure of the war cannot now be blamed on the Democrats. The war is failing on its own merits. Or lack thereof.


Blackwater guards must shoot their way through Baghdad traffic to deliver State Department staff to their destinations. The Iraq government has said they must stop doing this. (Envoys from Iran, our competitor for Iraq's oil and China's friend, take ordinary automobiles.)

State Department staffers are refusing to serve in Iraq. Safety cannot be assured. They are being threatened with loss of position. They are quitting the State Department. Rigorous enforcement of a policy of firing staffers who refuse to go in harm's way may reduce State's ability to do much of anything in the world.

Worse, our government refuses to hand over the Blackwater killers to the Iraqis or to try them ourselves. They are beyond any law. This of course makes them particularly interesting targets in a war zone, and it places their cargo at even greater risk.

Aloofness gets you nowhere.


Meanwhile, in Kurdistan (remember Kurdistan? It's on the older maps) there is trouble. Trouble on the Turkish border. The eastern part of Turkey. The Kurds want it back. They've been sniping, in a terroristic sort of way. The Turkish army has massed 60,000 men, one third as many as our own forces in Iraq.

We would tell them all to stop, but we need to use the Turkish airfield at Incirlik to ferry war supplies into Iraq. Without it we'd be in trouble. So we just don't know what to say.

Having abandoned the Kurds in the First Gulf War and having promised them that we would never do it again, we are about to do it again.


On the Southern front, the British are leaving Basra, putting it into supposedly good Iraqi hands. Our carriers are still sitting in the Gulf, ostensibly there to threaten Iran, but more probably to cover our retreat if needed. Vice President Cheney has made use of their decks to stand and scream into the wind, crying against Iran, but that may have been his high point.

Even though Congress was persuaded into declaring Iran's "Revolutionary Guard" a terrorist organization, it is unlikely to declare war against a state. A failed government like Afghanistan, yes, we could get away with the capture, although we're failing on the management. A dictatorship in chains, as was Saddam, yes, we could swear to heaven our seven-year war was a success, even though our toady government is largely repudiated. But a fully functioning government with many military feet on the ground - do we really want to invite them to shove us out of Iraq?

We would lose Iraq to Iran. And to China, from whom we borrowed money to start this war.

So Cheney's screaming has done little except raise the price of oil. It was around $32 a barrel at the start of the war; it topped $96 today. Cheney has threatened Iran about six different times, provoking a Seymour Hersch exposure article in the New Yorker each time, followed by analysis and hand-wringing in the press. Each time Cheney screamed, the value of the oil in the ground in Texas rose higher. It is now at $96 a barrel.

But now everybody's drilling. Smaller wells have become profitable. Texas oil has competitors popping up all around. Market forces are fulfilling America's energy independence needs. If we keep it up, it will turn out that we didn't need the Middle East after all. We will have mama-papa wells.


Bush's candidate to replace Alfredo Gonzales for Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, has integrity problems. That is, he has integrity. Although conservative enough to satisfy the most anthracitic, his loyalty to the Bush administration is not enough to persuade him to say one thing to Congress and then do another in practice. So he has told Congress that he doesn't feel the act of waterboarding is torture. Moreover, he feels that the President has the right to go beyond the rule of law in time of war. This is, of course, all the time.

So the President has the right to go beyond the rule of law and to torture as he wishes? Needless to say, the nomination of Mr. Mukasey is on hold while commentators sort out just what this would mean for the country. Although Senators Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein have just voted to send his nomination out of committee.

If waterboarding is torture, then the Attorney General must prosecute members of the administration who have indulged in it. If it is not torture, then the administration is at odds with international law. The whole administration will be judged. On one side or the other, the end is in sight. Cornered are the torturers.


Telecom companies which have broken the law by assisting the administration in spying on the American people are now at risk. The government has historically spied on its own people illegally. The phone companies have helped. Bush's attempt to fold these past misdeeds into the war on terror and thence excuse them has failed - the phone companies will be held responsible for invading Americans' privacy before 9/11. They did. They shouldn't have.


The first frost is two weeks late. The television screen shows icebergs sliding to the sea.

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