Howdy Closeteers, it's good to be back. As far as writing this column, I've been idle for way too long. At least I became a lot more active in politics last year. Sure I've always expressed my opinions and voted, but I never took any concrete steps to participate in the process. In 2006, though, I made my share of phone calls on behalf of Democrats and contributed more than a few dollars too. I feel like I had a small part in creating the glorious Blue Revolution of 2006. Whoo-hoo!
Sooooo, now that the Dems are in control and they've passed their 100 hour agenda, we can look forward to George Bush's well deserved impeachment, right? Hmm, the crystal ball says the answer is a definite – maybe.
So Closeteers, do you remember how many Senators' votes are needed to impeach the President? Johnny, in the back row? Correct, it's 67. Even counting Lieberman as a Democrat, There's only 51 Democrats, and Republican cohesion being what it is we can't count on too many of them voting to impeach. But there is some hope. The only thing that might change their vote is evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors. But it would take MASSIVE amounts of evidence. Fortunately the Bushies have been creating this guano for six years; our new Congress just needs to start mining operations on the rich deposits of it.
At least John Conyers won't have to work in the Capitol basement anymore! With him and other Democrats in control of key Congressional committees, it's hearings time on CSPAN! Hey, with this kind of high profile programming maybe their ratings will finally improve from non-existent all the way to miniscule!
What does it take to get the public to pay attention to these things? Alas, no criminal fondling has been reported in this White House, and if there's no sex involved will Katy Couric even report on it? No doubt the networks think the average viewer needs something more entertaining. Well, there is a new season of American Idol on after all. Who can blame them? Not me! I'll just sneer a bit, heh.
Anyway, now that the Dems have subpoena power, we can look forward to a lot of information coming out on how much the Bushies have been abusing the system. It's time for our Constitutional system of checks and balances to work!
Speaking of the Constitution, I haven't been completely idle all these months. One of the things I've been doing is serving as a Boy Scout merit badge counselor. I do all the Citizenship badges and I take the opportunity to teach the Scouts about how our democracy works very seriously. I teach them that the government is theirs. Yes, and what a nice liberal concept that is too! The very thought that the people can have a say in their lives, that individuals are worth something, is still pretty new in human history and still needs nurturing and protection. Moreover, our form of democracy says that Congress, the Judiciary and the Presidency are not infallible and citizens should call them to account for their mistakes. Like V in V For Vendetta said, “People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.” Also the branches are supposed to keep watch on each other; Congress is in opposition to the power of the Executive by design. What some call gridlock is actually dynamic tension. It keeps the loony fringes of both sides out of control.
This self correcting system is the heart of our form of government, however the Presidency has been treated like an omnipotent deity by some. Ever hear of the “Unitary Executive”? It's a neo-con notion where the President gets to do anything he wants and criticism is verboten. Sounds more like a monarchy to me! Wait a minute, Dubya is the third George we've had as President, that would make him George III! You know, the king the colonies revolted against? The one who went nuts? Maybe it's serendipity but our present George does seem like an inbred royal sometimes, trying to rule by divine right. Or was that satanic right? Remember when Hugo Chavez called Bush the Devil at the UN? Actually a lot of people have smelled a sulfurous stench after a Bush speech, but all the neo-con pundit-hounds yelped like a terrible wrong had been done! How dare a damn furriner come to our country and criticize The President! Didn't it feel just a little like they were about to say, “the very idea! You'll not talk about His Majesty in such a way!” Sounds like they've got a bad case of American Idolatry.
Actually I would love to believe The Resident's rhetoric; he might actually have a Boy Scout's idealism about Iraqi freedom, and that would make him kinda – liberal! Oh yes, most often it's the liberals who demand moral action to right the wrongs of brutal dictators in other countries. Usually it's the conservatives who warn about foreign entanglements and nation building, because they know where the road of good intentions leads. Hmm, nation building. Where have I heard warnings about that before? Oh yeah! It was Dubya himself, in the Presidential Debates of 2000. So he did a flip-flop! I guess that makes him even more of a liberal, heh! But there was a big part he got wrong in his neo-liberal crusade. Dubya and his ill-advisers tried to impose democracy by force. Liberals only want the military to drop food to people, not bombs! But obviously the Bushies didn't get the force part right either. After the initial victory, their adventure was an uninterrupted string of blunders. As Thomas Ricks points out in Fiasco, foremost among these was the disbanding of the Iraqi military and the Baathist government. The thousands of newly unemployed Iraqis only engendered chaos instead of democracy. And sadly, it's obvious that Dubya believes a lot more in unbridled capitalism than democracy. He only borrows the liberal rhetoric of the Founding Fathers for speeches.
I'm sure it was just a nod to protocol, but it was triple strange to watch top Democrats like Nancy Pelosi warmly greet Bush before his State of the Union speech a few weeks ago. It's rather like the way we showed respect for the late Gerald Ford simply because he held the office for two and a half years. It certainly wasn't for his invention of the Whip Inflation Now button! But the Presidency's prestige has suffered a lot of abuse the last decade or so. Sure Clinton's “I did not have sex with that woman” affirmation was a low point, but Bush has done things that are far more insidious. His actions are exactly the sort of thing that the Founding Fathers had in mind when they balanced Executive power with Congressional impeachment.
Can we really survive another impeachment trial? It's inherently divisive. Given the cult of loyalty the Resident's cultivated, we can be assured some people will always stand behind him no matter what he has done in office. Some are still pissed off over what Richard Nixon went through with Watergate, and that didn't even get to impeachment. Who? People like Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, who both worked in the Nixon White House. Impeaching Bush is sure to turn some of today's true-believer Bushies into tomorrow's neo-con jihadists. It works the other way too. How do you think MoveOn.org got started? That's right, it was during the run-up to Clinton's impeachment.
Oh by the way, Hugo was factually wrong. Of course our boy George is not the Devil! No, he just works for him! Wait a minute. There is one thing we might do short of impeaching Bush. Impeach the Devil he works for.
You know what I mean! let's impeach DICK CHENEY! Oh yes, Dick Cheney is the Devil! Certainly in Conservatives Without Compassion John Dean blames him for our disastrous Iraq policy. Rumsfeld? Well, he's just a minion, in charge of the lousy tactics. But Cheney! In addition to selling the invasion with lies about WMDs and pimping his tortured logic on the logic of torturing, it now looks like he told his boy Scooter Libby to out Valerie Plame, a clear criminal act. Moreover Cheney's buddies at Halliburton and KMR are responsible for much if not most of the profiteering going on in Iraq.
Yes, profiteering! I know it's hard to believe. NOT!
What IS hard to believe is Bush maintaining a straight face as he demanded Congress to balance the budget last January! Do they really think we haven't noticed how much they've added to the deficit? With Rumsfeld handing out the no-bid defense contracts to Cheney's buddies, Dubya's crew has overspent more than a thousand navies of drunken sailors. It's more than all other administrations combined! Maybe part of that sulfurous stench is coming from all the cash they've burned. Bottom line, our shiny new Democratic Congress needs to answer the question: WHERE HAS ALL THE MONEY GONE?
The amount spent on the war is truly astronomical -- the numbers really do resemble the distances between the outer planets -- hundreds of billions, perhaps even a trillion or more by some accounting. And in spite of these gargantuan sums too many soldiers still lack body armor, and the lights are still off in Baghdad most of the day! HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN? Even if you like this Administration you have to admit that this is mismanagement of an unprecedented magnitude. On top of all this veterans' benefits are quietly being CUT by the Administration, even when they have 20,000 new wounded vets from Iraq! Without a fully funded Veterans Administration, to what kind of life are we condemning the soldiers who've had their brains scrambled by post-traumatic stress or who've lost limbs?
You don't need an economic degree to see fraud in the cost of this war! What, you want me to run some numbers for you? Well, I can do that with my MBA tied behind my back! Okay, let's say a Kevlar vest costs $1000 per soldier. Not enough? Alright, maybe that's just an E-Bay price. Instead let's go completely crazy and buy them the Kevlar vest, plus helmet, gloves, socks, shoulder pads, goggles, leggings and underwear complete with bomb resistant codpiece. Bulletproof everything, the works --- call it $10,000 for each. There are at least 150,000 combat troops over there now so to buy them ALL complete protection would cost $1,500,000,000. That's one and a half billion dollars for the zero challenged among you. Sound like a lot? No, it's not! The Defense Department could have outfitted every American soldier in Iraq like a Knight Kevlar with less funds than they spend EACH WEEK over there. You heard me right! The latest figures say we are spending TWO BILLION DOLLARS A WEEK in Iraq! What, you want that broken down too? Okay, There's 604,800 seconds in a week. That means we're spending $3606.88 EVERY SECOND over there! That's a Lexus every 10 seconds!
And that's probably not counting all the building projects! You know, the ones that still aren't delivering power and clean water. The sum may not include all the private contractors either. What, you didn't know we're paying for thousands of privately contracted security forces in Iraq? Well, that's only part of it! We are also paying through the nose for truck drivers, burger flippers and even launderers for the troops. It's all been privatized.
Our armed forces used to be full of citizens doing everything needed to support themselves, however the neo-cons have sold us this idea that private companies are more efficient at servicing the military's needs. Well sure, everyone knows the military is inefficient, but their cure is a total scam! We're just blindly paying whatever bill these privateers send us! And the service is often worse! Moreover the civilian contractors in Iraq, especially the security forces, do not have to answer to the military for their actions. Ordering torture inside Abu Ghraib or just inadvertently disrespecting Iraqis outside, they accelerated our loss of support from the Iraq people. Want to learn more? Start with Robert Greenwald's Iraq For Sale. (www.iraqforsale.org) Some very corpulent cats have been growing even fatter on your tax dollars.
Note to Katie Couric: Short of sex, the political scandals the American people understand best are the ones involving money. If the Dems do their job, there should be plenty of over billing, bribery and racketeering to talk about in the coming months. If the weight of the Georgie Guano penetrates the red states, then you might be reporting on impeachment after all. P.S. Enough about Anna Nichole Smith already!
I don't want to get ahead of the hearings, but another impeachment sure seems warranted. Hell, the civilian deaths and the torture would merit a war crimes trial in another country, but not many Americans would want to see these guys do a perp walk at The Hague. Either event would be sad.
But there are worse things. The Trillion Dollar Question is – with civilian casualties already numbering in the hundreds of thousands, how can we avoid them numbering in the millions if we just pull out? This is also part of Bush's rhetoric, and the danger is very real for the Iraqi public, but I think he's actually more concerned with his own image than the fate of the Iraqis. This is where the liberal side of things gets pretty gummy too. Nobody wants atrocities and that's probably what will happen if we just pick up and leave. One would think there needs to be a sizable peacekeeping force in Iraq until things settle down, but that's really what we've been trying to do for four years now. Except our top commanders kept forgetting the lessons of Vietnam; we need to win hearts and minds and instead we speak too often with guns. Winning back the people's respect at this stage is going to be extremely difficult. Taking our leaders to trial for their transgressions might help some -- it might even buy us a week without bombs! But really, we need to recultivate our relationships with the locals. A couple years without flattening neighborhoods by Specter gunships would help too.
Iraq is probably going to need partition. That takes diplomacy, not a surge of troops. But let's say the surge works and we calm Iraq down. How many troops will be needed to keep it calm? Will it still be calm in five years? How about in ten years, or twenty? Can we ever leave? That was the other thing about Dubya's speech, he talked about more troops going in but there was nothing about what they were to do DIFFERENTLY. We are making more new recruits for Al Qaeda if the plan is still just endless sweeping for weapons caches, bomb factories and suspects to build pyramids with. What would victory in Iraq look like, anyway? Sooner or later the shooting stops--it always does-- and diplomacy takes over. Might as well start talking now.
The other thing we can do is employ Iraqis to rebuild their country. Sure it's late for that, the optimum point for that was right after Saddam's statue fell, but we have to do something positive that doesn't involve brute force for a change. We're probably going to have to pay to clean up the mess we've made anyway, so let's hire the locals and get the contractors out. What's that? You're worried about corruption of local officials? Ha! There's so much corruption with the no-bid ne'er-do-wells we're using I bet we could put a million Iraqis to work and pay off all of their officials for just a fraction of what we're paying now. Yank the guano boys! They haven't delivered on much anyway.
And speaking of deliveries, I've just delivered my new column. Phew, I'm glad it's done! I'm taking a break to go back into the Closet to watch that new show all about the last Congress, Americans Idle. Oh, on second thought, I'd better not. The Blue Revolution last November was just the start. There's still a lot of work to be done, right? Thanks for reading and until next time the Closet is closed.