The 1979 film, "Apocalypse Now," based on the Joseph Conrad novel "The Heart of Darkness," is well know to film goers and/or readers of American fiction. The story is about someone who descends into the darkness and is changed by it, not the other way around.
I resist making the comparing the President and the current Administration to Colonel Kurtz, the Marlon Brando character who deep in the Cambodian jungle starts to mirror the butchery he encounters in his enemies, and then some. And when he finally starts to mimic it, calling it "genius," he loses everything that he ever stood for.
But I will compare the United States as a Republic, collectively sinking into the heart of darkness. That we would dignify torture in a Congressional debate and have rules of torture spelled out, shows that we, like Kurtz, have seen the "genius" of our enemies.
The President's Administration have been a disaster. He has destabilized the Middle East. Writing in The New York Review of Books, William Pfaff writes,
President Bush and Karl Rove, his propaganda packager, preferred the global cold war model—the "long war" —capable of being presented to the American public as a communism-like "struggle for the world," so as to mobilize Americans around George Bush, wearing his flight jacket.
Iraq now seems all but certain to be left broken as a state, immersed in sectarian violence and terrorism, in far worse condition than it was under Saddam Hussein's secular dictatorship (which would have come to an end when Saddam died, or when he was overturned by a coup, or a revolt, as has happened to all of modern Iraq's previous leaders)
Indeed, we have lost Iraq and may well lose more in this struggle. But there is more here, as well.
For those who like conspiratorial explanations, involving oil and Israel, consider that now Iraq will produce little or no oil for the United States, or anyone else, for years to come, and the Saudi monarchy and the Gulf oil-producer governments are newly threatened by fundamentalist militants.
Saddam Hussein has been eliminated as a distant threat to Israel, and a ring of aggressive Shiite states and movements has been substituted, with Hezbollah having already brought Israel under rocket fire, and humiliated the Israeli army. Iran's influence in the world has grown larger than ever.
These results are due in part to the amateur geopoliticians of the neoconservative New American Century initiative, and their Washington allies. Israel needed no such friends, nor does George W. Bush, who with their help, on the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, looked more than ever as though he'll finish his term as the most disastrous president in American history.
One more thing, though that this has caused our people. We have been lead, however unwillingly, into the heart of darkness.
"In this new era of threats, where the stark and sober reality is that America must confront international terrorists committed to the destruction of our way of life, this bill is absolutely necessary," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
The overall bill would prohibit war crimes and define such atrocities as rape and torture but otherwise would allow the president to interpret the Geneva Conventions, the treaty that sets standards for the treatment of war prisoners.
The bill on interrogations and trials also would eliminate some rights common in military and civilian courts.
So President Bush gets to decide (a) who's a terrorist, (b) who therefore has no Constitutional rights, (c) what does or doesn't consititute torture of this alleged terrorist ... and if lines are crossed, nobody can be prosecuted.
The measure would broaden the definition of enemy combatants beyond the traditional definition used in wartime, to include noncitizens living legally in the United States as well as those in foreign countries and anyone determined to be an enemy combatant under criteria defined by the president or secretary of defense.
It would strip at Guantánamo detainees of the habeas right to challenge their detention in court, relying instead on procedures known as combatant status review trials. Those trials have looser rules of evidence than the courts.
"It's time for terrorists such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who planned the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to face justice," Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, said, projecting a tough-on-terrorism position and sounding very much like Republicans who are gunning for his House seat Nov. 7.
The Texan is among the Democrats in hard-fought races who sided with Bush and Republicans.
AP reporter Liz Sidoti seems to want to help advance the Republican spin.
"They are voting in line with what they perceive to be the views of a majority of their constituencies on this issue," said Alan Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist.
He suggested that these Democrats cast their votes not because of this election year but because of the next few, saying: "They're just trying to avoid trouble in the future."
The several Senate Democrats considering running for president in 2008 may not be so lucky. All of them voted against the measure — and those votes could leave them vulnerable to Republican attacks beyond November.
Of course, endorsing torture in deed, if not in name, may not be a wise political move, either. There are still some people in this country who believe in American values, and not American might-makes-right.
President Bush asserted Friday that critics who claim the
Iraq war has made America less safe embrace "the enemy's propaganda."
Is this the Emperor's New Clothes argument or what?
"You do not create terrorism by fighting terrorism," he told a receptive military audience. "If that ever becomes the mind-set of the policymakers in Washington, it means we'll go back to the old days of waiting to be attacked — and then respond."
Ha! You don't create terrorism by fighting terrorism? What kind of nonsense assertion is that? Obviously it depends upon how you fight terrorism.
Bush's plan is to have no plan. "Stay the course," he says, which is another way of saying he's going to continue to do nothing about Iraq until the next president inherits the problem.
Stay the course = Pass the buck
"Some have selectively quoted from this document to make the case that by fighting the terrorists — by fighting them in Iraq — we are making our people less secure here at home," Bush told the Reserve Officers Association. "This argument buys into the enemy's propaganda that the terrorists attack us because we're provoking them."
Yes, it does, because it's true. Before we invaded Iraq, there weren't thousands upon thousands of terrorists in Iraq plotting against Americans. Now there are.
However, there were and still are terrorists in Afghanistan, the country Bush has largely ignored, the country where 9/11 was planned, the country where al Qaeda was training its terrorists.
Bush's speech to the military group followed one he gave the day before at a GOP fundraiser in Alabama, where he accused Democrats of "obstruction and endless second-guessing" and not having the stomach to persist in Iraq.
To "persist" in Iraq is not a winning strategy. You don't win by "persisting." You don't win through "stay the course" -- especially when there is no course.
You don't win an occupation.
It's pretty obvious now that the Bush Administration plan for Iraq is to string us all along, with American soldiers and Marines dying and tens of thousands of Iraqis dying, until he can finally pass the mess onto others.
That's the Bush way. It's how he did business. It's how he does politics.
“The Democrats are using the N.I.E. to mislead the American people and justify their policy of withdrawal from Iraq,” the president said. “The American people need to know what withdrawal from Iraq would mean. By withdrawing from Iraq before the job is done, we would be doing exactly what the extremists and terrorists want.”
Mr. Bush has been honing his offensive against Democrats for weeks as his political team seeks to shift the election-year focus from a debate about him and the unpopular war to one about terrorism in general, his party’s efforts to combat it and what he describes as the opposition’s promotion of defeatism and retreat.
It's awfully easy to say for a man who has no winning strategy. Bush's plan to hold out until he can pass the buck is not acceptable to the vast majority of Americans.
It's time to sweep his rubber-stamp congress out of office.
"The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false - and I think the 9/11 commission understood that," Rice said during a wide-ranging meeting with Post editors and reporters.
This coming from the former National Security Advisor who pushed aside Richard Clarke, the in-house expert on al-Qaeda. This coming from the White House staffer who pretty much ignored the presidential briefing memo about Osama bin Laden's plans to strike within the U.S. This coming from a key player in the Bush Administration, which fought against even having a 9/11 Commission look into 9/11. They didn't want anyone looking into it.
"What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years," Rice added.
She also whines about analyses by our own U.S. intelligence agencies that what the Bush Administration is doing is making things worse.
Transitioning to the global war on terror, an animated Rice questioned, "When are we going to stop blaming ourselves for the rise of terrorism?"
This is the perspective problem the entire Bush Administration seems to have: More concern about criticism of them, more concern about the political prospects of the GOP, more concern about spinning themselves into hero status, than any concern in actually doing something effective or at least making sure they're not just making things worse.
When, Condi? When you stop being a major cause of the rise of terrorism.
Asked about recently leaked internal U.S. intelligence estimates that claimed the Iraq war was fueling terrorist recruiting, Rice said: "Now that we're fighting back, of course they are fighting back, too."
"I find it just extraordinary that the argument is, all right, so they're using the fact they're being challenged in the Middle East and challenged in Iraq to recruit, therefore you've made the war on terrorism worse.
"It's as if we were in a good place on Sept. 11. Clearly, we weren't," she added.
Except, Condi, that the terrorists weren't even in Iraq until you and Bush invaded there. The terrorists were in Afghanistan.
Remember Afghanistan? That's the place where Osama has been, by many accounts, all this time. That's where al-Qaeda planned 9/11. That's where the Taliban government sheltered these terrorists.
We do not know what you have done, to prevent another 9/11.
You have failed us — then leveraged that failure, to justify a purposeless war in Iraq which will have, all too soon, claimed more American lives than did 9/11.
You have failed us anew in Afghanistan.
And you have now tried to hide your failures, by blaming your predecessor.
And now you exploit your failure, to rationalize brazen torture — which doesn’t work anyway; which only condemns our soldiers to water-boarding; which only humiliates our country further in the world; and which no true American would ever condone, let alone advocate.And there it is, sir:
Are yours the actions of a true American?
Here are some relevant videos via YouTube:
Clinton refuses to roll over for Chris Wallace on Fox
Olbermann on Clinton, and the Bush Administration's passing the buck
Democratic lawmakers, responding to an intelligence report that found that the Iraq war has invigorated Islamic radicalism and worsened the global terrorist threat, said the assessment by American spy agencies demonstrated that the Bush administration needed to devise a new strategy for its handling of the war.
Again, the Democratic response is the lead, not the report itself.
USA Today (quoting the AP): "Democrats blast Iraq handling as report says war has increased threat"
Democrats on Sunday seized on an intelligence assessment that said the Iraq war has increased the terrorist threat, saying it was further evidence that Americans should choose new leadership in the November elections.
The Democrats hoped the report would undermine the GOP's image as the party more capable of handling terrorism as the campaign enters its final six-week stretch.
Another major news publication treating the Democrats as the news, and the report itself as just a prop.
The White House on Sunday sharply disagreed with a new U.S. intelligence assessment that the war in Iraq is encouraging global terrorism, as Bush administration officials stressed that anti-American fervor in the Muslim world began long before the Sept. 11 attacks.
White House spokesman Peter Watkins declined to talk specifically about the National Intelligence Estimate, a classified analysis that represents a consensus view of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.
A little better. At least the focus is on the players reponsible (instead of the Democrats, who aren't).
The question remains: Why are the news media positioning this as a Democratic Party story, and not a national security story?
The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat, U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded.
A 30-page National Intelligence Estimate completed in April cites the "centrality" of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the insurgency that has followed, as the leading inspiration for new Islamic extremist networks and cells that are united by little more than an anti-Western agenda. It concludes that, rather than contributing to eventual victory in the global counterterrorism struggle, the situation in Iraq has worsened the U.S. position, according to officials familiar with the classified document.
"It's a very candid assessment," one intelligence official said yesterday of the estimate, the first formal examination of global terrorist trends written by the National Intelligence Council since the March 2003 invasion. "It's stating the obvious."
Thank you, Washington Post, for reporting the news and not the spin.