The President of the United States personally thanks decorated Marine Jim-Jeff "Bulldog" Gannon-Guckert, who served as his official Press Room bodyguard before it turned out he couldn't handle flak, either.
-Joel Chandler Harris
IF a great novelist is required, among other things, to be great, or at least very good, days on end, months at a time, then the Bush administration is the Tolstoy of Stupid, and 2003 is its War and Peace, Now With Twice The War! It is a year which will begin with The Sixteen Words You Shouldn't Say In A State Of The Union Address, the suggestion to Tony Blair that painting one of our planes UN blue and flying low over Baghdad might draw enough fire to make the international community forget who it was dealing with, and the granting of the first of two years' worth of White House Press passes to a dog-tagged and Brazilian-waxed male prostitute who was, at the height of 9/11 paranoia, working under an assumed name, and go downhill from there. And not just downhill as in "things have hit a bad patch", but rapidly, precipitously, headlong-into-ghenna-fire stuff, month after month, leavened only by the dark humor of an administration, and a lapdog press, conducting obliviously premature Victory celebrations, and whatever slapstick one could make of Christopher Hitchens wetting himself again. On the bright side, visionaries could point to the day when a war so badly conceived as to render "ill-" hopelessly inadequate, one politically timed, unimaginably corrupt, and shockingly wasteful, would yet allow Keith Olbermann to poke his head up from under his desk and become a Liberal.
Look at the additions to the political lexicon alone: sixteen words! WMDs! Islamofascism, Shock and Awe! Greeted as Liberators! Coalition of the Willing, embeds, de-Baathification! Steely-eyed Rocketman! Mission Accomplished! flypaper strategy! Democracy is Untidy! east, south, west, and north somewhat! Bring 'em on, a few dead-enders, Werewolves! rape rooms, spider holes, mobile anthrax labs! six-months, tops! Curveball, Chalabi, Saeed al-Haideri, Chemical Ali, Qusay and Uday! Custer Battles, LLC! Toppled statues and Insufficient jubilation! The New Iraqi flag!
Preznit giv me turkee!
Scooter giv me Valerie Plame!
Okay, fun's fun; I set out with a vague notion of memorializing the end of the Bush presidency by reminding people of some of its foibles, failures and fuck-ups, and particularly some that might have been forgotten simply due to the volume of available material. But by the time you reach 2003 the laugher starts mocking you. In the United States of America, in the opening decade of the 21st century, a march to a war which was militarily and politically unnecessary, which was sold on lies and based on transparent falsehoods the mass market press, and the Congress of the United States, would pretend not to recognize, was incompetently, sometimes criminally conducted, and which turned into a major international cultural disaster almost from the start, a political disaster soon after, and a military disaster within a couple of months, was yet absolutely inexorable. In a country full of intelligent people with instantaneous access to global information, large numbers of the natural political opponents of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, as well as the independent Press, all of whom had had months, even years, to comprehend what sort of petty criminals, intellectual thugs, cheats, grifters, certifiable paranoids and pathological liars, political fabulists, sexual cripples, amoral opportunists, mercenaries, professional racists and religious hypocrites they were dealing with, threw in behind him! Saddam must go! Hans Blix must go first! They had pictures of the same two Nixon leftovers who were now driving the push for war shaking the hand of the Worse Than Hitler tyrant who now threatened Civilization herself, or would, once he managed to produce the necessary weapons in sufficient quantities and find some way to deliver them. Discovery of how Saddam Hussein came to be the Iraqi strongman was a Google or a Wiki away. The political manipulation of 9/11 was already crystal-clear; the gleeful, unrepentant, and consequence-free looting of the public treasury was already on display. That the whole thing was being led, or "led", by the cosseted scion of a venal band of New England plutocrats whose original paltry allocation of wits had been furthered dulled by decades of nightly alcohol poisoning was becoming clear even to people who had devoutly wished otherwise for the sake of the country, and his hard-on to top his Daddy by "finishing the job" in Iraq was common currency. What was to be expected of the Bush administration was what we got. It's fine and fitting, now, that Bush is treated as a leper, and Cheney as a leper who also flings feces and has a shotgun. But what about the people who missed this at the time, or who wanted to be on the right side of the coming Victory parade (for which there's still $20 M in Congressional-approved funds in the till somewhere)? One of 'ems our next Secretary of State.
Remember PFC Jessica Lynch, who fired her weapon until it was empty, was shot multiple times, raped, sodomized, and tortured in captivity, protected at great personal risk by a kindly Iraqi civilian, who walked six miles to tip off the military, which rescued her via Special Ops? All true, except for the part after "Lynch". When the story fell apart, via the BBC, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria "Torie" Clarke called the accusations, "outrageous, patently false and unsupported by the facts."
PFC Lynch, then twenty years old, showed more personal courage and honesty than all the grey men who ran the war combined. And while that may not have required much at all, remember: she stood for the truth when she had plenty to gain by not doing so, and plenty of pressure to simply go along. Compare the biography of George W. Bush or Dick Cheney. Compare the actions of Four-Star General Colin Powell, later so "conflicted" by his UN performance. Remember who fought, and still fights this war, and remember just what kind of people they do so for.
It ain't funny. I contend, and will until someone shows different, that the Iraq war was pencilled in for 2003 by the Bush campaign in 1999. There was too much insistence on the jump date to believe otherwise; we short-changed Afghanistan before we'd even entered Kabul, because specialist units were needed on schedule for Iraq. We cashiered any general officer or service branch Secretary who argued for sufficient troops; we went ahead even without permission to use Turkey as a staging area. We went to war with one-quarter the force doctrinally required to occupy Iraq because the political timetable, designed to make 2004 a military victory parade followed by a re-election pageant, was fixed: 2002 was too early, reserved for provoking a casus belli in the No-Fly Zone--in the event, made superfluous by 9/11--while 2004 was too late, open to charges of Wagging the Dog, as well as blowback from a less-than-favorable initial result. We called for no sacrifice beyond bravely facing Mall crowds; you don't call for sacrifice from people you hope will show up at the polls for you in a twelvemonth. We went to war so these scumbags could get re-elected and continue looting the Treasury. And the whole thing gets treated as if they'd just misread the intel.
It's not funny. Read Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City for a look at how we ran the place once we took it. Tell me then that mere incompetence explains using Roe v. Wade as a determinant of which recently-graduated college Republican would redesign the Iraqi health care system, and which manage its economy. How many US military families are missing a father, mother, a wife, a husband, because of this? How many more Iraqis are? George W. Bush, now, can manage to dredge up a mistake or two he might've made. "Mission Accomplished" is an example.
No shit, Sherlock.
It ain't funny.