by Steven Jonas, MD, MPH
About a week ago I introduced the first column in this three-part series by noting that, as is well known to most BuzzFlash readers, President Bush bobs and weaves a lot in describing and defining his positions on various matters. I decided that it would nevertheless be very helpful to readers of BuzzFlash to have a series of guides designed to help follow what he talks about and actually does. In the Part I, I noted that over time Bush has offered many different definitions of the concept of "victory" in that now surely God-forsaken country. I listed a goodly number of them.
Over the past few weeks, both leading up to the election and after it, it seemed to some of us, myself included, that we were reaching the end-game for Iraq. It appeared as if the report of the James Baker-led Iraq Study Group (ISG) would be setting up a plan and a time-table for the U.S. to get out of Iraq. I had concluded that that was because the principal goals set out (privately to be sure) for the invasion, oil and permanent bases, had been achieved. But then, as I noted in "Not So Fast, Jim, or ‘The Return of the Chith'", the Cheneyites entered the lists.
On the day that the main conclusions and recommendations of the ISG were being at least informally released, Bush was on his way home from the Kingdom of Jordan. There he had been partially stood up by his man in Baghdad, Prime Minister al-Maliki. Across sectarian lines, a variety of Iraqi leaders were beginning to call jointly for a US pullout, forthwith. But there was Bush, saying "we shall stay the course," strongly implying that "the course" would be a long one. Of course he did not precisely use those words. Like "civil war," they have been ruled out of the White House's vocabulary, even though they quite accurately describe the realities to which they refer. In this column, we shall take a look at these developments in a bit more detail.
I concluded my previous column in this series by noting that while immediately post-election, Bush seemed to be becoming conciliatory (for him) on Iraq. However, over the past two years, as other definitions of "victory" had to be dropped for one reason or another, he of course has most frequently defined it as "staying the course" (now, same thing, different words). Thus, even though the White House has formally renounced the use of that term, Georgite elements, led by Dick Cheney (see his puppet General, Abizaid), have not given it up as defining "victory." This is so, even though "victory" in this sense means never (well, hardly ever) leaving. This would not seem to mean victory to many doubting Thomases and Thomasinas. But Bush now is going back to it, at least on some days.
Nevertheless, it has now become clear that staying indefinitely, in combat of one sort or another, surely would mean "victory" to Cheney and his wing of the Georgite power elite, regardless of what either the ISG or some cross-sectarian group of Iraqi leaders might say. Yes indeed, "victory" for Cheney means staying in Iraq forever, or at least as long as possible. Cheney doesn't want any kind of peace or any kind of US withdrawal, for the foreseeable future. For Cheney and that wing of the Republican/neocon power elite that he represents, regardless of any of the standard definitions of the term, "victory" in Iraq means permanent war, in the Orwellian sense. And they want it for Orwellian reasons. Cheney has been a devotee of what he calls the "Unitary Executive," otherwise known as fascist dictatorship, since he worked in the Nixon White House while obtaining his five Vietnam War deferments because he "had other priorities." Obviously, one of them was destroying the greatest Constitutional Democracy in the world.
Just so you know that I don't toss around the term "fascism" lightly or vaguely, here is my short definition of it: ""Fascism is a politico-economic system in which there is: total executive branch control of both the legislative and administrative powers of government; no independent judiciary; no Constitution that embodies the Rule of Law standing above the people who run the government; no inherent personal rights or liberties; a single national ideology that first demonizes and then criminalizes all political, religious, and ideological opposition to it; and total corporate determination of economic, fiscal, and regulatory policy." (If you want to see my longer definitions, please refer to my The Political Junkies columns: May 27, 2004, "On Fascism -- And The Georgites"; Jan 27, 2005, "Comparing George W. Bush and Adolf Hitler"; and February 10, 2005, "The Georgite Version of ‘Freedom and Democracy".)
As is well known to BuzzFlash readers, under the Georgites the framework for imposing fascism on our nation has been well-established with "The Patriot Act" and etc. The destruction of the Constitution taking place is not happening only in terms of the broad protections it offers for civil rights and liberties. It is also taking place in terms of the overthrow of the delicate balance it establishes between the three branches of government. It is also taking place in the context of the President amending the Constitution on his own authority, e.g., ignoring the Geneva Conventions, Article VI of the document, or no. If the Founders had wanted a "Unitary Executive," they would have created one, and in the terminology of the time would have called it a "monarchy." There is no such animal to be found anywhere in the Constitution. In fact, the Founders clearly rejected the notion.
The Constitution requires that the President must follow all of its provisions, not just those he happens to like while claiming he can disobey the others just because he has some "inherent powers" that are nowhere mentioned in it. These horrifying developments have all taken place in the context of the war on Iraq and in Afghanistan, all conveniently cloaked in the meaningless but constantly repeated term "War on Terrorism." (Since terrorism is a tactic of war, not a nation or any other similar body, as a retired American general has pointed out, the term has as much meaning as a "War on Flanking Maneuvers.") If the War on Iraq goes away, the justification for Cheney's "Unitary Executive" goes away, too. And Cheney, having gotten this far in his 30-plus year struggle to achieve it, is absolutely desperate to hang onto it. The next question is, "Why does Cheney want to establish fascism here?" To that we shall return next time in this space. And it ain't about "fighting terrorism," folks.
In the meantime, where is Bush now on Iraq policy? Right after the election, he seemed to be putting at least one foot, maybe one and a half, in the Baker camp. In the past week or so he seems to have moved firmly into the Cheney camp (which happens to fit perfectly with his previously expressed "dictatorship is a fine idea, as long as I am the dictator" position). But there are two poles, and while he seems to be now firmly under "Stay Forever," "Let's Hear it for Permanent War" Cheney's sway, you never know what might happen tomorrow.
As I said, more on this next time.
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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) a weekly Contributing Author for The Political Junkies (www.thepoliticaljunkies.net), Contributing Editor for The Moving Planet Blog (http://www.planetarymovement.org/), and a Columnist for BuzzFlash (http://www.buzzflash.com/).