Bush Bashing Pits Hawks Against Hawks

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The American ruling class continues to grapple with the political mess created by its botched election in 2004, which kept the wrong team in power and failed to achieve a corrective adjustment in imperialist policy. The disagreements within the ruling class focus on how best to handle the quagmire in Iraq, so that the U.S. will be able to continue to intervene militarily throughout the world in order to oppose challenges to its continued dominance as the sole superpower in the world. The problem that the bourgeoisie has with Bush is not that he took the U.S. to war under false pretences – no one in the ruling class has any problem with or reluctance about lying. Indeed lying and manipulation is the mainstay of ruling class politics.  No, the problem the capitalist class has is that the war has dragged on and on, turning into a quagmire and the population in general, and the working class in particular, is clearly aware that the government has been lying and support for the war has collapsed. This squandering of the political capital gained by the US government in the wake of 9/11 threatens to exacerbate the difficulties that the ruling class will face in launching new military excursions in the future, to which all factions of the bourgeoisie are committed on a strategic level.

Despite the strident polemicizing of the Bush administration against its critics, the intra-bourgeois dispute over Iraq is not a clash between advocates of immediate withdrawal and others who favor “staying the course,” but an important argument over how best to begin a partial withdrawal of American forces, which will reduce American casualties and ease growing political impatience at home.

 The corruption and political scandals that are daily undermining the political authority of the Bush administration reflect this discontent within the bourgeoisie over the administration’s refusal to modify significantly its disastrous Iraq war policies, which place American imperialism in the precarious position of being severely hampered in its ability to unleash new military interventions necessary to bolster its imperialist hegemony around the world.

The dissatisfaction with Bush has led to mounting criticism not only from the Democrats, but even from significant sections of the Republican party itself. Week after week, the media reports results of still another new public opinion poll that shows Bush’s popularity has fallen to yet another new low.  The last two months  have been catastrophic for the administration. The highlights of the political pressure campaign include, but are not limited to a series corruption and Iraq-related scandals: 

·         The indictments of Republican lobbyist Abramoff, accused of “selling” access to administration officials for campaign contributions.

·         The indictment of House Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, on money laundering charges and his removal from the leadership position in Congress.

·         Indictment of I. Lewis Libby, Chief of Staff for Vice President Dick Cheney for lying to investigators and misleading the federal grand jury investigating the CIA   leak case. The name of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame in order to discredit her husband, former diplomat Joseph Wilson who had criticized publicly the administration’s misuse of intelligence data about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

·         Continuing investigation into the Wilson case, which may yet lead to the indictment of White House Deputy Chief of Staff and administration political strategist, Karl Rove.

·         Denunciation of a “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal” that usurped control of American foreign policy by Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of state under Colin Powell at the State Department from 2001-2005. Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and former director of the Marine Corps War College,  charged that the “dysfunction within the administration was so grave that ‘if something come along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence.”(NYT Oct 21, 2005)

·         Bi-partisan Congressional support for a legislative ban on torturing prisoners proposed by Republican Sen. John McCain, which the White House threatens to veto, and which Vice Pres. Cheney has been leading the fight against. Cheney insists that CIA agents be exempt from the torture prohibitions. This criticism focuses on Bush’s open flouting of democratic and humanitarian mystifications that undermine U.S. political authority.

·         International uproar over secret CIA prisons operating in Eastern Europe.

·         A call by the New York Times for the president to break with Vice President Dick Cheney’s influence on Iraq policy and suggestion that Cheney’s activities for the remainder of the presidents term be confined to ceremonial duties, such as representing the president at funerals and other such meaningless events

·         Passage by the Republican controlled Senate of a resolution designating 2006 as “a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty” and requiring the president to report regularly to congress on progress in Iraq. The resolution stopped short of setting a deadline for troop reduction, but as the New York Times noted, “the proposal would never have gone to the floor if members of President Bush’s party had not felt the need to go on the record, somehow, as expressing their own impatience with the situation.

·         Republican Doug Forrester’s complaint that he lost the gubernatorial race in New Jersey because of the president’s unpopularity.

·         Publication of a New York Times Op-ed piece by Richard N. Haass, former director of policy planning the State Department from 2001-2003 under President Bush and currently president of the Council on Foreign Relations, arguing that “America needs a new vision for a new world” and complaining that under Bush  the US is confronting serious foreign policy questions in Asia and Europe and   “right now Washington is trying to answer them without a compass.” (NYT Nov. 8, 2005). Haass calls for a doctrine of “integration,” which would be “based on a shared approach to common challenges,” which would require that the US “cooperate with other world powers to build effective international arrangements and to take collective actions.” In other words, he suggests retreat from the unilateralist approach pursued both by Clinton and Bush in recent years.

·         A storm of controversy unleashed by a hawkish Congressman John Murtha, Democrat from Pennsylvania, a  war hero veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars, and  previously a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, who  delivered an emotional appeal in Congress lambasting the Bush administration’s handling of the war and calling for an American withdrawal from Iraq over a six month period. While rightwing Republicans initially denounced Murtha as a defeatist calling for surrender to terrorists, Murtha actually called for a tactical withdrawal of US troops into bases in neighboring countries over six months, where they could be used in precision raids to support Iraqi government troops against the insurgents, and not for immediate withdrawal. He argued that the presence of US troops in massive numbers and their daily patrols was exacerbating tensions, fanning resistance, and making them unnecessary targets.

·         A recently published article in the New Yorker by Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to Bush’s father, Pres. George H.W. Bush, in the early 1990s, renewing his criticisms of the administrations foreign policy originally made public last winter, and triggering speculation once again that Bush is acting contrary to advice from his father, who served as director of the CIA earlier in his career.

·         Other items, not linked directly to the war in Iraq, but aimed at the same goal of exerting pressure on the Bush to retool his administration and revise his policies for the next three years include:

·         A watchdog report by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission condemning the administration for failure to implement the policy recommendations proposed by the commission to improve American intelligence gathering and security procedures. Both Democratic and Republican members of the commission cited Hurricane Katrina as example of the Bush administration’s refusal to improve communications for first responders in emergency situations.

·         The unprecedented failure of Harriet Miers nomination for Supreme Court, who was forced to withdraw her nomination even before Senate confirmation hearings were convened, due primarily to criticism from the right of the Republican party – a terrible political humiliation for the administration.

·         A warning from Linda Chavez, a Republican who directed the United States Commission on Civil Rights under President Reagan called upon her fellow Republicans to abandon any strategy for stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment to achieve electoral victory in the Congressional elections in 2006 and the presidential election in 2008. As she put it, “immigrant bashing is not a winning strategy.”

·         Revelations by the Washington Post that the unanimous conclusion of six lawyers and two analysts in the Justice Department that the Republican-led redistricting of Texas congressional districts was illegal and unconstitutional in disenfranchising minority voters and essentially rigging election of Republicans, was overruled by political appointees supervising in the Justice Department.

The Bush administration responded initially to the growing pressure by launching a new offensive defending its disastrous policies, denouncing critics as defeatists, cowards, and unpatriotic, a tactic which has already begun to backfire. Meanwhile the Iraqis are feeding the flames. Despite the administration’s  rejection of proposals to reduce troop levels as “cut and run” and “outright surrender” to terrorism, 100 Iraqi Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish leaders meeting in Cairo under the auspices of the Arab League signed a declaration calling for U.S. withdrawal according to an undetermined timetable after the December elections. Interestingly, the document included language acknowledging the legitimacy of resistance to foreign invaders, opening the door to integration of the terrorist insurgents the U.S. seeks to kill and destroy into the new Iraqi state apparatus.

There are signs that the administration is beginning to see the writing on the wall. Despite the vituperative attacks against critics calling for a timetable for troop reduction and withdrawal as traitors, the White House has begun hinting that it might begin reducing troop levels after the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections, down to a level of 80,000 within sixth months. The President unveiled a new “plan for victory,” which the administration claims has been secretly guiding American policy for some time but has only been recently declassified so it could be made public. Even Bush’s supporters, however, can’t find anything particularly new in the plan or responsive to criticism. The bourgeoisie is stuck with George Bush for three more years and a lot is at stake. We can expect a further ratcheting up of the pressure on the Bush administration to modify its policies. But none of this should be mistaken for a fight between doves and hawks. It is rather a fight between hawks and hawks, on how best to pursue their hawkish objectives.