Like many Americans, I sat agog watching the 911 hearings on television last week and the revelations of former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke.
The hearings have given me a new faith in the political process and the American spirit precisely because what we‘re seeing is a number of prominent Republicans such as Clarke ripping what he calls the “big lie“ charade from the Bush administration.
These are Republicans who care more about protecting America than they do about sucking up to a president who seems to be a loose cannon on par with the Johnny Depp character in “Pirates of the Caribbean.“
There‘s a ring of truth in Clarke‘s outrage when he says that he tried to get President Bush and his staff to respond to pleas for action against al Queda in early 2001. Instead, the Bush administration dithered around with a lack of interest in terrorism until it was too late and then kicked up a world-wide hornet‘s nest with its misguided war in Iraq. As Clarke said on 60 Minutes, what Bush did with Iraq would have been like President Franklin D. Roosevelt declaring war on Mexico after Pearl Harbor.
Clarke‘s story is collaborated by former Treasury Secretary Paul O‘Neill, whose own book states that President Bush was obsessed with attacking Iraq from day one of his administration.
These aren‘t Democrats or liberals making these charges. They‘re registered Republicans who‘ve seen a presidency so misguided that they felt a need to speak out on behalf of the American people.
That should make them heroes, putting their country above the politics of a president whose foreign policy has alienated our allies and made America Target Number One for every terrorist kook shaking loose in the world.
These days, the sharpest rebukes of President Bush are coming from noted Republicans on par with Sen. John McCain.
Besides Clarke and O‘Neill, there‘s a new book by John Dean called “Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush.“ Dean, a Republican, is the former counsel to the Nixon White House. He claims that Bush, Cheney & Co. are more dangerously secretive than Tricky Dick ever was. And he ought to know, being the man who famously warned Nixon during the Watergate scandal of the “cancer in his presidency.“
Then there‘s “American Dynasty“ by Kevin Phillips, a former Republican strategist for the Reagan and Bush, Sr. presidencies who writes about the “Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush.“ It‘s an encylopedia of shady deals made by the Bush family with oil companies, arms dealers, Saudi princes and war profiteering corporations.
Again, written by a former Republican White House insider.
But the worst may be yet to come, because in its wisdom, the Bush re-election campaign has chosen New York City as the site of its convention this summer, and by that time the air of that Democratic city should be whizzing with tracer bullets of anger over 911.
By that time, it‘s expected that Michael Moore will have his new film out, “Fahrenheit 911,“ about the ties between the Bush family, Saudi Arabia, and the resulting blunders which have turned much of the world against America. The film could set the stage for making the New York City convention as memorable a disaster for Bush as Monica Lewinski was for President Clinson.
Speaking of which, its ironic but no surprise to see conservatives, the self-appointed champions of personal responsibility, scrambling to pile the blame for 911 on the Clinton administration. Clinton has become the all-purpose voodoo doll and blame-all for those scheming to plunder Social Security and Medicare in the name of enforcing personal responsibility on everyone but themselves.
It was Harry Truman -- a Democrat -- who had a sign on his desk stating “The Buck Stops Here.“ Apparently, that sign got lost when George W. Bush moved into the White House.
One Year Later
On the other hand, one year after Iraq fell, only history‘s reflection many years down the road is going to tell whether the war was a disaster or the best idea ever.
The idea by neoconservative E-Z chair warriors was to vaccinate the Mideast with a successful democracy in Iraq. Other Arab states would see how well things were going in Iraq and democracy would spread through the Islamic world.
That was the intended storybook ending. Yet at this point, we don‘t know whether Iraq is spiraling into civil war, or if it will go the way of an Islamic theocracy like Iran, our other great social experiment disaster from the Carter administration.
As in the beginning of the war a year ago, Americans still want it both ways in Iraq. We‘re happy that 26 million people have been freed from a tyrant and that there will be no more mass graves or torture chambers; but we‘re unhappy with the idea of thousands of dead or wounded U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens.
In retrospect, going to war in Iraq was like slapping an Arab child in the hope that he‘d behave better. A full-blown beating, actually. Is that usually a good policy with a good outcome?
Or could we have used a softer strategy? Such as the soft invasion of culture to disarm Muslum extremism among young Arabs with the music of Britney Spears, American TV shows, and McDonald‘s... accompanied by a Marshall Plan-style jobs initiative to help Arabs pull themselves out of their medieval funk.
That was the road not taken.