Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Re-Connecting the Dots: Cheney of Arabia, Treason and Betrayal, and How They Get Away with It

In September of 2003, Robert Higgs wrote:
If you see someone shuffling along the street, eyes downcast, a pained expression on his face, you may have stumbled upon a member of the Peace Party. Once again, this party's cause has gone down to defeat, and its members are shaking their heads sadly, wondering why.
Thus begins "How Does the War Party Get Away with It?" a brilliant essay by Robert Higgs explaining a few things that everyone should know but hardly anyone does: secrets too obvious to be believed.

The ninth essay in Arthur Silber's "Dominion Over the World" series is another top-quality work; it makes good use of the Higgs piece, among other excellent sources. I want you to read both Higgs and Silber, in full if possible, and I will have more to say about both essays later (God willing and the creek don't rise), but first, another brief excerpt from Higgs:
While the architects of war, the Cheneys, Rumsfelds, and Wolfowitzs who sleep every night between clean sheets, deem these terrible costs to be worth bearing -- as well they might, because they personally bear not an ounce of them -- the members of the Peace Party often seem baffled. In view of the evident futility, and worse, of nearly every war the United States has fought during the past century, how does the War Party manage to propel this nation into one catastrophe after another, each of them clearly foreseen by at least a substantial minority who failed to dissuade their fellow citizens from still another march into calamity?

An adequate answer might fill a volume [...]
or perhaps several volumes! (And the emphasis in quoted passages is mine...)
[...] but some elements of that answer can be sketched briefly. The essential components are autocratic government, favorably disposed mass culture, public ignorance and misplaced trust, cooperative mass media, and political exploitation for personal and institutional advantage.
Speaking of Cheney and political exploitation for personal advantage, and autocratic government, and misplaced trust, and public ignorance, and mass media... hmmm ... TIME Magazine's Scott MacLeod throws a spotlight on Dick Cheney tripping through the Middle East in a piece called "Cheney of Arabia" which is thoroughly mainstream, of course, but revealing in more than one sense, and definitely worth excerpting at length:
Is Dick Cheney coming back for more? The Vice President has just completed a week-long tour of the Middle East that eerily retraced the visits he made to Arab capitals in March 2002 to drum up support for an American-led invasion over Iraq's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons.

A look back at that earlier trip suggests that Cheney not only ignored the advice that he was given by Arab allies, he misrepresented their opposition to a prospective attack on Saddam Hussein's regime.
He ignored and misrepresented indeed! Let's see how many different ways Scott MacLeod can describe Dick Cheney lying without actually calling him a liar, and try to do it without thinking of Higgs' term "cooperative mass media".
It is thus worth looking closely at Cheney's latest trip to the region, during which he stated that Arab allies share the Bush administration's concern about the "mutual threat" posed by Iran and threatened military force over Iran's alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. It's a stretch, as it was in 2002, for Cheney to suggest that shared concern somehow automatically translates into Arab support for a U.S. military option -- and of course it's wrong once again to use such a misrepresentation in building a case for war.
It's certainly no different than waging unprovoked war based on deliberate lies, except of course in how you spell it.
During and immediately after the 2002 trip, Cheney dismissed indications that Arab allies were opposed to a U.S. war against Iraq.

"No, not at all," Cheney assured CBS's Bob Schieffer. "What I came away with, Bob, is the sense that they share our concern."

Cheney repeated that reading of Arab attitudes to CNN's Wolf Blitzer, saying, "What I would say is that our friends in the region are equally concerned about the problems we see in Iraq."

Giving NBC's Tim Russert a figurative nudge, Cheney suggested that what Arab leaders said about Saddam in public was not what they told him in private. "I wouldn't believe everything I read in the newspapers," Cheney advised Russert. "I had, as I say, private, confidential meetings. They are able, under those circumstances, because we know each other, to talk honestly and frank with one another, and that's exactly what we did."

Cheney pleaded confidentiality about what the Arab leaders actually told him, but he implied that they supported Saddam's overthrow. "Many of them know," Cheney volunteered, embedding the notion of tight mutual thinking, "that right after us, they're high on his list of governments he'd like to do in."

But what the Vice President told millions of American television viewers on the Sunday talk show rounds on March 24, 2002 bears scant resemblance to what Arab leaders were saying at the time, in public or in private.

After Cheney left Cairo, Egyptian officials said publicly that President Mubarak had warned him about "the dangerous consequences" of attacking Iraq and that he had opposed any "unilateral" U.S. action.

In Jordan, King Abdullah II went so far as to issue a statement after the Cheney visit calling for Iraq to be settled "through dialogue and peaceful means" and saying he had warned Cheney about "the repercussions of any possible strike on Iraq and the danger of that on the stability and security of the region."

On the eve of Cheney's arrival in Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, then Crown Prince, strongly warned against an Iraq attack in a rare television interview, on ABC: "I do not believe it is in the United States' interests, or the interest of the region, or the world's interest, to do so. And I don't believe it will achieve the desired result."

A month before Abdullah received Cheney in Saudi Arabia, I interviewed the Saudi leader on his farm outside Riyadh. I asked him what he would say to a U.S. plan to use force to change the regime in Iraq. He said he had already given President Bush "an answer on this matter...and that is where my answer will remain." But at one point he told me what he later told ABC: "I do not believe that the war on terrorism applies to... Iraq."
What a remarkable statement! It's so obviously true -- and woefully out of place in our national discourse -- that it must be treated as false until proven otherwise! This is the nature of "journalism" nowadays. Thus MacLeod continues:
Were the Arab leaders double-talking, as Cheney seemed to imply?
And I suppose the question is worth asking, although to me it seems a no-brainer. Yet it no doubt makes sense for MacLeod to pile a bit more evidence on the table.
Five years later, I am not aware of evidence that any of these three key Arab allies were saying one thing in public during Cheney's trip and another thing in private. As it happens, I had lengthy off-the-record interviews with senior Arab officials on the subject before and after Cheney's trip. In each case, the officials told me that their governments were strongly opposed to a war against Iraq.

One of them said, for example: "Cheney comes in. People thought he is coming to get a blessing for war. What he heard was, 'We are not for it.'"

Another told me: "What is the relationship between the Taliban and Iraq? If the issue is weapons of mass destruction, then everybody is aware that Iraq's capacity has been demolished while others in the area [i.e. Israel] have a capacity that nobody is talking about. If you are an Arab, the question is, Why Iraq and not Israel? Why open files selectively? We warn, you can't ignore public opinion."

A third, plainly exasperated senior Arab official called the idea of attacking Iraq "ridiculous" and "disastrous" and mocked Rumsfeld, who he described as "hopeless." "There is basically this attitude, 'We can do anything,'" the official told me. "I hope that will change, frankly."
Some writers argue that it has changed, or that it is already changing, but no evidence of such a change has penetrated my icy perspective.

I would contend that the Arabs still don't understand the game plan. But MacLeod can't go there. Instead he shifts gears and enters the realm of "international relations journalism", where one must describe as "allies" those countries which acquiesce when lied to and lied about and threatened and otherwise coerced by the American foreign policy politburo, maintaining the friend-or-foe dichotomy in balance with "enemies", namely those countries which stand firm despite being lied to and lied about and threatened and otherwise coerced.
It is certainly true that once the Bush administration ignored Arab advice and dispatched tens of thousands of troops to the region, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, as close U.S. allies, agreed to provide limited logistical support for the war.

The main U.S. ground, sea and air operations had to operate out of Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar, three tiny sheikhdoms that feel heavily dependent on a U.S. military deterrent for their survival. In the end, even Turkey, a NATO ally, refused to allow its soil to be used to launch a ground invasion of Iraq.

The warnings that Arab allies gave about the disastrous consequences of a U.S. invasion of Iraq turned out to be correct, as we now know.
But the desirability of these "disastrous consequences" to the US War Party -- at the expense of both America and the Middle East -- is still largely unrecognized.

This situation is not helped when journalists write about an ongoing and successful long-planned effort to plant an enormous American military footprint smack in the middle of the Middle East as if it were a result of incompentence or stupidity or bad luck or bad planning or lack of planning -- as if it were failing.

It simply isn't done; it simply can't be done; therefore MacLeod is more or less obliged -- if he wants to see his piece published -- to continue in such a vein:
Things are going so poorly for the Bush administration that as Cheney made his way through the Middle East last week, the White House was reversing policy and agreeing to hold rare talks with Iranian officials about how to stabilize Iraq.
One could quibble with that assessment.
There's reason to think that Cheney's day has past.
Is there? What reason could there possibly be to think that Cheney's day is past?

MacLeod doesn't elaborate -- maybe because he can't!

Dick Cheney may not be in his last throes at all.

Instead MacLeod hints at the opposite and then lays out another stack of evidence refuting himself.

This most curious aspect of post-democratic American journalism keeps showing its gnarly face -- and going mostly unrecognized, even (dare I say "especially"?) in the "progressive" blogosphere: Professional journalists can seemingly present as much evidence as they can find of administrative lying and betrayal and -- yes! -- treason!! -- as long as they don't dare call it what it obviously is. Instead they seem forced to weave the most unlikely narratives, purporting to "connect" the "dots" they have laid out. And it falls to bloggers, citizen journalists who do this work even though it costs them money, to sever the purported connections and "re-connect" the dots in ways that make logical and historical sense.

Thus MacLeod continues as follows:
The ostensible reason for his latest tour was to rally Arab support for American damage-control efforts in Iraq.

Yet, during this Middle East swing, Cheney curiously stuck to his 2002 script, substituting the Islamic regime in Iran for Saddam's regime in Iraq. Speaking on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, also a stop on his 2002 tour, Cheney told American sailors:

"With two carrier strike groups in the Gulf, we're sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike."

"We'll stand with our friends in opposing extremism and strategic threats."

"And we'll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region."
And he provides much more detail -- journalists apparently can provide as much detail as they like, as long as their narrative is off-target:
In interviews just before and just after his meetings with Arab leaders, Cheney conveyed the sense that the Bush administration and Arab leaders are on the same page about Iran.

He informed Fox News's Bret Maier that Arab allies share the U.S.'s concerns. Iran is "obviously a major source of concern not only for the United States but also for most of our friends in the area...My experience has been generally throughout the region that everybody is really focused on the Iranian situation. It's a top priority, if you will, in terms of concerns and the prospects of the Iranians developing nuclear weapons."

If Cheney is suggesting that Arab governments are concerned about Iran's expanding influence, slippery behavior and nuclear capability, he is right. Arab leaders were indeed very wary of Saddam Hussein back in 2002.

But Arab leaders did not support the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003 and, notwithstanding Cheney's insinuations, there is no evidence that they would support a U.S. strike or full-scale war on Iran in the future.

The U.S. failures in Iraq, in fact, have left Arab allies even more doubtful about the Bush administration's capacity for good judgement than they were five years ago.

Like he did in 2002, Jordan's King Abdullah II issued a statement after his talks with Cheney on Monday, affirming that "Jordan stands in support of a peaceful resolution to the issue of Iran's nuclear capabilities that would spare the region further tensions."
Phrases such as "doubtful about the Bush administration's capacity for good judgement" seem to imply a continuing ignorance -- even in the most dramatically affected part of the world -- about what the Bush administration aims -- or rather aimed -- to achieve in the Middle East, and what the administration has in fact achieved there already.

It's not a question of good judgement. It's a question of identifying what they want -- and they are surely getting what they have always wanted.

But to "senior Arab officials", according to MacLeod, it all seemingly comes down to a question of judgement.

The Incompetence Defense still reigns supreme in post-democratic American journalism, and behind it the Bush administration hides all its lies -- from 9/11 to WMD in Iraq to Katrina to all sorts of foreign and domestic policy "failures", including perhaps the president's failure to manage the English language; in fact this might explain his failure to have been legitimately elected, ever! But we don't talk about that, not in the big media, anyway, where the Incompetence Defense is the officially sanctioned limited hangout, and even the "best" journalists labor under its strictures.

Thus MacLeod is more or less obliged to land on the theme of questionable judgement, and to write a closing paragraph like this:
That's the same message that senior Arab officials are again stressing to me in off-the-record interviews. They're saying that the U.S. had better find a way of negotiating with Iran on the nuclear concern, before things get further out of hand.

Despite the fiasco in Iraq, I suppose it remains to be seen whether the Bush administration will absorb the advice of its Arab allies this time.
Well, that's fine. But is Iraq really a fiasco? And does anything really remain to be seen?

Does the Bush administration ever "absorb" the advice of the coerced little pawns our journalists keep calling our "allies"?

Or is perhaps the mere hint of such a thing just another "misrepresentation", a thoroughly bogus tale, another shining example of how bowing to fiction has become part of the price American journalists must pay in post-democratic America, not only to get paid, but also to get readers!

Readers who would never find Arthur Silber, for instance.

Readers who would never read Robert Higgs.


I'll have more on this and much else later, or at least that's the plan. In the meantime we have quite a bit to read and think about and, hopefully, discuss.

Scott MacLeod:
Cheney of Arabia

Robert Higgs:
How Does the War Party Get Away with It?
To cover their tracks, the leaders of the War Party are relying on Machiavelli’s wisdom, which tells them: “It is necessary ... to be a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.”

Pretending to cut taxes, wildly increasing federal spending for nearly every species of boondoggle (thus buying off potential Democratic opponents in Congress), hiking the deficit and shoving the burden of servicing the resultant public debt onto future generations of taxpayers, they understand well the classic expression of political irresponsibility, “apres nous le deluge.”
Arthur Silber:
Dominion Over the World (IX): The Elites Who Rule Us
This is the reality that the widely accepted mythology is designed to avoid, a reality that rests upon an intricate series of connections among government, corporations, national media, foundations, law firms, and additional elements (including, very significantly, a massive defense industry).

These are the elites who run our government, and who direct our lives.

These are the elites who continue the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people who never threatened us and the destruction of entire countries that never attacked us, and who ache for still another war.

These are the elites who oversee death and destruction on a vast scale, who seek to eliminate what little remains of our liberties, and who are never satisfied.

No matter how much power they have, they always want more, unto the end of time.
As always, your comments and questions are most welcome.