Friday, February 24, 2006

Hoist with his own petard - Bush is imploding

Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, is credited with saying, soon after the attack, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

There is no evidence to support the claim that Yamamoto ever said or wrote those words. However, that is exactly what happened, and the sleeping giant was a united, technological power house with competent, rational and determined leadership.

When the World Trade Center towers were destroyed by al Qa'eda's religious fanatics on September 11th, 2001, they served only to open the door of a caged, fire-breathing dragon and poke it with a stick. The USA, this time was incompetently led, politically divided, facing a global technical challenge, reliant on others for raw materials and in possession of unmatched military might.

On September 11th, 2001, not only did Americans rally around their leaders, but the world rallied around the United States. Inasmuch as terrorism was not new to the world, the level of death and destruction, and the motive were appalling to all but the worst of humanity. The world would not only acknowledge whatever action the US took in response but most would actually assist. The US was the victim in this instance and no matter what events transpired, they deserved support in removing a clear and present danger.

The Bush administration took the goodwill offered by Americans and the world and began to abuse it immediately. The Dubai Ports uproar is, perhaps, the culmination of five years of Bush administration lying, deceit and politicization of a heinous, unforgivable act of terrorism.

Other countries affected by the Dubai Ports deal seem unfazed by the arrangement. On analysis, little changes. It's an ownership arrangement which has little to do with security or sovereignty. But in the US it strikes a nerve which has been on the surface since the morning after 9/11 and which has been relentlessly exploited by an administration which peddled an atmosphere of terror and then manipulated the paranoia and fear by demanding acceptance of outrageous executive behaviour. Domestic political opposition was labeled treasonous, dissent subversive and questions dangerous. The President was infallible.

Americans can be excused for being outraged by a seemingly innocuous trade deal. They have been force-fed a diet of war rhetoric which served to excuse the expansion of executive power and resulted in the presidential authorization of domestic spying, the suspension of rights, the torture of prisoners and the ruthless suppression of dissent. Everything was connected to 9/11, even if the connection could not be explained. Terrorist were lurking everywhere and America was in danger. Then they are expected to accept the Dubai Ports deal as though none of that meant anything.

This article by Paul Krugman, describes the confusion felt by many Americans over the US ports affair. Americans are now expected to accept precisely the opposite of what they have been forced to endure for the past four years.

Now comes the port deal. Mr. Bush assures us that "people don't need to worry about security." But after all those declarations that we're engaged in a global war on terrorism, after all the terror alerts declared whenever the national political debate seemed to be shifting to questions of cronyism, corruption and incompetence, the administration can't suddenly change its theme song to "Don't Worry, Be Happy."
The Bush administration is trying to suck and blow at the same time. Add to that the years of being told that Americans have to comply with the administrations demands for more latitude and that they can never become complacent; That the enemy wants Americans to become relaxed and lessen their vigilance. Then, from Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England comes this:

"The terrorists want our nation to become distrustful," England said. "They want us to become paranoid and isolationist, and my view is we cannot allow this to happen. It needs to be just the opposite."
"The opposite" of what has been the administration's unending stream of blather. Now, it appears they want it both ways. A week ago England's statement would have been called treasonous, subversive and dangerous. This latest attempt at spin is not only feeble, it asks Americans to ignore all that has been said in the preceding four years. In fact, what England was expressing is that criticism of any administration decision is not acceptable. It would be better for the administration if Americans would just shut up and take it.

Of course, the port deal highlights another deficiency in the Bush administration: due diligence. For an administration which has consistently flogged Americans with the need to be wary of everyone and to maintain their guard even when it seems like a bitter pill to swallow, the fact that there seemed to be less than severe scrutiny of this deal is contrary to everything the Bush administration has been saying and has the effect of raising the question as to how necessary all other forms of scrutiny by the administration actually were. If the ports deal is really that harmless, if a company owned by people who directly associated with America's number one enemy can freely do business in the US and if the diligence isn't required when dealing with a people who have been institutionally demonized, what else isn't true? And why were Americans being asked by their government to behave differently?

Associated with the lack of due diligence is the admitted lack of knowledge. Given the nature of the deal, when Bush, Rumsfeld and Snow announced that they had no knowledge of the Dubai Ports purchase they exposed themselves to the American public and the world. It is difficult to determine which condition is worse: Lying that they didn't know; or if they truly did not know.
Patricia Wilson's Reuters article spells out the danger if Bush really does not know. She looks at the past, right back to 9/11 where Bush has used the "I-didn't-know" defence of his actions and it's chilling. If it's true, and one can certainly accept that some of it is, then the US is led by a self-admitted boob.

"It's a disaster for him, I think," said Michael Hogan, professor of communication, arts and sciences at Pennsylvania State University. "It's never a good thing for a president to say he doesn't know something."

"Its really a strategy for shifting blame," said Dean Spiliotes, director of Research at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. "But it is dangerous because the average person doesn't necessarily know that this is not something the president is typically going to involve himself in."

"It's a risk because it makes him look like they sort of dropped the ball."
The insertion of Karl Rove in this issue says even more about it. The Bush administration is under siege. To call up the smear-meister must mean that it is out of hand. Further, there was no strategy laid out in advance. Given the traction this has gained and the contradictions being tossed about like the balls in a McDonald's Playplace, Rove may not be able to pull this one from the fire. He is a strategist; not a tactician, and he too is faced with having to tell Americans that everything said in the past contradicts this deal.

It may be that this Dubai Ports deal, something which has not even appeared on the radar in Britain, Canada, Australia and many other affected countries, will be the undoing of the Bush administration. It may have finally caused the real sleeping giant to wake up. In the meantime the world can only watch and wince because this is very much like sitting on the hillside watching a train wreck.

Hat tip to Canadian Cynic for the link

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