1 jun. 2008

How McClellan Prettifies Bush


“Ambitious, Idealistic Vision of Freedom?” Forget it!

Former Bush spokesperson Scott McClellan is accomplishing several things with his “blockbuster” book “What Happened”. He’s making a lot of easy money, as befits an opportunist of flexible morality who admittedly stuck with the Bush administration, even as its amorality and penchant for lying to the American people became clearly apparent to him. He’s earning praise from objective journalists and scholars in general. He thus partially redeems his own historical legacy as a minor figure in what will be remembered as a notorious lying administration. But he’s prettifying that administration rather than damning it.
According to the former press secretary, Bush misled the nation, hyping dubious intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. But he did so, McClellan declares, out of a naive commitment to the ideal of democracy in the Middle East. And he didn’t deliberately lie. He was merely the victim of bad advice, his own intellectual limitations, his disinclination to ask questions and his belief that being a wartime president was his ticket to greatness. McClellan states repeatedly that he continues to feel affection for the man responsible for perhaps a million Iraqi deaths and over 4300 American and other coalition ones.
McClellan attributes Bush’s relentless push for war on “an ambitious and idealistic post-9/11 vision of transforming the Middle East through the spread of freedom.” So his worst sin was a naïve effort at do-good-ism!
He doesn’t mention the more plausible reasons for Bush’s assault on a sovereign country described by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as illegal. He doesn’t mention oil, the administration’s push for the privatization of Iraq’s oil industry (which will result in U.S. control), or the geopolitical importance of controlling the flow of oil from Iraq in future crisis situations including war. He doesn’t mention the advantages to U.S. imperialism of permanent military bases in the heart of the Middle East.
For the neocons there is no question but that the U.S. should have bases in the Middle East, and Cheney is known to favor their establishment preparatory to a future confrontation with China.
McClellan doesn’t discuss these matters.
It’s all well and good for the world for McClellan to turn on his former boss and join such insiders as Richard Clarke, Paul O’Neill, and Lawrence Wilkerson in documenting Bush’s mendacious pre-war use of fear-mongering. But isn’t he engaging in perverse apologetics of his own? Alluding to the passage cited above, a blogger on Oprah.com Community writes, “I guess this knocks the wind out of the sales of the Bush haters, and blows the ‘conquer Iraq for oil’ theory, doesn’t it?”
Actually, the war-for-oil-theory has always been simplistic, since it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, which isn’t oil company profits or even U.S. consumers’ access to cheap oil. It is the enhancement of the geopolitical position of U.S. imperialism vis-à-vis any potential rivals during what the neocons call the “New American Century” and (as a corollary to that project) the enhancement of the security (regional hegemony) of Israel. In any case, the idea that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to encourage freedom in Iraq only surfaced after the fact, in August 2003, as all the earlier stated reasons for invasion had become discredited. That’s when Condoleezza Rice gave a speech in Dallas in 2003 cynically associating liberation of Iraq with the Civil Rights Movement in the US.
"But we should not," insisted the World's Most Powerful Woman, as though she were dealing with an actual problem, in a speech to the National Association of Black Journalists in Dallas August 7, "let our voice waver in speaking out on the side of people who are seeking freedom. And we must never, ever indulge in the condescending voices who allege that some people in Africa or in the Middle East are just not interested in freedom, they're culturally just not ready for freedom or they just aren't ready for freedom's responsibilities.
We've heard that argument before, and we, more than any, as a people, should be ready to reject it. The view was wrong in 1963 in Birmingham, and it is wrong in 2003 in Baghdad and in the rest of the Middle East."

But National Security Adviser and former Chevron Oil board member Condoleezza Rice did not identify those who disparage Third World "freedom" and alleged U.S. efforts to impose it. She's obviously not targeting L. Paul Bremer III, civil administrator in Iraq, who told the Washington Post June 28, "Elections held too early can be destructive," adding that while there's "no blanket rule" against democracy in Iraq, and he's "not personally opposed to it," it must take place "in a way that takes care of our concerns" and "done very carefully." In fact he is saying “the Iraqis are culturally just not ready for freedom, and just aren't ready for freedom's responsibilities," at least until they learn how to say "Yes, Boss!"
Rice is not targeting Henry Kissinger, who as U.S. Secretary of State, following the democratic election of Salvador Allende in 1970, declared, "Chile shouldn't be allowed to go Marxist just because its people are irresponsible," and proceeded to help organize a bloody fascist coup, producing a regime more suitable to those Latinos down there.
She is not trying to chasten Vice President Dick Cheney, who as a Wyoming representative in Congress in 1986 voted against a resolution urging the apartheid government of South Africa (which then-President Reagan pronounced America's "closest friend" in Africa) to release Nelson Mandela, freedom fighter, democrat, from prison.
No, no, no. Condi's saying: Those criticizing the U.S. occupation of Iraq are the moral equivalents of the KKK.
The suggestion that this was Bush’s priority all along just isn’t plausible. Had he been committed to democracy, he would have conceded the election to Al Gore in 2000; had he been committed to freedom, he would not have shoved the Patriot Act down the throats of Congressmen in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 nor gleefully endorsed rendition and the indefinite detention and torture of noncombatants captured or bought from bounty hunters in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, the Bush supporters like the blogger quoted above will take comfort in McClellan’s book. They will think it lets their man off the hook.
Finally, McClellan damns the news media for being complicit enablers of the march to war. Having performed a central role in the dissemination of disinformation, he chastises the Fifth Estate for “covering the campaign to sell the war, rather than aggressively questioning the rationale for war or pursuing the truth behind it…” He notes accurately enough that the media neglected “their watchdog role, focusing less on truth and accuracy and more on whether the campaign was succeeding.”
He notes that “the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should have never come as such a surprise. The public should have been made much more aware, before the fact, of the uncertainties, doubts, and caveats that underlay the intelligence about the regime of Saddam Hussein. The administration did little to convey those nuances to the people, the press should have picked up the slack but largely failed to do so because their focus was elsewhere on covering the march to war, instead of the necessity of war. In this case, the liberal media did not live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”