Friday, February 16, 2007

Accountability

I’m still amazed at the irrationality of some of my conservative friends here at work. They simply refuse to hold this administration accountable for its actions. Of course, 9 years ago all I heard was “responsibility” and “accountability”: the situation was different then – after 4+ years of investigations into his financial dealings, it was discovered that president Clinton lied, under oath, about a sexual affair.

Four years and more than 72 million to find out the president wanted to cover up a sexual affair. The conservatives were so outraged they tried to impeach him—and maybe rightly so. After all, the president is accountable to the people. Seemed like the people didn't much care tho: Clinton's approval rating went up to 67% after the affair...


But some seem to have forgotten that government is accountable to the people... and that this administration promised to bring integrity back to the white house... Competence? It was assumed the inexperienced president would bring some high-powered experience into the administration.


We got the "power" -- but it turned out to be thin on competence.


About nine years after the Clinton investigation (which dominated congress and the media for some time) we have a president that’s somehow still "acceptable" to about 35% of the population (likely that same %33 or so that were appalled about Clinton's lie). He’s actually considered “a good leader” by some of my colleagues. Let’s review his record:


0. He spent more time on vacation -- in his first year in office -- than another other modern president (Nixon was close I think). Of course, he was home "clearing brush" after getting a daily intel briefing labeled "Osama determined to attack US". I guess Cheney's counter-terrorism working group was on the case... Oh yeah, there's no record of it ever meeting.


1. He started an unnecessary war: The office of the Inspector General has determined that the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans systematically cherry-picked intelligence to (as Seymor Hersh put it)

find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true—that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons (WMD) that threatened the region.

When WMD’s were not found, who was blamed: not the OSP, but the intelligence community.


Strike one for accountability.


2. Bush and Co. completely underestimated what it would take to stabilize Iraq. Many of the countries top military officials counseled the president and SECDEF as to the need for a large number of troops to stabilize the country. They were ignored and marginalized.

The cost? Lives and $$$.


3.Iraq reconstruction was deliberately put in the hands of cronies with little, if ANY, experience in the fields they were assigned. From the Washington Post:


After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.


Premeditated incompetence is fraud.


4. Progress, by any meaningful measure, has not been made. The president likes to talk of constitutions and elections: but those are means-to-an-end – that end being a stable, safe and (somewhat) free society. Iraq has none of those things. Even by the presidents own measures (which he mentioned in a speech last year) the situation has been deteriorating CONTINUOUSLY for 4+ years. Mr. Bush said (in 2006 on NBC’s Today) that progress can be measured:


in megawatts of electricity delivered" and "in terms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people.

Of course oil production is still below pre-war levels and electricity is available in Baghdad about 8 hrs a day.


5. Osama Bin Laden is not even in the news… let alone dead or in custody. The American public has been treated to a very inept version of “bate and switch” – all of our energy has been focused on the Iraq quagmire. The man that was behind the murder of 3000+ American’s hasn’t been “smoked out” as the president was fond of saying back in 2001/2002. He is more likely enjoying a smoke in the protected region of western Pakistan where our “ally” will not send their forces nor let us operate.


Clinton still gets harangued for not "going after" OBL. Well, 37 American's died as a result of terrorist action on Clinton's watch. He had regular meetings with the terror chief Clarke, would "shake the trees" within the FBI and CIA when there were threat reports. Bush? He went home to Crawford to clear brush.


All of this points to incompetence in international affairs – on a grand scale. (But what should we have expected from the CEO-president who’s only successful business venture was putting together an investor group to buy a baseball team?) What’s the reply I hear from my conservative friends when I level the charges? “Well, these things are ‘hard’” is usually the refrain.


Yes, they are… They are hard – they were also largely un-necessary and are draining our blood and our treasury.


The president’s policies have not made us (or the world) safer… They have not resulted in the capture of OBL… They have not resulted in a decline in terrorism… In fact, they have increased anti-Americanism throughout the region and the world and provided exactly the conditions OBL needs to call more Muslims to arms against us. In this sense they have bolstered terrorism for the foreseeable future. They have resulted in the creation of an Iraqi state that is more closely aligned with the interests of our adversaries than the west. They have created more tension between the Sunni and Shite states (e.g. - Saudi Arabia and Iraq) and resulted in greater hegemony for Iran. His policies have, in short, been a complete and utter disaster.


Remember: Clinton also got the nation involved in foreign sectarian violence -- in the Balkans. However, by heeding wise advice and carefully planning our involvement, his policy was able to bring an end to ethnic cleansing without the loss of a single American life and without getting the nation involved in a protracted military engagement. Whether or not you agree with his intervention is beside the point: at least the policy and operation was formulated and conducted competently: the proof is in the pudding.


But now we’re supposed to let the man who created the current mess, who has been unable to fix it for 4+ years, continue to lead us further into the box-canyon…


Why?


My conservative friends tell me “because he’s our leader”… (The same friends that berated Clinton for getting involved in the Balkans. They claimed it was intended to distract the country from the truly important matter of a presidential blow-job.) Well, the American system of government isn’t supposed to work that way:


The genius of republican liberty seems to demand...not only that all power should be derived from the people, but that those entrusted with it should be kept in dependence on the people....

-- James Madison, The Federalist, No. 37


There’s the crux: the people have the power – but we entrust a few to weld it for us… They are not our masters – they are our servants. They depend on our consent to weld that power. When they willingly deceive the people – when they hide the truth and pursue a personal, ideological agenda that is based on deception and secrecy – they have failed to fulfill their duty as public servants. Its time for them to be removed.


So what does it take for that 35% or so of Americans who “approve” of the presidents job performance to see that the emperor has no cloths? To see that we have the most incompetent leader in American history at a period in our history when we need real leadership?


I think it comes down to this: that 35% simply like the idea of a “strong” authority figure: it makes them feel safe that someone “decisive” is in charge. Policies, actions, even results: these things really don’t matter. What matters is the visceral: “We need to be strong” – never mind if diplomacy leads to a better result; never mind if other paths actually address the problem. It’s the gut reaction that needs to be satisfied: in this case, to meet violence with violence. To kick butt. Who’s butt? That doesn’t matter.


Don’t get me wrong- I would be one of the first to support an escalation of operations in eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan in the hunt for OBL: bringing him to justice is the message we need to send to those who attack us… and it serves justice”. But somehow violence against a surrogate has been substituted for justice… and for about 1/3 of the American populace it helps them to sleep at night knowing that our forces are “killing the bad guys”.


6 comments:

Capt. Fogg said...

I have an advanced case of misanthropic cynicism. I really believe that nearly everyone is in some respect insane although obviously such assessments are completely subjective and impossible to prove, but now, thanks to Bush, I can prove that at least a third of the US is absolutely bonkers.

Reign of Reason said...

It's a data point in your favor.

I just can't believe that there are more than 1 in 10 American's that still consider this disaster a good leader.

If ever there was a proof for blind faith, this is it.

Intellectual Insurgent said...

They don't want to capture Bin Laden. Then how else will they scare the American public into voluntarily giving up their constitutional guarantees and how else can they achieve the dictatorship in America they so desperately want?

Reign of Reason said...

But a lot of the people in America do want to catch him -- even tho they have been distracted.

I think some are finally realizing this administration isn't interested in catching him...

Intellectual Insurgent said...

What a lot of people in America want or don't want is utterly irrelevant in determining foreign policy.

Reign of Reason said...

With regard to this lame-duck president: yes... However, I think politicians saw the backlash regarding the war... Most will only pay lip-service to the will of the voters. However, some may try to actually represent there constituents.

We'll see with whoever gets elected to the white house next...