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Swinging America, but who should look out?

Tony Phillips is a regular Webdiarist. His last piece was Taking a dump on the public: the Telstra Fiasco.

by Tony Phillips [16:45 EDST]

In a cave somewhere near the Pakistan Afghanistan border Osama Bin Laden must be mournfully holding his hands to heaven and asking why Allah has forsaken him.

Since the bombing of the twin towers in September 2001 Osama and his motley bunch of fanatics have been blessed with a wonderfully helpful adversary in the person of President George W. Bush. He took them and their claims far more seriously than they could ever have hoped for, and catapulted them into a continuing world spotlight that millions of dollars and tens of thousands of propaganda man hours could never buy.

George and Osama were a match made in hell and the blundering of the President and his cronies has done more to make a war based in religious fundamentalist teachings a reality than ever seemed possible. The Germans sending Lenin in a secret train to Russia in 1917 didn’t do as well in creating a wealth of grief, tragedy and death for themselves and everybody else.

However, it’s now clear that the American public has not fulfilled the wishes of terrorists everywhere but has in fact sent the chicken hawks of the Republican party packing in what appears to be a heavily anti-war vote. At 4:45pm EDST the Democrats had taken 23 seats in the lower house and the swing was still going. Fifteen was the magic number for a Democrat majority. In the Senate, where six seats are needed and only 33 are up for election the Democrats had only reached three.

The emerging result is not something to get overly excited about, since it does not of itself end the war in Iraq, change US policy on climate change, or even reverse the growing inequality of the country. However, it does raise a number of possibilities and scenarios for both the US and John Howard’s all the way with George W foreign policy.

A Democrat majority in the lower house will be marginally more aggressive and radical than the more conservative Democrats in the Senate. With a majority in one or even both houses citizens will hope for a series of inquiries that bust open the secrecy obsessed Presidential administration on a number of fronts. Issues of poor decision making, intelligence fixing, incompetent policy processes, and of course the massive pork barrelling that the privatisation of the Iraqi war has entailed, could all come under scrutiny.

On the higher level of the very workings of American government one might expect the Bush-Cheney "unitary executive" principle to now come under both legislative and legal challenge. This principle has been invoked by the President, and Vice President Cheney, as giving the administration the right to ignore Congressional laws, including those concerning violations of human rights and the commission of war crimes. This has been a massive grab for executive power that has significantly undermined the liberal democratic principles of American politics. A tame Republican Congress would not challenge it, things may now change.

By the same token observers would do well to note that within the US constitution the President has disproportionate powers in foreign policy and war-making. Not having one house of Congress is an irritant, and not having either an inconvenience. However, it may not necessarily be more than that for a President who continues to insist he is "at war" and therefore always exercising his power in his capacity as Supreme Commander-in-Chief. The Senate and Tribunes may meet, but it is Caesar who acts, and the Republic’s drift to a phantom form thus may still continue.

Moreover, for the Democrats the adage, with more power comes more responsibility, applies. A poor showing in policy formulation, or a too successful revealing of the policy poverty and criminality of the Bush regime, could actually lead to a voter backlash come the 2008 presidential elections. The latter is very double-edged, a critique of the American presidency and failed war policy could be parleyed by expensive spin into an "attack on America" designed to generate a right wing backlash. Reagan built much of his popularity on lies of this sort.

For John Howard, heavily invested in a lame duck President with a failed war policy, things may become more embarrassing as Iraq disintegrates further and Congressional committees start digging dirt. Who knows what communications between the Howard government and the Bush administration may see the light of day over the next twelve months.

Howard’s already got problems with Murdoch’s backflip on climate change combining with what may be the worst continental drought in Australia’s history. If the American Democrats start taking a lead on climate change as well as asking questions about the war in Iraq and the "war on terror" the political agendas around the PM might become very uncomfortable indeed.

Meanwhile in caves across Afghanistan the al Qaeda stock is trending down. Sure if America pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan the terrorists will claim victory, but so what. Unending war and high blown rhetoric by their Satanic enemies are what they actually need to keep going. If they are merely contained and portrayed as criminals the glamour, recognition and recruiting all start to dry up. That said the benefits they've gained from Iraq may take ten years or more to dissipate.

The great shame is that the bloody horrible mess in Iraq is continuing to claim victims, and Western exit strategy from Iraq will likely involve a lot of immoral washing of hands and leaving the charnel house for someone else to clean-up.

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It's all about oil.

Any discussion that does not put 'oil' front and centre is misleading (to say the least.)

They talk about democracy, or WMDs, or whatever. All BS, pure.

In full: it's utterly criminal mass-murder for oil.

Truth in WD, please.

grief ahead for Howard

There isn't a plus side for John Howard in the coming year with the Democrat's taking of both houses in the US. Richard Tonkin has mentioned the elephant in the room that is really going to back-fire badly on Howard and Downer: the AWB scandal.

The fact that Terrence Cole will be handing down his findings before the Dems take control will just make it worse. Having been nobbled by Howard with his enquiry in the first place, the fact that any government minister will most likely be exonerated of anything untoward will be the calm before the storm. US wheat farmers are after blood and it's ours there after. This scandal is going to be resurrected by mid 2007 and will prove deadly for the Howard government. The old adage of never holding an inquiry unless you already know the outcome will be defunct when a second inquiry is on the cards over which our ministers have no control. Washington big guns are going to claim far more scalps.

A la Cosgrove, Angela?

Angela, you wouldn't be referring to Peter Cosgrove's new job of chief salesman of the Defence State, would you?

Military Mutiny?

I've finally gotten around to reading last Sunday's (US) Army Times editorial calling for Rumsfeld resignation.   It looks to me that the US milatary are feeling more than a little mutinous.


It is one thing for the majority of Americans to think Rumsfeld has failed. But when the nation’s current military leaders start to break publicly with their defense secretary, then it is clear that he is losing control of the institution he ostensibly leads.

These officers have been loyal public promoters of a war policy many privately feared would fail. They have kept their counsel private, adhering to more than two centuries of American tradition of subordination of the military to civilian authority.

And although that tradition, and the officers’ deep sense of honor, prevent them from saying this publicly, more and more of them believe it.

Our Prime Minister's reaction to the result of such sentiment?

[from The World Today]

JOHN HOWARD: On a personal level I enjoyed Donald Rumsfeld's company, and I will in the future, and I wish him well personally. But there is a measure of gesture politics in what the President has done. I understand that, and a tough bloke like Rumsfeld would understand it as well.

Angus Houston\s direct contradiction of Brendan Nelson's recollection of the Kovco information flow should have been interpreted by Mr Howard as a gentle reminder by the ADF of its independence from political rhetoric.  If he downplays the military's role in Rumsfeld's resignation his disrespect may serve as a catalyst for senior Aussie diggers to begin voicing dissent.

adventuring with gay abandon in white houses,..no not that

yep Rummy's down.Here is a bit about this replacement;

".....The Kansas-born Gates is a Bush family hand from way back. He served Bush's father as deputy national security adviser and later as CIA director. He was a rare hardliner in the Bush 41 White House, famously suspicious of Mikhail Gorbachev and closer ideologically to then-Defense boss Dick Cheney than to Colin Powell and James Baker.

But Gates was chiefly a lifetime CIA officer, who rose quickly through the agency's Russia and Soviet ranks during the 1970s and 1980s. He was marked for higher office by Reagan CIA Director William Casey but was slowed in his rise by minor involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal in the late 1980s, when Gates was Casey's Deputy director at the agency. That misstep cost him the chance to replace Casey during the Reagan years; Bush's father named him CIA director a few years later after the Iran-contra smoke cleared.

During Gates' second CIA confirmation hearings he was charged with cooking intelligence by CIA insiders and making it more favorable to White House policy makers; Gates rebutted the charges sufficiently to get confirmed. Many Democrats voted against him nonetheless.

After leaving government, Gates wrote a book entitled From The Shadows and became president of Texas A & M University, the home of the George Herbert Walker Bush Presidential Library. Recently, he was named a member of the James Baker-Lee Hamilton commission on Iraq....."


that was an interesting Commission and report.

the nastiest of the Neocons seem to be a-lining with Cheney  or jumping ship in true to nature style. Bush senior seems to be pulling the strings with his old mates again now to try to save his moronic son. Will he be a Putin or a Yeltsin? Is Gates a Bush or a Cheney if it comes to chosing? This will get really nasty methinks, when "elephants fight".Already Perle, Rubin, et al have trashed the Bush executive,blaming them for the iraq disaster. The responding shot may be dangerous. How do they cope with the stress of all this? I thought I was going to have a heart attack over my late taxreturn and BAS!

Angus Houston is a man of great moral fibre and honour whom I greatly respect. Unlike some predecessors he will be harder to roll and stands for the military and the Nation before political gain or post job presents. He needs to keep a closer watch on our SAS types. the media here may report nothing but overseas what they do is certainly  and properly reported and if no accounting is made then we, the people, are the losers, despite our ignorance. Don't hold your breath for Senior diggers, as ,just like the US, those who don't rock the boat and up with great sales jobs in Weaponry.

And Saddam verdict? I suppose others have said it, but if he got hanging for 164 killed what will Bush/Blair/Alvar/Howard/Rumsfeld get for 600,ooo killed by an illegal invasion?  A group hanging? So very many have dirty hands over all this,where would one start? Perhaps that is why it won't happen. Pity they weren't sorted out last time they had power and committed crimes.How indeed could people ever ever trust their governments and spooks again about war when wanted if we were told that a Public relations/advertising company actually was used to take us to war? That we were deliberately lied to? So very many with dirty hands. Gloves on. "Out damn spot". IS that why they have the funny handshakes, avoiding the blood splatches.

Put all of them away for a lifetime of labour. Hanging is too good and too barbaric for them and us. Then Rodent can enjoy his company all he likes and people can write poignant witty tales of how the Rodent, Chimp, Poodle and Goat went adventuring causing such disaster with gay abandon then dining in their white house until very late.

I guess every generation needs it's Vietnam lesson,pitiful,stupid and cruel.

Return of US realists not necessarily a cause for joy

Pertinent points about Gates and his place and perspective, Angela. The defeat of the Republicans does not signal much in the way of a retreat from empire, and Gates arrival may actually be a minus for many people in Iraq, even if it brings some relief to US soldiers and taxpayers.

Gates belongs to the realist school of international relations, thus this is not shift to a "moral" perspective. Indeed in some respects it is a retreat. A heavily ideological White House, intent on using force to produce the moral outcomes it presumed necessary and inevitable has, as ideological regimes let loose with power do, created carnage.

A rise of the realist approach (which has not been completely absent from Bush's White House, just overshadowed) would see people being killed for "reasons of state" rather than because it's "good for them". A government pursing a line of simply what's best and most effective for America may avoid excess and some inefficiencies, it will certainly reduce the hubris, but it could be just as, or more, brutal than current US policy towards the people of the Middle East and Iraq. However, it will take an attack on Iran off the agenda, which is one victory for sanity and morality. But this approach will also be inclined to jettison all commitment to Iraq in any moral sense. Thus the switch from Rumsfeld will serve as a good excuse for moving from a failed ideological policy and just abandoning the mess to someone else to clean-up.

But let's be clear here, the dominant debate in the US has been about victory or defeat for the US in Iraq. Most Democrats and most Republicans are talking within this discourse. Iraqi benefits and costs, and for that matter the direction of Australian foreign policy, is largely hostage to this US debate. And it's now one in which the moral rights of others (non-Americans) have less rather than more weight.

Umbrella Up! Howard on Adelaide radio this morning.

 The Prime Minister was busy on Adelaide this morning puttting up an umbrella to shield his electoral hopes from the downfall of the Republicans.

Speaking on ABC-891 today  MrHoward explained that Republicans, given their financially conservative nature. staid at home in protest of the Bush Administration's fiscal deficit, and that this was a big difference between the two countries.

"What has happened at the ballot box in America has not changed the situation on the ground in Iraq"  Mr Howard said

Detaching himself from Bush's recent comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam,  the Prime Minister explained that Irraq couldn't be compared to Vietnam as "The judgement in history in relation to Vietnam is that it was a civil war."  

Howard downplayed the signifigance in the poll of the Middle East conflict,  saying  "I don't think it was the only issue, and it it would be a mistake to consider it in those terms."

Any other US President would have ignored September 11?

Tony Phillips: "Since the bombing of the twin towers in September 2001 Osama and his motley bunch of fanatics have been blessed with a wonderfully helpful adversary in the person of President George W. Bush. He took them and their claims far more seriously than they could ever have hoped for, and catapulted them into a continuing world spotlight that millions of dollars and tens of thousands of propaganda man hours could never buy."

He took them and their claims far more seriously than they could ever have hoped for?

Are you kidding? Osama murdered 3,000 men, women and children on a New York street corner in a single morning?

Are you suggesting that any other US President would have, what? Ignored Osama? That Osama would not have been a major priority?

Also, Isn't the liberal gripe with Iraq that it's a diversion from the 'real business' to be done in Afghanistan?

And going after Osama?

A couple who should keep their eyes open

My mates should look out for a start.  Henry Waxman, the Dem who's been making most of the noise about Halliburton will be one of a couple who'll end up chairing inquires into, according to this morning's Washington Post,  "matters that have largely gone unexplored under GOP control, such as allegations of waste in Iraq and mismanagement of the war."   Expect to hear the H-word a lot for a while.

Then there's the Republicans' acquiescence to the lobbying of former Australian ambassador Michael Thawley's request to look the other way from the AWB fiasco just before Howard's last election bid.  The Democrats will have a field day.  It's a pity that they don't assume power tiill January, which would be long after Terence Cole hands down his findings here.  Nonetheless US accounts of how Howard begged for an international whitewash will make interesting viewing before next year's Aus election.

 I reckon that Downer's chances of becoming less of a bit part player in the international arena are probably well and truly buggered.  I don't think he'll be so smug now that he can no longer ride on Bush's pony- maybe he'll even feel like a donkey, If PM Howard has half a brain.  He'll pull Australian forces out in the next twelve months, if he wants to avoid sinking on the same ship as the House Of Bush, and if Dubya doesn't want the US electorate to see his Man Of Steel fall, he'll have no choice but to be supportive.

The war may not be over, but there will be a few battles won before the next round of potentially leadership-toppling polls in two nations.

Thanks for the piece, Tony Phillips, it helped me get some perspective.

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