Friday, September 01, 2006

Bush The Divider

Earlier this year, on April 18th, George Bush defended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld against a chorus of calls for his resignation. According to CNN:

"On Friday I stood up and said, 'I don't appreciate the speculation about Don Rumsfeld; he's doing a fine job; I strongly support him.'"

Pressed to respond to critics who say he is ignoring the advice of respected former military commanders, Bush vigorously stood by Rumsfeld.

"I listen to all voices, but mine is the final decision," he said. "And Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job. He's not only transforming the military, he's fighting a war on terror. He's helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld.

"I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

Flash ahead to a press conference held by President Bush on August 21st, where he said,

"You know, it's an interesting debate we're having in America about how we ought to handle Iraq. There's a lot of people -- good, decent people -- saying withdrawal now. They're absolutely wrong. It would be a huge mistake for this country."

In a speech Thursday at the American Legion National Convention in Salt Lake City, the president repeated that theme:

"Still, there are some in our country who insist that the best option in Iraq is to pull out, regardless of the situation on the ground. Many of these folks are sincere and they're patriotic, but they could be -- they could not be more wrong."

What Bush was doing was attempting to give the impression that he appreciates and respects the viewpoint of those who oppose the war. Allegedly, he merely thinks we are just wrong-headed and misguided.

But, he doesn't really value dissent and he views his domestic opponents as appeasers and traitors.

Bush placed an interesting clue, earlier in his Salt Lake City speech:

"The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation -- the right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism -- the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest. As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before. They're successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be: This war will be difficult; this war will be long; and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty."

Those we are fighting are kissing cousins of 'Fascists' and 'Nazis.' Hmmm, what does that make those who oppose the Bush policies?

It was no mistake that Bush used that language, because Donald Rumsfeld made the following comments just 2 days earlier, to the same audience:

1919 — turned out to be one of the pivotal junctures in modern history with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the creation of the League of Nations, a treaty and an organization intended to make future wars unnecessary and obsolete. Indeed, 1919 was the beginning of a period where, over time, a very different set of views would come to dominate public discourse and thinking in the West.

Over the next decades, a sentiment took root that contended that if only the growing threats that had begun to emerge in Europe and Asia could be accommodated, then the carnage and the destruction of then-recent memory of World War I could be avoided.

It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among Western democracies. When those who warned about a coming crisis, the rise of fascism and nazism, they were ridiculed or ignored. Indeed, in the decades before World War II, a great many argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated or that it was someone else’s problem. Some nations tried to negotiate a separate peace, even as the enemy made its deadly ambitions crystal clear. It was, as Winston Churchill observed, a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last.

There was a strange innocence about the world. Someone recently recalled one U.S. senator’s reaction in September of 1939 upon hearing that Hitler had invaded Poland to start World War II. He exclaimed:

“Lord, if only I had talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided!”

I recount that history because once again we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism. Today — another enemy, a different kind of enemy — has made clear its intentions with attacks in places like New York and Washington, D.C., Bali, London, Madrid, Moscow and so many other places. But some seem not to have learned history’s lessons.

We need to consider the following questions, I would submit:

*With the growing lethality and the increasing availability of weapons, can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased?

*Can folks really continue to think that free countries can negotiate a separate peace with terrorists?

*Can we afford the luxury of pretending that the threats today are simply law enforcement problems, like robbing a bank or stealing a car; rather than threats of a fundamentally different nature requiring fundamentally different approaches?

*And can we really afford to return to the destructive view that America, not the enemy, but America, is the source of the world’s troubles?

Rumsfeld added:

"...and that is important in any long struggle or long war, where any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong, can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.

"Our enemies know this well. They frequently invoke the names of Beirut or Somalia — places they see as examples of American retreat and American weakness. And as we’ve seen — even this month — in Lebanon, they design attacks and manipulate the media to try to demoralize public opinion."

I get it...Rummy sees those opposed to wasting all our resources on a war started under false pretenses, an occupation with a bad plan, no true strategy, and no end in sight, as a position of moral confusion. Further, he sees it playing into our enemies hands. And the media supposedly falls for it, thus turning the public against a righteous cause. Uh-huh...that makes loads of sense.

In that American Legion speech, Rumsfeld crosses the line. He dares to equate those who question the misguided occupation of Iraq with the appeasers of the Nazis.

There have been those who have very eloquently ripped Rumsfeld a new one for this arrogance. If you have not seen Keith Olbermann's brilliant response, you can access it here.

My point is that Rumsfeld's comments, and similar attacks on our patriotism by Dick Cheney do not happen in a vacuum. It is an organized, coordinated strategy. A strategy that begins and ends with George Bush.

I have heard and read much about a 'good cop, bad cop' scenario being played out here. However, the bottom line is really quite simple.

Mr. Bush is not seeking to unite this country. He is a divider. And he is deliberately trying to polarize us because he knows the only chance the GOP has this November, aside from rigging the election machines, is energizing the fringe-right base...the only people still supporting their policies.

If Bush disputes Rumsfeld's remarks he needs to do more than speak out. He needs to fire the man.

This will not happen because Bush is in lockstep with Rumsfeld's sentiments on the subject. In fact, Bush is hiding behind Rumsfeld and Cheney. He is allowing them to toss out the red meat, while he maintains a posture of civility.

Unfortunately, as presidents go, he is not an especially good actor.

There is a move afoot to make those in the House and Senate go on-record with a vote of 'no confidence' on Rumsfeld. It is election-campaign posturing that the GOP has always been good at, but the Dems have fallen flat on. I am encouraged that we are finally learning how to play the game.

Rumsfeld needs to be held accountable. George Bush needs to be held accountable for what Rumsfeld and Cheney say, as do those who serve in the House and Senate.

You wanna toss out words like 'appeasement' and 'moral confusion?' As Rumsfeld's boss, you want to let those charges stand?

Fine, but at least be honest about it...Mr. Divider.

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