Friday :: Sep 8, 2006

With George In His Own Little 9-11 World

by pessimist

Between the end of WWII and 9/11, the world essentially revolved on an American axis. Sure, some of the world was aligned in opposition to America, but they weren't big enough to call the shots without our massive economy providing the means to return the lead to the United States.

But since 9/11, the world has become disenchanted with the 'leadership' of Bu$hCo. It's got them asking some tough and wistful questions:

If September 11 Never Happened ...
By Juli Zeh, Die Zeit, Germany
Translated By Bob Skinner
August 11, 2006

Original Article (German)

What would today be like if 11 September 2001 had never occurred? First of all, we never would have experienced how a really historic moment feels...

We do allow ourselves the notion that the world, in the sense of peace, love, and understanding, would have been much better without September 11. I would bask in the illusion of being part of a government-imparted value system. I could feel less alone, and would thus be further caught up in that self-inflicted immaturity that muddles the precise employment of reason.

Without that historic day in September 2001, ... I would not have thought that democracy was just as phony, ideologically covered up and hypocritical as all other ideals upon which governments are based.

There were good guys and evil guys, as is the case in every good story. The good ones included all of those who thought of themselves as democrats.

The evil ones were everyone else.

How can you tell the good from the bad?

A democratic country protects innocent citizens.

In democracies there is no propaganda, no incitement of hysteria against certain groups of citizens by the press or politicians.

Because a democracy trusts its citizens, it knows that it relies on the consent of its citizenry, because otherwise it doesn't deserve to be called a democracy.

A democratic state controls its secret services, doesn't deploy the army in its own borders, takes fingerprints exclusively from criminals, and doesn't use cameras at tollbooths to film harmless vehicles on the highway.

Democrats, we learned in school, never conduct wars of aggression, but employ peaceful means of cooperation and diplomacy.

That's not just what was explained to me: that's what I believed. No one would have dared insist that this was just a fair-weather opinion that darkened whenever a cloud crossed the sun.

No one called democracy an ideology that showed its true face
only when it was attacked from outside.

Suddenly, the lightbulb of understanding flared brightly:

It strikes you as tasteless to regard a terrorist attack as enlightening? You don't want to hear that time and again it has been Lucifer, the "Lightbringer," who shines the harsh spotlight of recognition on the world? And doesn't it interest you that knowledge - in the biblical paradise - is synonymous with the onset of catastrophe?

Let's just read the other articles on this subject and forget what's been said here. If that doesn't make you feel better, that suggests a connection as simple as it is fateful: there are many paths that lead to understanding, but none that can turn back the clock.

We can't go back home again, and that isn't such good - or surprising - news.

All over the world immediately after 9/11, headlines screamed "WE ARE ALL AMERICANS!"

Now, five years later, instead of an exclamation, it has become a cautious question:

Are We Still 'All Americans?'
By Jean-Marie Colombani, La Stampa, Italy
Translated By Enrico Del Sero
September 4, 2006

Original Article (Italian)

The shock of September 11, in fact, had produced unity and cohesion; five years later, we are forced to acknowledge that this capital of goodwill has been dissipated, wasted, and manipulated.
[R]arely has there been such a mismatch between a historic situation and the capacity of the one who had to face it, and that is President Bush. The gravity of the first was faced - alas, alas, alas! - by an intellectually and strategically weak American leader.

He definitely deceived himself, and all of us, too.
We have all seen, in the midst of this very difficult political situation - especially in France, Germany and Russia, which were opposed to a war that was declared without a clear U.N. mandate - that this was followed by evidence of a lie unmasked: there wasn't even a trace of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Since then, chaos has gradually taken hold of Iraq, particularly thanks to the dogmatism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to the point that America's room to maneuver in the region has been badly weakened.

[A]ny U.S. initiative that carries the "imperial" stamp
provokes an even greater weakening of America.
The U.S. is and must remain a trade-oriented Republic ... one can easily see that its military only operates effectively when executing targeted operations, after which it can rapidly withdraw ... there is no tradition of military occupation and the maintenance of order.

But getting back to September 11, what is it that we can reproach the United States for?

After 1945, the free world was rebuilt on two pillars: containment and development. While containing the Soviet Empire, it was necessary at the same time to promote the development of democracy through free trade.

And what did Bush Junior decree instead?
Preemptive action; that is to say, preemptive war in the place of containment. That has changed everything.

[I]n addition, a protectionist economic logic has discouraged every initiative to manage planet-wide problems (think of his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol).

Therefore the two pillars of what used to be a "trans-Atlantic community" have been put in doubt at the very moment during which it should have been recreating the maximum cohesion and [strengthening] these two traditional pillars.
We are now in a position to see the risk
of a war between civilizations,
which is something we must oppose.
Nothing would be worse than for us to adopt the logic of a war between civilizations, at the very moment when the main front consists of a true struggle within the Muslim universe, between the forces of regression and those of progress. We must absolutely not ignore who the attacker is (al-Qaeda), by which means (mass terrorism) and with what objective: to block the democratic development of every Muslim country, and drag them into the Holy War.

[O]ur [European] countries, while engaged in the struggle against terrorism, must endeavor to rebuild a real partnership with the United States. This obliges us to recognize a fundamental solidarity with the United States, but it also provides us, we Europeans, with the capacity to exercise influence that, if we fail to remain united, we will not have the chance to exercise.

Based on our shared destiny, we must not be deterred by the abuse of American power, which in any case we now know is not sufficient by itself to address the historic challenges before us.

That's how the Italians see it - a qualified 'yes, we are all still Americans'. What are the views of our closest foreign ally, Britain?

Not all Americans now
by Gerard Baker, The Times US Editor
September 06, 2006

Since 9/11, world opinion has swung from sympathy to anger at American foreign policy

The rest of the world has always had a complex set of attitudes towards America — a mixture of envy, admiration, disdain, gratitude, exasperation, hope and, sometimes, fear. As it prepares to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the attacks, America stands reviled in the world as never before.

It is a remarkable turnabout. In the same amount of time that elapsed between the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the Treaty of Versailles, in as many months as passed between Germany’s invasion of Poland and D-Day, the US has gone from innocent victim of unimaginable villainy to principal perpetrator of global suffering.

So complete has been this transformation in global sentiment that it is inconceivable now, should America be attacked again, today, that the tragedy would elicit the same response. There would be horror and sympathy in good measure, certainly, from most decent people.

But there would also be much Schadenfreude, and even from the sympathetic a grim, unsmiling sense that America had reaped what it had sown.

The facts — the historical events — that have brought about this changed perception of America are not in dispute. They can be tracked chronologically, almost from the moment the twin towers came down.

For some time after September 11, many US critics distinguished between anti-Bush and anti-American sentiment. It was possible to argue that US actions after 9/11 did not reflect any deep national shift in strategic direction but were simply the result of decisions made by an unrepresentative leadership which had, some insisted, “stolen” the election in 2000.

But after President Bush’s narrow but decisive election triumph in November 2004 that became less plausible. Americans had been given a chance to pass judgment on their leadership in the early years of the post-9/11 world. After 2004, confronted with the reality that President Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld really were the representative leaders of America, the rest of the world formed an alternative impression of the US — that 9/11 had, in fact, induced a dramatic change in the psychology of the nation.

A nation that had not been attacked on its own soil in 60 years had overreacted and, through a combination of government lies and a complaisant media, had turned its back on co-operation with the world.
In the end, deep as the cultural differences between Europe and America are, there is little doubt that it is the policies — the military and diplomatic stance of the US in the past five years — that have caused the rest of the world to turn away from its traditional ally.
Far from driving us together in the face of a common threat,
the events of September 11 have ripped the West apart.
Now, the world’s distrust of and disdain for America borders on pathology. Even saner types ... still think that the US is a bigger danger to world peace than almost any other country in the world.
Five years later, though, it is not just Europeans or British who think that the US is misguided. [I]t has since become clear that Americans themselves appear to be profoundly ill at ease with their country. Immediately after 9/11, more than 80 per cent of Americans told pollsters that they believed their country was on the right track.

Since last summer the proportion of Americans who believe that their country is on the right track has been about 25 per cent. More than 60 per cent say that the US is heading in the wrong direction. Majorities now believe that the war in Iraq was a mistake and that US policy has made the world less safe.

As the nation’s mood has soured, Americans’ willingness to follow their administration’s leadership in other aspects of policy has dissipated. But is it possible that the America that has so scared the world these past five years is unravelling? Will the last half-decade turn out to be some awful nightmare from which America and the world are about to wake?

But before the rest of the world starts pulling down metaphorical statues of President Bush and declaring the end of the tyranny, it should ponder what may come next in America’s relationship with the world.

A chastened Bush team does not necessarily mean that [the Bush revolution itself is over].

In fact, it goes on, almost unchecked:

America's longest war: September 11th 2001
From The Economist print edition
Aug 31st 2006

A nation once joined together in shock and vulnerability is now riven by failure and recrimination

It is tempting to argue that the most remarkable thing about September 11th, five years on, is how little it has changed America. Many features of the political landscape are much as they were on September 10th — a polarising president, an electorate divided almost 50-50 in terms of party allegiance, a Republican Party that loves to wrap itself in the flag and a Democratic Party more worried about outsourcing than terrorism. But look more deeply and you find dramatic changes.

That September 11th changed America dramatically is hardly open to debate: George Bush's presidency has been about little else since then. But some of the changes have been unexpected. Who would have guessed, as a shocked country rallied round the flag, that five years later partisan divisions would be deeper than ever? Who would have guessed, as the president pledged that “the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon,” that five years later Mr bin Laden would still be at liberty and America would be bogged down in Iraq?

The administration capitalised on the more vengeful mood to produce a wide-ranging response. On September 11th Mr Bush concluded that America was at war. That day, too, he stated that he would make no distinction between terrorists and those who harboured them. This rapidly became the “Bush doctrine”. The doctrine drew on two contradictory beliefs: that America was mighty enough to reorder the world and that it was vulnerable to still worse attacks.

The administration relentlessly used the president's popularity to strengthen the power of the executive. In the wake of September 11th it engineered the biggest expansion in executive power since the days of Franklin Roosevelt. Even when he was guaranteed a rubber stamp from a compliant Congress, he preferred to go it alone. Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator, grumbled that the administration treated Congress like a “constitutional nuisance”.

The bipartisan feelings that followed September 11th could hardly have lasted for ever. But it is still surprising how far the warm courage of national unity has turned into fiery partisanship. The main cause of this partisanship is the Iraq war, which is proving even more divisive than Vietnam. Today nothing inspires more anger on the left than the belief that Mr Bush exploited September 11th to justify long-laid plans to remove the Iraqi president. Neil Young, whose 2001 song Let's Roll paid tribute to the bravery of the passengers who stormed the hijackers on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania, is now singing about impeaching the president.
The partisanship has been partly driven by political opportunism, as the Republicans have tried to turn September 11th into a vote-winner. The shadow of September 11th will hang over the mid-term elections. Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, argues that the big question in November is, “Do you believe we're at war?” The Democrats fight back by arguing that, thanks to his war in Iraq and neglect of security at home, Mr Bush is making America less safe.
The concentration on national security reflects a second big change: America's new but continuing sense of vulnerability. This has deepened over the years. The war in Iraq has proved how difficult it is for America to use its military might to change the world. The fiasco of failing to find any WMD in Iraq underlined the weakness of its intelligence services. The response to Hurricane Katrina showed dramatically what several congressional reports had already pointed out: that the administration had done little to prepare for another catastrophic attack.
America is now as divided as possible about Mr Bush. His supporters regard him as a “transformative” figure like Ronald Reagan. His critics view him as a catastrophe—possibly the worst president in American history, according to Sean Wilentz, a Princeton historian.
But, thanks to September 11th, nobody can dismiss him as a mere footnote.

It was once noted to me while still in high school that those who garner the headlines in the creation of a major mess are almost always remembered by history, while those who were sent in to complete the bungled job are ignored. Can you name the US Army general who completed the tasks assigned to George Armstrong Custer?

I didn't think so.

Luckily for US presidents, history pays them more attention than US Army generals conducting a race war for geographical plunder. The president who cleans up George's Iraq mess - the one started over 'Nothing' - won't be forgotten entirely:

Bush is going to leave Iraq for the next president to clean up
by Warwick McFadyen
August 25, 2006

After he said "the terrorists attacked us and killed 3000 of our citizens", a question was asked: "What did Iraq have to do with that?"

Bush: "What did Iraq have to do with what?"

Q: "The attack on the World Trade Centre?"

Bush: "Nothing..."

George Bush has another 26 months to run on his presidency, which means that by November 2008, the US will have been in Iraq for almost six years. The US has about 133,000 troops in Iraq. It hopes that as the Iraq forces get up to speed (they were dismantled by the US during the invasion), then it can gradually withdraw its own.
In a couple of months,
America will pass the time it spent
fighting in World War II — 45 months.
The time span was noted by Senator Edward Kennedy during a hearing this month of the US Senate Armed Services Committee on Iraq and Afghanistan. The senator also noted the cost of the war: $US400 billion ($A524 billion), 2579 killed, 19,000 wounded. And that's just one side of the coin. Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated at more than 40,000.
Bush also mentioned the C word.
Civil, that is - as in civil war.
For months, Iraq has been "sliding towards civil war". At what point on the clicking of death's toll does the situation become "officially" civil war? Last month, about 3500 Iraqis died, according to mortuary and hospital figures. Iraq Body Count, which monitors violent civilian deaths, has calculated that from March last year to this March, 36 people, on average, died each day. In the first year of the invasion it was 20 a day.
A total of 789 American soldiers died in the March to March period,
according to, or two deaths a day.
The [Senate Armed Services] hearing coincided with the disclosure by William Patey, who recently retired as British envoy to Baghdad, that "the prospect of a low-intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy".

The New York Times reported that the number of roadside bombs last month was the highest ever, and that since January, attacks against the US and Iraqi forces have doubled. Last month, 2625 bombs were found, of which 1666 exploded. That's 53 explosions every day. If this bombardment were not bad enough, there is the question of winning hearts and minds.

The US second-in-command in Iraq, Lieutenant-General Peter Chiarelli, admitted recently that "people who were on the fence or supported us … in the last two years or three years have in fact decided to strike out against us. And you have to ask: Why is that? And I would argue in many instances we are our worst enemy."

Certainly Abu Ghraib and Haditha did not help matters.
In the hearing, General John Abizaid ... noted the insurgency's "resiliency, it's probably going to last for some time even after US forces depart".

Duh! Ya think? The stupidity doesn't end there:

General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the hearing that civil war was a possibility "but that does not have to be a fact. Shia and Sunni are going to have to love their children more than they hate each other."

Yeah, that will end it!

Cluelessness begins at the top. Applying Western social mores to the Muslim world, impoverished by decades of Western predation, only points out that those who converted what should have been a massive international criminal investigation into a war against a religious culture don't have the slightest clue of what they are about.

It carries all the way to the top:

"We're not leaving, so long as I'm the President." There in nine words is the exit strategy for the United States involvement in Iraq. Depending on your viewpoint, it's either a commitment or an admission of defeat. At what point in the cycle of violence will that [US exit] occur?
One thing's for certain, by then Bush will have left the scene.

And one more time, the rich frat boy slacker with the doting mama will have evaded responsibility for his calamatous and disaastrous actions. The mess will be left for the rest of us, who will be aiding his successor at 1600 Pennsylvania Avanue.

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pessimist :: 10:15 AM :: Digg It!