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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Revenge of the Old School 

Steven Clemons's The Washington Note is your one-stop source for Bush-bashing by Republicans (and, for that matter, Bush-bashing by Bushes). First, Clemons has published excerpts from the much-ballyhooed New Yorker article (on newsstands Monday) in which former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, who oudoubtedly hates to say "I told you so," looks at the current lamentable state Iraq and says "I told you so":
A principal reason that the Bush Administration gave no thought to unseating Saddam was that Brent Scowcroft gave no thought to it. An American occupation of Iraq would be politically and militarily untenable, Scowcroft told Bush. And though the President had employed the rhetoric of moral necessity to make the case for war, Scowcroft said, he would not let his feelings about good and evil dictate the advice he gave the President.

It would have been no problem for America's military to reach Baghdad, he said. The problems would have arisen when the Army entered the Iraqi capital. "At the minimum, we'd be an occupier in a hostile land," he said. "Our forces would be sniped at by guerrillas, and, once we were there, how would we get out? What would be the rationale for leaving? I don't like the term 'exit strategy' -- but what do you do with Iraq once you own it?" . . . .

The first Gulf War was a success, Scowcroft said, because the President knew better than to set unachievable goals. "I'm not a pacifist," he said. "I believe in the use of force. But there has to be a good reason for using force. And you have to know when to stop using force." Scowcroft does not believe that the promotion of American-style democracy abroad is a sufficiently good reason to use force.

"I thought we ought to make it our duty to help make the world friendlier for the growth of liberal regimes," he said. "You encourage democracy over time, with assistance, and aid, the traditional way. Not how the neocons do it."

The neoconservatives -- the Republicans who argued most fervently for the second Gulf war -- believe in the export of democracy, by violence if that is required, Scowcroft said. "How do the neocons bring democracy to Iraq? You invade, you threaten and pressure, you evangelize." And now, Scowcroft said, America is suffering from the consequences of that brand of revolutionary utopianism. "This was said to be part of the war on terror, but Iraq feeds terrorism," he said . . . .

According to friends of the elder Bush, the estrangement of his son and his best friend has been an abiding source of unhappiness, not only for Bush but for Barbara Bush as well. George Bush, the forty-first President, has tried several times to arrange meetings between his son, "Forty-three," and his former national-security adviser to no avail, according to people with knowledge of these intertwined relationships. "There have been occasions when Forty-one has engineered meetings in which Forty-three and Scowcroft are in the same place at the same time, but they were social settings that weren't conducive to talking about substantive issues," a Scowcroft confidant said.

When I asked Scowcroft if the son was different from the father, he said, "I don't want to go there," but his dissatisfaction with the son's agenda could not have been clearer. When I asked him to name issues on which he agrees with the younger Bush, he said, "Afghanistan." He paused for twelve seconds. Finally, he said, "I think we're doing well on Europe," and left it at that.
Also (via our esteemed colleague Gatorchick at Florida Blues): Mr. Clemons has also persuaded Washington insider Chris Nelson of the subscription-only Nelson Report to share his ruminations on the now-famous "cabal" speech given last week by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson at the New America Foundation:
On the one hand, there is no question from private remarks and public grimaces, some reaching back to early 2001, neither Powell nor Armitage had or has much trust or respect for Rice, and they share with other senior Republican wisemen the conviction that Rumsfeld is quite literally mad, and Cheney a dangerous, vindictive monomaniac.

On the other hand, such views are normally dispensed as pearls before very closed groups of friends and retainers, often with the intent that rumors, if not full quotes, reach the ears of eager ink-stained wretches of the press, so that the Powell/Armitage reputation for speaking truth about power remains unsullied, and hopefully well-represented in the history books.

Just how brave they were up-front, in the face of the misdeeds of Rummy/Cheney/Rice being decried, is a question on which the history books may be slightly less generous than the daily press . . . .

Another topic of emotional importance in Wilkerson's talk, which clearly echoes Powell's personal concerns, was his denunciation of the "torture memo" and its effects, predicting "ten years from now, when we have the whole story, we are going to be ashamed."

What is he hinting? In some of the private chats noted above, Powell and Armitage have quoted President Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney as leading a collective round of ridicule when Powell, at Cabinet meetings, and Armitage, at Subcabinet, sought to put limits on mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. . .long before the cancer of Abu Ghraib. We reported on this at the time of last year's Senate hearings (the title of one was "A Fish Rots From The Head"). It will be interesting to find out if any of this was discussed with Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald, as he ponders conspiracy indictments . . . but that may be another story.

Our point in mentioning it tonight is that we think this casts light on Wilkerson's performance yesterday. . .it's hard to read between the lines and escape with anything less than his profound sense of shame and remorse that he and colleagues he so obviously considers authentic American heroes could have failed so badly to overcome the calculated, willful ignorance and mendacity of their opponents in the Bush Administration.
We lack Mr. Nelson's sentimental regard for Gen. Powell, who began his career as a toady to power and appears to have finished it in much the same fashion.

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