December 5, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Report: Plutocratic Damage Control

I'm not alone in feeling that the very need for the Iraq Study Group (ISG) exposes a flaw in our democracy. This need exposes the incapacity of Congress to exercise its oversight role. This incapacity is due, in part, to the Congress running in fear of the superficial corporate media, which can ruin a political career with a single ill-founded feeding frenzy.

The need for an ISG also exposes great weakness of Bush's Executive Branch, which suffers greatly from group think. Watching the ISG process feels like watching the "grown-ups" step in and clean up after the adolecents have been given a chance and have failed. More than that, it feels like the grown-ups are trying to talk down a suicidal teen who is standing on the brink.

Because George Bush and his cadre hold power, the ISG grown-ups are forced to negotiate with his administration. These negotiations are in addition to the international negotiations, and an implicit negotiation with the general public. A key principle of any negotiation is that all sides must "save face." The ISG report is, in great degree, a face-saving framework (withdrawl with honor). There are a lot of faces in the US that need to be saved, including some in the Democratic Party.

Iraq war oponents, like myself and others who saw through the false claims of "weapons of mass destruction," are critical of the ISG report. We read lines like one in the "Politics" section, "Iraq is a sovereign state...," as more face-saving fluff. We know the US is occupying Iraq, even if the story line says otherwise; we can read Brzezinski.

I appreciate the delicacy of the Baker-Bush negotiations. Perhaps we need to save Bush's face, as a practical matter, while extricating him from his historic mess. However, we cannot allow Bush's actions to be swept under the rug. We, the opponents of the Iraq war, are part of the negotiation. We want Bush and his conspirators to be punished for what they have done. Some might view the harsh Baker-Hamilton "Assessment" section of the report as part of that punishment; the embarassment of having Daddy's people come in and clean up his son's mess is noted. But we ultimately want George W. Bush and his conspirators formally investigated for crimes against peace. This is necessary as a lesson for future presidents that the public will not accept such behavior.

Bush continues to say the mission will not change, we must "win" the war. This is part of the face-saving dance we are watching. It's also part of another negotiation taking place; this is the unstated negotiation between the plutocrats (political elite) and the general public. It's as if George Bush is playing the bad cop for the plutocrats, and the ISG is playing the good cop for the plutocrats. The general public is not of one mind, but to the plutocrats we are the unwashed masses that they need to divide and conquer. Baker-Hamilton's rare honesty of the "Assessment" section works toward this end by striving to appease some of the public. I'm duely divided from anyone who is appeased by this "refreshing honesty;" I expect this level of honesty in public discourse as a routine matter.

The ISG report also perpetuates an attitued of "blame the victim." Both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of this when they say the Iraqis must solve their own problems. When I hear this I'm reminded of a quote by the chief American prosecutor during the Nuremberg trials, Robert H. Jackson. He said,

"To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

In other words, George Bush is responsible for causing the "problems" the Iraqis "must solve on their own." The chaos in Iraq that didn't exist before the US invasion, including bombings of mosques, friendly fire deaths and injuries, psychological traumas on all sides, damages from looting including the loss of antiquities, even the sectarian killing are part of the "accumulated evil of the whole," for which Bush and his conspirators are ultimately responsible. Furthermore, the US is financially liable for damages in Iraq. Middle-class US tax payers will bear the burden if we don't secure a redistribution of the war profits, which includes oil windfalls.

I could go on. To some degree, the ISG report is just one step in a long process, like the turnover of "sovereignty," like the Iraq elections (like the 2006 US elections), like the killing of Al-Zarqawi. Yet, on another level the ISG phenomenon is a historic display of plutocratic damage control, which will be studied for generations. Those of us seeking deeper social change, in part to prevent such wars of aggression in the future, need to view the ISG report as an opening.

Further Reading:

ISG Report

Baker vs. “The Lobby”, Mike Whitney, December 9, 2006.

plutocracy, aristocracy, elite, monarch


electrum! said...

It would be interesting to know just how the uppermost echelon (the super-plutocrats) view the Iraq war. Did they in fact give permission to do this war with the mistaken belief that we could thereby win alot of oil very easily? Were they just as surprised as anyone else who doesn't know the history of Iraq? Are these Powers That Be ready to get seriously insistent with the Neo-cons?

Quipper said...

The report didn't appease me. It's all about irrelevant old-times trying to become relevant again. Kind of like trying to make penance for past sins. Too bad the character didn't change.

You said: "But to the plutocrats we are the unwashed masses that they need to divide and conquer." Agreed; great point.

Anonymous said...

I wonder when the conversation will get to the bottom line and the media will start doing it's job of agenda setting around issues facing all Americans, not just what corporate America wants American's to know. This is just the beginning of the resource wars the US will face. The administration's scandal leading up to the war only fooled most Americans because most Americans know little of the rest of the world or how their own government works. Even those people are starting to question what their government is doing. You are right, there needs to be charges brought against this administration to set precedence for future presidents. Had this been done doing Nixon presidency we would not be in this situation today. President Ford did America a grave injustice when he pardoned President Nixon.

GDAEman said...

Anonymous - thanks for your thoughts. I'm trying to do what little I can to start that conversation. Communicating with media outlets can also help:

Media Contacts

You're very articulate. Thanks for adding your voice to the discussion.