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Hot Button

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The war in Iraq is widely regarded to have been the “hot button” issue of the last election. I don’t buy it. Americans seem to like a good fight. After all, we get into a lot of them. The problem with the war in Iraq is that it has become apparent that it is not a “good” fight and symbolic of several things we really don’t like. Hopefully we will learn from this lesson.

The Democrats are referring to the election as a “referendum on Iraq”. They have boldly, if unwisely, stepped up to the plate to add bones to their empty campaign slogan of “A new direction in Iraq”. On the surface, it will be easy. How many directions are left? We already went in. Getting out is about all that’s left, and if there is one thing that unifies Iraqis it is a willingness to show us the door. There’s a chance they can pull it off, but it could backfire, too. At the least, Iraqis will be likely inclined toward adding a swift kick in the rear to our departure. A wise observer once noted that it is easy to start a war, but you don’t always get to say when it is over. Even if we left today, the quagmire will likely deepen for the foreseeable future. It’s not like we can walk away from the damage we’ve done. We’ll be on the hook for quite some time, cleaning up our mess. Democrats can look forward to getting blamed for anything that goes wrong.

In a striking reversal of their bullying, oppositional political tactics, Republican Neo-Cons have shrewdly engaged their opponents to come up with solutions. What have they got to lose? If the solutions work, they appear collaborative and cooperative. If they fail, their opponents look bad. They’d probably rather the solutions didn’t work, but they can’t really care that much. Remember, the upshot of their strategy - detailed in their Project for a New American Century - is to destabilize the Middle East, ostensibly to promote democracy, or at least corporate capitalism. They’ve largely accomplished the destabilization, even if democracy seems a long ways off. Dragging out the occupation has simply been good business, that is, if you are in the business of bullets, bombs, their conveyances and logistic support. The legacy of the Neo-Con’s adventure in Iraq might closely parallel the old quip about the missionaries in Hawaii - They said they came to do good, and they did very well, indeed.

That’s where we get into what I believe the election was all about: Abuse. It became far too transparent what Haliburton and Blackwater and all Cheney’s business buddies were up to. Republicans don’t like corruption any better than anyone else. And that’s the swing that gave Democrats their victory. Even if you were only barely paying attention, the abuse became impossible to ignore. It was rife throughout the organization. From Abramoff to Foley, from Gitmo to Abu Ghraib by way of “extraordinary renditions” and indefinite detention at secret torture prisons, it became obvious that they don’t play fair, aren’t honest and often steal, or wink and nod while it happens. The provisional government of Iraq, under Bremer, lost track of $9 billion, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The bill from Iraq, already estimated at over $6,000 per citizen, will continue to haunt the U.S. economy for a long time. Nobody gives voters much credit for being smart, but when they figure out they are being robbed, they seem to know what to do. To my way of thinking, that’s the real reason we saw the election results we did. It would be nice if Americans suddenly became a nation of peaceniks. But it’s not as likely as them looking out for their own self-interests. Well, good for us. It’s good to do the right things, even if it’s not for the very best reasons. Whatever the instinct, it very well may have saved our economy.

Now it’s about how to recover and what we can learn. In Iraq, I don’t think there’s much we can do besides set up a bank account, make the commitment and get out. Domestically, things are quite a bit trickier. The Bush administration’s domestic policy has been much more complex. Best characterized by a shift toward an official, uniformed middle class, these include trade policies that disadvantage workers, staggering debts that will drag the economy for years, information control through media agglomeration, compromised civil liberties and the imposition of draconian security measures. Liberty and security are inversely related. That’s why Benjamin Franklin taunted Tories with his famous, “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither”. Americans will eventually need to decide which is more important.

Hopefully the election indicates that we are waking up to the creep of fascism. Hopefully we will recognize that the freedom of the internet provided better information on the run up to the war than corporate media control. Hopefully we will see that America desperately needs electoral reform - from the integrity of voter rolls to the integrity of voting machines to how campaigns are financed. Hopefully we will learn that taking a public health approach to social and economic inequities or ideological differences will achieve more and cost less than diplomacy out of the barrels of guns.

Hey! We can always hope!

About Tip Johnson

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 11, 2008

Tip Johnson is a longtime citizen interest advocate with a record of public achievement projects for good government and the environment. A lifelong student of government, Tip served two terms [...]