The Iraq Study Group Study Group (ISGSG), a shadowy organization of indeterminate number (to wit, this author and those who frequent this web site) was created to reflect and comment on the better known Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG). The ISGSG has now released its own report. President Bush, upon reviewing an advance copy of the ISGSG's white paper mumbled something to the effect that it was “very interesting” before filing it in the same cylindrical file with the Baker-Hamilton report.
Once stripped of its tepid criticisms, the Baker-Hamilton ISG report looks like an attempt to stuff the evil genie of Mr. Bush's policies back into the bottle of a more subtle Bismarck-Metternich style of empire. Mr. Baker and his groupies clearly are nostalgic for the day when his class of people could achieve dominance while keeping up the pretenses of goodness and democracy for public consumption. They recoil from the blunt, naked aggression of the Bush Administration which Mr. Baker et. al. equate with the boorish behavior of crass amateurs and thugs. Baker et. al. prefer the more nuanced, more subtle exercise of power, like the true aristocrats they are, who keep their white gloves clean while the blood is spilled off-stage and out-of-sight by covert military operations.
Notwithstanding its atavistic longing for a less messy empire, the Baker ISG should be congratulated for concluding (as so many of us hoi polloi concluded several years ago) that the Bush Administration foreign policy has been an unmitigated disaster. In fact, Mr. Bush has done such a swell job enervating the American military, undermining the dollar as the world's reserve currency, eviscerating the economy and totally demythologizing the mythology of America that one might conclude that W is the last century Kremlin's ultimate deep mole. And since we have mentioned the Kremlin, the Baker “old guard” undoubtedly sees the specter of déjà vu haunting an arrogant BushAmerica that is emulating the old Soviet empire's meltdown while permitting South America to escape from neoliberalism's orbit.
Although we of the The Iraq Study Group Study Group ultimately found little that was novel or insightful in the ISG report, we congratulate Mr. Baker and his colleagues for exposing definite fault lines within the international ruling cabal. For days after the release of the Baker-Hamilton report it was very pleasing to read conservative political pundits dissing Mr. Baker's ISG as “muddled”, irresponsible and unbalanced. Indeed, one such conservative columnist castigated the public disclosure of the Baker-Hamilton report that, in the esteemed pundit's opinion, should have been kept absolutely secret and accessible only to the inner circle of policymakers -- quite consistent, of course, with aristocratic notions of “democracy” and government transparency.
Dissension within the ownership class?
We take it as a
given that the so-called “left” is not monolithic. Although most of its
constituents generally want “change”, the quality, degree, nature and
means of attaining that change leads to disorientation (such as backing
the Democratic Party of the Status Quo as the perpetual lesser of two
evils). The left's inherent disunity, caused as much by a lack of
historical perspective, the absence of a unifying theoretical vision, as
well as by government infiltration, co-option and misdirection, is often
mischaracterized by eternal optimists as a political “strength”. Although
non-hierarchical, leaderless, multi-strategy movements can be profound and
resilient, political discordance is a weakness. The peace
movement's inefficacy proves itself in a century-long succession of failed
efforts to stop the beginning of one new war after another. It is the
hubris of well-meaning American peace activists (most of whose hearts are
in the right place even though their vision might be myopic) that they do
not appreciate how an endless succession of invisible, economically
insignificant, officially-sanctioned “weekend” demonstrations along with
endless letters to tone deaf editors, interminable law suits creeping
ineffectively toward a conservative Supreme Court, and email petitions to
privately owned legislators are not the primary engines of
fundamental social or political change.
However, fortunately for what is “left” of us, the Baker-Hamilton ISG demonstrated that the “right” is also no more monolithic than the “left.” Like the “left,” the “right” also suffers from a lack of historical perspective and the absence of a unifying theoretical vision (other than the capitalist mantra of screw everyone else before they screw you).
The ownership class worldwide rarely concerns itself with such trivial notions as “nationality”, and those who have power and wealth -- regardless of race, religion, citizenship or ethnicity -- easily identify, support and associate with one another no matter what passports they bear. Nevertheless, the center of gravity of that ownership class lies indubitably in the United States, if for no other reason than here lies control over that final arbiter of power: overwhelming military might and nuclear weapons.
Thus, political and
economic control of the United States is essential to the maintenance of a
certain world order, and therein lie the fissure lines highlighted by Mr.
Baker's ISG. To maintain that control in a world increasingly destabilized
by dramatic and impending climate change and diminishing resources of all
kinds (including, and especially, hydrocarbon fuel stocks), the ownership
class in America joined a marriage of convenience, a ménage a trois,
between the Old Power represented by Mr. Baker, the so-called
Neoconservatives and the Christian Right. Luckily for us all, this is a
loveless marriage and they are likely to eat their own children.
Other members of the ISG include:
Lawrence Eagleburger, assistant to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger during the Nixon presidency, a careerist in the “State Department”, and someone who is noted for rather controversial stints as ambassador to the former Yugoslavia and the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims;
Edwin Meese, Yale University graduate, past Attorney General under Ronald Reagan, murky involvement with the Iran-Contra affair, Fellow of the Heritage and the Discovery Institute (the folks who advocate for “intelligent design” as an alternative theory of evolution);
Vernon Jordan, friend of both John Kerry and Bill Clinton, a past president of the National Urban League, noteworthy as a director of the investment bank Lazard Freres, who either sits, or has sat on, the board of directors of American Express, Dow Jones, Revlon, Corning, RJR Nabisco, and Xerox.
a high tech specialist with a PhD. D. in mathematics; Bill Clinton's
Secretary of Defense; currently serves on the Board of Directors of Los
Alamos National Laboratory and co-directs the “Preventive Defense Project
at the Stanford University Center for International Security and
Charles Robb, former conservative Democratic Governor and Senator of Virginia, past chair of the Iraq Intelligence Commission, co-founder of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), married Lynda Bird Johnson, successfully dodged at least one sex and one drug related scandal, voted (as a Democrat) for the Supreme Court appointment of Clarence Thomas and for Newt Gingrich's Contract for America, past member of the Trilateral Commission and current member of George Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
Leon Panetta, initially a moderate Republican who served in the Nixon Administration, Panetta later became counsel for the NAACP; then, as a Democrat, was elected for nine terms as U.S. Congressman; Bill Clinton's Director of OMB and, later, Chief of Staff; Director and Founder of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.
Sandra Day O'Connor, first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court (appointed by Ronald Reagan), wanted to retire during a Republican administration that could appoint her successor and was reportedly upset in 2000 when she heard, prior to the Supreme Court's intercession halting the Florida recount, that Al Gore had been elected instead of George Bush.
Two other people had been appointed to the ISG, but they resigned before it issued its report: the cantankerous presidential aspirant and former NYC Mayor Rudi Giuliani, of 911 era fame/notoriety and self-idolizing Super Hero Crime Fighter; and Robert Gates, former Director of the CIA under Bush I and just appointed as Bush II's Secretary of Defense.
Mr. Baker's Study Group is, indeed, “blue ribbon” and “blue blood.” This is a very elite little circle that tends to associate with or serve the interests of power and money. The core of the ISG (that is, its Republican majority) have rubbed shoulders with or served clients like Saudi princes, Carlyle Group types, the European old guard, investment moguls, oil men, men of high finance, the cream of Club Society. The other members of the ISG are compromisers concerned more with preserving institutions than ideals. The core ISG are pragmatists; they do not care what nation beats up on which other nation, who lives or dies, so long as, at the end of the day, they, the institutions they represent, or their clients have benefited and come out ahead. They currently work, or have worked in the past, with the new royals, the 21st Century Bourbons and Hapsburgs, the robber barons of our time.
That is why the
Baker ISG plan does not contemplate completely withdrawing American
soldiers, but drawing them down slightly and consolidating the remainder
in supposedly impregnable fortresses from which military power over the
entire region can be exercised. Consistent with the ISG members' own
government experiences from the last decades of the 20th Century, the
Baker plan does not rule out an El Salvador “solution” -- a bloody, U.S.
induced civil war that will cause Muslim to kill Muslim for decades, and
thus forestall the evolution of a strong Shi'a regime in Iraq -- the
nightmare of the House of Saud, the House of Mubarak, the House of
Jordan's King Abdullah, and of Bahrain, Kuwait, Pakistan, Algeria and all
other western supported autocracies.
The third member of
the political marriage of convenience is the so-called Christian Right.
Disdained as loonies by its two other political bedfellows, the Christian
Right is, indeed, crazy. The Christian Right has no blue blood at all and
it does not play well with either the Baker crowd or the Neoconservatives.
It literally seeks to establish a Christian theocracy, not only in the
United States but everywhere on earth. Its peculiarly twisted version of
muscular Christianity most closely resembles the Christianity of the
Crusades or of the Spanish Conquistadors... or, for that matter, radical
Islam. The ownership class and the Neoconservatives thinly camouflage
their disgust for the Christian Right, a group they believe is both
ignorant and insane, but which they must tolerate solely because (until
such time as electronic vote fraud can be perfected) they have (at least
until November 2006) provided the margin of votes necessary to solidify
the political power of the other two. The two camps of Israeli zealots --
ultraconservative Christians and Neoconservatives -- can barely conceal
their mutual loathing while each imagines ascending to its respective
gated paradise (national or divine) while treading on the body of the
The American military brass, like professional military men in every country, absolutely loathe civilians and their “weaknesses.” They despise even more the arm chair generals like Mr. Rumsfeld who have squandered military assets in pursuit of a rearranged “Muddle East.” The generals are every bit as crazy as the Christian Right, but these folks are also armed. Their hubris is symbolized in the U.S. by the Oliver North types, of Iran Contra notoriety, and abroad by the unlamented dictator created by Henry Kissinger, Augusto Pinochet of Chile. As a class, the Pentagon crowd has been aching to avenge the loss of the Vietnam War and now they have another military fiasco to redeem, as well. As people know who have spent any time around career military officers, these folks are bitterly convinced that “they” and “their soldiers” suffer, fight and die while the “civilians” reap the profits. This combination of disgruntlement and ultimate power is toxic, and even though the United States has not yet experienced a military coup d'etat, it is the fear of an unbridled military which caused many founders of the original United States to inveigh against creating a standing, professional army.
All these factions -- the Baker old guard, the Neoconservatives, the Christian Right and the Security Establishment -- are now vying for control as the Bush Administration sinks deeper into failure. Although some of their goals are similar, nothing sharpens fratricidal tendencies like a lifeboat too small to hold everyone aboard the sinking ship.
The ISG report, tepid though it is, is a sign of the widening differences among these groups. Already, the Christian conservatives chafe at the too few bones they believe were thrown to them during the Bush years, and the Bushmen mutter derisory comments about their religious bedmates' mental equilibrium. The military is sullen and prone to leak embarrassing news. The Neocons try to salvage their new map of the Muddle East in Israel's image, while Baker & Co., perhaps pining for the simpler, despotic days of Their Man, Saddam Hussein, try to rebuild Humpty Dumpty status quo ante bellum.
We in the Iraq Study Group Study Group profoundly regret that these squabbling lovers have inflicted such horror and misery on the world. But if the ISG report augers correctly, this squabbling could soon end up with a political separation. We look forward to an ugly divorce.
Zbignew Zingh can be reached at: Zbig@ersarts.com. This article is CopyLeft, and free to distribute, reprint, repost, sing at a recital, spray paint, scribble in a toilet stall, etc. to your heart’s content, with proper author citation. Find out more about Copyleft and read other great articles at: www.ersarts.com. copyleft 2006.
Other Articles by Zbignew Zingh
One Size Fits All Universal Politician for Every Office