Bush's Soviet State
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 22 July 2005
It's funny in an awful sort of way. The defining events of the last fifty years all centered around the Cold War and the eventual demise of the Soviet system. Toward the end of the Soviet regime, their government was often forced to grossly overstate the size of grain harvests or the preparedness of their military in order to maintain an illusion of strength and order. In other words, intelligence and facts were fixed around the policy. In essence, fixing the facts became the policy.
Self-deception was piled upon self-deception. Rather than address the systemic problems within the nation, the Soviet regime chose instead to massage the illusions until the problems became too huge to overcome. Pretending everything was fine became the chosen course of action, and the state's ability to manufacture a pleasing reality became a perfect circle of inaction and delusion. By the time the tanks rolled and the Wall fell, the deal had already gone down.
There has been a lot of noise lately in the news media about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, and whether Bush advisor Karl Rove was the button-man who brought her down. Press coverage of this issue has been unexpectedly tenacious. White House spokesman Scott McClellan has been leaving his podium after press conferences lately with fresh bite marks all over his ankles and legs. The intensity of the pursuit on this issue has a lot to do with Times reporter Judy Miller. Like her, hate her, respect her or disdain her, but one thing is clear: The White House press corps is bird-dogging this story with alacrity because one of their own has wound up in the bucket because of it.
Yet even with all the coverage - The Time cover, the Newsweek cover, the growling at the press conferences, the intensity of media attention that has not even been deflected by a Supreme Court nomination - the press and far too many people seem to be letting the larger issue slide by. Reporters, columnists and talking heads chew over minute permutations of the story like whether Rove actually said Plame's name, or whether he used her maiden name, or whether he "knowingly" did any of this. The trees are certainly interesting, but the forest deserves a lot more attention.
In short, George W. Bush and his administration are pursuing a course of determined unreality that mirrors the delusional fantasies that ultimately consigned the Soviet Union to the dustbin of history. This Rove-Plame thing is but one small aspect of the main.
Valerie Plame's career as a covert CIA operative was spent keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists. Her career was destroyed by the White House because her husband, Joseph Wilson, had the gall to publicly contradict Bush and his people regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It was so important for the Bush administration to maintain the fiction that Iraq possessed these weapons that they were willing to torpedo a vital intelligence network set up to protect us all. That fiction was more important than the truth.
It seems clear that Rove was central to this action, regardless of all the arguments over the definition of "is." It is likewise becoming clear that Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, was also in on this action. However, focusing only on which laws these two may have violated in wrecking Plame's ability to do her job does not encompass the totality of the issue. Valerie Plame is not a central character in all this, but only another casualty.
George W. Bush and his people spent months telling the American public that Iraq was a direct threat to our security. They invaded based upon false pretenses. They maintain the fiction that the war was necessary when it has become manifestly clear that it was not. They maintain the fiction that freedom has been brought to Iraq when it has become manifestly clear that it has not. Perhaps worst of all, they maintain the fiction that the United States and the world are safer because of the invasion. Recent events in London rip this fantasy to shreds, and never mind the reports from the French news media that the London explosives may have been made from materials stolen from the unsecured Al-Qaqaa facility in Iraq.
A recent article from the Associated Press titled "Experts Fear Endless Terror War" noted, "An Associated Press survey of longtime students of international terrorism finds them ever more convinced, in the aftermath of London's bloody Thursday, that the world has entered a long siege in a new kind of war. They believe that al-Qaida is mutating into a global insurgency, a possible prototype for other 21st-century movements, technologically astute, almost leaderless. And the way out is far from clear. In fact, says Michael Scheuer, the ex-CIA analyst, rather than move toward solutions, the United States took a big step backward by invading Iraq."
The article continues, "Scheuer, who headed the CIA's bin Laden unit for nine years, sees a different way out - through US foreign policy. He said he resigned last November to expose the US leadership's 'willful blindness' to what needs to be done: withdraw the US military from the Mideast, end 'unqualified support' for Israel, sever close ties to Arab oil-state 'tyrannies.'"
Willful blindness is an appropriate phrase. It captures not only the fact that we are manufacturing threats to our security every day we remain in Iraq, but the fact that virtually everything associated with Bush administration policy depends on self-delusion and the manipulation of data to fulfill political desires. Even the most fundamental underpinnings of conservative political philosophy have been ground up in the gears of this grand fantasy.
Truth no longer matters. Ethics no longer matter. Facts are there for the twisting. Decades-old conservative ideals regarding the budget and the size of the Federal government have been thrown under the bus because they are no longer convenient, and get in the way of the manufacture of reality. Soviet self-delusion led that nation into Afghanistan and disaster. The Bush administration’s self-delusion has led us into Iraq. Res ipsa loquitor.
The parallel between this Bush administration and the old, failed Soviet regime can be taken one step further. One of the main reasons the Soviet government was able to stagger on for years making up facts out of whole cloth was that the leaders of that regime were accountable to no one. The Politburo said it, and so it must be true, and if it wasn't true, there was no authority or check to their power that could blow a whistle, throw a flag or demand an investigation. The old Soviet government lived in a bubble, free from the fear that they might be called to the carpet for lying, getting a lot of people killed and putting the State in mortal danger.
Sound familiar? Bush and his people have managed to walk through the raindrops since 2001, managed to pull off more than a few impeachable crimes, for no other reason than that they are accountable to no one in government ... or, more properly, no one in government who has the power to call them to account has done so. Congress is run by Bush allies, the Justice Department is run by his longest-standing hatchet man, and all of them prefer to maintain the pleasant fictions over any attempt to fix what has gone so drastically and demonstrably wrong.
We watched the Soviets smash themselves to pieces because they refused to deal with what ailed them, because lies made life easier on the powerful, because actually attempting to address a problem might expose the powerful to censure or even removal, because no one had the power to stop them.
It is happening again, right before our eyes.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.