The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Staggering Success of the Cheney/Rove Presidency

Going over the list of disasters, failures, blunders, scandals, and woes of the last 5 years makes it clear that the Chimperial Presiduncy has been a monumental horror for the vast majority of Americans. Our government is poorer, we're more scared, we have fewer rights, we're tangled in a never-ending "war" deliberately started by our government so that it could grab up more power for itself. Study after study shows that we are physically no safer than we were before 9/11, and as the article below shows, if something really bad does happen again, we are basically screwed. Our rights of assembly, freedom of the press, free speech, freedom from illegal search (not to mention our implied right to privacy), have all been severely diminished. Even habeus corpus has been suspended for a few of our lucky fellow citizens.

Yet, watching our leaders conduct themselves before the public, you'd think nothing was wrong. "Stay the course!" they smile. "We're turning the corner in Iraq," they suggest, all evidence to the contrary. They seem quite pleased with themselves and the job they are doing, which gives people who are paying attention a real sense of cognitive dissonance. Can they really think they are doing a good job? we wonder.

Based on what we would assume they want for our country: safety, stability, economic robustness, solvency, allies, freedom, a healthy press, an educated citizenry, etc., it's clear they are failing miserably, and should walk around with their heads hung in shame.

But the disconnect is that they obviously don't share those goals.

Poster mike_c at Democratic Underground has put his finger on exactly what I have been feeling for a long time:

Consider the possibility that the Bush presidency is wildly successful, rather than the abject failure we've all thought. Consider the possibility that it might in fact be one of the most successful presidencies of the last half century. It's all a matter of perspective.


Near the end of Confessions of an Economic Hitman, John Perkins, who was an insider in the seamy marriage of the military-industrial complex and international development banking for many years, says "things are not as they seem." Here's a short list of the way things are:

  • In terms of foreign policy, the Bush administration has declared a vague "war on terrorism" that can be fought anywhere in the world, and is a cover for a perpetual state of war-- genuine shooting wars, rather than euphemistic wars like the "war on poverty." This enhances and consolidates the power of the executive branch considerably, and for the foreseeable future. The first genuine front in this "war" was Afghanistan-- a country whose ongoing occupation, aside from not going well at all, demonstrates the underlying intention to maintain an empire under strict U.S. economic and military hegemony.

  • The U.S. has undertaken the weakening, and perhaps ultimately the destruction, of the United Nations, the only international governing body with the street cred to organize opposition to the imperial ambitions of the United States.

  • Bush weaseled and manipulated the press, the popular sentiment, and the U.S. Congress into supporting an apparent military misadventure in Iraq, ostensibly to counter the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's leadership. That threat is now broadly understood to have been wildly exaggerated-- in truth, utterly lied about-- but the lies about Hussein began during the 1990's and were perpetuated during the administrations of the two previous presidents as well. Bush simply capitalized on them after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. The war against Iraq has resulted in:

    • War crimes accusations. At its heart, the war against Iraq is a war of aggression, by definition a crime against humanity under international law-- the law embodied in the Charter of the U.N., which Bush has hobbled by appointing a thinly disguised toady as his ambassador.

    • The deaths of many tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and several thousand American (and allied) service persons, mercenaries, and civilians. It has also resulted in the utter destruction of Iraq, which was once one of the best developed, most secular societies in the Middle East.

    • Saddam Hussein, who rebuffed U.S. efforts to enmesh Iraq more deeply into indentured servitude to U.S. development banks and the MIC for decades, has been deposed, discredited, and awaits certain execution at the hands of his own countrymen. He has been replaced by a provisional government that is entirely beholden to the U.S., not only for its continued existence, but for the very lives of its members. That government has already accepted enormous financial "assistance" from the U.S., and with it the obligations for repayment and national servitude-- the U.S. will directly control Iraq's economy for many years. This has long been a goal of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East-- Bush has achieved it.

    • Iraq is fractured along ethnic and sectarian lines, to the point of possible civil war. This further weakens its ability to deal with the U.S. military occupation and economic control. The threat of escalating civil strife is already cited among the rationales for continuing the U.S. occupation.

    • The U.S. has full military and economic control of one of the largest remaining oil reserves in the world. It can effectively challenge OPEC. Recall that Iraq was one of the driving forces behind the 1973 oil embargo.

    • Congress has appropriated $251 billion dollars (accurate as of October 2005) for the war against Iraq, approximately $233 billion of which have been spent. The larger "war against terror" has consumed some $350 billion dollars. Most of that money has been transferred directly to the budgets of a dozen or so major U.S. engineering and military service companies, whose top executives have long moved freely between government executive branch posts and corporate directorships, or to the Pentagon-- the other component of the MIC. This has been an unbelievably successful transfer of wealth, a windfall of epic proportions, with virtually no oversight. It has been accompanied by exactly the sorts of corruption that Perkins describes in Confessions, with king's ransoms simply disappearing from the vaults of Iraqi provisional government ministries. The transfer of wealth has been so loose that astronomical sums are simply gone and unaccountable, as though they were carried away in the backs of black SUVS. Many undoubtedly were, but that's chump change compared to the windfall that the robber barons in the U.S. have billed through "legitimate" channels. This alone makes the Bush presidency highly successful from their perspective.

    • The Pentagon has eclipsed the State Department as the primary office for implementing U.S. foreign policy. This keeps the oligarchs of the MIC in control of the future-- and remember, they slip back and forth at will between their corporations and the executive branch-- and relegates the career diplomats to service as waterboys and bad news messengers. The Pentagon is in the process of establishing itself as an alternate to the intelligence gathering services as well.

    • An insurgency against the occupation of Iraq maintains the chaos which partly justifies the U.S. occupation for the Congress and U.S. citizenry, maintaining the illusion of a just war.

    • U.S. control of Iraq is key to dominance in the Middle East. Iraq is like a keystone in the map of the region, with borders on Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, and Turkey. The U.S. is building huge permanent military bases in Iraq, and plans to build the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad. This will put the entire Middle East firmly under the U.S. boot heel.

    • The U.S. military presence in Iraq and in the Gulf states will finally eclipse the power sharing arrangements between Washington and the House of Saud, which have always been just too much a case of having all our eggs in one ugly basket.

  • The power of the executive branch is eclipsing that of Congress, which has been largely complicit in this process, and the courts, which are falling to the appointment of toadies who will guarantee their future compliance.

  • Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the invasion of Iraq and a full member of the MIC corporation-executive branch-Pentagon cabal, has been appointed chairman of the World Bank, one of the chief instruments used by the U.S. to enfold developing nations into long term indentured servitude.

  • The petroleum market has been destabilized to a greater extent than during any administration since the early 1970s, and the cost of crude oil has climbed precipitously. Concurrently, petroleum industry profits have grown to obscene heights.

  • Domestically, the U.S. has enacted new laws concentrating authority into arms of the executive branch, and extending that authority considerably under the supposition of "wartime necessity."

  • U.S. tax policy has shifted blatantly in favor of the wealthy and of corporations at the top of the food chain, including the pharmaceutical industry, the petroleum industry, and the MIC robber barons.

  • The most abusive elements of capitalism-- the ones Adam Smith warned about-- are running amok. The disparity in compensation between the average top executives in the U.S. and the average non-executive worker has climbed to something like 475:1, while in countries like England, France, and Sweden it's 24:1, 15:1, and 13:1, respectively (paraphrased from memory).

  • The social safety net has been dramatically slashed, with even more drastic cuts still on the horizon-- this redirects funds from social programs to tax savings for the wealthy on the one hand and further corporate enrichment on the other. The oligarchs benefit tremendously, while the poor fall deeper into destitution.

  • Congress is largely compliant, or distracted by its own partisan squabbles.

  • The Supreme Court is increasingly stacked with philosophical cronies of the robber barons.

OK, this is getting long, so I'm going to post it as is, in hopes that others will add to it and that discussion will flesh the thesis out further. The point I'm trying to make is that if you you follow the money and the power, as Perkins obliquely suggests, it begins to look like many of the Bush administration's abject failures have produced tremendous windfall benefits for a small ruling class of MIC oligarchs and their corporations, and for the Pentagon. This is so consistent that coincidence seems unlikely. By these measures, the Bush presidency has been wildly successful. The robber barons are in charge, and they've taken off the gloves. The rape and pillage are progressing better than anyone could have ever imagined, and with control of the Middle East in the game, the future looks very bright for the oligarchs indeed. The rest of us are screwed unless we can bring about some really fundamental changes in the social compact between government and the people in our nation-- the Republic is falling before our eyes.

The only other thing I would add is that the administration is being wildly successful at framing our place in the world as being antagonistic with all muslims everywhere in the world. Surely that is a lucrative worldview for us to have, from the point of view of the war profiteers.


Blogger jrm said...

Dear Prof. Plum,
I used to blog at a sight called "The Watch" back in May '03 (as a guest) which was later superceded by "Pacific Views."

I was fairly impressed with the essay but my heart sank at the use of John Perkins' book. Part of my issue with Perkins is that he's easily made to look silly, he's a compulsive braggart, and his memoirs describe him merrily engaging in the most reprehensible business, in order to sustain his view that American prosperity is founded on evil.

Now please think about this for a second.

The USA runs and has run a huge trade deficit for many years. American industrial enterprise has been driven out of a huge variety of sectors, in part through the well-documented mercantile policies of other industrial democracies. According to Perkins, what little the USA does manage to export is the result of skullduggery, and if everything were on the up-and-up, we the people of the USA would export almost nothing. In effect, we collectively deserve to drop dead.

Yet, if one abandons medieval notions of collective guilt and focuses on individual actions, Perkins is the actual perpetrator. He's the Claudius, not Hamlet, not Denmark. He wants to drag Queen Gertrude into this, let him knock himself out. If there's a diabolical conspiracy acting as an economic demiurge (quite a compatible companion to a belief in young earth creationism, I might hasten to add) he was part of its inner sanctum. He's the perpetrator, not me or my family.

Finally, I want to observe that he insists that Saddam Hussein was ousted because he was singularly unresponsive to the military-industrial complex (MIC). This is absurd and exposes radical critics to raillery: either the USA "built Saddam up" through arms exports, or Saddam was a heroic champion of third worldism. Since I hate ad consequentium arguments, I'll refrain from making one now (viz., that Perkin's version of events undermines the radical critique of "humanitarian" regime change), and point out that the Ba'thists spent as much on Western arms as was possible.

Moreover, Perkin's theories are economic balderdash.

That government has already accepted enormous financial "assistance" from the U.S., and with it the obligations for repayment and national servitude-- the U.S. will directly control Iraq's economy for many years. This has long been a goal of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East-- Bush has achieved it.

Even before the invasion of Iraq, the rosy projections of the occupation were still multiples of the time-discounted value of Iraqi oil rents over many years. At $2 trillion (Stiglitz's estimate), only the most economically uninformed could imagine this was a case of Perkin's conspiracy "working."

My guess? Perkins took advantage of the instant fame by pretending to be a high ranking defector, then contriving a folksy pseudo-radical conspiracy theory. He knew there was a thirst for some understanding of the forces driving our country's barbarism abroad, and he cruelly exploited it.

1/19/2006 5:23 PM  
Blogger ProfessorPlum said...

JRM, I used to read that "mars-or-bust" blog! I remember the URL. Sorry about the name, I didn't think it would be unique. "The Watch" is the name of a newsletter I started mailing in January of '03.

I haven't read Perkins, and can't comment on the book. All of the observations listed by mike_c, though, seem pretty self-evident, so whether they are Perkins' observations, or those of mike_c, they do add up to an almost irrefutable pattern of screwing up for profit on the part of the ruling class (via Chimpy).

If the reasons you cite really are Perkins' for Hussein being ousted, then I agree they are bunk. Thanks for the grain of salt about Perkins and his book.

1/20/2006 12:24 AM  
Blogger jrm said...

Sorry about the name, I didn't think it would be unique.

No, no, I think you got the name before we did. Anyway, I started posting on my own and now I've been trying to totally restructure my site.

1/25/2006 12:51 AM  

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