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Sunday Gasbaggery: All The Rest

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Disasters of War
Disaters Of War

Condi Rice was everywhere this morning. And everwhere that Condi went, her devotion to George Bush was never far behind.

Speaking from the G-8 conference, Condi was robotic, repetitious, unspontaneous, and unconvincing, perhaps because her discussion and explanations were studded with talking points.

She didn't sound like a Secretary of State, she sounded like a low-level spokesperson spouting propoganda.

I found her performance appalling and embarrassing


She said much the same thing on all three broadcasts on which she appeared, so let's take a look at how she did under the withering exmination of George Stephanopoulis.

Condi appeared after a film clip of President Bush remarking from the G-8 Summit that the best way to stop the violence currently erupting in the Middle East was for Hezbollah to disarm.

Policy as wish fullfillment.

Condi was entirely on the same wave length.

Israel has the right to defend itself. Who is saying Israel doesn't? The issue is how Israel is choosing to "defend" itself.

No, America will not be calling for a cease-fire anytime soon. What the administration does support are efforts to make sure that any ceasefire will be sustainable. What that meant, other than giving Israel it's head to do whatever it deemed necessary, wasn't clear.

Proportionality? What's that? For heaven's sake, Condi has been on the phone forever, expressing the American government's desire for Israeli restraint? Hmm, restraint bombing? A restrained invasion of Lebanon? A restrained reoccupation of Gaza?

George didn't ask her if 'restrained' is how she would describe Israel's response thus far.

Not that it would have mattered what he asked her. Condi knew what fictions had to be maintained.

In particular, the current unpleasantness of Israel once again bombing an Arab country, threatening another, threatening a third, not Arab, but Muslim, should not be seen in any way as deriving from the current administration's policies.

George played a clip of Cheney in 2002, in the runup to the Iraq invasion, counselling America on the foregone benefits "to the region" of such an invasion - extremists having to recalibrate their devotion to jihad, moderates encouraged, and progress toward an Israeli/Palestinian settlement advanced - and then pointed out that the exact reverse appears to have happened.

There was a quality of desperation in Condi's affect, the vibrato in her voice especially noticeable, and nowhere more than at this moment. She appeared to be displeased in the way one imagines monarchs are displeased. Reverting immediately to September 11th, Condi lectured George, that would be George S, that, as we learned on that date, the so-called hostilities he had just suggested had been produced by the Bush administration's policies in the Middle East, has long been festering, unattended to by previous administration, and to suggest that the one administration which has sought to actually do something about terrorism is somehow responsible for terrorism is grotesque.

Condi treated the issue of terrorism as the root cause of the various regional conflicts in the Middle East. No mention of the claims of the Palestinians, except to laud herself and George, that would be George W., for their support of Abbas. No mention that their way of supporting Fatah led to massive rejection of it at the ballot box, in a democratic election, in favor of Hamas.

Was Condi on the defensive? You bet. Perhaps that is why her insistent reiteration of the foreign policy achievements of the Bush administration sounded so forced, so robotic, so weighed down by generalities, and so unconvincing. Speaking of the Middle East, Condi proclaimed that under hers and George's aegis, for the first time ever, there is a movement toward moderation and democracy in the region; the extremists see that, feel threatened, and that is why they have provoked this new round of violence. Is she kidding? Is anyone going to believe that characterization of what is going on?

What does Condi mean by root causes? Terrorism, which must be gone after, root and branch; Hezbollah and Hamas must be dismantled.

So, George, tried to clarify, the administration is backing Israel 100 percent as it goes in for the kill? Condi harkens back to 9/11; haven't we learned what happens when we don't do that?

What became clear in the course of Condi's appearances on all three networks is that this administration has no policy in mind for an outbreak of war in the Middle East that threatens to undermine the stability of Lebanon's nascent democracy, free of Syrian control for the first time in two decades, the administration's own non-existent attempts to implement it's own roadmap to a two state solution between Israelis and Palestinians, our own troops, bogged down in Iraq, the new government of Iraq, whose Shia population is hardly likely to look with favor on Israel's threats to Shia Iran and to the Shia-backed Hezbollah, and the general cause of stability and moderation through-out the region.

In lieu of actual policies, Condi provided words - lots of words - about international frameworks, and partners, and constant contacts, and moderate partners, all the levers we have we didn't have before, though not a single such lever was identified.

One amazing moment; George asked why the President, who has made calls to Egypt, Lebanon, and all manner of other players, hasn't spoken directly with Prime Minister Olmert?

Condi's answer: The President has made all the calls we think he ought to make.

What is the administration seeking - "a firm consensus." Yes Condi, around what policy, including which nations? Some mention of supporting Kofi Anan's trip to the region. But no plans for Condi to go there, that would be so Clintinesque.

You could almost say that Condi was upbeat about the whole mess. This is a clarifying event, one that will force the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as Iran and Syria to decide which side they are on or want to be on. Like they haven't decided?

There was such a sense of unreality to her language; Hezbollah didn't spring up overnight; okay, fair enough. But what are "those forces" which weren't confronted before Bush arrived? Like Newt, Condi was big on historical perspective, not necessarily accurate history, but the long view, the better to distract from an accurate view of the mess we now find ourselves in.

I wouldn't have been all that surprised to hear her say, "We've always been at war with Oceania."

Madeline Albright was George's next guest. Not a personal favorite of mine, she has grown in stature in comparison to this administration. In style and substance, she was Condi's exact opposite.

Of course we should be calling for a ceasefire. We're at a crossroads in the Middle East, and Albright fears we are about to take the wrong fork in the road. What is required is a major diplomatic effort to quell this violence and refocus our poicy in the region.

Albright was especially good at countering Stephanopoulis'required questioning of the efficacy of the Clinton administration's efforts on behalf of the Oslo accords; wasn't that all for nought?

Albright directed George's attention to the numbers; 3 to 4 times as much violence in the region - less security, more chaos, but worse still, no policy from this administration on how to deal with the situation we find ourselves in right now. Albright seemed almost shocked at the hands-off stance of Bush and Condi. She portrayed it as a failure of international leadership. And yes, of course Iraq, which Albright labelled as "a huge disaster, is a millstone around our neck. But nothing in Iraq will be made better by letting this outbreak of violence play itself out.

Albright didn't criticize Israel directly, but she made it clear that what is good for Israel is not always good for this country, and we had a responsibility to press forward with policies that make sense for us and for the region. And that this was no time to sit back and wait to see what happens.

Less time was apportioned to Albright, but what really limited the interview was the lack of anything concrete in what Condi had said for Albright to react to. Still, Albright was in command, intelligent, undefensive, and her voice was steady and clear.

We were offered an enhanced roundtable, with the addition of Sam Donaldson to the regulars - Cokie, Fareed, George Will and Stephanopoulis. Nothing that interesting was said; what was interesting, the tenor of the discussion.

As with all the Sunday shows I watched, the attempts by the right, Gingrich, the administration, and Rove to use this new outbreak of violence the way they used 9/11, and the Afghan and Iraq invasions, and homeland security, and being tough on terrorism, to scare Americans, attack Democrats, and insist that we're at war, isn't going to work this time around.

No one at the roundtable, even Cokie, was prepared to argue that a new war in the Middle East represents any kind of opportunity for the Bush administration to recapture support among Americans. Will was amusing to watch; in response to being read a passage from William Kristol's latest exaultant embrace of war, "Why Wait," to attack Iran, Will muttered that the neo-cons were misnamed radicals.

On Fox, Condi said much the same thing she did on Face The Nation and This Week, which Chris Wallace characterized as "a green light for Israel to do what it wants." During the roundtable, Fred Barnes was in for Brit Hume, which only meant that the same ideas were presented with less intelligence and coherence. Kristol is the geat therotician of perpetual war, and despite is own rhetorical gifts, the ideas still came off as crazy. Mara Liasson was on board, if not for cries of "War Now," then with the notion that Bush has a chance to gain the initiative with this crises.

How does one do that by doing nothing?

Juan Williams was the solitary voice of fact-based reason.

There is almost something touching about Kristol's belief in the power of language - toughness is all about what you say; with the right words you can move mountains, and if you find out that the mountain was holding back a flood, well, what you have to do next is find the right words to rationalize that new situation - words that lead to action, words that make you feel powerful, words that subdue your enemies, even if those words make new ones; the long view is a singular view of a long war that never ends.

Haven' we always been at war with Oceania?

Wolcott has a wonderful post on the wingnut romance with war - says what I was trying to, with greater clarity and wit.

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