Monday, November 13, 2006

Thoughts on Veteran's Day and Robert Gates:

[Should have been published on Nov. 11th, but there were technical difficulties.]

First of all today let me just wish the Marine Corps. a happy birthday. Semper Fi. I hope all you leathernecks slugging it out in Anbar will be home soon and all of you gearing up to go for your first deployment, or your third, won't have to.

I would also like to thank all the veterans of all the branches for their service to our country. That includes my grandfather who served in WWI, my two uncles who served during the Korean War, and my Marine/101st Airborne father who got dropped into Lebanon in 1952. And also, a special shout-out to my girl friend's Nisei grandfather who was sent to a concentration camp in Arizona during WWII and went from there to fighting with distinction in Italy with the legendary 100th Battalion. Go for broke!

Let's hope from now on the leadership of our military will improve over the dismal performance of the previous 6 years of the Rumsfeld era. One can only pray that the skill and professionalism displayed by those following the orders will be mirrored, for once, by those giving them. Robert Gates is the new (old) man everyone is talking about, and although anything would have to be an improvement over the tenure of Rummy & Co., the jury is still out on his past and whether he will be able to bring the Herculean amount of effort its going to take to rebuild the military Rummy has destroyed.

Many also wonder whether Gates will be able to stake out his independence in an administration where loyalty and toeing the party line is paramount above all other considerations. In testimony he gave to the Senate in 1987 he said, "Sycophants can only rise to a certain level. Senior officials understand that the most dangerous thing in the world is a yes man. . ." (Ask Alberto Gonzales about that.)

Gates is in league with the James Baker cabal of the previous Bush administration, one of the so-called "realists." You know, the same bunch who did deals with Saddam while he was gassing the Kurds and are still very chummy with our good friends the Saudis, who even now are spreading their virulent form of Islam around the world with their dirty oil money, which has inspired numerous al-Qaeda wanna-be's from Bosnia to Malaysia. Apparently all the Republians have to offer in terms of new policies to confront the threats of the 21st century is relying on a rapidly aging old SOB like James Baker and his cronies to get us out of this mess.

This issue of Gates being a yes man came up in his 1991confirmation hearings to become CIA director when he was accused of fixing the facts to fit the policy while working at the agency. The NYT cites a CIA study that says American intelligence analysis of the Soviet Union during the Gorbachev era was some times withheld by Gates "because he held a different view." One of the study's authors, Raymond L.Garthopff, wrote that, "This was his right. But it was regrettable because the CIA analysis was far more correct than the view he had." [Hmm.. that sounds familiar.]

And then, of course, there's issue of Iran/Contra and what he knew about the secret Iranian arms deal and when he knew it. He says he knew nothing, but the Iran/contra Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh says:

"Gates was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment of Gates for his Iran/contra activities or his responses to official inquiries."

[Not exactly a ringing endorcesment of innocents, but then again, the longer it takes to confirm him the longer Rummy keeps his office.]

Tony Snow says Gates and W. are on the same page, so I don't know what he's going to do differently to get us out of this mess. Despite all this happy talk coming from the administration and the media about the Iraq Study Group's findings, it's pretty certain that no matter what they come up with, pulling out of Iraq won't be on the agenda.

The fact is, regardless of the elections, as long as Bush and Cheney are in charge, there's not going to any real move to fix Iraq policy. It's going to be more of the same for the next two years. We hear rumblings from James Baker about setting a new course involving engagement with the Syrians and the Iranians, but there's no sign that Cheney's views have changed, and he's the one who's really running the show.

The guiding principle of this administration has been from the beginning' 'never deal with your enemies.' The same goes for the administration's domestic enemies; moderate Republicans and the Democrats. W. can talk a good game about bi-partisanship now, but it’s all a ruse. Grover Norquist says, "I guess you're supposed to say that, regardless of whether you're actually planning on doing it. I hope he really doesn't mean it." [I don't think you have anything to worry about Grover -- not about that anyway. You're impending indictment is another matter]

The minute the Dems start pushing back on the Bolton nomination or the NSA wire-tapping bill, all you're going to hear is that they're being obstructionists. W. said at his press conference after the election: "The message yesterday was clear. The American people want their leaders in Washington to set aside partisan differences . . . and work together to address the challenges facing our nation." What he means is that he wants the Dems to set aside their partisan differences and work with him to do exactly what he tells them to do.

What I don't think W. & Co. has understood about what the American people want is that they don't want him doing anything anymore. As one voter in Virginia said, he voted Democratic in order to "neuter Bush."


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