down memory lane: my year of cognitive dissonance…

Posted on Wednesday 29 November 2006

I feel a bit like I did a year or so ago when I read about Judith Miller, Laurie Mylroie, the Niger Forgeries, Plame’s outing, A,E.I., P.N.A.C, and the Downing Street Memos. It took me a while for the whole thing to sink in, that Bush and his Administration had wanted to go to war with Iraq from the very beginning and used 9/11 as an excuse. I wrote about it and read about it, but it didn’t seem real to me – more like a rant than a truth. I had a long period of cognitive dissonance. I’ve gotten used to it now and it doesn’t seem far-fetched any more.

But then there was the Unwarranted Domestic N.S.A. Surveillance, ignoring the Geneva Conventions, the Signing Statements, and the "Unitary Executive Theory." Again, it took a while for it all to sink in. It felt more like an overdramatization, something from a summer thriller rather than something real. Why would they be mucking with the Constitution and the way America is governed? It just hasn’t made any sense to me at all.

I guess it was the article in the Boston Globe [Hail to the Chief] this weekend about Cheney’s long history of trying to increase Presidential Power that got me to thinking. This isn’t just about the War on Terror or Iraq’s threat to us, this is a whole thesis about government. It dawned on me that the Iraq War was a war of conquest. I know people have been saying that in one way or another for the duration of the war, but I just didn’t believe it. I thought that was overblown political rhetoric. And when I read the veneration of Reagan by the Neoconservatives, I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about. But I think I get it now. Back then, they were in a full scale interventionist mode – arming the Contras, supporting the Afghanis, supporting Hussein’s war against Iran. And Congress was the enemy – getting bent out of shape just because Hussein was using Poison gas and germ warfare, blocking support for the Contras then getting in a wad about Iran/Contra, and generally being a pain in the ass interferring with our secret interventionist campaigns. And Dick Cheney was right smack dab in the middle of the whole shooting match. Why President George H.W. Bush even chickened out of taking over Iraq in the First Gulf War, probably because he was afraid of Congress. Bush also backed down on Paul Wolfowitz’s Defense Guidance [essentially the "Bush Doctrine"] once it was leaked.

So Dick Cheney, as Vice President, wasn’t going to let that happen again. The Presidential Power was going to be supreme, and we were going to move with strength against our Middle Eastern enemies. To hell with the U.N.! To hell with Congress! To hell with anyone who got in the way of the American power machine that was now free from the threat of the U.S.S.R.! We were bulletproof and we would get things in shape quickly. All we have to do is import the guys from A.E.I. into the Administration, and we’ll be home free. But he had to neutralize the Congress, the C.I.A., and the Courts so they wouldn’t get in the way again.

It’s hard for me to believe that what I just wrote is anything but a rant, because it’s so preposterous, but I’m thinking that’s the true story. And he brought it off except for one slight detail – it’s the worst foreign policy idea anyone has ever had, doomed from the start. We’re getting our ass whipped in spades. In an odd way, he’s proved beyond a shadow of a doubt why we have the balance of powers in the first place. If he hasn’t completely destroyed that balance, it might yet save us, and bite him with the vengeance he deserves.

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