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When You’re A Failure, Blame Someone Else

Bush presserIt is a persistent theme from President Bush and his compliant party that they are never responsible for the dreadful consequences of their failed policies. To the extent they even concede that things are going badly in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere it is someone else’s fault.

The White House’s latest spin on the National Intelligence Estimate is that it’s Pakistan’s fault for allowing Osama bin Ladin to reemerge as strong as ever along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, even though everyone knows that Bush/Cheney ignored their Secretary of State, their intelligence professionals and senior military leaders and took their eye off the ball by invading Iraq when they should have focused on Afghanistan.

If you want a more plausible translation of the NIE, watch Roger Cressey on Countdown. Christy nailed it last night, beating today’s NYT editorial to the punchline: “Shorter [de-spun] Fran Townsend: The NIE proves President Bush is a failure and his failed policies have made you less safe. But it’s not our fault and don’t worry, we’re taking the increased threat to our credibility security very seriously.”

If the Taliban are surging, it’s NATO’s fault, according to this White House, because our allies don’t understand the threat and put too many restrictions on their troops’ willingness to engage in combat, even though every one of our allies knows that the reason we have too few troops in Afghanistan to confront a resurgent Taliban is because the necessary combat forces are bogged down in Iraq. If too many Afghani civilians are killed from air strikes, turning the population against US/NATO forces, it’s because the Taliban hide among the people, not because we didn’t have the boots on the ground and either didn’t know who we were targeting or didn’t care about the collateral damage.

Listening to Tony Snow explain it, if the American people hate this war, it’s not because the Administration misled them into accepting an unnecessary war and then completely bungled its planning and execution. And it’s not because the Vice President and Secretary of Defense encouraged and condoned the evils of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, while no senior official was ever held accountable. And it’s not because the Administration is breaking our Army and Marines and National Guard with stop-loss, multiple deployments, extended tours, insufficient rest and recuperation, ill-defined missions, changing purposes, undefined enemies, or that the Administration ignored the needs of our returning soldiers. No, according to President Bush it’s the American peoples’ fault for not being patient enough, or not sufficiently understanding the threat, or tiring too soon, or allowing the violence to affect our psychology, or — most galling to vets when it comes from these privileged chicken hawks — not being willing to sacrifice to achieve the President’s vision.

Before Petraeus, Bush blamed the Iraq debacle on his own Generals, even though he himself picked them and assured the American people they had the right plan — which, it now turns out, is probably what the President will go back to when Petraeus’ plan doesn’t get the job done.

And now it’s the Democrats’ fault for failing to support the war, even though 70 percent of the public agrees with them on ending our occupation and even though Congress has approved every one of the President’s requests for authorizations, troops, and funds.

In last night’s marathon Senate debate, the Republican Party repeatedly blamed the “surrender” advocates, “partisan” Democrats (thanks Joe) who allegedly seek a “precipitous” withdrawal, even though every single proposal by the Democrats and a handful of disillusioned Republicans says nothing about surrender or a precipitous withdrawal. Instead, the Democratic proposals call for the military to develop plans for a gradual withdrawal consistent with our soldiers’ safety, which means every plan has always given General Petraeus until next spring for his “surge” to work. And every Democratic proposal in the Senate would leave unknown thousands of troops in Iraq to defend Iraqi territorial integrity from outside invasion (except ours) and for counter-terrorism, as well as “force protection.” In short, the President’s Republicans, at the urging of Bill Kristol who claims credit for the “precipitous withdrawal” framing, are simply lying about what this entire debate is about.

This long overdue Congressional debate is good for the country. The country needs this debate to continue. But the debate is not about a precipitous withdrawal. It is about redefining the mission, with the hope of bringing the mission in line with something more plausible, more consistent with the level of troops we can sustain, and most important, consistent (one hopes) with a more defensible view of our security interests and the virtues we respect as a nation. The Democrats may not have all the right answers yet, because we haven’t really had the debate about what those interests and virtues are and what they imply for the use of US military might, but at least Democrats are starting to ask the right questions: What should we be doing there? What justifies having our military forces engaged in that region? What can they accomplish, and what must we just accept or solve through other means? And what are our strategic interests and the virtues we want to project to others?

The White House and the Republicans do not want to have that debate, because they know they will lose it. They know it would mean that everything they’ve done so far in this war would be called into question. They know they can’t defend anything this President has done or anything he or his Vice President have said. They can’t defend this occupation’s rationale, and they can’t look the American people in the eye and tell them their selective sacrifices have been worth it. So they’ve been reduced to claiming that we should continue to make war because in their twisted logic that’s what supporting the troops means. They’ve got nothing left but a cowardly, deceptive slogan.

Don’t expect Mitch McConnell and his sinking Republican party, including the extreme war partisan Joe Lieberman, to admit any of this. This regime doesn’t believe in accountability or accepting responsibility. So when every thing fails, you can expect this crowd will point a finger at someone else.

For other reactions to the Senate debate, the NYT has early a.m. coverage (h/t N=1), and check out Bob Geiger, live blogging at Think Progress, and a YouTube of repeated Republican objections to voting on the Reed-Levin amendment. What else are you seeing out there?

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley