NEW YORK – The crushing defeat handed by American voters to President George W. Bush and his conservative Republicans produced sighs of relief around the globe and hopes that America’s period of post-9/11 aggressive behavior might be nearing an end.
The coalition of odd-bedfellows that formed Bush’s core political support - rural southerners; millions of Christian evangelical doomsday cultists yearning for the return of their Messiah and destruction of the world; the mighty Israel lobby; and big business interests - was decisively defeated by mainstream America.
Embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was forced to resign after an unprecedented revolt by Pentagon generals. Rummy was clearly set up as the fall guy for the calamitous policies advocated by VP Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives.
Rumsfeld was blamed for not winning the war. However, the real blame should have fallen on the neocons for engineering a war that many Mideast experts, including this writer, had predicted would become a disaster for all concerned and which was totally unnecessary.
The Republican Party’s Old Guard, led by the highly capable duo of former Secretary of State James Baker and Gen. Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to George Bush’s father, were recalled from political exile to clean up junior Bush’s Iraq debacle.
These `wise men’ and their allies represent the traditional sophisticated, moderate East Coast wing of the Republican Party that had been sidelined by Bush Junior’s southern, southwestern and Midwestern coalition – in effect, the least educated, most insular and most easily misled parts of a generally not very well educated nation.
Baker, Scowcroft, and other respected bipartisan figures, are also heading the invigorated Iraq Study Group. The Group is designed to allow the US face-saving way out of Bush’s mess by providing political cover for a phased withdrawal from Iraq.
The other goal of the Study Group is to dilute blame for the failed war. When the inevitable cry, `who lost Iraq’ begins, Republicans and Democrats who had foolishly voted for it will huddle together for shelter behind the Iraq Study Group’s conclusion that everyone, and thus no one, was really guilty of losing a major war and diminishing America’s global power.
The Republican’s November electoral meltdown also opens the way for the newly empowered Easterners to purge the party of ideological and religious extremists, and return to its roots as the party of Dwight Eisenhower, America’s greatest postwar president.
Eisenhower, a true moderate conservative, was a genuine symbol of American decency and honesty. `Ike’ advocated balanced budgets, small government, avoidance of foreign entanglements, nuclear disarmament, and restraining the military industrial complex. Eisenhower ordered the British, French and Israelis to end their 1956 aggression against Egypt.
The new Democratic and moderate Republican leadership will hopefully return America’s politics away from the far right and back to the traditional center, and begin rebuilding America’s battered reputation.
A good way to start would be to remove the tax-exempt status of the Washington so-called `think tanks,’ like the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute, which have served as propagandists and promoters for rightwing political groups, the Iraq War, and the Israel lobby. The same applies to rabid evangelical Christian organizations and their demagogic TV preachers who use the cover of religion to advocate far right political policies and warp US foreign policy to meet their cult’s bizarre doomsday beliefs.
More important, the new Democratic-controlled Congress will restore America’s vital system of political checks and balances between the three equal branches of government: Congress, the President, and the Judiciary. Ever since the 9/11 attacks on America, this system, the essence of America’s republican democracy, was corrupted and paralyzed into one-party rule by fear-mongering and war fever that followed 9/11.
However, undaunted by his recent shellacking, Bush continues to foment war against Iran. The president, whose polls are an abysmal 30%, just met with a even more despised leader, Israel’s PM Ehud Olmert, whose polls are below 15%, to plan attacking Iran. They conferred with another discredited fabricator, Britain’s eternally sanctimonious Tony Blair.
This axis of blunderers appears determined to engineer war against Iran while Bush’s rightwing Republicans still control Congress. Israel’s American supporters and religious TV demagogues are whipping up evangelical Christians into an anti-Iran crusade. As the New York Times put: `for evangelicals, supporting Israel is `God’s Foreign Policy.’
While neocon die-hards agitate for war, the new Democratic and moderate Republican leadership face the delicate and dangerous task of extricating American troops from the president’s lost war in Iraq which is costing taxpayers over US $6 billion monthly.
Having destroyed Iraq, the US must now find a way to contain the many dangers that will emanate from its smoking ruins.
Now is the time for America’s enemies around the world, many created by the Bush administration’s own reckless, belligerent policies, to declare a truce to allow Washington’s new moderate leadership time to bring America back to a political and moral even keel.
But six years of grave damage to America’s foreign interests and good name are not easily undone. It would be of enormous help if the new Congress would declare an end to Bush’s crusade against the Muslim World and swiftly deny him the funds to wage a new war against Iran.
But the Democratic leadership is already facing intense domestic special interest pressures for wars against Iran and other Muslim states. No one should expect acts of political courage from Congress a mere two years before the 2008 presidential election.
It would also be gratifying to see the senior officials of the Bush Administration who concocted the Iraq War – the biggest disaster in modern American history – and then authorized torture, human rights abuses, wiretapping, secret prisons, and kidnapping, face justice. Unfortunately, this will not likely happen, since so many Democrats eagerly joined the rush to war and approved the Bush Administration’s proto-totalitarian behavior and grave violations of US laws, the Constitution, and traditional American values.