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Personality, Ideology and Bush's Terror Wars
June 20, 2006 6:22 AM   Subscribe

Personality, Ideology and Bush's Terror Wars [...]Just as disturbing as Al Qaeda's plans and capabilities are the descriptions of the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror and its willful determination to go to war against Iraq. That war, according to the author's sources who attended National Security Council briefings in 2002, was primarily waged "to make an example" of Saddam Hussein, to "create a demonstration model to guide the behavior of anyone with the temerity to acquire destructive weapons or, in any way, flout the authority of the United States."[...]
posted by Postroad (56 comments total)

 
I, too, was thinking of posting this review of Suskind's new book. What is most chilling, to me, is how primary data collection services like First Data are "blending" into government agencies like the NSA and DHS, providing corporate-level surveillance of the private lives of citizens without any legal oversight whatsoever.

One of the hallmarks of the classic Fascist state is the merger of corporations with an autocratic government. Taken together with the President's callous disregard for the Constitution, and where any disagreement with government policy is Stalinized into an Act of Treason by the ruling class, the United States is in a very precarious situation with respect to fundamental values of freedom and privacy.
posted by Mr. Six at 6:41 AM on June 20, 2006


"This is a flawed policy wrapped in an illusion!" [Murtha] said, pounding the podium.
posted by sonofsamiam at 6:44 AM on June 20, 2006


Raise your hand if you think Michiko Kakutani shouldn't waste anyone's time by bitching about politics, and should instead stick to bitching about novels. Christ, what a lifeless review. Should've been assigned to a regular observer of the political scene.

/me raises hand
posted by waxbanks at 6:49 AM on June 20, 2006


I expected better from Suskind.

This book review sounds like he might have drank someone's Kool-Aid.
posted by nofundy at 6:51 AM on June 20, 2006


Why is it that foreign policy conservatives always posit the absence of conservatives among our adversaries? "If we just teach 'em a lesson in Iraq," people like Feith reasoned, "then Iran, North Korea, and would-be terrorists will all back down." But all the Iraq debacle has done is embolden the Feiths in Iran, North Korea, and among terrorists. The world is a much more dangerous place for the US, and for advocates of democracy in places like Iran.

No, I haven't read the article yet, it's loading slowly.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:01 AM on June 20, 2006


"There will be no early withdrawal so long as we run the Congress and occupy the White House."

So long as.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:05 AM on June 20, 2006


(nothing terribly substantial to add, just in one of those phases where the outrage is on the rise again. This review - poorly written, I agree, waxbanks - was all I needed today to set me off... worst administration ever)
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:10 AM on June 20, 2006


From the Post:
...The book's opening anecdote tells of an unnamed CIA briefer who flew to Bush's Texas ranch during the scary summer of 2001, amid a flurry of reports of a pending al-Qaeda attack, to call the president's attention personally to the now-famous Aug. 6, 2001, memo titled "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US." Bush reportedly heard the briefer out and replied: "All right. You've covered your ass, now."

...Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."


..."I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."
The Shadow War, In a Surprising New Light
posted by y2karl at 7:15 AM on June 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


was primarily waged "to make an example" of Saddam Hussein, to "create a demonstration model to guide the behavior of anyone with the temerity to acquire destructive weapons or, in any way, flout the authority of the United States."

I guess we showed them, didn't we?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:32 AM on June 20, 2006


This book review sounds like he might have drank someone's Kool-Aid.

Conservative cherry is good, but mislead mango is also nice. Neo-conservative tangerine is an excellent choice to wash down a main course of lies about WMDs and ties to terrorism.
posted by three blind mice at 7:33 AM on June 20, 2006


I think Bush misinterpreted the phrase "bully pulpit". It seems the "pulpit" part was beyond his understanding, but the "bully" part he had a meaning for. It is the wrong meaning, but it's apparently asking too much of him to expect him to realize that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:36 AM on June 20, 2006


@y2karl - that WaPo review is excellent, a much better recommendation than Kakutani's book report. Thanks for that link.
posted by waxbanks at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2006


"Whether Cheney's innovations were tailored to match Bush's inclinations, or vice versa, is almost immaterial," Mr. Suskind continues. "It was a firm fit. Under this strategic model, reading the entire N.I.E. would be problematic for Bush: it could hem in the president's rhetoric, a key weapon in the march to war. He would know too much."
He would know too much. Unbelievable.
posted by scalefree at 8:01 AM on June 20, 2006


It's too bad Cheney et al's 1% doctrine didn't extend to things like natural disaster preparedness ...
posted by moonbiter at 8:05 AM on June 20, 2006


"biggest gang i know they call the government
gang is a weapon
that you trade your mind in for
you gotta be just - be just like them
the gang
and the government
no different
the gang
and the government
no different
the gang
and the government
no different
that makes me
1%
that makes me
1%"
posted by OmieWise at 8:19 AM on June 20, 2006


What the 90s showed us is that economic sanctions on a dictatorship are just passed down onto the miserable slobs of that state while the gangleaders will still live in luxury, and in fact profit from the sanctions themselves.

The only active corrective measure available to the US is putting an actual boot in the ass of the unfriendly leaders, and to do this the US needs a lack of internal domestic opposition to this.

Grenada, Libya, Panama -- these armed interventions worked to some extent -- carrot and stick diplomacy works when you actually have a stick.

I do buy into the argument that Iraq was partially a demonstration -- a demonstration that the US was the biggest rogue state of them all and had the capability (after flim-flamming the UN and bullshitting the US citizenry) to overthrow any unpopular regime.

The wingnut railing against the UN is part of this -- the UN is a PITA to the warmongers, just a silly hoop that is difficult to jump through.

WW2 was the ultimate in this boot-in-ass campaigns. That's what "unconditional surrender" meant -- your asses, our boots.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:35 AM on June 20, 2006


Metafilter: Your asses, our boots.
posted by waxbanks at 8:39 AM on June 20, 2006


The only active corrective measure available to the US is putting an actual boot in the ass of the unfriendly leaders, and to do this the US needs a lack of internal domestic opposition to this.

Well and the US would need billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of troops and the co-operation of our allies, none of which we have anymore. We are so broke and bogged down and disgraced that Bush has now made it close to impossible to actually use our military for anything useful.
posted by octothorpe at 8:47 AM on June 20, 2006


"There will be no early withdrawal so long as we run the Congress and occupy the White House."


Wasn't it Kurt Godel who claimed to have found a loophole in the Constitution that would legally permit the establishment of a dictatorship? Something to do with recess appointments? Oh well, I'm sure it doesn't matter.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:50 AM on June 20, 2006


Yup.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2006


The problem with the "demonstration model" is that it failed. Yes, the American military will destroy any conventional army that fights it. Iraq already learned that lesson in the Gulf War, though. A lot of the Iraqi army either didn't fight, or took cover during the invasion so they could join the resistance and insurgency. Iraq is now a demonstration of how to tie up the United States in an asymmetric conflict.

All right. You've covered your ass, now.
What the fuck kind of response is that?
posted by kirkaracha at 8:58 AM on June 20, 2006


What the 90s showed us is that economic sanctions on a dictatorship are just passed down onto the miserable slobs of that state while the gangleaders will still live in luxury, and in fact profit from the sanctions themselves.

I disagree, Heywood. We learned that when sanctions that are ineffective, either because there's widespread cheating or the sanctions are not widely observed, the situation you describe arises. But sanctions against South Africa and Libya were actually pretty effective (I know that Libya's often cited as an example of the benefits of the Bush Doctrine, but the truth is that they were reorienting their policy before 9/11-- Rey Takeyh wrote about it in Foreign Affairs in 2000 or 2001).

Bush in late 02 early 03 was doing a terrific job of focusing the world's attention on Iraq. Inspections had started up again, and maybe we could have rooted out the corruption surrounding the oil-for-food program. But it appears now that all our diplomatic buildup was merely a pretense.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:06 AM on June 20, 2006


That war, according to the author's sources who attended National Security Council briefings in 2002, was primarily waged "to make an example" of Saddam Hussein, to "create a demonstration model to guide the behavior of anyone with the temerity to acquire destructive weapons or, in any way, flout the authority of the United States."[...]

By this measure, the "demonstration" in Iraq has not been a success. Flout the authority of the United States? The Iranians seem unfazed.
posted by three blind mice at 9:10 AM on June 20, 2006


Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, left, 25, of Madras, Ore., and Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston,TX
posted by taosbat at 9:11 AM on June 20, 2006


Mr. Cheney's nickname inside the C.I.A. was Edgar (as in Edgar Bergen), casting Mr. Bush in the puppet role of Charlie McCarthy, and cites one instance after another in which the president was not fully briefed (or had failed to read the basic paperwork) about a crucial situation

Which brings us back to the mystery bulge in Bush's jacket during the 2004 Election debates with Kerry.
posted by zaelic at 9:42 AM on June 20, 2006


"create a demonstration model to guide the behavior of anyone with the temerity to acquire destructive weapons or, in any way, flout the authority of the United States."

Yeah, that’s the thing, it looks almost reasonable on paper. Bits like “flout” and “temerity” reveal bibles full of truth about the perspective. Still, one could almost accept the necessity of going after the ‘1%’ as certainty because the risk is so high - e.g. losing several million people.
I wouldn’t want to roll those dice even at 99% odds in my favor.
But then once you actually get into the execution of that policy, the curve flattens out - because SO much depends on the execution. And you’re not worried about anyone flouting your authority (well, “you” being Joe Intel Agent as opposed to “you” being pathological Vice President) you’re just worried about preventing millions of deaths. In which case invasion takes on a different meaning - you don’t need to behead the dog if he pisses on the carpet. We could have gone in, iced Hussein, and split in any number of ways (given that is a wise objective in the first place - which it really wasn’t). Granted there would be some blowback - but far less than an occupation would have and manifestly has caused.
And a lighter footed operation would have lead to more accurate intelligence and a drastic drop on those odds past 1% down to something more acceptable.
I’m unclear on what bombing the hell out of civilians who had nothing to do with anything accomplishes, beyond that manic “punish the innocent” to frighten the guilty vibe that so many psychopathic power trippers are on (like that judge in Texas).

“All right. You've covered your ass, now.
What the fuck kind of response is that?”
- posted by kirkaracha

The response of a bureaucrat who, instead of rewarding parity with or anticipation of reality in intelligence work, sees it from the management business model of making sure you’ve informed the boss of the risks and washed your hands of responsibility for the decision.
Doesn’t really work in the field.

/Heh heh - Cheney’s nickname: Edgar Bergen...heh heh heh...old skool CIA. You might hate ‘em, but you gotta love ‘em.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:51 AM on June 20, 2006


Iraq was obviously intended as a demonstration, but has served only as a demonstration as to how the world's sole superpower may be slowly bled until its easily distracted citizenry demands that the channel be changed.

Chavez in Venezuela has apparently taken note of the demonstration.
posted by kgasmart at 10:09 AM on June 20, 2006


Mr. Cheney's nickname inside the C.I.A. was Edgar (as in Edgar Bergen), casting Mr. Bush in the puppet role


SHAW: There's lots of analysis and speculation about your influence on President Bush, and the fact that you have such broad and deep experience, government experience. Yesterday, President Bush had the network anchors and weekend talk-show hosts at the White House for lunch. You sat across the table from the president. I was sitting at the president's left elbow. And I noticed something about you.

I noticed your body language, your facial expressions and your eyes, and I noticed that the president kept looking at you. And you were indicating your attitude, your feelings about questions being asked. And it was clear that you two gentleman have a way, a silent way of communicating with each other


(this was back in 02/2001)
posted by lord_wolf at 10:11 AM on June 20, 2006


But it appears now that all our diplomatic buildup was merely a pretense.

I'm a little weirded out at how people act suprised by this. Surely it was blindingly obvious from the start?
posted by Artw at 10:17 AM on June 20, 2006


Here's a better review of Suskind's book from the LA Times' Rutten.
posted by wendell at 10:49 AM on June 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Which brings us back to the mystery bulge in Bush's jacket during the 2004 Election debates with Kerry.

I don't think there's much of a mystery there. Bush was wired, and everybody knows it. The only question is whether you care or not that he was wired.
posted by norm at 11:00 AM on June 20, 2006



posted by sonofsamiam at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2006


The real truth about 9/11.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2006


Grenada, Libya, Panama -- these armed interventions worked to some extent

Grenada (OMG! Cubans! Building an airport!) was more an exercise in machismo as partial cover for President Reagan's cutting and running from Lebanon after the terrorist attacks there. Panama (Operation Just 'Cause), like Iraq, was applying a smackdown to a former ally who got too big for his britches. Air strikes on Libya had some blowback.

Which brings us back to the mystery bulge in Bush's jacket during the 2004 Election debates with Kerry.
Bulletproof vest.

posted by kirkaracha at 11:15 AM on June 20, 2006


"I'm a little weirded out at how people act suprised by this. Surely it was blindingly obvious from the start?"

Sure was to me. To far too many of my fellow Americans, not obvious at all.

It's because they don't know how to use their brains to think.

And that's why we're pretty much screwed at this point.
posted by zoogleplex at 11:18 AM on June 20, 2006


Finally, humor that's not afraid to tell it like it is! Stick it to 'em!
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2006



Mr. Cheney's nickname inside the C.I.A. was Edgar (as in Edgar Bergen), casting Mr. Bush in the puppet role of Charlie McCarthy, and cites one instance after another in which the president was not fully briefed (or had failed to read the basic paperwork) about a crucial situation

This is why I wished that Kerry would have ran his campaign against Cheney instead of Bush. Wouldn't it have been perfect for Kerry to totally ignore Bush and focus his effort on Cheney and force them to prove that Bush was actually in charge. He could have easily cited the 9/11 commission testimony to show that Bush was incapable of being the president and had no idea about what was going on around him.
posted by any major dude at 11:27 AM on June 20, 2006


...of course a candidate that didn't resemble a block of wood in terms of charisma may have helped too...
posted by Artw at 11:30 AM on June 20, 2006


It's because they don't know how to use their brains to think.

I guess the abysmal standard of your news-media may have helped too.
posted by Artw at 11:32 AM on June 20, 2006


sonofsamiam - is the title of that peice "Brown people - they're all exactly alike!"?
posted by Artw at 11:33 AM on June 20, 2006


Also, in this one, only the first four panels of the conspiracy theorist's slideshow are in any way problematic. Everything following seems pretty accurate to me.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:37 AM on June 20, 2006


Bulletproof vest.

Suuuure.
posted by norm at 11:38 AM on June 20, 2006


Chavez in Venezuela has apparently taken note of the demonstration.
posted by kgasmart at 10:09 AM PST on June 20 [+fave] [!]

That article states Hugo Chavez intends to imploy chemical weapons on any invading US troops:

Chavez also recently said the National Guard has even enlisted an army of 500 Indians to defend the country with poison-tipped arrows. He added: "If they had to take a good shot at any invader, you'd be done for in 30 seconds, my dear gringo."
posted by crowman at 11:46 AM on June 20, 2006


"I guess the abysmal standard of your news-media may have helped too."

And many other factors of the same general ilk. Believe me, I've been watching it happen for around 30 years, and failing in any of my puny efforts to combat it. It wasn't always so bad - I remember Watergate very well even though I was only a kid.

As soon as Reagan got elected I knew we were in major trouble - especially when GHW Bush abandoned his "Voodoo Economics" stance to be Reagan's running mate. Nothing those guys said after that point made any actual sense - even to me as a high school kid - yet most of America bought it all, even as the majority of our lives became a bit tougher with the marginal economy.

It got cemented in the 90's with the economic re-boom... and notice again that the economy is pretty marginal, to the point where they're systematically hiding the real numbers, but oh no, it's still Morning in America here, rah rah rah.

Pfeh.

What do you call supposedly intelligent creatures who don't actually use their intelligence? Kind of the same as semi- or even non-intelligent creatures, eh? What do we call those?
posted by zoogleplex at 11:50 AM on June 20, 2006


Fox News fans?
posted by NationalKato at 12:33 PM on June 20, 2006


Also, in this one, only the first four panels of the conspiracy theorist's slideshow are in any way problematic. Everything following seems pretty accurate to me.

Don't you get it yet, sonofsamiam? When faced with a legitimate question about something, the correct conservative response, as Steven so perfectly proved, is to make fun of a fringe opinion no one in the conversation actually made!

Jeez, man, didn't one of those "some Democrats" who have been advocating surrendering to Al-Qaeda tell you that by now?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:57 PM on June 20, 2006


Here is an excellent time line as laid out by Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_disarmament_crisis_timeline_2001-2003

It chornicles many of the key moments leading up to this war.
posted by slowhand at 1:21 PM on June 20, 2006



posted by kirkaracha at 1:25 PM on June 20, 2006




Yeah baby, that's exactly how those countries view us!
posted by delmoi at 1:42 PM on June 20, 2006


This is why I wished that Kerry would have ran his campaign against Cheney instead of Bush. Wouldn't it have been perfect for Kerry to totally ignore Bush and focus his effort on Cheney and force them to prove that Bush was actually in charge.

Well when you run for presidnet, you can try that.
posted by delmoi at 1:47 PM on June 20, 2006


lost interest at "riveting"
posted by dminor at 1:59 PM on June 20, 2006


The Dark Side, tonight's Frontline documentary on PBS, retraces Cheney and Rumsfeld's distortion of the war on terror into the invasion of Iraq (and their war on Tenet); detailed Seattle Times review.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 3:28 PM on June 20, 2006


To relate this to another book (albeit fiction)...

Bush seemed to have already made up his mind based on what was so often cited as his 'instinct' or 'gut.' "

"I've been thinking with my gut since I was fourteen and I've come to realize that my gut, has shit for brains." - Nick Hornby.

(Paraphrased, I don't have a copy of the book, but you get the idea.)
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:54 AM on June 21, 2006


This says a lot about the state of the 'War on Terror' (Sanity). . . from y2karl's link

Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. "I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty.

With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes,

"the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."

posted by mk1gti at 10:20 AM on June 21, 2006


This says a lot about the state of the 'War on Terror' (Sanity). . . from y2karl's link

Not that all that and more wasn't quoted--ReadingComprehensionFilter--directly right above said link.
posted by y2karl at 11:33 AM on June 21, 2006


The way I see it: A nation of chicken littles cowers in fear. Or at least it's government attempts to lead it's citizens in that direction...
posted by mk1gti at 10:01 PM on June 21, 2006


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