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June 25, 2005

Rove and being “prepared for war”

Until now I’ve resisted commenting on Rove’s pathetic outburst, because it felt like everything that could be said already had been said. Yet most of the commentary has been from liberals infuriated by Rove’s attack on them… while there’s been very little focus on his core claim about the right:

Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war;

Well, yes they did, but there are some pretty crucial caveats:

For one thing, they prepared for the wrong war, conjuring up bogus reasons to invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, a country that Bush had wanted an excuse to invade since as early as 1999, a country with a tin-pot dictator who precisely matched the conservatives’ need for a new enemy—a need that was rooted in the self-destruction of the Soviet bloc, not 9/11. Writing in the Guardian, historian Eric Hobsbawm points to three “continuities” linking the global U.S. of the cold war era with the conservatives’ unflagging effort to assert world supremacy since 2001:

The third thread of continuity links the neo-conservatives of George Bush with the Puritan colonists’ certainty of being God’s instrument on earth and with the American Revolution – which, like all major revolutions, developed world-missionary convictions, limited only by the wish to shield the new society of potentially universal freedom from the corruptions of the unreconstructed old world. The most effective way of finessing this conflict between isolationism and globalism was to be systematically exploited in the 20th century and still serves Washington well in the 21st. It was to discover an alien enemy outside who posed an immediate, mortal threat to the American way of life and the lives of its citizens. The end of the USSR removed the obvious candidate, but by the early 90s another had been detected in a “clash” between the west and other cultures reluctant to accept it, notably Islam. Hence the enormous political potential of the al-Qaida outrages of September 11 was immediately recognised and exploited by the Washington world-dominators.

So no, Karl, conservatives didn’t see “the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war;” they saw an excuse to wage an unrelated war that had its roots in history, not the present. And they cynically exploited that and have ever since.

Second, if conservatives “prepared for war,” they didn’t prepare too well, did they? Bin Laden and his top lieutenants? Free. The threat of further terrorist attacks on U.S. soil? High as it ever was. Afghanistan? A shambles. Iraq? More than 1,720 soldiers dead, countless others maimed, 100,000+ Iraqis killed, and an insurgency that is growing stronger by the day—not “crumbling.”

Third… that phrase, “conservatives… prepared for war:” there’s something else not quite right, isn’t there? When you prepare for something, it’s usually something you intend to do yourself. Not this time. Conservatives didn’t prepare for war; they prepared to send waves of young American soldiers to be taken out by snipers or blown apart by improvised explosive devices in what has become Al Qaeda’s latest and greatest training ground.

But it isn’t the sons and daughters of America’s conservative elite who are going to war; it is the sons and daughters of America’s new poor, the families for whom enlistment can seem like an economic lifeline in Bush’s divided (and divisive) America. And the conservatives? They just watch, cheering from the sidelines but making sure that the thousands of returning coffins are never seen, never captured on TV. And as Campus Progress notes, the wingnuts really do believe that what they are doing somehow equates with the real sacrifices being made every day in Iraq:

Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council took the stage, noting with courageous enthusiasm, “There are some things that are worth fighting for.” He proceeded to talk about the Iraq War, and some very heroic veterans (give credit where credit’s due, ’sall good). Then he said, “They’re giving their lives as you’re giving your time.” Right. These (military-age) folks helped create this war, but they’re letting everybody else fight it. The irony was lost on this crowd.

“Prepared for war?” Unprepared, for the wrong war, and not one they have to dirty their hands with. Bastards.

Thanks to Think Progress for the Perkins pointer.

Posted by Stephen at 12:05 AM in War | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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