Tag Archives: Rumsfeld

Conservatives in transports of social and political engineering

April 23, 2003 By MAUREEN DOWD, WASHINGTON

There’s nothing scarier than conservatives in transports of social and political engineering.

The Republicans strain to appear diffident in Iraq, not wanting to be cast as overbearing imperialists. (Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the new American viceroy, affects a Dockers look while meeting Arabs in jackets and ties.)

The Bushies pretend that we don’t want an all-access pass to Iraqi bases (we do); that we are not interested in influencing the disposition of Iraqi oil (we are); that we will stay out of Iraqi politics, even if they go fundamentalist (we won’t); and that we will leave Iraq soon (we can’t).

Even as they stifle their Pax Americana impulses in Iraq, the imperialists swagger with a Pox Americana at home. Karl Rove has broken creative new ground in appalling political opportunism by pushing back the Republican National Convention in New York City to September 2004, the latest date for a convention in the party’s history and only days away from you-know-when.

Mr. Rove envisions merging the Madison Square Garden party with the 9/11 anniversary commemorations into one big national security lollapalooza. Perhaps President Bush should just skip the pretense of the Garden and give his acceptance speech at ground zero.

In another red-meat moment, Rick Santorum, the obnoxious Pennsylvania senator who is No. 3 in the G.O.P., equated homosexuality with incest, bigamy and polygamy. “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality,” he told The A.P. “That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”

Even Mr. Santorum’s old mentor, Newt Gingrich, felt emboldened to slither back on stage with a proposal to eviscerate the State Department.

After vowing to reshape the American character when he became speaker in ’94, Mr. Gingrich ultimately faced ethics questions and criticism for having an extramarital affair with a young Congressional aide after pushing for Bill Clinton’s impeachment over his extramarital affair with a young White House aide. He stepped down in ’98.

The man who once depicted himself as an “Arouser of Those who Form Civilization” stepped back yesterday into a clash of civilizations between the Pentagon and the State Department. In remarks at the Temple of Triumphalism here (the American Enterprise Institute), Mr. Gingrich denounced Colin Powell’s domain as a “broken bureaucracy of red tape and excuses” and demanded it be “transformed,” like Rummy’s.

He attacked Mr. Powell for announcing that he would visit (rather than bomb) Damascus and for the prewar failure of diplomacy with Turkey � conveniently ignoring the fact that it was the Pentagon hawk Paul Wolfowitz who had tried and failed to talk turkey with Turkey.

Rummy, who has taken on a Mars-like glow among carnivorous conservatives who crave more and more red meat, circulated a Kubrickian memo on North Korea, according to The Times’s David Sanger. While Mr. Powell pressed for diplomatic talks in China to help de-escalate tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, Rummy’s memo suggested that the U.S. and China gang up on the crazed Kim Jong Il to force a regime change.

Even as the conservatives thump their chests in Washington, they have gotten a little nervous watching throngs of men flogging their chests bloody in Karbala. Their coolly rational schemes for establishing 18th-century-style democracy have run up against the 8th-century practices of Islam.

The Bushies were unpleasantly surprised by the sudden muscularity of the Shiite clerics in southern Iraq. According to The Times’s Douglas Jehl, Iranian-trained operatives have crossed into southern Iraq to help the Shiites who are demanding a state like Iran’s.

Administration officials have whispered other fears to reporters � that some of the weapons of mass destruction may have been removed to sell on the terrorism black market, accelerating the proliferation they had hoped to prevent. Or that Saddam loyalists are sneaking back into the government, waiting for the Americans, with their short attention spans, to pull out.

The Saudi bombings

Maureen Dowd NYT
Thursday, May 15, 2003

WASHINGTON America has had its regime change in the Middle East. Now Qaeda terrorists want theirs.

Even before Al Qaeda claimed credit for the explosions that ripped through Riyadh on Monday night, the Saudi princes were frightened and seeking American help. They were scared that Al Qaeda, which they once used to deflect resentment away from their own corruption, had succeeded in infiltrating various levels of society, including the government.

The problem with Saudi Arabia is that it is such an opaque society, you can never be sure what’s going on there from the outside – and apparently it’s not spectacularly transparent from the inside, either.

U.S. intelligence analysts warned the Saudis that an attack on American interests in the kingdom was coming. The Saudis reacted the way they typically do, defensively. Intercepted anti-American chatter had become such a din in the last two weeks that the State Department had warned Americans not to travel there.

The Saudi princes reluctantly began an investigation into the possible Qaeda plot. But even in such a repressed and repressive state, Saudi security forces couldn’t stop the terrorists. They tried to seize an Islamic militant cell with links to radical clerics on Tuesday last week. But although the authorities found 365 kilograms (800 pounds) of explosives, all 19 cell members – 17 Saudis, one Iraqi and one Yemeni – escaped.

So, with a new Qaeda spokesman warning that “an attack against America is inevitable” and that “future missions have been entrusted” to a new team “well protected against U.S. intelligence services,” now we have to worry about 19 slippery Islamic terrorists coming at us from Saudi Arabia?

Talk about a sickening sense of deja vu.

Busy chasing off Saddam Hussein, the president and vice president had told us that Al Qaeda was spent. “Al Qaeda is on the run,” President George W. Bush said last week. “That group of terrorists who attacked our country is slowly but surely being decimated,” he added. “They’re not a problem anymore.”

Members of the U.S. intelligence community bragged to reporters that the terrorist band was crippled, noting that it hadn’t attacked during the assault on Iraq.

“This was the big game for them – you put up or shut up, and they have failed,” Cofer Black, who heads the State Department’s counterterrorism office, told The Washington Post last week.

Of course, the other way of looking at it is that Al Qaeda works at its own pace and knows how to conduct operations on the run.

Al Qaeda has been weakened by the arrest of leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But Osama bin Laden, in recent taped messages, has exhorted his followers to mount suicide attacks against the invaders of Iraq. And as one ambassador from an Arab country noted, the pictures of American-made tanks in both Iraq and the West Bank certainly attracted new recruits to Osama.

The administration’s lulling triumphalism about Al Qaeda exploded on Monday in Riyadh, when well-planned and coordinated suicide strikes with car bombs and small-arms fire killed at least 20 people in three housing complexes favored by Westerners, including seven Americans.

The attack was timed to coincide with Secretary of State Colin Powell’s visit to the kingdom, and clearly meant to hurt both America and Saudi Arabia. Even though Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced two weeks ago in Riyadh that he was pulling out of Saudi Arabia the U.S. troops bin Laden hated so much, Qaeda leaders still want to undermine the Saudi monarchy that has been so receptive to infidel U.S. presidents.

Buried in the rubble of Riyadh are some of the Bush administration’s basic assumptions: that Al Qaeda was finished, that invading Iraq would bring regional stability, and that a show of American superpower against Saddam would cow terrorists.

Bob Graham, the Florida senator running for president, said at the Capitol on Tuesday that Iraq had been a diversion: “We essentially ended the war on terror about a year ago. And since that time, Al Qaeda has been allowed to regenerate.”

Doing a buddy routine with Rummy on Tuesday in Washington, as the defense secretary accepted an award, Vice President Dick Cheney was as implacable as ever. “The only way to deal with this threat ultimately is to destroy it,” he said.

So destroy it.