Column: Donald "Gracie Allen" Rumsfeld

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Mr. Carpenter is a writer and doctoral candidate in American history at the University of Illinois.

Damn the torpedoes, Scuds, biological and chemical weapons, runaway budgets, monstrous deficits, spiraling energy costs, precarious markets, exasperated allies, and heaven knows how many truncated lives. Full speed ahead. W and Dick want one man's head on a stick, so they're content to wish away any unpleasantness around the edges. The allure of completing Papa B's Iraq-invasion vision is just too tasty.

Something else the administration chooses to wish away is a national debate on the war's judiciousness. Damn the public; it has better things to worry about these days anyway, like vanishing 401(k)s. Damn that pesky little body called Congress; it may possess sole authority to declare war, but who worries about constitutional niceties and original intent these brave new days? And for good measure, damn any other kibitzers who seem to think their opinions should matter in a democratic society. Let them blow off impotent steam through the quaint First Amendment, while the crack Harken-Halliburton team pursues Saddam through nonexistent constitutional authority permitting unilateral presidential action.

Some of this may remind you of another band of imperious executive-branch wizards, say, around 1964 ... '65. Just count your blessings that those boys first opened an honest national debate. Otherwise they might have gone and done something foolish of lasting consequence. Bush II's inner circle, on the other hand, is fixated, focused, and needs no debate because this time it really does know best. The inner circle is today's best and brightest--straight from the same best-and-brightest crowd that brought you 401(k)s to worry about rather than the dubious wisdom of digging foreign quagmires.

The administration's posture in eluding debate is so mind-numbingly brazen and purposefully obtuse as to border on pure genius. The official line is this: No answers are needed prior to armed engagement with Iraq because there exists in this state of "prior-ness " no armed engagement to question. Follow that? In appraising the Senate's flopping about in trying to ascertain a few things--such as how many lives might be lost and how long a military occupation might last--Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expertly proffered the inner circle's circular logic: "I don't think [the Senate's public pondering] demonstrates any opposition to anything because there's nothing to oppose at the moment." Gracie Allen couldn't have put it better.

Equally mind-numbing was Democratic Senator Joseph Biden's grasp of the real world. Speaking as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee he said, "It's clear to me that the administration is still in the throes of a searching debate about what to do." He failed to note this "searching debate" is a closed one. But here was the real kicker: "I don't want to put them in a position to prematurely have to reach a conclusion." Perhaps it was only a stellar display of deferential politics, but Mr. Biden has to know the one and only "conclusion" of towering consequence has already been made--and all by Bush II's insular self. Whether by dropping an initial quarter-million American men and women into harm's way on Iraqi soil or blackening its air space with B-52 armadas, the foremost conclusion is a foregone one. The proposition that anyone outside Oval Office confines could force an already "premature" presidential decision must spring from either a false sense of power and pride or a liberal dose of pixilation. When it comes to foreign policy, Biden & Associates are to Bush II what the Roman Senate was to Emperor Caligula. Doesn't anyone brief Joe on these things?

To salvage whatever tranquility of mind possible, one may wish to frame the administration's refusal to grapple with informed dissent as a kind of perverse public service. By now we're accustomed to its shameless lying to everyone about anything to quell criticism and flimflam the public, but on the Iraqi issue it hasn't even bothered. (The latest exposition of the White House's extended ethical holiday from honesty was an OMB press release saying last year's tax-slashing hoedown accounts for only 15 percent of the projected $165-billion deficit, even though OMB's full report says the tax cut accounts for 40 percent.) Saying nothing at all about how, when, and precisely why it plans to launch a massive invasion force is at least a refreshing change of pace from the administration's usual duplicity.

So it's full speed ahead with W and Dick alone at the helm. With luck they'll let us nobodies know how things are going at some point during the war. For now, since "there's nothing to oppose," just let us remember our place and not get uppity by pressing them for a debate.

© Copyright 2002 P. M. Carpenter

P.M. Carpenter is published weekly by History News Network and

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More Comments:

Michael P. Rollins - 8/22/2002

Sen Biden is too busy stealing old British Labor Party speeches and presenting them as his own, when he is not doing that he is caring for his hair plugs. The posibility of him reading A.M. Carpentier's article: none

Robert Whealey - 8/16/2002

Good hard hitting article. I hope that Senator Biden especially reads this article.

Robert Whealey - 8/16/2002

Good and hard hitting. Especially, I hope Senator Biden reads this letter.

Laura Hiatt - 8/16/2002

I have read the article and the comments and, while I agree with the comments concerning the lack of historical analysis, there is one thing that the article brought to my mind. Here is the first person that I have read openly questioning America's government's actions towards the United States's plan to attack Iraq and its "war" with terrorism. Thus, here is the question: why are people not questioning the government like Mr. Carpenter? Do they not see what the government is doing behind their backs?

David Lynch - 8/14/2002

Mr Carpenter is predictable and his hatred of anything conservative is really getting old.

Michael P. Rollins - 8/13/2002

P.M.Carpenter-Long on diatribe short on history. I can think of only one reason why his column is on HNN instead of the OP-ED pages of a newspaper: He is not even remotely competent when it comes to laying out facts, historical precedents, or logic when he tries to make a convincing argument! Additionally newspapers don't like to publish insults as masquerading informed commentary. Might make circulation go down. If I want history I guess I will go to the library, if I want the pretentious ravings of a Raul Duke wanna be (FDR cigarette holder included) I will turn to HNN. HNN needs to make discussion of history its priority, lately it seems that is not the fact. As for P.M Carpenter the way he writes I wouldn't want to be his thesis director!!!!

Sean Brennan - 8/13/2002

One of the unchanging occurances in my life is reading an new column each week by Mr.Carpenter attacking the Bush abministration for something evil and malicious done to the United States, the Iraqis, the Palestinians, the environment or the baby seals.

I really do not know what is more pathetic, the fact that Mr. Carpenter cannot write about anything other than his neo-Marxist blatherings towards the White House, or the fact that his poorly reasoned, illogical, and mean-spirited ramblings are published by HNN as important historical analysis.

Mr. Carpenter, and many other academics like him (and I know many, I am also in a graduate program in history) are ivory tower liberals who believe it is far better for murderous dictators such as Saddam to continue their bloodthirsty rule than to send the US military anywhere to do anything (Unless they are going after a right-wing, European dictator, then it is fine)

Mr. Carpenter, you are a disgrace to those who continue to suffer under Saddam and those like him. Thankfully we have people like Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rive who are willing to stand against murderous butchers, like Churchill and Truman before them. It is they who will be remembered and honored long after academic snobs who have nothing better to do than justify or ignore mass murder are forgotten.