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Making sense of an earthquake in America’s heartland

BY ERIC S. MARGOLIS / 19 November 2006

AMERICAN voters’ dramatic repudiation of President George Bush on 7 November and the ouster of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after a Pentagon revolt were political earthquakes whose aftershocks will be felt around the globe.

The coalition of strange bedfellows that formed Bush’s core political support — rural southerners; Christian evangelical cultists yearning for the end of the world; neoconservative Israel lobbyists; and big business interests —  was decisively defeated by the dramatic election. 

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.  Their welcome return signifies that the hold on the party of poorly educated, religiously bigoted southerners is ended. 

Baker, Scowcroft, and other respected bipartisan figures, are also heading the invigorated Iraq Study Group. The Group is designed to allow the US a 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 cry, ‘who lost Iraq?’ grows into a chorus, 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 Republicans’ 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. He advocated balanced budgets, small government, avoidance of foreign entanglements, nuclear disarmament, and restraining the military industrial complex. It was Eisenhower who ordered the British, French and Israelis to end their 1956 aggression against Egypt.

Some of the most capable moderate Democrats, like incoming House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Senators Joseph Biden and longtime Iraq war opponents, Senators Carl Levin and Robert Byrd, will assume key Congressional roles. However, the ruinous splits that long crippled the Democrats are already re-opening. 

The new Democratic and Republican leadership will hopefully return America’s politics away from the far right and back to the traditional centre, and begin rebuilding America’s battered reputation.

Even 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 paralysed into one-party rule by fear-mongering and war fever.    However, undaunted by his recent shellacking, Bush continues to foment war against Iran. The president, whose polls are an abysmal 30 per cent, just met with an even more despised leader, Israel’s PM Ehud Olmert, whose polls are below 15 per cent, to plan attacking Iran. They conferred with another discredited fabricator, Britain’s 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 it: "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.  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, or ‘hudna,’ 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. The new Congress should declare an end to Bush’s crusade against the Muslim World. But the Democratic leadership will face intense domestic special interest pressures to wage wars against Iran and other Muslim states.  

It probably won’t happen, but one can still hope the new Congress will reaffirm America’s traditional moral values by bringing to justice all those senior administration officials that concocted the unnecessary war against Iraq and then authorised so many other grave and shameful violations of America’s Constitution.

Eric S. Margolis is a veteran American journalist and contributing foreign editor of The Toronto Sun.
 
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