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Brent Flynn: Can We Handle The Truth?

Can We Handle The Truth?

By Brent Flynn
Practically Rational

We need to stop kidding ourselves. The neoconservatives in the Bush administration and millions of rank and file Republicans don't care how the Arab street feels about the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They don't care if 50 years of foreign diplomacy and treaties with western allies go down the drain as a result. And they aren't particularly concerned about the Middle East or any other part of the world being destabilized by their militant foreign policy.

Quite frankly, they're pissed off that they ever had to pretend to care in the first place.

Sure, they talk a good game about their desire for world peace, democracy and universal human rights, but when you get past the conservatively correct talking points their real agenda of American hegemony sustained by military force rears its ugly head.

How do I know? Because they are constantly telling me so.

Case in point: I was talking to my barber the other day. He's an affable guy with an awe shucks air about him, but very intelligent. I've known him my whole life and I already knew that his hair parts on the right. When the topic turned to the war in Iraq it took all of 30 seconds for him to "reveal" to me the real reason for the invasion. I wasn't even trying to trip him up but what he voluntarily confirmed is what we have known all along.

"Hell yeah it's about natural resources," he said. "We've got the biggest stick. Why shouldn't we take what we want? We are the biggest and the baddest and there's nothing anybody can do about it."

I appreciated his candor. There was none of the usual BS about national security, weapons of mass destruction or even Iraqi liberation, which was refreshing. But what he was saying was that he understands that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is a grab for its oil wealth and he's okay with that. And by extension, he is condoning the concept of an American empire, even if the government has to lie to the American public, cheat American tax payers and murder innocent Iraqis to achieve it. Furthermore, I could tell by the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes that he was sick and tired of candy coating his feelings.

There are a lot of people on the right that share his views and they are doing all they can to keep a lid on their militant ideology.

I got into an email debate with a conservative acquaintance of mine a few days ago. In his second reply he dispensed with the flimsy justifications for the war and wrote the following:

"No one doubts that the US had other motives (for invading Iraq), but one of the things we've become extremely adept at is furthering our own strategic goals under the guise of 'helping others,' and Iraq is no exception...The Islamic countries have had decades to get their respective houses in order. On 9/11, the Bush Doctrine kicked in and said 'You can't handle your own business, so we're going to handle it for you.' I don't have a problem with this, and with that I suppose I have exposed myself as the "neo-Con" you probably despise. ;-)"

This person seems to think that getting what we want "under the guise of 'helping others'" is quite a clever thing to do and he seems to relish the fact that our military is able to put "their respective houses in order."

It is the mixture of many Americans' ignorance of history and arrogant self-righteousness reflected in the above statements that has enabled the Bush administration to force on the American public its agenda of crony capitalism, military imperialism, and abridgement of civil liberties in the name of national security.

Allen Houston, a liberal friend of mine, wrote a satirical response to my columns in which he mocks the logic of these angry conservatives. His "Dear Pinko" letter illustrates the simplistic and morally bankrupt philosophy of many conservative Republicans. What's more, it illustrates the need of the ruling class to legitimize its power by speaking openly and unashamedly about their plans. It's also funny as hell.

Jack Nicholson encapsulated this mentality perfectly with his performance in the movie A Few Good Men written by Aaron Sorkin. His character is Colonel Nathan R. Jessep, Commanding Officer, Marine Ground Forces, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Colonel Jessep and his command decision to discipline a young Marine are analogous to the Bush administration and its doctrine of pre-emptive war.

The climax of the movie comes in the powerful courtroom scene in which Tom Cruise's character, Navy Lt. Daniel Kaffee, baits the Colonel into admitting that he ordered the illegal disciplinary action, called a "Code Red," that resulted in the death of the Marine.

Cruise's character realizes that the Colonel believes himself to be outside of any legal jurisdiction because of his essential role in providing "national security." The Colonel's contempt for political discourse and the rule of law is bubbling just beneath the surface. Not only is he incensed that he has to explain his actions, but he believes he is owed a debt of gratitude by the civilian population he defends.

Finally, when he can restrain himself no longer he erupts into a diatribe about what it takes to defend a nation.

"You can't handle the truth," he shouts at the beginning of his rant. "I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom…I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to."

I believe we are reaching a similar breaking point today in which the truth about this administration's real intentions will be openly revealed to the world. While the movie is a work of fiction, the issues raised by Sorkin in the plot and sub-plot are eerily similar to those we face right now: arrogant power unchecked by civilian authority, the public's right to know vs. the secrecy associated with national security, and the belief that the end always justifies the means.

Additionally, the Colonel's belief that he is accountable to no one brings to mind the comments made by President Bush quoted in Bob Woodward's book Bush at War about how decisions are made in his administration.

"I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

Donald Rumsfeld's contempt for the free press and, therefore, the American public is on display at virtually every press briefing he gives. But his comments at a Feb. 4, 2003 briefing in which he expressed unwavering support for Army Gen. Tommy Franks, even as Franks was the subject of a defense inspector general investigation for allegedly allowing his wife to sit in on top secret defense meetings, revealed his contempt for legal proceedings as well.

In response to a question about the investigation Rumsfeld said, "…there isn't a chance in the world that it will have any possible interference with his role as the combatant commander in the Central Command."

That comment was met with several follow-up questions to clarify what he meant. Was the CENTCOM commander above the law because he was about to lead our troops into battle in Iraq?

One question in particular caught him off guard.

"Would it be appropriate for other senior military or civilian officers to issue statements of support to their subordinates if they learn of an IG investigation? I can't imagine you would approve of that…but why do you get to do this…and no one else?"

There was a long uncomfortable pause between the question and Rumsfeld's response. Finally he answered, "…I think I did exactly the right thing. And unless someone tells me it's the wrong thing to do, I probably will keep RIGHT ON DOING IT." (Emphasis his)

Bush and Rumsfeld's public comments suggest that an air of invincibility accompanies their almost untouchable status. Publicly available examples of neoconservative imperial designs for the world can be found at the website for the Project for the New American Century. There the architects of the Bush Doctrine have brazenly hidden their plans for world domination in plain sight.

The question is, "Can we handle the truth?" Because the truth is out there and it's pretty scary. The truth is that the neoconservatives control both houses of Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, and the most powerful military in the history of the world. Additionally, the American public is willing to grant the Bush administration sweeping powers at home and abroad in exchange for the perception of safety. The neocons are in a position of absolute power and, like Colonel Jessep, they have little need for political niceties and international diplomacy anymore. As Lord Acton, the 20th century historian and defender of liberty pointed out, "power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

The gloves are off. Now that the Bush hawks have consolidated their power and successfully tested the Bush Doctrine they are taking the opportunity to choose their next target and exact revenge on any person or country that slowed their rush to war. And they are making no secret about it.

Colin Powell warned France that it will face "consequences" for its opposition to the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq even as he was being attacked by Newt Gingrich for doing a poor job of selling the war to the UN. You have to admire Powell's loyalty to Bush even as he is being marginalized in the administration.

It appears that the hawks in the Pentagon, led by Donald Rumsfeld, are trying to discredit Powell and the State Department in order to hijack America's foreign policy function. If they are successful, the Bush Doctrine, or the threat of a pre-emptive strike, will replace diplomacy as the preferred method of resolving international disputes (In actuality, this scenario has already been played out in the invasion and occupation of Iraq). Further evidence that the Bush Doctrine is front and center in our foreign diplomacy can be seen by how quickly Bush and Rumsfeld turned their sights toward Syria and Iran after the fall of Baghdad as well as the leaked plans to bomb North Korea's nuclear reactor.

What we have on our hands is a global "Code Red." Taking over Iraq was an illegal disciplinary action meant to punish Saddam for getting out of line and to send a message to the rest of the world that the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war is the new geopolitical reality. That new geopolitical reality is being driven by the scarcity of natural resources and market globalization and is being cheered on by many ordinary, middle-class conservative Republicans that think Fox News is fair and balanced and believe that guests on the O'Reilly Factor have really entered a "no-spin zone."

It is not simply that conservatives who go along with the Bush agenda are too stupid to understand it, that's letting too many off too easily. While ignorance of the issues may be a mitigating factor in many cases, it is also true that thousands if not millions of Republicans have at least a partial understanding of what the neoconservatives in the White House are up to and they couldn't agree more. Even more disturbing, they are dying to get in your face and tell you all about it.

Are we clear?



- Contact Brent Flynn at if you would like to receive future columns weekly via email. His website is at

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