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Bush & Rumsfeld: They’ve Lost the 'War of Ideas'

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

Bush and Rumsfeld Speeches: They’ve Lost the 'War of Ideas'

President Bush made an extraordinary statement at his unexpected news conference on August 21st. He said: “the consequence of leaving Iraq before the job is done…[is that] we will have lost our soul as a nation.” The Nazis used that kind of rhetorical trick, turning the root cause of their rise to power into a rallying cry. It won’t work this time.

The first Gulf War was the straw that broke the Spirit’s back in America, resulting in the loss of the nation’s soul. The ensuing moral and intellectual weakness, foreshadowed during the Clinton years, is what allowed the Bush Administration scoundrels to be elected, not once but twice.

Progressive Americans who cling to the ‘stolen election’ theory (in Florida in 2000, and Ohio in 2004) are willfully denying that the Bush Administration represents a genuine expression of the general American character and zeitgeist.

On August 29th, Donald Rumsfeld sank even deeper into the sewage when he defended the war in Iraq by saying, “War is, as Clemenceau said, ‘a series of catastrophes that result in victory.’” He concluded his fantastically wrongheaded address to the 88th annual American Legion convention by intoning, “any kind of moral or intellectual confusion about who and what is right or wrong, can weaken the ability of free societies to persevere.”

These speeches, which are directed to their increasingly small base of rabidly devoted followers, aren’t designed to convince anyone. They are meant to wear down everyone who stands against the Bushites.

The Bush Administration and their supporters have lost the battle of ideas, and so they're making a relentless assault on the truth. These Neanderthals are the last, most hideous bastion of belief in American exceptionalism and righteousness, and they are pushing the world into chaos and anarchy.

Face it; America has become a force for evil, not good in the world. When enough Americans passionately face that fact, it can and will change. But in continuing to deny it, or going just half way toward acknowledging it, the fact continues, and the scoundrels remain in power.

The World War II analogy is idiotic on every level. In this struggle against terrorism, there aren’t two sides, one good and one evil, as Bush, Rumsfeld, and their clique believe. Rather there are two evils: the Bush Administration and its close allies, and the terrorist network, metaphysically working together to destroy the human spirit.

In philosophy there is a well-known trick for underhandedly attempting to prevail in an argument. It’s called “setting up straw men.” It always marks the last desperate attempt to win a debate that one has already lost. The Bush Administration has been using bale after bale in its desperate attempt to win the battle of ideas. (I refuse to say ‘war’ because they see everything in terms of war, and acquiescing to their terminology of the “war on terror” means granting the primary premise to these velvet-gloved tyrants.)

There are these gems from Rummy’s speech: “the struggle is too important to have the luxury of returning to that old mentality of ‘Blame America First.’” When was there ever a movement, in this country or abroad, to “blame America first?” There wasn’t, and isn’t. It’s a straw man.

And this: “Not so long ago, an exhibit -- Enola Gay at the Smithsonian during the 1990s -- seemed to try to rewrite the history of World War II by portraying the United States as somewhat of an aggressor.”

That’s another cunning straw man. For over 60 years the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been portrayed as essential in forcing the surrender of Japan in World War II, and as the righteous act of revenge for Pearl Harbor (a sneak attack on a military target). The truth is by continually justifying and celebrating the only use of nuclear weapons in human history, the American character was irrevocably eroded.

Bush and Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice constantly project, through America’s incredible military power, their warped and hateful worldview, with the predictable result that the depth and scope of hatred for America has never been greater. The argument is over with them. They will never change; never acknowledge that they were wrong to invade Iraq (not merely wrong in the ‘execution of the war’ as many critics say, trying to have it both ways).

They have lost their ‘war of ideas,’ but truth-seeking Americans must continue to challenge their assumptions, turning Rumsfeld’s words back on them: we must not “allow the distortions and myths to be repeated without challenge.”

That is how we will regain our soul as a people, and once again join the battered and tattered community of nations seeking an imperfect world of peace and cooperation.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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