Does anyone use the phrase, "Still waters run deep" anymore? In case you're young and aren't familiar, it's the sort of thing people would say about someone who doesn't talk much, so we imagine lots of thinking going on deep inside his brain. But it isn't until he starts speaking that we realize that, just because someone doesn't talk much doesn't mean he's got a lot of any worth to say.
Which brings us to Jeb Bush at the Reagan Library:
No leader or policymaker involved will claim to have gotten everything right in the region, Iraq especially. Yet in a long experience that includes failures of intelligence and military setbacks, one moment stands out in memory as the turning point we had all been waiting for. And that was the surge of military and diplomatic operations that turned events toward victory. It was a success, brilliant, heroic, and costly. And this nation will never forget the courage and sacrifice that made it all possible.I remember not long ago thinking Jeb Bush, the quiet brother, was probably also the smart one, and that maybe he should have gone to the White House instead of George. But now that he's giving his opinions, I'm starting to think he might have been even worse. Thinking back, I also remember believing that George Jr's handling of Iraq was not nearly as good as his father's, but found myself surprised to find his dad actually supporting his son's policies, and now I'm starting to get that same feeling about Jeb when I hear him try to make it sound like his brother's Iraq war was just a fine idea.
Yeah, of course, if he's running for president -- and he is -- he can hardly do it without finding some way to frame his brother's disastrous war in a way that doesn't lay the blame on his own brother, so one has to assume he'd do it by laying blame for its legacy on his opponent if he can, which he'll have to do by rewriting history. So in a way, one can hardly blame him for trying, but the truth is, yes, you can. And you should.
Some things have to be made clear to all Americans:
(1) Jeb's brother's war was NOT a good idea, it was a stupid one, and that at no point was it "headed toward victory", and was a war that, had his brother not launched it, there would be no such thing as ISIS, which was an outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq, a group that never would have been there at all, were it not for George Bush's war;
(2) Did "the surge" work in tamping down the violence? Maybe some, but not as much as conservatives claim it did, mainly because by the time it happened, things had somewhat calmed down on their own. The Sunnis, who were tiring of al Qaeda cutting off so many of their heads, had started taking payment from the Americans to join the fight against the insurgents in what was labelled "The Sunni Awakening", and the Shiite militias under Muqtada al-Sadr had been ordered to stand down, possibly seeing no reason to fight until the American troops left the country, which was expected to happen soon. And then came our surge, a day late and a dollar short, so to speak, but it gave us some cover, allowing us to sneak out of the country, almost unnoticed;
(3) As has been noted elsewhere, it was not Barack Obama (nor Hillary Clinton) who signed the SOFA agreement that kept our troops from staying in Iraq, it was Bush -- and nobody, including Jeb Bush, seems to have any good suggestion on what Obama could have done to keep them there over the objections of Iraq's leaders, much less what a tiny contingent of American troops could have accomplished that our hundreds of thousands had failed to do. People keep pointing this out, but the conservatives just ignore them;
(4) But here's the biggest conservative lie, and one that seems to be taken for granted by both sides, but shouldn't be:
The war, despite what conservatives keep claiming, was NOT -- repeat, NOT -- brought about by a "failure of intelligence", it was facilitated by the misuse of intelligence by the Bush administration -- as brilliantly reported by Seymour Hersh, in a long-forgotten New Yorker article entitled "The Stovepipe", back in October of 2003. In it, Hersh explained how the CIA, at least before the Iraq War, would normally handle incoming intelligence:
In theory, no request for action should be taken directly to higher authorities — a process known as “stovepiping” — without the information on which it is based having been subjected to rigorous scrutiny.
The point is not that the President and his senior aides were consciously lying. What was taking place was much more systematic — and potentially just as troublesome. Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq, whose book “The Threatening Storm” generally supported the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein, told me that what the Bush people did was “dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership. Their position is that the professional bureaucracy is deliberately and maliciously keeping information from them.
“They always had information to back up their public claims, but it was often very bad information,” Pollack continued.For details, you should read that article. It's fascinating. For more on this, also read the recent obit of Tyler S. Drumheller, the CIA European Station Chief who tried to warn the Bush administration much of their intelligence was way off-base:
“The agency is not blameless and no president on my watch has had a spotless record when it comes to the C.I.A.,” he said [in a 60-Minutes interview]. “But never before have I seen the manipulation of intelligence that has played out since Bush took office. As chief of Europe, I had a front-row seat from which to observe the unprecedented drive for intelligence justifying the Iraq war.”In fact, amongst the blowback of Bush's Iraq War is something rarely mentioned, that being, by exposing its weaknesses, the damage the Bush administration did to the world's perception of American intelligence capabilities, largely by incorrectly blaming so-called "intelligence failures" on American intelligence agencies such as the CIA, instead of Bush and Cheney's own mismanagement. The mystique of American intelligence -- which reputedly knew everything, but apparently was so sure Saddam Hussein was running a WMD program that he wasn't running -- is gone. The damage to this country some claimed to be done by Edward Snowden pales next to that done by Bush and Cheney.
Still, stand by, because all that real history is still being rewritten by Republican presidential candidates, since selling a false narrative about America is the only chance they have of getting elected. And to a certain extent, it will work, because the people they're talking to are looking for a more comfortable story that helps them forget the truth about the incredibly stupid things our country does now and then.
But will it help them win the election? At this moment, that may depend solely on whether whoever they come up with as a candidate can defeat Bernie Sanders.