Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Alone And Angry: If Bush Were In AA

Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ---Malachy McCourt

I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.

---George W. Bush

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried...to practice these principles in all our affairs.

---Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous

First a word about these quotations. The statement about resentment has become quite popular and a number of people seem to be credited for it, but chief among them is Mr. McCourt, a colorful figure one might have to sum up as a storyteller of some sort. The actual source for the comment apparently is not known. President Bush was talking about the media to FoxNews's Britt Hume at the end of a 2003 interview found here http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,98006,00.html . The official Internet site of AA is www.alcoholics-anonymous.org/ . And while I'm giving credit, the lithograph by George Bellows was published as an illustration for an article in Good Housekeeping explaining Prohibition in 1924. The original currently is housed in the Library of Congress.

Second, let me say I don't know if the President is alcoholic. We have a history of ambivalence about alcohol in this country. We find drunks comical, as we do not so often people experiencing the effects of other substances that may cause dependence or addiction. We tried to prohibit its manufacture and consumption once, but apparently found enforcement too difficult. Most families include or know of someone with a "drinking problem," but addressing the issue with the person is somehow extremely sensitive. There doesn't seem to be a medical test that proves someone actually has what many describe as a "disease." People are sent to Alcoholics Anonymous by courts and various recovery units, but many folks show up having diagnosed themselves just as they previously "medicated" themselves. You don't have to confess to alcoholism to go to any meeting of AA anywhere, as long as you profess an honest desire to stop drinking.

Third, whether George Bush is alcoholic or not should be none of my business. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of AA, and the main reason for that is not so much secrecy anymore as it is for the purpose of learning humility. It means the member is trying to drop the behaviors of the big shot egomaniac that alcohol obviously encourages and creates. I don't know that the President is NOT in the fellowship of AA, but his biographies say he gave up drinking after a transforming interaction with Billy Graham. Others say Bush's handlers encouraged that story to attract his Evangelical base for his Presidential run. Stories about Bush's drinking in Houston and "disappearance" to Alabama in 1972 http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2004/09/02/allison/index.html and his DWI at the family compound in Maine in 1976 http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/bush/ remained secret or of no interest the whole time he was Governor of Texas. (You may notice at the CBC site a quotation from his autobiography in which Bush says he just woke up one morning with a hangover and stopped drinking; there's no mention of any born again conversion.) It may be a run for the Presidency made Bush come up with something about his substance abuse and try to beat the media to the punch (no boozy pun intended).

I say Bush's decision to give up drinking, how he did it and how he continues to do it SHOULD be none of my business, but he is President---and what our Presidents do in the dark of a closet or the inner recesses of their brains must be available to scrutiny and opinion if we still are a republic. Ambivalent or not, we need to take a look at Bush's behavior from the perspective of an alcoholic, now more than ever. He has maintained isolation and secrecy more than any President in history, the experts say. But now the isolation is not so much of his own choosing, and many of his protective handlers have fallen by the wayside. He is under increasing pressure...and when Congress convenes next month, it will intensify no matter how many ramparts and fortresses he continues to build around himself. He doesn't like it, and there are stories about anger and rage. For the alcoholic there is no more dangerous time than something like this...at least within the consensus of AA.

Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings in practically every town in America, and in many cities around the world. There are open meetings and there are closed meetings. A closed meeting is for people who are saying one day at a time that they are members. They want to talk among themselves and they prefer to insist on that. An open meeting welcomes visitors and students, but often requests notes and recordings not be taken without the specific OK of the people there. So you can go in there and hear what they say. Look in your phone book if you want to find out which meetings are open. When the topics come up about isolation, anger, and resentment, you will hear universal agreement these situations are a red flag. You need to seek help from the fellowship at such a critical time. If one does not go to AA, where do you turn?

For one who has an Evangelical base and faith, where perhaps the foundation of sobriety is rather than AA, you go to your pastor. Through the years we've had a number of Presidents and First Families who went to church frequently. Many of us grew up seeing photos of our Presidents attending church on Sabbath, or coming out into the sunshine after service. I can't say I've ever seen a picture of George, Laura and their children coming out of whatever church it is they go to. I don't know if they go to church. Maybe somebody will send me such a photo, and identify the President's spiritual counselor. Some people go to other kinds of counselors and psychologists and things in times of crisis. And of course George has his father and mother and their contacts. Does he reach out to anyone besides Laura?

Over the past 6 months and particularly this last week, an onslaught of attack has come from historians, journalists and commentators. Perhaps it started with a Rolling Stone cover story last May in which Princeton American studies professor Sean Wilentz posited George Bush as the worst President in United States history. His indictment remains the most completely devastating I've ever read. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/profile/story/9961300/the_worst_president_in_history On Sunday The Washington Post published 5 editorials by other historians to consider the same question---and if it isn't Bush, who was it? I'll give you the link to the Raw Story coverage of the editorials, and the individual Post links are in that article. http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Washington_Post_editorials_debate_if_Bush_1203.html Has any sitting President ever had such a thing done to him? But wait, there's more~~~

Yesterday Paul Krugman described what he considers the increasingly bizarre nature of Bush's failings. http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/120406B.shtml Also in The New York Times, Frank Rich on Sunday described Bush as quite frankly going, if not gone, insane, mad, bonkers. http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/120306A.shtml (As you know, The Times charges extra to read Krugman and Rich now, so I've provided the TruthOut links.) On Friday the esteemed nemesis within the White House press corps, Helen Thomas, chronicled the growing isolation of George Bush. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/294288_helen01.html

I will not mind if there are congressional or judicial investigations of this Administration's activities, the sooner the better. There may be tribunals called for in other countries. There surely will be lawsuits when these people are replaced in 2008. But for now if Bush suspects he is cornered, and his cowboy macho mojo abandons him or his personal guidance from God stumbles a bit, there's going to be trouble. If he is alcoholic, his health and stability are in grave danger. I want justice done, but I pray for the man's well-being.


jazzolog said...

I Need A Meeting!

Boy, does Georgie ever! Here we've had these midterm elections, in which as clear a mandate as ever could be heard proclaimed Clean up the money-grubbing corruption! and Get our soldiers home! So far the Democratic leadership replies Pelosi: Impeachment is off the table and Reid: Let's give Bush more soldiers to send over there.

We have to understand if Bush never went to AA, his denial mechanism is unexamined and raging fullblast...especially in the face of a family confrontation like the Iraq Study Group. Speaking of faces, look at Georgie's these days. Where is that cheerleader We can WinWinWin? Where's that fratboy impudence? He's gaunt...like Scrooge: Up the stairs Scrooge went, not caring a button for the darkness; darkness is cheap and Scrooge liked it.

Every newspaper has the headline screaming across the top this morning: Bush Wants More Troops! The flames of civil war Saddam and Papa Bush warned us about are raging through Baghdad, the people scream and vote for Peace, and so Bush wants kerosene and vodka for the fire.

Two superb articles the past couple days on this. Eugene Robinson's column in yesterday's Washington Post is titled A "Surge" In Wasted Sacrifice http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/18/AR2006121800945.html . Joe Galloway has been the military correspondent supreme in America since Viet Nam, and wrote of Desperation In The White House last Sunday http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/opinion/16250266.htm .

jazzolog said...

A 'Surge' in Wasted Sacrifice
By Eugene Robinson
Tuesday, December 19, 2006; A29

Here's an idea: Let's send MORE U.S. troops to Iraq. The generals say it's way too late to even think about resurrecting Colin Powell's "overwhelming force" doctrine, so let's send over a modest "surge" in troop strength that has almost no chance of making any difference -- except in the casualty count. Oh, and let's not give these soldiers and Marines any sort of well-defined mission. Let's just send them out into the bloody chaos of Baghdad and the deadly badlands of Anbar province with orders not to come back until they "get the job done."

I don't know about you, but that strikes me as a terrible idea, arguably the worst imaginable "way forward" in Iraq. So of course this seems to be where George W. Bush is headed.

Don't assign any real significance to the fact that the president has decided to wait until the new year before announcing his next step in Iraq, because if history is any guide, all of this photo-op "consultation" he's doing is just for show -- to convince us, or maybe to convince himself, that he has an open mind. The Decider doesn't have the capacity for indecision.

Through Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he has ruled out direct talks with Iran and Syria to try to enlist their cooperation in quelling Iraq's sectarian civil war. Through his own remarks, he has ruled out a firm timetable for a U.S. withdrawal. He has declared himself open to any and all advice, but he rules out any course of action that in his estimation will "lead to defeat."

So much for the Iraq Study Group. So much for the will of the voters. As Dick Cheney helpfully spelled out just before the election, "full speed ahead."

At least the Decider is consistent. From the start his administration's approach to this botched war has been to sort through all the tactical alternatives and pick the most counterproductive -- send too few troops, disband the Iraqi army, stand by while looters destroy critical infrastructure and the social order, allow sectarian militias to fill the power vacuum, make reconstruction an afterthought, and put know-nothings in charge of it.

There are more than 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and it's unclear what they are supposed to be accomplishing. It should be obvious that to establish security in all of Iraq and disarm the sectarian militias -- to conduct a proper occupation, in other words -- would require a massive infusion of boots on the ground. The Pentagon says that finding even an additional 20,000 to 30,000 troops to send would be a stretch, and officials warn (perhaps a little melodramatically) of the danger that the demands of Bush's war "will break" the U.S. Army.

I find it hard to believe that even this addle-brained administration is capable of breaking the Army. The generals could find 30,000 more troops to send, and I'll bet they could even find an extra 50,000 if they had to. But why?

Whom would they fight? Would they ally themselves with those elusive "mainstream" Sunnis, or maybe those publicity-shy "moderate" Shiites? Would they capture and hold territory, or would they continue the practice of staying for a while, turning the job over to Iraqi forces and then watching as the militias move back in? If an extra 20,000 troops were sent to Baghdad tomorrow, could they realistically be expected to establish order in a sprawling megacity where some two dozen armed militias control the streets? Since we would be providing 20,000 new targets for snipers and roadside bombs, how many do we calculate will die?

It is unconscionable to think about dispatching more young men and women to Iraq without the realistic expectation that their presence will make a difference in a war that is no longer in our control. Here in Washington, proponents of a troop "surge" speak of giving the whole Iraq adventure one last try. But they sound as if they're more concerned about projecting an image of American resolve than anything else. Does anyone think a symbolic troop increase is going to have the likes of Moqtada al-Sadr or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tossing and turning through sleepless nights?

Doubling the number of American troops in Iraq would be wrong -- we need to get out, now, before we set the whole Middle East on fire -- but at least a surge of that scale would have a purpose. The modest increase now on the table would be purposeless and wrong. What could be more immoral than sacrificing American blood and treasure to save face in a lost war?

jazzolog said...

Posted on Sun, Dec. 17, 2006
Desperation in the White House

The power brokers in Washington spent the week carefully arranging fig leaves and tasteful screens to cover the emperor's nakedness while he was busy pretending to listen hard to everyone with an opinion about Iraq while hearing nothing.

Sometime early in the new year, President Bush will go on national television to tell a disgruntled American public what he has decided should be done to salvage ''victory'' from the jaws of certain defeat in the war he started.

The word on the street, or in the Pentagon rings, is that he'll choose to beef up U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq by 20,000 to 30,000 troops by various sleight-of-hand maneuvers -- extending the combat tours of soldiers and Marines who are nearing an end to their second or third year in hell and accelerating the shipment of others into that hell -- and send them into the bloody streets of Baghdad.

These additional troops are expected to restore order and calm the bombers and murderers when 9,000 Americans already in the sprawling capital couldn't. They're expected to do this even when Bush's favorite (for now) Iraqi politician, Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki, refuses to allow them to act against his primary benefactor, the anti-American cleric Moqtada al Sadr and his Shiite Muslim Mahdi Army militiamen who kill both Americans and Sunni Arabs.

This hardly amounts to a ''new way forward'' unless that definition includes a new path deeper into the quicksand of a tribal and religious civil war where whatever Bush eventually decides is already inadequate and immaterial.

The military commanders on the ground -- from Gen. John Abizaid, the head of the U.S. Central Command, to his generals in Iraq -- have said flatly that more American troops aren't the answer and aren't wanted. For them, it's obvious that only a political decision -- an Iraqi political decision -- has even the possibility of producing an acceptable outcome.

The White House hopes that its much-trumpeted reshuffling of a failed strategy and flawed tactics will buy time for their bad luck to change miraculously. That this time will be bought and paid for with the lives and futures of our soldiers and Marines -- and their families -- apparently means little to these wise men who've never heard a shot fired in anger.

This president has made it painfully obvious that he has no intention of listening to anyone who doesn't believe that he's going to win in Iraq. He'll march stubbornly onward without any real change of course until high noon on January 20, 2009, when his successor will inherit both the hard decision to pull out of Iraq and the back bills for his reckless, feckless misadventure.

The midterm election that handed control of Congress to the Democrats can be ignored. His own approval rating in the polls, now at an all-time low of 27 percent -- likewise means little or nothing.

Only Bush's definition of reality carries any weight with him and therein lies the tragedy -- both his and ours.

James Baker was sent to Washington by the original George Bush, No. 41, to salvage something out of the mess that his son, Bush No. 43, has made of his presidency and the world. The Baker commission labored mightily and produced, if little else, some truth: That the situation in Iraq is dire and rapidly growing worse.

It's also clear, however, that Bush the son is paying no more than lip service to the Baker report. He doesn't want Dad's help, and the idea that he once again needs to be rescued from the consequences of his mistakes -- as he had to be so often back in Texas -- can only have hardened his resolve to stay the course.

This is akin to a drowning man who pushes away a life preserver just before he sinks for the last time. Can nothing save this man from himself -- from the voices that only he hears telling him that he, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman, will have his reputation and his place in American history restored and burnished long after his death?

What will happen to that impossible dream in the coming year if the congressional Democrats begin to do their job, issuing subpoenas and holding oversight hearings into the looting of billions from the national treasury by defense contractors and other fat-cat donors to the GOP?

What will happen if everything that President Bush does to string things along in Iraq fails, as has everything else he has done there so far, and the Iraqis ask, order or drive us out of their country?

Did you notice that at every stop on the president's information-gathering tour this week, there was a very familiar face looming over his shoulder?

It can be argued that Bush understood little about war and peace and diplomacy and honesty in government. Vice President Cheney understood all of it, and he bears much of the responsibility for what's gone on in Washington and in Iraq for the last six years. Keep a sharp eye on him. Desperate men do desperate things.

Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers.
© 2006 MiamiHerald.com and wire service sources