In my last column I recommended impeachment of Bush as a first step toward repairing the damage we have done to Iraq. Since then Al Qaeda terrorists have attacked London and been swiftly identified with professionalism and civic smoothness by British law-enforcement, and Karl Rove has been revealed as the one who betrayed a CIA professional to punish her husband for criticizing Bush's war on Iraq.
I can hardly write fast enough for this one: by the time you read this Rove may be gone, and the bottom may be falling out of the Bush administration. But in the face of the stonewalling by the White House about Rove's actions, we should not only be contemplating impeachment of Bush, we should be asking just how far Rove's treason went: if he can betray a fellow American -- for any reason -- we need to ask who or what else he might be willing to betray.
Was Rove's action merely dirty politics as usual? How do we know he isn't in the pay of the Saudis? Or Halliburton? Or the PNAC folks? Or some religious fundamentalists? How do we know Rove isn't personally committed to a fundamentalist agenda of imperialism? (And given that he won't even talk about it, how do we know that Bush himself is not committed to such an agenda?)
Even more critically, how do we know Rove isn't literally an embedded operative of a foreign or domestic organization dedicated to the overthrow of our democracy, using our gullible (to put it charitably) President as a tool?
Indeed, given the ineptitude, failures, and blunders of the Bush administration, how can we not wonder how much Rove has actually been calling the shots?
But if the bottom falls out of the Bush administration, we-the-people -- out of practice at democracy, not well served by our mass media, and diffident about our rights, powers and duties -- are going to face serious challenges.
Iraq, for starters. I hesitate to prescribe a solution for Iraq, because the success of any resolution there will depend more on a consensus among the Iraqis and the rest of the world about what should be done than on any "right idea" for fixing it.
The forced adoption next month of a new Iraqi constitution is likely to be another disaster. As J.Alexander Thier observed (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/14/opinion/14thier.html) "[C]reating a founding document requires the long ordeal of reaching political compromise and building trust. Given the intensity of conflict in Iraq, it is unlikely that broad political consensus can be achieved any time soon."
That notwithstanding, I believe we should withdraw our military forces from Iraq, now. They are doing more harm than good; occupation hasn't worked, the Iraqis aren't better off, and they and Americans are still dying; Al Qaeda has grown stronger and terrorism is undeterred; our mission has been corrupted by lies and the use of torture, and our ideals of justice, freedom and democracy have been besmirched in the world's regard.
Of course we can't abandon Iraq. Like any community it will need police, firefighters, EMS, public utilities (water, sewer, streets, transportation, electricity) schools and hospitals, and social and cultural services. And we should feel obliged to help restore them to the Iraqi people.
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For that, we have little choice but to go with the international resources we have. We should welcome and support the assistance of the European Union and Iraq's neighbors, the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and NGOs like Doctors Without Borders and Amnesty International.
Domestically, we should extend the unarmed branches of our Uniformed Services so that young people could choose non-military service or careers. The Public Health Service could be expanded to deal worldwide with AIDS, malaria, hunger, water, sanitation, and family planning. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) could grow to include a Global Conservation Force. We could establish an International Literacy and Language Corps dedicated to bringing basic schooling to children and increasing adult multilingualism. (One of the disgraces of our military occupation of Iraq has been the dearth of Arabic speakers.)
Americans are conscientious, energetic, imaginative, passionate, independent, curious, intelligent, generous and courageous; most are willing to make sacrifices and share costs and burdens to make the world a better place. Most would rather use their energy, loyalty, courage and taxes in the service of the sixth of humanity too hungry and poor to be free, too weak and hopeless to govern themselves, rather than in blowing up cities, building nuclear weapons, or using war as a tool of foreign policy.
Besides impeaching Bush and withdrawing from Iraq?
Practice civility and non-violence in national politics. Remember that "politics" and "polite" are basically the same word. Ask civil questions and demand civil answers of the President and Congress, but hold them accountable.
Talk freely and listen willingly with neighbors, co-workers, friends and children, and with adversaries, competitors, dissenters. Exercise imagination, curiosity, independence and intelligence in exploring alternatives. Direct your energy, passions, conscience and courage toward your highest ideals, not your fears or foes. Examine your consumption and use of violence, watch less TV and read more.
Commit yourself to learn a foreign language, or to learn more about another nation, culture, or religion. Think about how American policies and actions will impact other nations.
Drastically curtail your use of oil. Oil is implicated in Iraq, in 9/11, in Bush's relationship with the Saudis and his failure to capture Bin Laden. One "carless" day a week, or a goal of using 10% less gasoline is a small price to pay to reduce the slaughter of war and terrorism.
We can't be sure our actions will accomplish what we hope for. We do know that doing nothing will accomplish nothing.