Iran's Smackdown on Dubya

Q: The other sensitive issue that people want to know your position is on, because this has come up often, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rejection that there was a Holocaust. Do you believe that there was a Holocaust in which six million Jews were killed?

A: I am currently thinking about the Iraqi issues.

-- CNN's Wolf Blitzer, interviewing Iraqi Shiite leader Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, who was in the U.S. for a meeting with George W. Bush. Al-Hakim repeatedly declined to answer the Holocaust question.

The Bush administration's Iraq adventure is beginning to remind me of that section in Catch-22 when mess officer extraordinaire Milo Minderbinder buys up the entire Egyptian cotton crop. At first Milo thinks he's getting the deal of the century, but in the end he just gets stuck with a shitload of cotton that he can't sell. Next thing you know, he's covering raw cotton with melted chocolate and trying to serve it as a dessert to the guys in the mess hall. People are choking everywhere, throwing up, and Milo just keeps smiling, pretending it's delicious...

The Iraq war is sort of the same thing. Bush and Rumsfeld and all of those clowns went into that country with their heads full of idiot fantasies -- Arab kids joyously throwing flowers at GIs, liberated Bedouins buying Dockers slacks in bulk and quoting Thomas Jefferson in cyber-cafes, young Muslims packing meeting halls in Mosul and Tal Afar to hear Tom Friedman preach about globalization. That exactly didn't work out, and now four years later George Bush is in the unenviable position of having to invite to the White House a Holocaust denier and proud love slave of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, and then shake his hand, smile, and sell him as America's best hope for democracy in "free" Iraq.

A pessimist would call that a real shitty situation, but I'm counting on Bush to balk at that suggestion and take the optimistic course, the obvious chocolate-covered cotton move. Which is this: instead of making some craven apology for getting in bed with a Holocaust denier, Bush should just deny the Holocaust himself!

I'm not saying there's no downside to this move for Bush -- he'd never be rid of Abe Foxman, for one thing -- but if he made Holocaust denial official U.S. policy, just peevishly said something like "Heck, it's not like it's ever been proven" at an afternoon press conference, then he could at least have pretended that he wasn't forced into this devil's alliance with Al-Hakim. Throw your arm around him and smile: Things are going exactly as planned! Nothing is fucked here!

That's what the old Bush would have done, anyway. The old Bush, the guy we all learned to love in the early part of this decade, he and Karl Rove would have seen this situation as an opportunity, an intellectual challenge. The pre-indictment Rove anyway would never have backed down. He would have issued the appropriate Holocaust talking points, and after three weeks of Rush and Hannity and Savage taking shots at Hamptons liberal Steven Spielberg and the big-foreheaded Irish Kinsey-lover Liam Neeson and the sexually ambiguous pickle-slurping creep Adrian Brody, and everyone else who's ever been in a Holocaust movie, the polls even on that issue would have come around eventually, no doubt about it.

Because the old Karl Rove understood that there's only one real sin in American politics, and that's apologizing. You act like you know what you're doing, people in this country will buy whatever you're selling. They'll eat chocolate-covered cotton. They'll eat worse. They'll crawl on their knees to eat wet dogshit and beg for more. You just can't ever flinch as you ladle it onto their plate.

The old Bushies understood this, but this newest incarnation is too broken and demoralized to remember the strategies that got them to the top. They are being held back now, ironically, by the tiny, anemic quotient of restraint and decency parasitically embedded in their policies. If Bush had simply invaded Iraq, ransacked the place in search of WMDs, seized its oil wells, captured Saddam Hussein and impaled him on a pike, and then declared victory and pulled the troops out, leaving the non-oil-producing regions of the country to tear themselves apart in an insane chaos of civil war and religious violence, his approval rating would still be in the high sixties, maybe even the seventies.

Instead, Colin Powell's "You break it, you own it" prophesy has sadly come to pass -- but why was that inevitable? Why couldn't we just break shit and then saunter out of the store, both middle fingers trained at the cashier's face? After all, we're America! Who would stop us? The world would have been horrified, but to hell with the world; here in America, all people care about is American casualties and American taxes. If our soldiers were out of Iraq now and we weren't still spending a billion bucks a minute on this war, most of America would still be on board with the original decision to go in -- even if the Iraq we eventually left behind was a Rwanda-like, smoldering-cemetery of a state. After all, the American population has successfully blown off plenty of massacres before -- even ones we helped cause, like Indonesia in the ‘60s and Guatemala in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Iraq could have been the same kind of easily-ignored little coffee stain on the American conscience.

But that train has left the station, and the reason for that is that this administration apparently really is wedded to its nutty dream of building a Switzerland full of happy neo-capitalist Muslims in the middle of Asia minor. If Bush had been just a little more evil, just a little more of the cheap vicious fuckhead we all thought he was for so long, we'd be out of Iraq right now and engaged in the next policy "success" -- i.e. a "Tehran Spring" and a subsequent taxidermy of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, with the "Mission Accomplished" money-shot cued up for the first Monday in November 2008.

Instead, it's Ahmedinejad who is toying with us, as the Bush administration flounders in the lethal middle ground between mindless military bravado and reluctant, halfhearted consideration for the constraints of civilization and international law. Having entered Iraq without any semblance of an occupation plan, our blockheaded leader is belatedly acting like a man concerned with his legacy as a nation-builder, a Dr. Frankenstein who cannot bring himself to kill his monstrous dream of Iraqi democracy. And it's this fatal weakness that is producing perhaps the very worst consequence of this war, the stunning international political victory of Ahmedinejad, the Holocaust-denying Iranian reptile.

Last week, two things happened. The first is that Bush received Al-Hakim, a leading Iraqi Shiite cleric who has very close ties to Iran and Ahmedinejad. Bush is cozying up to Al-Hakim because he can't afford to kiss Ahmedinejad's ass publicly and Al-Hakim is the next best thing, a person whose cooperation will be necessary if the security situation in Iraq is to be improved. By itself this was a kind of humiliation for Bush, a recognition that he can't provide for Iraq's security by himself, even with the world's mightiest army, and still needs to play supplicant to some prehistoric ascetic in a beard and cape.

The second thing that happened is that the nation of Iran hosted an "academic conference" held to consider the "scientific question" of whether the Holocaust took place. Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, opened the conference by attacking what he termed "Western restrictions on scientific and scholarly study," saying that the West did not allow Holocaust denial because it would lead to questions about the nature of the Israeli state. Following Mottaki was our own David Duke, who claimed that the West had a "Holocaust mafia" that squelched dissent on the issue.

Let it be noted for the record that one very good reason that the United States did not recognize this excellent event by dropping a MOAB in the middle of it is that our President Bush was more or less exactly at that moment meeting with an important Iranian ally to beg for help in untangling America's hopeless political mess in Iraq. And while we can't give Ahmedinejad credit for planning this sequence of events -- the Holocaust conference was announced long before Al-Hakim's visit -- there's no doubt that the general trend of his diplomacy in the past years, as opposed to Bush's anyway, laid the foundation for this incredible political checkmate. Conceived as a blow to the heart of Islamic extremism, Bush's insane pursuit of the Iraqi democratic mirage has instead forced the United States into the role of a formal appeaser of some of the vilest state ideology seen on earth since Hitler's time. And it couldn't have worked out any better for Ahmedinejad, who in just four years has not only seen the United States take out his most dangerous military enemy in Saddam Hussein, but has seen the conditions laid for both a Shiite resurgence in Iraq and the dealing of a crippling blow to American geopolitical ambitions in the Middle East. It makes one wonder how much the Iranians helped us along down this path to begin with, whether those reports of Ahmed Chalabi chilling in Tehran in the weeks before the war might actually be true. Perhaps future historians will find an alternate source for some of our original "solid information" about Iraqi WMDs.

Who knows. What we do know is that as of last week, we have officially been played like a fiddle by one of the world's all-time evil bastards. And we also now can say for sure that the famed cold-blooded ruthlessness of the Bush-Rove-Cheney crew has been proven to be a crock. Those guys are ruthless when it comes to winning American elections. But when it comes to war and diplomacy, they're a bunch of kittens. You can't Swift-Boat Moqtada Al-Sadr. When it comes to real enemies, our leaders are useless.

Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had a feast this week and his main course was George Bush with an apple in his mouth. Has it ever been more embarrassing to be an American?

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