"Corrupted by wealth and power, your government is like a restaurant
with only one dish. They've got a set of Republican waiters on one side and
a set of Democratic waiters on the other side. But no matter which set of
waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same
Wall Street kitchen."
Regular readers of these musings might suspect that we have been rather hard
on our anointed Zeus and the pantheon of lesser gods he commands, namely, the
President and the Republican Party. In truth, criticizing the GOP is like dynamite
fishing: hardly sporting, but appealing nevertheless when one is in a certain
Certainly, the Party of Lincoln provides rich material for humor of a rather
sarcastic kind: a war on Iraq that may be the greatest strategic disaster in
our history; doubling the national debt in fewer than five years; the tomfoolery
of Freedom Fries ; a tragic-comic ineptitude at protecting U.S. citizens
from the mere vicissitudes of weather while simultaneously claiming the divine
power to coerce all mankind into an earthly utopia; the nomination to the Supreme
Court of Miss Harriet Miers.
Indeed, the planned investiture of Miss Miers in the robe of Hammurabi promises
further entertainment for those who cherish an obscene sense of humor. Her confirmation
hearing is sure to produce a Vesuvius-like outpouring of quackery from the Robertsons,
Falwells, Dobsons, and LaHayes which has rarely been matched in our history.
One has to go back to the solemn asininities of William Jennings Bryan, Billy
Sunday, and Aimee Semple McPherson to find their equal. Under the GOP, America
has truly entered a second Golden Age of politico-religious kitsch.
But after savoring the ludicrous aspects of the current Republican hegemony,
one sobers up and returns to the mundane. Perpetual war, Argentine levels of
debt, and rampant corruption are hardly conducive to national survival, let
alone prosperity. Isn't it time to turn the fat hogs out and give the lean hogs
When the party in power behaves like Peronists without the extravagant wardrobe,
one is tempted to believe that those who nominally oppose that party would be
more rational and public spirited. That is one of the cherished myths of the
National Story, at any rate.
A glance at this morning's Washington Post op-ed page, the bulletin board of
America's nomenklatura, quickly brings one back to earth. In a piece entitled
"Using Our Leverage: The Troops," Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), a presumed
scourge of the Bush administration, argues that a subtle threat to pull out
U.S. troops would be the inducement or sub rosa extortion to get
the Iraqi politicians to settle their differences and ultimately defeat the
On one level, this is an outburst of unbelievable naiveté. One can only
imagine that Senator Levin has been brainwashed  by his various Potemkin
tours of the Green Zone so as to believe that the U.S. military occupation is
actually popular. It is not. On the other hand, we can assume that the minority
of Iraqis who have battened on to the occupation for their own position or profit
already have their visas in order should the plug ever be pulled. Prospectively,
they are just one more émigré group poised to drive up rents in
Arlington, Virginia. The idea that the "threat" to pull out U.S. military
forces leverages anything is an exercise in delusion. This is what Democrats
concoct when desperation forces them to devise an alternative Iraq policy.
At a deeper, moral level, Senator Levin's thesis is even more dispiriting.
Our troops, you must understand, are "leverage." Flesh and blood Americans
are dying every day, but they are leverage: counters, pawns, bargaining chips
in a game of Realpolitik. If the Democrats want to prove they are "tough
enough for the job," i.e., as coldly cynical as the other party, they are
off to a promising start.
Further clues as to the Democrats' thinking on Iraq can be gleaned from their
reaction to the President's recent address to the National Endowment for Democracy.
Enough criticism has been leveled at this address for its high-school
Wilsonianism, Chautauqua tent revivalism, and geo-strategic mumbo-jumbo
that further analysis here would merely be cruel. 
It is, however, worth a moment's detour to expatiate on the venue of the President's
speech, the National Endowment for Democracy, and what it signifies for the
relative positions of the two American political parties.
NED is one of the most hellish of all the spawns of your out-of-control government.
Year in and year out, be the administration Democrat or Republican, NED has
survived as a curious hybrid: part taxpayer-financed slush fund for the two
political parties (NED being a money conduit for the International Republican
Institute and National Democratic Institute for International Affairs), and
part general staff organization for ideological zealots.
Thus NED achieves the best of both worlds: it provides sinecures for out-of-work
party hacks and at the same time serves as an incubator of neoconservative-oriented
"regime change" schemes while avoiding accountability as a supposedly
non-governmental organization. Its President, Carl Gershman, a social democrat,
has run the outfit since its founding in 1983. Its intellectual traditions rest
on many of the same ideologically leftist European roots as the neoconservatives'
To expand Huey Long's metaphor, NED is the ultimate in political fusion cuisine.
Where else could former Trotskyites, Democratic Socialists, and Hegelians appreciatively
receive the lucubrations of a fourth-generation Republican oligarch who coincidentally
receives instructions from God about his conduct of foreign policy?
This situation explains why NED is a darling of the Wall Street Journal editorial
board, that Pravda of crony capitalism and neocon tub-thumping. It is said that
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also likes NED. As a custodian of Senatorial
campaign largesse, Senator McConnell presumably knows whereof he speaks. Further
heightening the irony, his wife, Elaine Chao, is the ferociously anti-labor
Secretary of Labor; yet union hacks serve amicably on the NED board, while the
Free Trade Union Institute, a labor front group, cheerfully sucks at the taxpayer
teat via NED.
Enough, then, about NED as the apotheosis of bipartisan collusion to entangle
the American people in endless foreign intervention and meddling. What of the
Democrats' reaction to the President's ruminations on Iraq and the Middle East
delivered at that institution?
A glance at the pages of The Congressional Record for 6 October 2005 reveals
this response from the Democrats' chief foreign policy spokesman and one of
Capitol Hill's most sententiously tedious windbags, Senator Joseph Biden.
Mr. BIDEN. "Mr. President, today, in his speech to the National Endowment
for Democracy, President Bush gave a vivid and, I believe, compelling description
of the threat to America and to freedom from radical Islamic fundamentalism.
He made, in my view, a powerful case for what is at stake for every American.
"Simply put, the radical fundamentalists seek to kill our citizens in great
numbers, to disrupt our economy, and to reshape the international order. They
would take the world backwards, replacing freedom with fear and hope with hatred.
If they were to acquire a nuclear weapon, the threat they would pose to America
would be literally existential.
"The President said it well. The President is right that we cannot and
will not retreat. We will defend ourselves and defeat the enemies of freedom
and progress." 
Senator Biden goes on to criticize the administration on the usual counts:
not enough progress in training Iraqis, not enough "engagement" with
our allies, not enough electricity production, and so forth. But for all this
carping about the consequences of invading Iraq, he fails to criticize the premises
that created justification for the attack in the first place.
For it was the fantasy of imposing democracy at bayonet point, of "defeating
the enemies of freedom and progress," that was the ideological cover for
the invasion of Iraq. The first three paragraphs of Senator Biden's statement
are fully equal to the worst balderdash of Richard Perle or Kenneth Adelman.
Senator Biden makes a revealing slip when he says later, ". . . once we
decided to focus on Iraq, we went to war too soon. We went without the rest
of the world, and we went under false premises."
What does "too soon" mean? Does he mean that, once Osama bin Laden
would have been dispatched in Afghanistan, it would have been OK to invade Iraq?
But the premises still would have been false. Would he have waited until Colin
Powell harangued the Security Council into submission? The premises, as Hans
Blix and Mohammed El Baradei could have attested, would still be false.
It may be plausibly objected that Senator Biden is a special case. He is assumed
to be hag-ridden by the demon ambition, and sees himself as a future Secretary
of State, if not President. Accordingly, he must appease the panjandrums of
the foreign policy establishment. Other Democrats, surely, are not so robotically
in synch with every whim, tic, and tropism of the Received Wisdom.
One would imagine his colleague, Senator Richard Durbin, who is both more "populist"
than Senator Biden as well as coming from a part of the country (the Midwest)
that is less prone to foreign policy hallucinations than the Bos-Wash Corridor
from whence Senator Biden sprang, to look with an eye a great deal more jaundiced
than his Delaware counterpart.
A few minutes after Senator Biden's rodomontade, Senator Durbin also unburdened
himself on the subject of Iraq.  While not as obvious a bit of bosh as Senator
Biden's, and while asking a few sensible questions, Senator Durbin's address
falls prey to the same fallacies that befall all of our political class when
they are trying to be "constructively" critical. We need metrics and
timetables, he says, and we need to know when the troops will come home (although
he is not so sufficiently bold as to propose a date).
The jarring note is his wish that the administration would be enlightened enough
to "engage" (that word again) Iraq's neighbors and Muslim nations
in an effort to stabilize Iraq. The short answer is that the instant Iraq became
"stable" (i.e., once the U.S. military were to get its hands free),
at least two of Iraq's neighbors, Syria and Iran, would immediately become subject
to extreme diplomatic coercion at the very least, or possibly even military
invasion. What government would voluntarily undertake its own suicide?
As for other Muslim countries, why would they bail out the United States by
consenting to send troops to substitute for the Anglo-American occupation? If
they did not consent to it two and one half years ago, when the tide of affairs
appeared to be running in the Americans' favor, why would they do it when the
tide, as far as the Americans are concerned, is now ebbing quickly? Quite apart
from the fact that any Muslim government which sent troops to Iraq would risk
being overthrown by its own subjects.
Senator Durbin's rhetorical pussyfooting is typical of the Democratic Caucus
at large. However much they may rail about Halliburton or nonexistent WMD, the
Democrats are, for the most part, a licensed opposition hoping one day to capture
the spoils of Washington and rule according to most of the assumptions of the
people they will have vanquished.
This attitude accounts for the initiative of Senators Clinton and Biden, among
several others, to add 80,000 personnel slots to the Army. One may object on
practical grounds that it is hard enough to maintain the Army at the present
level. That objection, however, probably misses the point: their proposal is
purely a rhetorical flourish, designed to reassure anxious soccer moms that
the Democrats are "tough enough" to protect their little Megans and
Jennifers from rampaging dictators.
As the final count in this bill of indictment, we turn to Richard Holbrooke,
President Clinton's United Nations ambassador and perpetual scold about the
imperative for "muscular internationalism" presumably with himself
and his friends doing the muscle-flexing.
In a 7 October interview with the ever-voluble Chris Matthews, Mr. Holbrooke
disgorged himself of the following axiom:
HOLBROOKE: "The Democratic Party is the party that has created . . ."
HOLBROOKE: ". . . the modern American national security system, from Woodrow
Wilson right straight through.
"The Republicans have now adopted a lot of old Democratic rhetoric about
values, democracy, freedom, human rights, while continuing to argue for a large
defense budget. That is where the Democrats always were. The Republicans were
more isolationists, or, in the Nixon-Kissinger period, Realpolitik people."
There we have it. It's really the Democrats whom we should thank for the modern
American national security system that got us where we are today in Iraq, with
Korea and Vietnam as way-stations.
We should therefore humbly thank the Democrats for the Espionage Act of 1917,
passed at the behest of President Wilson. Under its draconian provisions over
450 conscientious objectors were imprisoned, including Rose Pastor Stokes, who
received ten years in the penitentiary for stating, in a letter to the Kansas
City Star, that "no government which is for the profiteers can also be
for the people, and I am for the people while the government is for the profiteers."
Even a presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, was sentenced to prison for the
crime of criticizing the sainted Woodrow. One wonders: is this sort of Wilsonianism
muscular enough for Mr. Holbrooke?
If not, there is the National Security Act of 1947, creating a National Security
Council unanswerable to Congress, and removing from the American people the
right to the information James Madison believed necessary for a constitutional
republic when he said, "a popular government without popular information,
or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or
perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean
to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge
Yes, all calumny by Karl Rove to the contrary, the Democrats can hold their
heads up high. They are a pillar of the National Security State. As for the
American people, if they have a shred of intelligence or self-respect left,
they will find themselves another restaurant.
Werther is the pen name of a Northern Virginia-based defense
 The originator of the term Freedom Fries, the Hon. Walter Jones (R-NC),
has recanted his support for the Iraq war after seeing one body bag too many.
He is as a consequence a pariah in his own party. The Chairman of the House
Administration Committee, the Hon. Robert Ney (R-OH), who actually imposed the
renaming of the pomme frit on the House restaurants, now threatens to be ground
up in the clanking machinery of the Abramoff scandal. Rarely has justice ever
been so symmetrical.
 The Washington Post, 10 October 2005, p. A19
 One speculates the process may be similar to MACV's magical mystery tours
of Vietnam for the benefit of American politicians. After glimpsing the truth
about Vietnam, would-be Republican presidential candidate George Romney exclaimed
"I've been brainwashed!" Retorted Senator Eugene McCarthy, "in
his case, a light rinse would have been sufficient."
 It has been slammed in such diverse quarters as Jim Lobe (mainstream critic
of the war), Justin Raimondo (libertarian), and Srdja Trifkovic (paleo-conservative).
 The Congressional Record, p. S11189.
 Ibid., pp. S11190-91.
 Transcript of Hardball with Chris Matthews, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9646367/
 James Madison, from a letter to W.T. Barry, 4 August 1822.