Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Blumenthal on the Putsch

The transition to President Bush's second term, filled with backstage betrayals, plots and pathologies, would make for an excellent chapter of I, Claudius. To begin with, Bush has unceremoniously and without public acknowledgement dumped Brent Scowcroft, his father's closest associate and friend, as chairman of the foreign intelligence advisory board. The elder Bush's national security adviser was the last remnant of traditional Republican realism permitted to exist within the administration.
Bush has long resented his father's alter ego. Scowcroft privately rebuked him for his Iraq follies more than a year ago - an incident that has not previously been reported. Bush "did not receive it well", said a friend of Scowcroft.

In A World Transformed, the elder Bush's 1998 memoir, co-authored with Scowcroft, they explained why Baghdad was not seized in the first Gulf war: "Had we gone the invasion route, the US could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land." In the run-up to the Iraq war, Scowcroft again warned of the danger. Bush's conservative biographers Peter and Rachel Schweizer, quoted the president as responding: "Scowcroft has become a pain in the ass in his old age." And they wrote: "Although he never went public with them, the president's own father shared many of Scowcroft's concerns."

The rejection of Kanter is a compound rejection of Scowcroft and of James Baker - the tough, results-oriented operator who as White House chief of staff saved the Reagan presidency from its ideologues, managed the elder Bush's campaign in 1988, and was summoned in 2000 to rescue Junior in Florida. In his 1995 memoir, Baker observed that the administration's "overriding strategic concern in the [first] Gulf war was to avoid what we often referred to as the Lebanonisation of Iraq, which we believed would create a geopolitical nightmare."

In private, Baker is scathing about the current occupant of the White House. Now the one indispensable creator of the Bush family political fortunes is repudiated.

Republican elders who warned of endless war are purged. Those who advised Bush that Saddam was building nuclear weapons, that with a light military force the operation would be a "cakewalk", and that capturing Baghdad was "mission accomplished", are rewarded.

At least one of these spurned thinkers had better be working on the mother of all kiss and tell books.


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