Below please find links to some 22 minutes of personal videos about Nixon and Kissinger's war-making from 1969-72, a period that holds important lessons for the growing dangers in Iraq and the Mideast today. Understanding the historic shift in the balance of power toward the jihadists resulting from Bush's destabilization of the Mideast, and remembering our history in Indochina, makes one thing clear above all: this election marks at best the beginning of the work we need all do to restore sanity to this nation and world.
It is no coincidence that Henry Kissinger is the main outside advisor that Bush and Cheney have relied on for their Iraqi policy. All three share a propensity for violence, near-total ignorance about the Middle East (Kissinger, let us remember, made the Shah of Iran the lynchpin of his "Nixon Doctrine", bringing the Ayatollah to power and creating generations of anti-American hatred) and a willingness to sacrifice young Americans rather than take responsibility for their own failed policies (Cheney, as Woodward noted, argued that Rumsfeld should remain to deflect political criticism from himself and Bush. The fact that the Defense Secretary had totally failed , even to provide his troops with body and vehicle armor, was irrelevant.)
These video clips remind us that as excessive Executive Branch power allowed Kissinger to wage massive war in Indochina despite a Democratic Congress, so too are Bush and Cheney likely today to make war for years to come absent a mass movement and courageous Democratic leadership for peace.
There are 6 video clips in all. I have included the first two, from the Laotian village I lived in, as a reminder that most of the more than one million victims of U.S. war-making from 1969-72 were simple peasants who suffered mass murder which to this day remains one of the great war crimes of the post-war era. (Please also see my blog-report on my recent visit to Laos, at: )
ahref="http://fredbranfman .blogspot.com/">http://fredbranfman .blogspot.com/ The remaining 4 videos describe the largely secret U.S. carpet-bombing of civilian villages throughout Indochina.
I post these videos largely because now that the election is over and we return to the real world, they offer a cautionary tale.
The central issue of our time is clearly not just "Iraq" but the overall shift in the balance of forces in the Middle East in favor of jihadist forces. Largely because Bush has been the first U.S. President to destabilize the Middle East rather than seek to contain tensions, the region has become an increasingly unstable powder keg that could blow at any time:
o Iraq, on the verge of civil war, chaos, murderous killing, torture and possible foreign intervention that could make the carnage to date a pleasant memory;
o Gaza, on the point of exploding;
o Lebanon, increasingly dominated by Hezbollah;
o Afghanistan, increasingly threatened by the Taliban;
o Iran, convinced that only a nuclear bomb can guarantee its security;
o Israel, equally certain that preventing an Iranian bomb is key to its security;
o Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, increasingly shaky;
o An exponential increase in jihadists committed to attacking the U.S. both in the Middle East and in America.
o A Bush Administration committed to ongoing war-making in the Mideast, preparing "contingency plans" to bomb Iran, and blindly committed to an Israeli government which openly speaks of taking military action to prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb.
The Bush Administration is the biggest dynamite stick of all. Like Nixon and Kissinger, whose prosecution of a war that could not be won was fueled by careerism and badly damaged psyches, Bush and Cheney have only two apparent commitments at this point: (1) waging war so as to avoid being blamed for the fall of Iraq; (2) holding on to the Executive power they have illegally seized to unilaterally wage war, arrest, torture and spy.
Huge Democratic majorities in Congress from 1969-72 were unwilling and unable to stop Nixon and Kissinger from dropping 4 million tons of bombs on Indochina, twice the bombing of Europe and the Pacific Theater in World War II. It is unclear whether Democrats today, positioning themselves for 2008 and above all animated by a desire to avoid being blamed for "losing Iraq", will constrain Bush and Cheney in actual fact despite all the rhetoric.
It is possible to construct a scenario that sees all these players behaving rationally, and things somehow holding together for the next two years. Perhaps Bush will finally acknowledge to himself how lost he is and listen to the "adults" from his father's Administration - although it is not clear that these "adults" actually have any serious plans to end the Iraq fiasco and retool our entire Mideast policy.
But, given what we know of Bush's badly damaged psyche and psychological dependence to date on the authoritarian, violent and incompetent Cheney; the degree to which both the Israelis and Iranians are focused on an Iranian nuclear bomb; and the history of miscalculation in the Middle East - seen only a few months ago - we may well have entered the most dangerous period of the post-war era.
It would be nice to be able to be more optimistic about at least the American part in all this, given the Democrats' victory. But watching these videos reminds us that the idea that U.S. Executive Branch leaders would commit brutal carnage in an attempt to salvage their careers and warped egos, barely checked by a Democratic Congress, is not merely a theoretical possibility.
It has already occurred.
As in 1969, sanity lies in the U.S. acknowledging that it has been defeated and launching an entirely different foreign policy than that which produced its defeat. Today that means withdrawing from Iraq; engaging in even-handed diplomacy, genuine multilateral action and aid to calm things down in the Mideast as much as possible; and focusing on homeland security, police and intelligence work against terrorists who actually threaten our shores.
But, as in 1969, there are few signs of sanity on the horizon. And one thing is sure. If the Democrats in Congress actually move in the direction of sanity, it will only be because the rest of us encourage them to do so.
-- Ban Xa Phang Meuk, September 1969, talking with Paw Thou Douang, other Laotian villagers (2m12s)
2USAID, http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5884260266124794776&hl=en-- ABC News interview on the USAID program, September 1969, in Ban Xa Phang Meuk (3m14s)
3Airman, FB http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7121267346915186731&hl=en
-- Moving testimony on the bombing, from above and below (7m, 1s)
4Anti-Personnel Bombs, http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=108478189230549051&hl=en
-- Description of anti-personnel bombs, the kind presently littering much of southern Lebanon (2m 9s)
-- Bob Schieffer interview on the bombing of Laos on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite (5m07s)
6Kennedy Committee http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4243905156081544306&hl=en-- NBC, Fred Branfman challenging U.S. Ambassador William Sullivan's lie that the U.S. is not bombing civilian targets in Laos, at an April 1971 Kennedy Subcommittee on Refugees Hearing (2m21s)