Once flashy, now fallen stars of "security"
Thursday, January 31, 2008
RUDY GIULIANI was momentarily a star again - just long enough to get everyone’s attention and then to be humiliatingly extinguished in Florida. The unfailingly self-promoting Mr Security had become well and truly Mr Sunk.
But then my home town media, in the Big Apple, have long wanted the rest of the nation to understand how little our former Mayor’s security credentials really amounted to, however reassuring a father-figure he briefly played on TV after September 11th 2001.
New York’s press corps frequently points out, rightly, that Giuliani himself was responsible for the idiotic placement of the City’s emergency control room right in the World Trade Center itself – known all too well as our biggest terrorist target, and already attacked once before by jihadist bombers. Choosing Florida as essentially his one-and-only, do-or-die battlefield looks every bit as wrong-headed a piece of strategic thinking.
It was only fitting that the nation’s TV screens should broadcast Giuliani’s humiliation a scant 24 hours after the final, forlorn “State of the Union ” performance by his national hang-tough buddy George W Bush.
Remember those posturings like “I’m a War President” (on NBC's Meet the Press) and “I’m the Decider” (in the White House rose garden)? Well, consider how close we came to having a really strong security triumvirate of buddies, if these two politicians’ jointly-favored appointee as Homeland Security Secretary had actually been sworn in -- the now-indicted Bernard Kerik (the hang-tough buddy connection is pictured above left and center).
Remember, too, Giuliani’s retrospectively recalled (or possibly ingratiatingly invented?) words to Kerik as the Twin Towers crumbled: "Bernie, thank God George Bush is president”?
Is it any wonder that the media, while appearing quite sad to lose John Edwards from the Democratic field of contention, are quite happy to not have Rudy “to kick around any more”, in the infamous words of a previous self-aggrandizing, self-pitying bully, Richard Nixon?
**A RADIO DISCUSSION OF THIS COLUMN IS AIRED WEEKLY BY WHDD (ROBIN HOOD RADIO)**
PODCAST available by clicking HERE
THE MESSES THAT MINDLESS MILITARISM HAS GOTTEN us into in the last seven years will soon of course become the responsibility of succeeding leaders - who we can only hope will not be so mindless.
Their freedom to act mindfully, though, is now at some risk, as those posturers still in charge are trying (all the while screening their efforts from the media) to tie their successors’ hands. One military engagement – that against the Taliban in Afghanistan – is now receiving some secret tinkering treatment that it might not have needed if the effort hadn’t been so egregiously abandoned in favor of the misbegotten Iraq invasion.
In true hugger-mugger style, CIA chief Michael Hayden and National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell flew clandestinely to Pakistan in the wake of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, trying to organize some new intelligence and military cooperation aimed at countering the Taliban’s recent resurgence on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It was only when they were rebuffed by a proud and irritated President Pervez Musharraf that the press was alerted to this clutzily-handled move.
The need for some new approach is clear, even as the Bush team’s current efforts run into such roadblocks. You have to scour the mass media pretty minutely for the information, but some snapshot numbers tell almost everything -- in each country.
Taliban and allied attacks in Afghanistan (distressingly forecast to become the West’s ”Forgotten War” in yesterday’s study published by retired Marine Corps General James Jones) happened at a rate of 200 a month during 2006; by the end of 2007 they had more than doubled to 500 a month.
Meanwhile on the Pakistan side, the Pak Institute for Peace Studies based in Lahore calculates that a once fairly rare Islamist tactic for that country, the suicide bombing attack, has increased an astonishing TEN-FOLD ... from just six occurring in 2006 to sixty last year.
And in Iraq? Well, for all the President’s bragging during his Capitol Hill swansong about the success of “The Surge”, those who really know about defeating terrorists and insurgents speak only of a long exhaustive haul ahead, not the brash, fast and flashy measures that so excite the likes of Bush’s neo-con cohorts.
The truth of this is unavoidable, even for this Administration that likes to create its own reality. While trying to cloak its intentions, the White House has earmarked February for negotiating a long-term treaty with Nouri al-Maliki’s Baghdad government (though to the press it insists that this comprises merely a “troop status agreement”, the label being important since Congress has to approve treaties). Whatever subterfuges and spinning are afoot, a very lengthy and substantive commitment is being planned here.
I know I have repeatedly and maybe over-emphatically in THE MEDIA BEAT pointed to the British experience in quelling or at least outmaneuvering insurgencies in Malaya and Northern Ireland, operations that took decades, yes decades, of steady effort. It’s a step toward some greater transparency, perhaps, that both a senior US soldier, Lt. Gen. James Dubik, head of the Multi-National Security Transition Command has admitted to Congress and the Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qadir has told a US newspaper (the New York Times) that the country cannot take over its own internal security until 2012, or defend itself against external threat until at least 2018.
THREATS AND MENACE ARE THE STOCK-IN-TRADE OF Nobel prize-winning playwright and poet (and still determined anti-war activist) Harold Pinter, and they’re on gripping display at New York’s Cort Theatre, in a revival of his early domestic drama “The Homecoming”.
The mainly English cast, led by the intense, transfixing Ian McShane (known to US audiences most recently as the volubly - and creatively - swearing Al Swearengen in HBO’s Deadwood) creates an oppressive atmosphere of family abuse and alliance-shifting betrayals that simultaneously recalls both Eugene Ionescu’s theatre of the absurd and Norman Lear’s All in the Family. For, whatever agonizing depths of psychiatric and physical childhood damage may at times be conjured up, Pinter’s vintage piece is hysterically, edgily funny.
Though American, Raul Esparza (previously the pretty solid center of last winter’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, where of course he also sang, and briefly played the piano) embodies a very creditable North London “spiv” and/or pimp. But high honors must also go to the other outsider – the only female in the cast, Eve Best (pictured above right with Esparza) who is a Royal National Theatre player in Britain – for the way she dives into the murky depths of troubled testosterone bubbling here. She applies a blend of complicity and mastery (- whatever her gender, it is mastery) to end up convincingly overturning the established order in this truly horrible household.
That reminds me … only 356 days now until the household occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is finally turned out.