No virtue in being pigheaded and great vice in being "busholute"

Probably most of us had a favorite teacher, or two, at different learning periods of our formative years. I had one during my first teen year that left quite a mark. Still a novice, a year short of his final vows, “Father Superlative” appeared brilliant to us in several academic subjects, but how he dispensed philosophy through grammar was really his masterstroke. And it was during a basic course in “Logic, Psychology and Ethics” when his star really shined.

No adjective or adverb made its presence in our class without this almost-priest giving an eloquent dissertation on the positive, comparative and superlative forms it might have, and the implications of their use. And that’s where I had my first confrontation with the difference between being firm, becoming obstinate and making an ass of oneself as a pigheaded fool. For years I’ve been able to make use of the differentiation. Until now, that is; after the ascendance to the presidency of George W. Bush. Now a fourth state, one past superlative has entered the mix with this blasphemer of the language giving an unprecedented and overly inflated meaning to the term firm.

It all happened during that 2002 through 2006 trajectory in the implementation of US foreign policy in the Middle East; not just in Afghanistan and Iraq, but also the forgotten Palestine, and the caldron simmering in Lebanon. Bush stood firm in his desire for war, becoming obstinate in his unattainable victory endeavors, turning pigheaded to a no-win situation that should have been obvious for at least two years to his cabal.

Now it appears that much of what has been discussed for years in the non-corporate media is coming to light in Baker’s report, with all key recommendations made in the report expressed by many of us long before the commissioning of the august panel over six months ago. Not that any of us are likely to feel that our work has been plagiarized; on the contrary, we should be flattered that our “old ideas” may prove fecund and bare fruit in the huddle provided by these celebrated people. Even if the report is way short of the mark, it’s certainly a point of self-examination, a station for a new departure, with a fresh direction away from Bush’s unmapped minefield.

Bush, however, against most political currents now appearing here as well as overseas, is not ready to give in. He remains busholute in his idiocy, picking and choosing items in the report as if it were a fruit salad… dismissing the advice given by Baker.

Yesterday’s editorials/commentary pages in Portland’s Oregonian (12-9-2006) is but a microcosm of what the Iraq Study Group report is doing to defog the nation’s vision and open the floodgates of much-needed discussion and also criticism. Sen. Gordon Smith, a staunch conservative Republican was editorially featured, and also quoted, as wishing he hadn’t voted for the Iraq war. Below that editorial, bemedaled columnist from the New York Times, Tom Friedman, also a past-hawk, gave “his strategy” for Iraq, starting the exit timer now. And cartoonists also had a field day having struck the mother lode of political material with this report, even if such document is tepid in its admonitions of a disastrous foreign policy, and a beyond-repair failed presidency.

Perhaps the President’s stance does not permit him to run for cover behind this report since there is really no face left to be saved, his legacy left in the gutter as early as two years ago; and feels he must go for broke, as must his advisers, mentors and the many other clowns in both his cabal, the neocon brotherhood and his other religious fan-clubs. But just because Bush feels that he must remain busholute, others in politics and the media are discarding their dirty and wrinkled “resolute” clothing and are gladly taking advantage of this whitewashing opportunity, when one can become a turncoat with some honor (or, at least, that’s their rationale) – ask Gordon Smith and Tom Friedman.

As usual, the greatest insight in these editorial/commentary pages did not come from what the editorial board at The Oregonian had to say, or Friedman’s column, or even the great cartoons replete with political satire mocking Bush. No, it came from a letter to the editor from a reader in West Linn, Oregon, with the heading “Apologize, pay back, get out.” It said what few others dare say: “True change in Iraq starts with an apology. We were in error. We are sorry.” There was much more to the letter, but it was the apology that caught my eye. Apologies simply do not pop out from our citizenry just like that, not on national issues. This stinginess in doing what’s right, and also what’s diplomatically and politically prudent, apologize, makes Americans appear as insolent. Mr. Shultz closed his letter to the editor with a prophetic statement, “But an apology would achieve more, with honor, than what is offered in the Iraq Study Group report.” Wholeheartedly agree, sir… maybe that should have been the preface to the report.

Perhaps the seemingly wide acceptance of the Baker-Hamilton ISG report is based as much in what the report says, as in the name recognition, credibility and bipartisanship of the ten people who make up the group. Nonetheless, if the end result is positive for everyone, and brings peace to the world, we won’t complain; even if realizing that it’s precisely bipartisanship that gets us into these fiascos – but that’s another column; say, the one for next week.