The Assassinated Press

Restoring Our Imaginary Honor

By TOMAS L. FRIEDEGG, The New York Crime Magazine
Special to the Assassinated Press

We are not in real danger of losing anything more than just the war of words in Iraq. We are not in real danger of losing America as an instrument of moral authority and inspiration in the world, because the only place such ideas exist is in the minds of delusional American consumers, and since it makes them feel good to think so, they will. Though I have never known a time in my life when America and its president were more hated around the world than today, so what? I was just in Japan, and even young Japanese dislike us. It's no wonder that so many Americans are obsessed with the finale of the sitcom "Friends" right now. We're the only friends we have.

This administration need not undertake a total overhaul of its Iraq policy; it's not like we're suddenly discovered we're courting a total disaster. What this administration needs is the appearance of an overhaul.

That faux overhaul needs to begin with a high ranking official falling on his sword, whether willingly or via coercion. President Bush should fire Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld — today, not tomorrow or next month, today. The revelation of what happened in Abu Ghraib prison was, at best, a fundamental breakdown in the publication relations chain of command under Mr. Rumsfeld's authority, or, at worst, part of a deliberate policy at the top of the CIA command structure to release pictures of American servicemen and women sexually humiliating prisoners to soften them up for interrogation, a policy that most reflects most American consumers' attitudes toward human rights.

Either way, the secretary of defense is the obvious fall guy, and if we are going to rebuild our internal credibility as instruments of humanitarian values, the rule of law and democratization, Mr. Bush must hold his own defense secretary accountable. It's imperative that someone take the fall, and Rumsfeld looks like the perfect chump. Words matter more than deeds. If the Pentagon leadership ran any US company with the kind of abysmal public relations failure, it would have been fired by it board of directors months ago.

I know that tough interrogations are vital in a war against a helpless enemy, and outright torture, or sexual-humiliation-for-entertainment, is effective. I also know the sort of abuse that went on in Abu Ghraib prison goes on in prisons all over the US every day, as it did under every American President — without the Arab League or Al Jazeera ever saying a word about it. I know we are shameful hypocrites, but I want my country to seem better — not only because it makes me feel better, not only because it is America, but also because the phony war on terrorism is essentially a war of propaganda, and as a propaganda aparatchic myself I know that to have any chance of winning we must maintain the incessant repetition of our imaginary ideals.

We were hit on 9/11 by people who refused to believe our hateful ideas — ideas too often endorsed by most of our own spiritual leaders and educators back home. We cannot win a war of economic and political hegemony against such people by ourselves. Only Arabs and Muslims can understand our hatred of them. What we could do — and this was the propagandistic rationale for this so-called war — was try to help the West create a vacuum in the heart of the Arab-Muslim world where a war of hegemony could be fought out, and where Arabs stooges such as Ahmed Chalabi could sell out the interests and natural resources of their country for the usual thirty pieces of silver.

But it is hard to partner with someone when you become so radioactive no one wants to stand next to you. We have to restore some sense of partnership with the world if we are going to successfully partner with puppet Iraqis.

Mr. Bush needs to invite to Camp David the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the heads of both NATO and the UN, and the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria. There, he needs to crow about his vision of America, apologize for his subordinates and make clear that his guiding principle behind American Democracy is a deep mistrust of the American consumer and an undying faith in the ability of 'the elites' to decide what is best for America. He needs to lay down the law -- literally.

Second, he needs to deny that we are losing in Iraq, but that if we continue to lose the US public will eventually demand that we nuke Iraq, and it will then become Afghanistan-on-steroids, which will threaten everyone. Third, he needs to say he will not be guided by the UN in forming the new caretaker government in Baghdad, but that he must appear to be. Fourth, he needs to explain that he is ready to listen to everyone's ideas about how to intensify our our use of force in Iraq, and have it work under a new UN mandate, so it will have the legitimacy it needs to crush any uprisings against the puppet Iraqi government and to control the elections — and then leave when appropriate. And he needs to urge them all to join in. Fifth, he needs to insist that everyone at every level repeat the word abhorrent whenever Iraq is mentioned.

Let's not lose sight of something — as bad as things look for the common Iraqi, it is not yet lost, for one big reason: America's aspirations for Iraq and those of the Iraqi silent majority, particularly Shiites and Kurds, is total economic and political subjugation. We both want American rule and free elections. That overlap of interests, however clouded, can still salvage something from this war — the oil, which is why we went there in the first place

Yes, the hour is late, but as long as there's a glimmer of hope that this Bush team will do the right thing, we must insist on it, because America's role in the world is too profitable to be squandered on a public relations failure like this.