STEADY LEADERSHIP? One day after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld fell on his rubber sword over the torture of Iraqi detainees President Bush thanked him for his pains. " You are courageously leading our nation in the war against terror," Bush said. “You're doing a superb job. You're a strong secretary of defense and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.” A superb job? By what standard of normative judgment has anyone in the Bush Administration, Donald Rumsfeld included, done a superb job where Iraq is concerned? It’s been a solid year now since our President swooped down on the U.S. Aircraft Carrier Abraham Lincoln and declared that our military action in the Persian Gulf was complete. If someone--anyone--was doing a superb job in Iraq there should be some kind of evidence by now, shouldn’t there? But there’s none. Zip. Squat. Instead there are bigger and bigger body counts, and pornographic photos of American soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees. Perhaps President Bush, forever at odds with the English language, is merely befuddled by the meaning of “superb.” First there is the Bush doctrine of preemption to consider: A policy of paranoid aggression sold to a shell-shocked America as the only antidote to mushroom clouds in the heartland. It’s a policy much of the world condemned because the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, outside an extremely tight set of extenuating circumstances, sets a damn poor precedent for the rest of the world to follow. Unless, of course, the invading country’s reasons for aggression prove to have been both honorable and understated, rather than entirely false. If anyone in the Bush Administration had been doing a “superb” job we would have discovered an Iraqi nuclear program only minutes away from having the bomb. We would have found vast stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. We would have discovered photographic evidence of Osama giving Saddam the Blue Dress treatment. Or there is always the possibility that, if anyone was doing a “superb” job, we’d have never invaded Iraq in the first place. If deception of the American people in an attempt to seriously downgrade America’s moral standing within the world community was Bush’s goal, mission accomplished. It’s not “superb.” It’s not excellent. It isn’t even good. It stinks like a bag of severed limbs sitting in the Baghdad sun. After it became apparent that there were no WMD to be found, and no serious connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda, the Bush Administration continued to justify itself on the grounds that an unquestionably moral America had liberated the Iraqi people from Saddam the Butcher. How many times did our President use the term, “rape room,” to strike fear in the hearts of Americans? And now we have evidence suggesting that American troops may have raped an Iraqi detainee with a light bulb. We’ve seen images of many atrocities, and we’ve been warned at the highest level that the worst is yet to come. Whether or not this is the kind of thing that Americans “would do” doesn’t matter. It’s something we did. The Geneva Convention has never been about protecting the bad guys. It’s to make sure that everybody--our guys included--gets humane treatment. When the world’s only superpower, lead by a highly secretive cabal of radical right-wing boobies moves the moral bar so very low “superb” is not in any sense an appropriate adjective. “Abhorrent,” perhaps. “Unconscionable,” maybe. Certainly not “superb.” “Steady leadership in times of change.” That’s the President’s reelection slogan, and it may be the only totally honest statement to ever emerge from the Bush Campaign. The Bushies have been, if nothing else, “steady,” a generally positive word tainted by an excess of confident rigidity. Steadiness is a quality, not a virtue, and often a debit during times of upheaval. The Titanic, presumed unsinkable by experts of the day, fell victim to a combination of overconfidence and “steady leadership.” Changing times requires flexible leaders, able to think on their feet: a quality, by his own admission, our President does not possess. And if he genuinely believes that “superb” is an appropriate adjective to describe Donald Rumsfeld’s dubious military accomplishments he possesses no standards either.

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