Wednesday, April 19, 2006
It's just like playing blackjack in Vegas.
Invariably, sitting right next to you is some guy, eyes shifty and body twitchy and making weird sounds with his mouth and smelling vaguely of sawdust and horse manure and dead dreams, with a huge pile of chips he is quickly turning into a very small pile of chips.
He is suffering. He is playing terribly, grumbling, sneering at the dealer, talking to the cards like they were his personal slutty harem, complaining to his very angry God who is apparently no longer coming through for him. He is getting desperate. He is sweating, glancing around, wondering where all his drunken fraternity friends scurried off to.
Soon he is down to his last chips. He makes one final stab, but his final bet tanks. He is out, the pile is gone.
He then does what every miserable, lunkheaded gambler does at this point: In a fit of alcoholic rage and demonic encouragement, he says, "Screw it" -- and digs into his pocket, pulls out his last remaining crumpled $1,000 bill and slaps it down on the table in one big final gesture meant to turn his fortunes around all at once, damn the wife at home and forget a decent meal and forget every ironclad rule of gambling because damn it the gods owe him and he's long overdue for a change in fortune. Yes. Right. Sure he is.
Sure enough, the lug loses his big Hail Mary bet. He is broke. He cannot believe it. He curses the table, curses the whore cards, swears at the dealer for not treating him better, slams the rest of his drink and his face contorts and his hands shake and he stumbles off into the night, railing against his lousy luck, the gods, all of humanity. Same ol' situation, happening all over Vegas. And, of course, Washington, D.C.
Now, here he is, sitting right next to all the other countries at the Big Table, representing America, it's little Dubya Bush, stewing in his own juices, his poll numbers hovering right near Nixon levels, mumbling to himself, smelling vaguely of sawdust and horse manure and dead Social Security overhaul plans.
He is pockmarked by scandal, buffeted by storms of disapproval and infighting and nascent impeachment. He authorized the leak of classified security information merely to smear an Iraq war critic, he lied about WMD and lied about Saddam and lied about making the United States safer and lied about, well, just about everything, on top of launching the worst and most violent and most expensive, unwinnable war since Vietnam.
His pile of betting capital is down to a tiny lump, nothing like back when he had the table rigged and all the pit bosses worked for him and the pile was as big as a roomful of Texas cow pies. But now, fortune is frowning. In fact, fortune is white-hot furious at being so viciously molested, spit upon, raped lo these many years. The truth is coming out: Bush has now lost far, far more bets than he ever won.
What's to be done? Why, do what any grumbling, furious, confused, underqualified alcoholic gambler does: reach down deep and say, "To hell with the nation and to hell with the odds and to hell with the rest of the planet," and pull out one more desperate, crumpled war from deep in your pants, slap it on the table and hear the world moan.
But this time, try to make it serious. Do not rule out the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Do not rule out another massive air strike, ground troops, special forces, a strategy so intense it makes Iraq look like a jog in the park. Think of yourself as creating a masterful legacy, going down in history as the guy who "saved" the world from Iran's nukes while protecting American oil interests. Yes? Can you smell the oily sanctimony in the air? Is God speaking to you again, telling you to damn the torpedoes and kill more Muslims? You are the chosen one, after all.
Sound far-fetched? Don't think even Bush could be capable of using nukes to slap Iran? Perish the thought. All reports from underground White House sources -- most notably by way of Sy Hersh's horrifying report in a recent New Yorker -- indicate that Dubya and his remaining team of war-happy flying monkeys have been secretly laying out plans to attack Iran for months, possibly including the use of tactical nuclear weapons to get at those deep Iranian bunkers, all because Iran just celebrated its entrance into the world's "nuclear club" by finally enriching some uranium for the first time. Cookies all around!
No matter that most analysts say that Iran is far from being a true threat, that a nuclear Iran is at least a good decade away, if not longer. No matter that 10 years is a good long time to work on ways to force Iran out of the game -- via negotiation, diplomacy, sanctions -- without unleashing another river of never-ending violence.
With Bush in power, there is no waiting. There is no thought of avoiding another hideous war at all costs. To the Bush hawks, diplomacy is a failed joke. Negotiation is for intellectuals and tofu pacifists. In the Dubya worldview, the planet is a roiling cauldron of nasty threats, crammed with terrorists and hateful Muslims and foreign demons suddenly growling on our doorstep when, curiously, they really weren't there before he stumbled into power. Amazing how that works.
It is now seven months before what could be a radically influential congressional election, a vote that could very well give power back to the Democrats, who will (with any luck) waste no time launching a number of long-overdue investigations into Bush's failed war and the various scandals and lies and fiscal abuses that led us all here.
For Dubya, now is the time. One last, desperate gamble. Slam that last drink, scrunch up your face, screw the rules and let the bombs fly. What, you don't think he could do it? Don't think a nuclear attack on Iran is possible? You haven't looked into the tiny, ink-black eyes of Dick Cheney lately. You haven't seen Rumsfeld's arrogant sneer, seen Bush looking confused and lost, wondering where all his "capital" went, desperately hunting for a legacy and finding only irresponsibility and self-righteousness and death.
But hell, as we already know, that's good enough for him.
Mark Morford's column appears Wednesdays and Fridays in Datebook and sfgate.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.