MILLER: Neocon theory failed for Gonzales

Quincy Miller

Throughout the entirety of his administration, President Bush has remained steadfast and stoic on a number of issues, refusing to acquiesce or admit any wrongdoing.

Buzz words may change, tactics may get rewritten, commanding officers replaced, responsibility shifted and the buck passed, but Bush cannot bring himself to admit an error in judgment. This ideology was perhaps best shown when, in April 2004 during a prime-time news conference, Bush was asked, “One of the biggest criticisms of you is . you never admit a mistake [in regards to Iraq]. Is that a fair criticism?”

Bush’s reply was a rambling, awkward account during which the closest he came to admitting a mistake was this: “We knew he [Osama Bin Laden] had designs on us, we knew he hated us. But there was a – nobody in our government, at least, and I don’t think the prior government, could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.”

The veracity of that statement can be contested, according to former CIA Director George Tenet, who has made allegations that the administration was not interested in intelligence that seemed to indicate such an attack might be in the late planning stages. Either way, Bush’s stubbornness is either his greatest strength or his worst flaw, depending on whether you ask a Democrat or a Republican.

It was with this characteristic stubbornness that Bush stood by his long-time friend, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, during the controversy over the firings of eight U.S. attorneys and subsequent calls for the Gonzales’ resignation. Gonzales had repeatedly refused requests to step down, saying although mistakes were made, he intended to stay with the Justice Department and see that the issues were resolved. Bush also offered his support, saying on a number of occasions that he had faith in Gonzales’ abilities.

In an abrupt about-face, Gonzales announced his resignation on Aug. 27, effective Sept. 17.

All things considered, it was a slightly anticlimactic ending to the months of speculation and scandal that has surrounded Gonzales.

His troubles began in earnest after his testimony before Congress in May of this year. In a testimony fraught with holes and contradictions, as well as outright statements that he “couldn’t recall” or “wasn’t familiar with” certain things, Gonzales was lambasted for his seeming incompetence and was even accused of perjury. Gonzales’ problems were compounded by the fact that his deputy attorney general’s memory appeared to be in perfect working order – twice he supplied Congress with dump-truck-sized amounts of dirt on the attorney general’s less-than-scrupulous actions.

In his letter of resignation to the president, Gonzales wrote, “I believe this is the right time for my family and I to begin a new chapter in our lives.” And while it’s impossible to say whether Gonzales did indeed suffer an attack of conscience and left, or was “asked” to leave by the administration, it is clear that Gonzales’ policies and actions will have a lasting effect on Washington and the rest of the nation, if not the world.

Gonzales’ actions have been controversial – such as his bedside visit with a sick then-Attorney General John Ashcroft in an attempt to get him to sign off on the warrantless wiretapping to his congressional testimony in which Gonzales said he “hadn’t really thought about” the habeas corpus rights of U.S. citizens – but Gonzales has consistently stated that his and the administration’s actions were with the best interest of the country in mind.

Perhaps Gonzales’ personal ideology is best understood from this quote: “Today is September 12 to the people of the Department of Justice. And tomorrow will be September 12 again. We are fighting every single day for the security and safety of Americans.”

An ideology such as this firmly places Gonzales within the ranks of the now-shrinking neoconservative movement. Dubbed the neocons by their critics, the movement believes America should wield its military and political might unabashedly and needs to engage in preemptive military action in order to better secure America’s continued safety. After Sept. 11, a top neocon think tank, The Project for a New American Century, sent an open letter to President Bush calling for a regime change in Iraq. Bush then gave a key speech relating to plans for Iraq at the American Enterprise Institute, another neocon stronghold.

The neocons’ ultimate vision is an American hegemony, where America disperses its influence throughout the world free from fear of reprisal or disagreement. American foreign policy under the neocon vision would shift from appeasement to aggressive military prevention.

The war in Iraq can be seen as neocon theory put into action, and the results have not been promising. Rather than the creation of an American-bred Middle Eastern democracy machine, the war has succeeded in creating a failed state engaged in a violent civil war while sitting on top of one of the world’s most important resources. The neocons’ failure is evident in the fact that some of the highest-ranking proponents of neocon theory in the Bush administration – Rumsfeld, Rove and now Gonzales – have all left the current administration.

– Quincy Miller is a senior in English from Altoona.