Commander in Chief
Command and conquer
January 29, 2007
Glenn Greenwald has an excellent discussion about references to George W Bush, by himself and others, as the, or “our”, “Commander-in-Chief”. The phrase as used in that fashion is already Unspeak, since it conveniently leaves out the fact that, according to the Constitution, Bush is “Commander-in-Chief” only of the armed forces, while generating an alternative picture of him commanding the country as a whole, irrespective of the whims of the other branches of government – rather in the manner, you might say, of a military dictator. (On Friday, to the prospect of Congress challenging his plan to send “reinforcements” to Iraq, he retorted: “I’m the decision-maker”.) Of course, regular appeals in Bush’s legislative signing statements to his status as “Commander-in-Chief” and to the “unitary executive doctrine” notwithstanding, he does not, at least according to the Constitution that still obtains, command the country as a whole. Every American who is not a soldier may reply: You are not the Commander-in-Chief of me.
“He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade·.if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.”
If I have a chance to invade… So the point of the long-dreamed-of war in Iraq was primarily for Bush to “be seen as a commander-in-chief” and acquire the “political capital” he needed to do anything he wanted domestically. On that score, the war may after all be accounted a great success.