The Bush Mutiny
Notes on Admitting Mistakes, Dime Psychology, and
by Steven H. Cullinane on April 14, 2004
"I swear Bush is looking more and more like Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg in the Caine Mutiny. I'm half expecting to see a press conference with Bush mindlessly rolling a pair of steel ball-bearings in one trembling hand...."
-- http://www.newnation.org/Millard/Millard-Is-George-Queeg-Bush-Nuts.html, dated 2002
From last night's press conference:
"....you never admit a mistake. Is that a fair criticism.... ?"
From The Caine Mutiny:
"... Naturally, I can only cover these things from memory... If I've left anything out, why, just ask me specific questions and I'll be glad to answer them... one-by-one..."
From the New York Times:
"Aboard the U.S.S. Caine, it was the business with the strawberries that finally convinced the doubters that something was amiss with the captain. Is foreign policy George W. Bush's quart of strawberries?"
-- Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist, March 14, 2003
From a political bulletin board:
On the eve of war, when we have over 200,000 young men and women about to go into battle and risk their lives for our freedom; Krugman uses his national platform to suggest the Commander in Chief "has lost touch with reality." This is reckless. This is wrong. And this is a LIE.
Having lost the political debate on the wisdom of the war in the Congress and with the American people, Krugman suggests the President who is about to order our troops in to battle may be insane, a modern day Captain Queeg. Absolutely despicable. It makes me sick to my stomach.
-- J. McIntyre, March 14, 2003, at
For details of The Caine Mutiny and last night's press conference, see below.
From The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, by Herman Wouk
Wouk, Herman. The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. In A Second Book of Plays. Crosby E. Redman. New York : Macmillan, 1964.
Bush on Admitting Mistakes:
QUESTION: Mr. President, I'd like to follow up on a couple of these questions that have been asked.
One of the biggest criticisms of you is that whether it's WMD in Iraq, postwar planning in Iraq, or even the question of whether this administration did enough to ward off 9-11, you never admit a mistake. Is that a fair criticism, and do you believe that there were any errors in judgment that you made related to any of those topics I brought up?
BUSH: Well, I think, as I mentioned, you know, the country wasn't on war footing, and yet we're at war.
And that's just a reality, Dave. I mean, that was the situation that existed prior to 9-11, because the truth of the matter is most in the country never felt that we'd be vulnerable to an attack such as the one that Osama bin Laden unleashed on us.
We knew he had designs on us. We knew he hated us. But there was nobody in our government, at least, and I don't think the prior government that could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.
The people know where I stand, I mean, in terms of Iraq. I was very clear about what I believed. And, of course, I want to know why we haven't found a weapon yet. But I still know Saddam Hussein was a threat. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.
I don't think anybody can -- maybe people can argue that. I know the Iraqi people don't believe that, that they're better off with Saddam Hussein -- would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power.
I also know that there's an historic opportunity here to change the world. And it's very important for the loved ones of our troops to understand that the mission is an important, vital mission for the security of America and for the ability to change the world for the better.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa.
You've looked back before 9-11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9-11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have learned from it?
BUSH: I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it.
John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could've done it better this way or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with answer, but it hadn't yet.
I would've gone into Afghanistan the way we went into Afghanistan. Even knowing what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would've called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein.
See, I'm of the belief that we'll find out the truth on the weapons. That's why we sent up the independent commission. I look forward to hearing the truth as to exactly where they are. They could still be there. They could be hidden, like the 50 tons of mustard gas in a turkey farm.
One of the things that Charlie Duelfer talked about was that he was surprised of the level of intimidation he found amongst people who should know about weapons and their fear of talking about them because they don't want to be killed.
You know, there's this kind of -- there's a terror still in the soul of some of the people in Iraq.
They're worried about getting killed, and therefore they're not going to talk. But it'll all settle out, John. We'll find out the truth about the weapons at some point in time.
However, the fact that he had the capacity to make them bothers me today just like it would have bothered me then. He's a dangerous man. He's a man who actually not only had weapons of mass destruction -- the reason I can say that with certainty is because he used them.
And I have no doubt in my mind that he would like to have inflicted harm, or paid people to inflict harm, or trained people to inflict harm, on America, because he hated us.
I hope -- I don't want to sound like I have made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.
From The Caine Mutiny, by Herman Wouk
The lawyer's blues were rumpled and baggy, and his walk was not of the steadiest, but nobody at the table was in a condition to notice. He came to the head of the table and stood stupidly, resting a hand on the empty chair, looking around slack-mouthed. "party's pretty far along, hey" he said, as wine splashed in a dozen glasses and all the officers shouted greetings. Keefer made his glass ring with a knife.
"All right, quiet, you drunken mutineers. A toast, I say!" He lifted his glass high. "To Lieutenant Barney Greenwald--a Cicero with two stripes--a Darrow with winces--the terror of judge advocates--the rescuer of the oppressed and the downtrodden--the forensic St. George who slew with his redoubtable tongue that most horrible of dragons--Old Yellowstain!"
They all cheered; they all drank; they sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" in bellowing discords. The lawyer stood, pallid and skinny, his mouth foolishly twitching in momentary grins. "Speech! Speech!" said Keefer, clapping his hands and dropping into his chair, and everybody took up the cry and the applause.
"No, no," Greenwald mumbled, but in a moment he was standing alone, and all the faces at the table were turned to him. The party settled into expectant quiet. "I'm drunker'n any of you," he said. "I've been out drinking with the judge advocate--trying to get him to take back some of the dirty names he called me--finally got him to shake hands on the ninth whisky sour--maybe the tenth--"
"That's good," Maryk said. "Challee's a decent guy--"
"Had to talk loud 'n' fast, Steve--I played pretty dirty pool, you know, in court--poor jack, he made a wonderful argument. Multitudes, Multitudes, hey," He peered blearingly at the cake. "Well, I guess I ought to return the celebrated author's toast, at that." He fumbled at a bottle and sloshed wine into a class and all over his hands. "Biblical title of course. Can't do better for a war book. I assume you gave the Navy a good pasting?"
"I don't think Public Relations would clear it, at any rate," the novelist said, grinning.
"Fine. Someone should show up these stodgy, stupid Prussians."
Greenwald weaved and grabbed at the chair. "I told you I'm pretty far along--I'll get to my speech yet, don't worry--Wanna know' about the book first. Who's the hero, you?"
"Well, any resemblance, you know, is purely accidental--"
"Course I'm warped," said Greenwald, "and I'm drunk, but it suddenly seems to me that if I wrote a war novel I'd try to make a hero out of Old Yellowstain." Jorgensen whooped loudly, but nobody else laughed, and the ensign subsided, goggling around. "No, I'm serious, I would. Tell you why, Tell you how I'm warped. I'm a Jew, guess most of you know that. Name's Greenwald, kind of look like one, and I sure am one, from way back. Jack Challee said I used smart Jew-lawyer tactics--course he took it back, apologized, after I told him a few things he didn't know-- Well, anyway...The reason I'd make Old Yellowstain a hero is on account of my mother, little gray-headed Jewish lady, fat, looks a lot like Mrs. Maryk here, meaning no offense."
He actually said "offensh." His speech was halting and blurry. He was gripping the spilling glass tightly The scars On his hand made red rims around the bluish grafted skin.
"Well, sure, you guys all have mothers, but they wouldn't be in the same bad shape mine would if we'd of lost this war, which of course we aren't, we've won the damn thing by now. See, the Germans aren't kidding about the Jew. They're cooking us down to soap over there. They think we're vermin and should be terminated and our corpses turned into something useful. Granting the premise--being warped, I don't, but granting the premise, soap is as good an idea as any. But I just can't cotton to the idea of my mom melted down into a bar of soap. I had an uncle and an aunt in Cracow, who are soap now, but that's different, I never saw my uncle and aunt, just saw letters in Jewish from them, ever since I was a kid, but I can't read Jewish." but never could read them. Jew, but I can't read Jewish.
The faces looking up at him were becoming sober and puzzled. "I'm coming to Old Yellowstain. Coming to him. See, while I was studying law 'n old Keefer here was writing his play for the Theatre Guild, and Willie here was on the playing fields of Prinshton, all that time these birds we call regulars--these stuffy, stupid Prussians, in the Navy and the Army -were manning guns. Course they weren't doing it to save my mom from Hitler, they're doing it for dough, like everybody else does what they do. Question is, in the last analysis--last analysis--what do you do for dough? Old Yellowstain, for dough, was standing guard on this fat dumb and happy country of ours. Meantime me, I was advancing little free non-Prussian life for dough. Of course, we figured in those days, only fools go into armed service. Bad pay, no millionaire future, and You can't call your mind or body your own. Not for sensitive intellectuals. So when all hell broke loose and the Germans started running out of soap and figured, well it's time to come over and melt down old Mrs. Greenwald--who's gonna stop them? Not her boy Barney. Can't stop a Nazi with a lawbook. So I dropped the lawbooks and ran to learn how to fly. Stout fellow. Meantime, and it took a year and a half before I was any good, who was keeping Mama out of the soap dish? Captain Queeg.
"Yes, even Queeg, poor sad guy, yes, and most of them not sad at all, fellows, a lot of them sharper boys than any of us, don't kid yourself, best men I've ever seen, you can't be good in the Army or Navy unless you're goddamn good. Though maybe not up on Proust 'n' Finnegan's Wake and all."
Greenwald stopped, and looked from side to side. "Seem to be losing the thread here. Supposed to be toasting the Caine's favorite author. Well, here goes, I'll try not to maunder too much. Somebody flap a napkin at me if I get incoherent. Can't stay for dinner so I'm glad you called on me to make a toast so I can get it over with. I can't stay because I'm not hungry. Not for this dinner. It would in fact undoubtedly disagree with me."
He turned to Maryk.
"Steve, the thing is, this dinner is a phony. You're guilty. I told you at the start that you were. Course you're only half guilty. F' that matter, you've only been half acquitted. You're a dead duck. You have no more chance now of transferring to the regular Navy than of running for President. The reviewing authorities'll call it a miscarriage of justice, which it is, and a nice fat letter of reprimand will show up in your promotion packet--and maybe in mine--and it's back to the fishing business for Steve Maryk. I got you off by phony, legal tricks--by making clowns out of Queeg, and a Freudian psychiatrist--which was like shooting two tuna fish in a barrel--and by 'pealing very unethically and irrelevantly to the pride of the Navy. Did everything but whistle Anchors Aweigh. Only time it looked tough was when the Caine's favorite author testified. Nearly sunk you, boy. I don't quite understand him, since of course he was the author of the Caine mutiny among his other works. Seems to me he'd of gotten up on the line with you and Willie, and said straight out that he always insisted Queeg was a dangerous paranoiac. See, it would only made things worse to drag Keefer in. You know all about that, so as long as he wanted to run out on you all I could do was let him run--"
"Just a minute--" Keefer made a move to get up.
"'Scuse me, I'm all finished, Mr. Keefer. I'm up to the toast. Here's to You. You bowled a perfect score. You went after Queeg, and got him. You kept your own skirts all white and starchy. Steve is finished for good, but you'll be the next captain of the Caine. You'll retire old and full of fat fitness reports. You'll publish your novel proving that the Navy stinks, and you'll make a million dollars and marry Hedy Lamarr. No letter of reprimand for you, Just royalties on your novel. So you won't mind a li'l verbal reprimand from me, what does it mean? I defended Steve because I found out the wrong guy was on trial. Only way I could defend him was to sink Queeg for you. I'm sore that I was pushed into that spot, and ashamed of what I did, and thass why I'm drunk. Queeg deserved better at my hands. I owed him a favor, 'don't you see? He stopped Hermann Goering from washing his fat behind with my mother.
"So I'm not going to eat your dinner, Mr. Keefer, or drink your wine, but simply make my toast and go. Here's to you, Mr. Caine's favorite author, and here's to your book."
He threw the yellow wine in Keefer's face.
Page created April 14, 2004