FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Gomer as Claudius

by John Chuckman

There has been a fair amount written recently about whether America should just get over the inhibitions of its anti-imperial origins and boldly embrace the fact of its having swelled and fattened into a full-fledged empire–a kind of imperial coming out of the closet, if you will. Favoring, as I do, honesty in politics and human affairs, I tend to support this approach.

But before all the drawling, born-again, yahoo-patriots with custom shotgun racks in the rear windows of their Cadillacs and faded little flags fluttering from the antennas break into the chorus of “Onward Christian Soldiers” (actually, an excellent choice for a new Imperial Anthem), a few qualifying reflections are in order.

Rome built magnificent roads, aqueducts, forums, and theaters where its imperial footstep trod. America leaves behind Coca-Cola bottlers, Lay’s potato-chip distributors, piles of trash, cluster-bomb canisters, and landmines. Rome built beautiful temples and embraced all religions. America sends loopy fundamentalist missionaries and people who believe God is an alien life form speaking from tin cans to disparage the ancient beliefs of others.

Rome at least had some great emperors before it fell into decline and experienced such notable events as a group of legionnaires declaring a horse to be emperor. America starts off with the likes of Reagan, Clinton, and Bush–one intelligent, immersed in hormones, sandwiched between two bell hops elevated to the imperial purple. I know, I forgot the whining, snobbish mama’s boy who doesn’t eat broccoli and who kept looking at his watch when others spoke in a debate, but then, so have most Americans.

It has been observed that so often true evil has a banal appearance, and in the case of many of history’s most evil people, this appears often to have been the case. Think of Hitler eating his beloved pastries, the vegetarian, non-smoker and teetotaler, watching Marlene Dietrich movies. Or Himmler, the weak-chinned, former chicken farmer who ran the dread powers of the SS and other state security for the Third Reich. Think of Stalin, generally sitting quietly at meetings or dinners, always praised by outside observers for his modest manner, quietly smoking his pipe and rarely drinking much even while those around him were reduced to comradely stupor.

These are the kind of people who once in power set in motion the machinery that employs the psychopaths and thugs that constitute some natural share of any society’s population in order to turn bad dreams into reality. Generally, their own boots are not splattered with the blood of their victims.

And so we have Emperor Bush, certainly not ranking as one of the great menaces of history, but a man whose banality comes married to a decided taste for the stupid and brutal use of power.

As to his banality, it would be hard to match not just among the world’s leaders, but also among the men briskly walking by on any busy downtown street. His droning, nasally voice suggests a cardigan-sweatered Ozzie Nelson giving Dave and little Ricky a homily after being caught chugging root beers in the kitchen. One senses in Mr. Bush intense earnestness about insignificant matters and uninformed self-righteousness about big ones. One imagines him fitting right in as the manager-trainee going nowhere in the ladies’ garments department at a Wal-Mart or the petty assistant vice-principle at an elementary school whose life swells with purpose when disciplining ten-year olds.

Actually, if it weren’t for his slurred pronunciation, his Archie-Bunker vocabulary, and the odd, deliberate nincompoop-phrase like “Axis of Evil” or “homicide-bombers” cropping up, there would be no reason ever to listen to his speeches. You can learn nothing from them. They are imperial gestures. His words and views are utterly predictable and commonplace in their expression. The empire would be no worse off were his staff to prepare a multi-purpose, all-occasion, error-free DVD and distribute it to the press corps and members of Congress.

But in so many of Mr. Bush’s words and actions one also senses that same conscience-numbed, sniggering tone he used during his campaign in speaking of the scores of prisoners executed in Texas. Whether it’s thousands of innocents killed in Afghanistan, murdered and mistreated Afghan prisoners, or Mr. Sharon’s running a Murder Incorporated, the tone is the same. Just as with the prisoners in Texas, his emphasis is always on, not the plight of those suffering before him, but on the crimes they are presumed to be answering for.

The banal Mr. Bush in a comparatively short period has managed to give the world a nasty whiff of in-your-face Americanism and, while doing so, to create the beginnings of a dark, unholy alliance. While I fully recognize the inconsistency of speaking about foreign policy and morality in the same breath, still America is the world’s first great empire that pretends to adhere to principles of democracy and concern for human rights. There is some reason at least to hope that the mold of history in these matters might one day be broken.

Well, the simple fact is, that with virtually every breath Mr. Bush has worked against these important principles. His idiotic, undefined War against Terror has created needless destruction and privations, threatening itself to become a kind of global terror. That and his cavalier attitude towards international treaties have set a frightening precedent and basis for relationships with the rest of the world.

Israel’s Sharon is free to crush Palestinians’ hopes, crushing a good many of their people along the way. Russia’s Putin, in return for toning down his criticisms of American policy, has been given carte blanche to continue state-terror in Chechnya, the bulldozing of Jenin on a vaster scale. And Turkey, in return for its support of a future attack against Iraq, appears to have received the same carte blanche for its campaign against the Kurds, a people who have suffered under Iraq, Iran, and Turkey and who were treated atrociously by that tireless worker for peace, Henry Kissinger.

Oh, and then there’s the new alliance, complete with an exchange of bounty for information and cooperation, with a military man in Pakistan. And the “we’ll bomb, you fight” pact with cutthroat warlords of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Of course, they are looking for someone to fill the same role in Iraq, but it’s going to be tough with the record of flip-flops and betrayals the U.S. has earned amongst various groups there over the years.

I am reminded of the old joke, “What do you get when you cross a canary with a gorilla?” “I don’t know, but when it sings, you had better listen.” Perhaps better than any image I can come up with, this joke describes Mr. Bush as Emperor. A weak, narrow, uninformed man married to a colossal, imperial military machine. And you had better listen.

John Chuckman is a columnist for YellowTimes. He encourages your comments: jchuckman@YellowTimes.org

 

John Chuckman lives in Canada.

More articles by:
May 26, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Stage of Capitalism: Germany’s Assault on the IMF
Pepe Escobar
Hillary Clinton: A Major Gold-Digging Liability
Sam Pizzigati
America’s Cosmic Tax Gap
Ramzy Baroud
Time to End the ‘Hasbara’: Palestinian Media and the Search for a Common Story
José L. Flores
Wall Street’s New Man in Brazil: The Forces Behind Dilma Rousseff’s Impeachment
Patrick Cockburn
The Battle of Fallujah: ISIS Unleashes Its Death Squads
John Feffer
The Coming Drone Blowback
Alex Ray
The Death Toll in Syria: What Do the Numbers Really Say?
Richard Pithouse
We Shall be the Prey and the Vulture
Binoy Kampmark
Trump and the Polls of Loathing
Manuel E. Yepe
A Cruise Ship Without Tourists Arrives in Havana
Jack Rasmus
Greek Debt Negotiations: Will the IMF Exit the Troika?
Ajamu Nangwaya
Pan-Africanism, Feminism and Finding Missing Pan-Africanist Women
Howard Lisnoff
Israel, a Palestinian State and Anti-Semitism
May 25, 2016
Eric Draitser
Obama in Hiroshima: A Case Study in Hypocrisy
Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
Does Venezuela’s Crisis Prove Socialism Doesn’t Work?
Dan Arel
The Socialist Revolution Beyond Sanders and the Democratic Party
Marc Estrin
Cocky-Doody Politics and World Affairs
Sam Husseini
Layers of Islamophobia: Do Liberals Care That Hillary Returned “Muslim Money”?
Susan Babbitt
Invisible in Life, Invisible in Death: How Information Becomes Useless
Mel Gurtov
Hillary’s Cowgirl Diplomacy?
Kathy Kelly
Hammering for Peace
Dick Reavis
The Impeachment of Donald Trump
Wahid Azal
Behind the Politics of a Current Brouhaha in Iran: an Ex-President Ayatollah’s Daughter and the Baha’is
Jesse Jackson
Obama Must Recommit to Eliminating Nuclear Arms
Colin Todhunter
From the Green Revolution to GMOs: Living in the Shadow of Global Agribusiness
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey as Terror: the Role of Ankara in the Brexit Referendum
Dave Lindorff
72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail