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Now It’s Personal

by SAUL LANDAU

 

George W. Bush has chosen a course to divide the country. Even before 9/11, he pitted Americans against each other as at no other time since the 1960s. After 9/11 the polarization became dramatic: pro and anti war groupings, environmentalists and polluters, workers and bosses, landlords and tenants, citizens and non-citizens. He has reached the point whereby if the UN Security Council does not abide by his dictatorial wishes, he will launch a strike against Iraq and render the UN essentially irrelevant.

Look at the stern curl of his mouth, the lines forming from his beady eyes down his cheeks, that seem to force his lip into a seemingly mean sneer. A parent who has lost his patience lectures the errant child after giving him repeated warnings to change his evil ways: “I’ve had enough of your nonsense. This latest offense means capital punishment.” I wonder if Barbara did a similar act when Georgie Poo was drinking and using. Are we watching imitative behavior, with Saddam Hussein taking the place of the once-naughty and now-reformed George W. Bush?

He has translated his own religious beliefs into a divisive political force, attaching anti-contraception and anti-abortion riders to funding for UN programs and paying federal funds to religious organizations to run programs for the poor, homeless, addicted and unemployed. And Bush’s judicial nominees share one overall conviction: property rights over human rights.

Bush has sewn frightening seeds of conflict in the land. The Democrats, who should oppose his war policies that will involve much bloodshed and horrific consequences, wring their hands instead and make squeaks about Bush’s unfair economic program. They fear that Bush’s popularity ratings deny them the possibility of questioning the many anti-civil liberties clauses in the USA Patriot Act. Indeed, the Democrats ceded constitutional powers to Bush, whom, they did not trust, when they passed the October 2002 Iraq war resolution.

Consciously or not, W’s policies threaten to destroy the very pillars of social peace on which U.S. society has stood for decades. Moreover, he commits each act of divisiveness, from his reward the filthy rich with dividend tax cuts at home to kill the heathen terrorists with war abroad, with an air of forcefulness and certainty, as if the very depth of his ignorance provides him with the self-assurance that his paucity of knowledge should deny. The Democrats do not challenge this ultra Teflon character who may well have stolen the 2000 election from them, after spending years doing super shady oil business and going AWOL from his Texas Air National Guard unit.

This man with global ambition and moderate intelligence does possess a smart and pushy set of advisers. They have changed the context of world debate. Instead of talking about how contemporary imperialism–in its military, economic and cultural forms–brutalizes billions of people in the third world, Bush has manipulated discussion toward the threat of Saddam Hussein and his alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq, which had remained and should continue to remain a back burner and peripheral issue, has taken center stage in a seemingly unstoppable march to war. Will we strike with the UN or without it? The Democrats accept his false assumptions and shake their cowardly heads.

Or, must we revert to political logic to explain why Bush marches toward war with Iraq. On February 5, the Bush Administration presented its best case. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the UN Security Council with an illustrated lecture that he had an air-tight case for military action against Iraq albeit he produced no smoking gun. To show that Iraq had not complied with the UN resolution 1441 ( in other words, eliminating weapons of mass destruction), he showed slides from aerial photos, played sound bites from supposedly intercepted communications of Iraqi military and scientific officials and related alleged links between the nefarious Al-Qaeda and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Powell did not convince the majority on the Council. U.S. intimidation, bribery and promises lured a few members of the “new” Europe like the Czech Republic and Poland, to join with rightwing governments from “old” Europe like Spain and Italy, and, of course, the lap dog Tony Blair of England. When Jack Straw, the British Foreign Minister who as Home Secretary had engineered Pinochet’s phony medical escape from trial in Spain in March 2000, rose to endorse Washington’s bellicosity, the British press announced that large sections of Tony Blair’s “Dossier” on Iraq–that Powell had praised as solid intelligence–had actually come from the work of a graduate student using published sources.

No matter! The White House spinners had intended Powell’s “smoke and mirrors” show more for the U.S. public that also finds Bush’s obsession with Iraq less than compelling. The script, with speeches stored in Oval Office file drawers for each stage of the war foreplay, focuses on demonizing Saddam Hussein and then repeating unfounded assertions that he poses an immediate threat to US security — while UN inspectors continue searching through his underwear. And, of course, the speeches ignore the fact of U.S. complicity in the very crimes that have now become unspeakable.

For example, Bush harps on Saddam’s criminal behavior. But the Reagan and senior Bush Administrations both supported Saddam during the period in the 1980s when he allegedly gassed Iranian troops and civilians at Halabja (now put into doubt by former U.S. Intelligence experts). Stephen C. Pelletiere, a Senior CIA political analyst on Iraq in the 1980s, analyzed U.S. military intelligence and claims that the Iranians dropped the gas on the Kurds, not Saddam (NY Times Op-Ed 1/31/03, “A War Crime Or An Act Of War?”). The US provided Saddam with logistical help–showing the position of Iranian troops — the better to deploy his use chemical weapons. Indeed, Reagan approved of U.S. companies selling Iraq components of what became their biological weapons systems–nasty stuff like botulism and West Nile virus. And, of course, in 1983 Reagan dubbed Rumsfeld as his special envoy to Iraq.

Theories of Bush’s motives abound: finishing the unfinished business of his father, seeking to control the vast Iraqi oil reserves and water supply, furnishing the U.S. with a permanent base in the region, helping Israel by giving them a place to remove the Palestinians, and, of course, performing his sworn duty to God.

But one of his high up pushers and planners laid out an actual world domination scheme–a “full spectral dominance” scheme as their national security lingo calls it. British journalist John Pilger (New Statesman, December 16, 2002) quotes Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle speaking after 9/11: “We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq . . . this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war . . . our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

According to Pilger, Perle waited patiently for “some catastrophic and catalyzing event — like a new Pearl Harbor”. 9/11 then became “the opportunity of ages”. Perle worked on The Project for the New American Century, says Pilger, a joint planning operation of the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute and members of the current Bush regime (like Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. Pilger). He calls these men “the modern chartists of American terrorism.”

As the candidate who once espoused a more humble nation, Bush now serves as an instrument for a 21st Century empire unlike any seen before. Defense spending–meaning money for aggression–will continue to rise under the “we need to fight and win several wars at once” doctrine. The high tech weapons makers will reap benefits, of course; the rest of the economy will fend for itself with an ever-increasing deficit. But these dreamers [vague] don’t want to face practical reality.

One doesn’t have to look beyond Bob Woodward’s Washington Post series on how 9/11 fell into the lap of opportunists. The ubiquitous Rumsfeld supposedly asked the Cabinet to endorse his scheme to bomb Iraq as the main target of anti-terrorist warfare, not Afghanistan. Powell slowed the process down to prepare the gullible U.S. public.

Indeed, one has to no more than glance at a post 9/11 map to see the proliferation of 60 plus U.S. bases in regions where “strategic” resources lie–oil, gas, uranium. Bush has used the fiendish Al Qaeda attack to stand as a strongman, a reversal of his prior image. Since his bold post-attack speech, the media have treated him as the super Teflon president–allowing his old sins, stupid remarks and incoherent “logic” to pass unquestioned.

Bush and his intimidators have frightened the nation and the world. Their rhetoric vitiates reflection. It induces panic and anxiety. The public must beware. Controls increase at borders, train stations and airports. On February 7, one Los Angeles supervisor notified his staff:

“The Federal Department of Homeland security has raised the nationwide alert status from yellow to orange. Orange is a high condition declared when there is a high risk of terrorist attacks. We must do the following countywide procedures as established by the County’s Office of Emergency Management:

— Review existing building evacuation plans. — Review mail handling/package delivery procedures. — Review information systems security issues. — Test rapid employee notification procedures. — Notify Executive Office of the alert change. — Take additional precautions at public events. — Check availability of alternate work sites in case of an incident.

Just an added note: Please be sure you have a calling tree that includes each staff member in your organization in your possession at all times.This is not meant in any way to imply that our facilities are a target. We work closely with the County’s Office of Emergency Management to insure we get the most recent information on emergencies and disasters. Should you have any questions on this matter, please call me at ..”

As the grim-faced Attorney General warns the nation of an impending tragedy somewhere in that vast, vulnerable public space and increases police patrolling of various locations, he simultaneously advises the public to shop, travel and do their regular business–behave as if everything was normal.

Welcome to the less than brave and somewhat second hand world of George W. Bush.

SAUL LANDAU is the Director of Digital Media and International Outreach Programs for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. His new film, IRAQ: VOICES FROM THE STREETS, is available through The Cinema Guild. 1-800-723-5522. He can be reached at: landau@counterpunch.org

 

SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.

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