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Just before war broke out George Bush spoke to the world and said, "War has no certainty except the certainty of sacrifice." Coming from a man of extraordinary privilege who has never felt the ravages of war, these words rang hollow. The only thing that quieted the ringing of his words was the roar of his subtext.
Attached to Bush’s script about sacrifice was a well–worn wish list that has been tucked away in the pockets of those in his administration and their friends for many years. It’s a continuation of the once only dreamed of wish list that has been checked off item by item since 9.11. And while the Bush administration is not the first to use the costume of war — the war on terror, in this case — to push through policy, it is unparalleled in its brazenness and entitlement, and in the sheer scope of demands made and gains gotten.
And now as US war efforts have shifted to Iraq, the Bush administration has fresh sacrifices to ask for, new items to check off its wish list in the form of new legislation and directives to be noiselessly ushered through and implemented as the eyes of the world are unwaveringly fixed on Iraq and ads for duct tape sales.
But if a pair of eyes does happen to stray and see the goings on of the Bush administration, Bush & Co. are well protected in their irreproachable, impenetrable armor of "sacrifice," "national security," "patriotism," and "terror," chilling questions and dissent as they pass laws that are doing the same by eroding much needed checks and balances.
It is Bush’s promise of sacrifice — the deployment of an arsenal of domestic legislative bombs and the depletion of myriad foreign and domestic policies — and not the new 21,000–pound giant of the current war that is The Mother of All Bombs because it will cause the mother of all damage.
The sacrifices we will be asked to make are not relatively small, temporary ones like having computer donation drives or rationing cell phone minutes. Many will be ongoing and profound. And the new sacrifices will be heaped on the vast sacrifices many of us have already made in the form of such things as the quality of our children’s education; the quality of our retirement years; the longstanding freedoms guaranteed to US citizens; and the quality of the daily lives, or in fact, the very lives of many veterans and civilians the world over. Among other forfeitures, Bush is proposing more cuts to our domestic programs than has ever been seen in history.
Americans, who are struggling to stay afloat amidst a floundering economy, whose states are facing their worst budget crises since the Depression, are asked to sacrifice. We, the overwhelming majority of whom are not getting so much as a dribble from previous Bush administration tax cuts, nor will most of us get a drop from his new mammoth tax cut proposal, are asked to sacrifice.
We, many of whose children don’t have updated text books to read, whose school buildings are crumbling and leaking and whose teachers are being laid off in large numbers due to skewed budget priorities and now reallocation of funds for the war, are asked to sacrifice. We, whose administrators of our children’s schools are forced to give private information about every single school child to military recruiters or lose precious funding, and whose administrators have sometimes run out of options except to sell their schools to corporations to keep them minimally functioning, are asked to sacrifice.
Mr. Bush asks those of us who find ourselves, our friends and our children increasingly falling ill to breast cancer, prostate cancer, childhood leukemia, asthma, Alzheimer’s and "mysterious illnesses" that many scientists and doctors attest are from breathing toxic air and drinking toxic water made more and more toxic by the Bush administration’s relaxation of industry regulations to pay back campaign contributors, to sacrifice. All this as the Bush administration passes laws to prevent us from accessing information about what toxic chemicals are near our homes.
He asks the 40+ million Americans who don’t have access to affordable health care and those of us who are paying exorbitant prices for medicines to combat the above illnesses, to sacrifice. He asks many of our elderly who find themselves forced to choose between electricity and expensive prescription drugs because the pharmaceutical lobby has blocked the introduction of readily available, affordable generic and non–patentable alternatives, with the aid of the Bush administration, to sacrifice. He asks this as he proposes changes to Medicare making it more difficult for the elderly to appeal benefit denials, and as he slides in unrelated clauses in security bills protecting pharmaceutical companies from lawsuits regarding reportedly unsafe vaccines.
He asks a country that has seen business cut a whopping 2.5 million jobs since 9.11; whose poor are getting poorer; whose rich are getting richer with tax cuts and loopholes and lucrative industry and military deals to sacrifice as he introduces a plan that would make it much harder for low income families to get government benefits, a plan that would cut billions of dollars in child nutrition, food stamp, health care, and school lunch programs.
He asks a country whose middle class is dwindling, their hard–earned retirement savings gone or greatly diminished, forcing many at retirement age to continue working, to sacrifice. He asks many of us who find ourselves almost obsessively watching "reality" shows and programs that promise a few lucky people instant fame and fortune because we know in our hearts that The American Dream for most of us no longer exists, to sacrifice.
On March 4th, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist spoke to our veterans and asked them to sacrifice. He later stated that during war, "we all have to sacrifice in various ways.and it applies to groups like the veterans."
Among the veterans, the Bush administration asks the approximately 221,000 casualties of the Gulf War — roughly 30% of all Gulf War veterans who, almost assuredly, scientists tell us, suffer from the negative effects of depleted uranium (DU), to sacrifice by way of an unbelievable $14.6 million cut in veterans’ programs. (In 1991, when the war got such positive press for being a "clean" war, the casualty number from the Gulf War was 760.)
He asks the Gulf War veterans, whose DU complications include such things as respiratory problems, fibromyalgia, semen that contains significant levels of uranium, passing problems and serious birth defects onto their children, whose quality of life for some is all but nonexistent, causing divorces, serious depression and suicide (which all–too often has been denied or minimized by the government), to sacrifice.
(We will gladly offer our thanks for helping us kick Saddam’s ass last time, says the Bush administration. But we don’t have much else to offer. Certainly not lifelong health benefits, because we’re cutting those. And all you "well–to–do" vets — those that make over $26,000 a year — we want you to pay a premium for benefits that were once free. We have a new war to fight, you see, new DU bombs to build and new future veterans, who are currently risking their lives in Iraq, to expose to even higher levels of depleted uranium.)
Bush asks the people of the world, whose environment he has significantly helped to degrade by walking away from the Kyoto Treaty and relaxing environmental protection standards, to sacrifice. He asks the people of the Southern hemisphere, many of whom have been stripped of their natural resources and ability to independently earn a living by the strong–arming of Bush–aided big agribusiness and the intrusion of corporate enterprise, toxins and control, to sacrifice.
He asks the people of the world whose lives he has made immeasurably less safe by walking away from the International Criminal Court, by ignoring the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, by greatly undermining the peacekeeping authority of the UN (apparently, happily so, if Richard Perle’s editorial entitled "Thank God for the Death of the UN" is any indication), by eschewing respectful diplomacy and fractionalizing long–standing alliances, by breaching the Chemical Weapons Convention with the promise of using riot–control agents in Iraq, and by creating a monumental, incalculably dangerous worldwide paradigm shift with his preemptive, unilateral war, setting the stage for others to do the same, to sacrifice. (India and Pakistan have reportedly said in the last few days that the US cannot expect them to use diplomacy since the US didn’t use it in Iraq.)
He asks Iraqis who were brutalized by the first Gulf War and continue to be brutalized by 12 years of sanctions and 12 years of frequent US bombs and a tyrannical leader, who are suffering from very serious health consequences from the 320 tons of toxic depleted uranium left all over Iraq in the Gulf War, with even more powerful and more toxic depleted uranium reportedly being dropped at this moment, to sacrifice. He asks them to be willing to sacrifice their homes, their families, their health and their lives, to suffer through unimaginable shock and awe, to see centuries old historical monuments razed to rubble in the name of liberation.
He asks us all to sacrifice reason and rational discourse, to stay ever fearful; to confuse the horror of 9.11 committed by one group of people, as a rationale to kill an unrelated different group of people. He relegates the millions upon millions of people the world over who are protesting this war to a "focus group."
He tacitly (or sometimes by force) asks Americans to stay quiet, to not speak out about the truths around us as he gives orders that block and erode our Constitutional right to seek truthful information through various lawful means like the Freedom of Information Act, and as legislation such as the Patriot Act II is in the works, which, if passed will make the "inferences" of John Ashcroft law. And he asks us to rally round him and remain terrified so that we will support the unjust killing of others in the Iraq war in the all–too human, but misguided attempt to save ourselves.
We know there are certain things we have to sacrifice. We’re okay with that. It’s part of life.
But we ask you, Mr. Bush, Mr. Frist, Carlyle Group members and all you especially well–connected corporate folks as you sit high atop your Mother of All Bombs, toasting your good fortune and surveying the sweeping, almost inconceivable changes you’ve made to our world and its peoples in the relatively very short time of your administration; as you look out over the world that, except for a privileged few, is being destabilized, shocked and awed, "disciplined," bribed, deleted from the record, bombed, made irrelevant, ignored, alienated, starved, walked away from, underfunded, fractionalized, devalued both literally and figuratively, bullied, poisoned, silenced, marginalized and depleted to smithereens by your policies and actions, what is there left to sacrifice after this?
CAROL NORRIS is a writer and psychotherapist. She can be contacted at writing4justice@planet–save.com.
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The Beautiful Face of America
Buckets of Blood
POWs, Torture and Hypocrisy
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A Doctor’s Outrage in Baghdad
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The Smell of Death Surrounds Me
Website of the War
Iraq Body Count
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