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Just as the U.S.’s shadily-elected despot George W. Bush turned a deaf ear to the most massive protests in the history of the world-wide peace movement by bombing Baghdad one year ago, the cowboy tyrant responded to multitudinous marches March 20th in 60 countries and 300 cities around the globe against the twin occupations of Iraq and Palestine by underwriting Israeli butcher Ariel Sharon’s pre-meditated murder of 67 year-old, wheelchair-bound, and nearly-blind Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, spiritual leader of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas organization.
The euphemistically dubbed "selective assassination" (there is always "collateral damage") came not 48 hours after the planet had once again said no to war, and represented an act of barbarity guaranteed to inflame the heart of the Arab street and nurture fresh terrorist attacks on Israel and western targets that will inevitably fill the gutters once again with the blood of innocents.
Despite Bush’s blind eye, the turn-out for the March 20th "Marcha Contra La Mentira" (March Against the Lie–237 of which leading up to the Iraqi invasion were recently listed by a U.S. congressional panel) exceeded the anti-war movement’s expectations, mobilizing 1.2 million souls (best estimate) from East Timor to Madrid and Manhattan to Mexico City (where the usual wild-eyed mob torched the usual Stars and Stripes before the usual U.S. fortress-like embassy after a march marred by a shoving match between rival Lesbian factions.)
North of the border, 150,000 total (not the police count) snaked through the streets of San Francisco and New York City, about a tenth of those who showed up February 15th 2003 on the eve of the Bush invasion but a solid outing nonetheless–if those who oppose the Iraq blood-letting are not marching in the streets in the same numbers as last year, it is anticipated that, much like the Spanish electorate that overthrew Bush ally Jose Maria Aznar March 14th, they will be marching to the voting booths with a vengeance next November.
Meanwhile, humongous mobilizations in Spain (200,000 alone in Barcelona) and Rome (low-end estimates of 300,000) represented the most visible anti-war outbursts on the European landmass since the war began.
Bush’s disdain for such adverse public input was as patently arrogant as ever, refusing to acknowledge the protests even as he plotted his next "preventative" strikes against those who dare to resist U.S. tyranny, a posture that bore bloody fruit in the murder of Sheikh Yassin. Israel, whose "right to defend itself from terrorism" Bush so assiduously defends, has announced intentions to similarly liquidate all remaining Hamas and Hezbollah leaders, in addition to Palestinian Authority chieftain Yassir Arafat.
The great outpourings in Spain and Italy, both partners in Bush’s criminal coalition against the Iraqi populous, are particularly pertinent to the White House’s doctrine of preventative war against any perceived challenge to the U.S.’s continuing domination of the Planet Earth.
The March 11th coordinated Al Qaeda bombing of five Madrid commuter trains that took 190 lives and wounded 1400, galvanized fury against Aznar for having embedded Spain in the snakepit war in Iraq, an invasion and occupation opposed by 90% of those who reside on the Iberian peninsula. By this same token, nine out of each ten blood-smeared victims of the Madrid bombings (many were not Spaniards at all but ill-paid and ill-treated immigrant workers) were not in favor either of the Bush-Aznar carnage in Iraq that ultimately maimed and murdered them.
On election night, voters stood in the rain outside Aznar’s Popular Party (PP) headquarters silently holding up damp newspaper photos of Blair, Bush and "Pepillo" as he is derisively alluded to on his home turf, a graphic explanation of why the rightists who were assured of victory just four mornings before the election, were ultimately trounced. "No to the War!" stickers slapped to the voting machines only rubbed in the point.
Similarly, the heavy turnout in Rome this past March 20th (organizers claim a million strong) was directed at crypto-Duce Silvio Berusconi’s shameless complicity with Bush despite overwhelming opposition to the war in Italy. By demanding withdrawal of 2600 Italian troops from Iraq, demonstrators were staging a sort of "preventative strike" at Al Qaeda’s future plans against other Bush coalition partners–Bin Laden’s boys must surely have Italy well-fixed in their crosshairs.
The toppling of Aznar by the center-left Spanish Socialist Workers’ (sic) Party or PSOE, does not augur well for Bush’s aspirations to renew his lease on the White House next November. Much as the War on Terrorism, 9/11, and the "liberation" of Iraq form the pillars of Bush’s re-election putsch, the PP’s persecution of Basque separatists was at the core of Aznar’s handpicked successor Mariano Rajoy’s campaign to extend the right-wing party’s high-handed eight-year reign in the Palace of Monclova.
The pathologies of 9/11 and 3/11 are rich in parallels. Aznar’s obsession with pinning the bombings on the Basques emulated Bush’s mania to implicate Saddam Hussein in the terror attacks on New York and Washington.
Even when it was perfectly obvious to every TV news viewer around the world that the Madrid attacks were the handy work of Al Qaeda, Aznar kept up a vitriolic drumbeat accusing ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) of the Madrid massacre. Despite startling similarities to 9/11 (multiple teams, synchronized strikes), Kabalistic evidence (the butchery took place precisely 911 days after 9/11), and the bald fact that in 30 years of bombing Spanish officials, ETA has never pulled off a caper even remotely as lethal, Aznar and the PP went into election day with the Lie still on their lips, and the voters paid them back in spades for seeking to conceal the repercussions of their involvement in a brutal war that is being waged without their consent.
PSOE leader Jose Rodriguez Zapatero, dubbed "Bambi" in the corrosive give and take of the Spanish political class, made breaking with Bush, getting out of Iraq, and rejoining Europe, the lynchpins of his party’s campaign. Not unexpectedly, Washington promptly declared preventative war against Zapatero, endorsing Rajoy’s candidacy as vital to Bush’s terror war, and backing up Aznar’s scape-goating of ETA when it knew full well that Al Qaeda was to blame for the Madrid debacle.
On the morning of the bombings, with Aznar’s PP enjoying a seemingly insurmountable seven point lead, the New York Times, the U.S. "paper of record" which of late has become more dangerously delusional than usual in its defense of Yanqui ambitions the world over, ran a triumphal puff piece ("Departing Bush Ally Hails An Ascendant Spain") and the U.S. Congress voted to present the shifty-eyed former Spanish premier with some sort of silver medal as recompense for his heroic role in the White House terror war.
But Jose Rodriguez Zapotero is no radical–he heads a party whose reputation for kleptocracy is equaled only by Mexico’s PRI and his knee-jerk reaction to the bombing of Madrid was to point a finger at "ETA scum." Zapotero’s plan to withdraw 1300 Spanish troops from Iraq that has so excited Washington is contingent upon the United Nations taking over as fig leaf for the Yanquis in that benighted country when "power" is officially handed over to a Washington-appointed interim "National Council" June 30th and the new (interim) constitution, heatedly opposed by the Shias, kicks in. But the UN is bombed and despised by Iraqis for inflicting 12 years of devastating sanctions and humiliating "inspections" upon their country and whether or not Kofi Annan is willing to make the UN the U.S. fall guy for another American miscalculation, remains dubious at this stage of the game.
Despite Zapotero’s Bambi-ness, the Bush administration is trying to shoot him down even before he takes office (literally, a ‘preventative strike’), coloring him as a coward who has thrown in the towel to terrorism. Democratic Party hopeful John Kerry has loudly joined in this lynch-mob chorus, urging Zapotero to stand fast in the War on Terror: "it was a mistake to get into Iraq (note–Kerry voted to authorize the war although he now claims he was duped by Bush’s promises of Weapons of Mass Destruction) but now that we are there, we have a responsibility and a national interest to remain there." Kerry’s weasel words painfully echo Democratic Party rhetoric throughout the Vietnam years, a war in which the candidate mowed down many gooks and of which he later repented although now he would just like to forget the whole episode.
Inside the U.S. bubble, despite their ideological affinities, Bush wages a preventative war on his rival, "defining" this neo-JFK as being soft on terrorism while thumping his own toughness. The President, whose "bring ‘em on" invitation to Al Qaeda summoned Bin Laden’s evil network to Iraq, has been eminently successful in promoting the "terror" facet of the War on T, and is, of course, endorsed for re-election by that noble aggregation–in a recent communique published by a Dubai daily, the Abu Hafs Masri brigades, said to be tight with Osama, called for four more years because "Bush’s stupidity and religious fanaticism" will benefit Islamic interests.
Other accomplishments of Bush’s terror war: on the first anniversary of the "Shock and Awe" show over Baghdad, the Iraqi Body Count web page listed more than 10,600 civilians dead in the conflagration–the number is certainly undercounted, the NGO notes. 657 coalition troops, including 29 Mexicans, had given up their ghosts in pursuit of WMDs that never existed and more than 3000 wounded, many rendered legless by the relentless bombs of the Iraqi resistance, now crowd U.S. military hospitals. The invading army is beset with suicides, desertions, and aggrieved families in what appears to be a heart-breakingly real life remake of the tragedy in Vietnam. Add in the 190 dead in Madrid and hundreds, if not thousands more, wherever the death train stops next and Bush’s success in promoting international terrorism has been a smashing success.
"You are either with us or with the terrorists!" Bush’s ignoble challenge to the world is being revived for his re-election campaign. But even as he barks these stirring words to 20,000 cheering GIs at the Fort Campbell Kentucky Screaming Eagles headquarters, his vaunted coalition is crumbling fast. It’s not just the 1300 Spanish troops Zapotero may or may not withdraw. Now Honduras is pulling its 370 soldier contingent, Nicaragua can no longer pay for the 96 men and 19 women it sent to Iraq, and even Salvador’s freshly-elected, rabidly right-wing president Tony Saca doesn’t think he will extend past August. Ditto Poland’s president Aleksander Kwasniewski, who says he was deceived by Bush’s lies in re the WMDs and now wants early withdrawal. The right-wing Dutch government has expressed similar dissatisfaction.
On the ground in Iraq, the ambiance has suddenly gotten extremely dicey for the army of civilian contractors expected to privatize the occupation after June 30th. London Independent ace Robert Fisk has even taken to wearing an Arab jalabah and kuffiyah soas to distinguish himself from the anglo war profiteers looking to make a killing on the "New Iraq" who are being blown away daily by the Iraqi resistance.
Sharon’s Bush-endorsed assassination of Hamas’s Yassin will no doubt be avenged in Iraq in coming days (the Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani has expressed outrage) and will only exacerbate Bush’s torturous task in trying to wiggle out of Iraq in time for the November election.
Putting a deranged Saddam on trial or capturing Osama as a <U.S.-Pakistani> expeditionary force failed to accomplish in their much-trumpeted spring offensive cheer led by Colin Powell from the Paki side of that mountainous border, will not resolve Bush’s quandary. Cutting off Bin Laden’s head in classic boogeyman-theory-of history style, will have little impact on Al Qaeda cells, which the Madrid bombings demonstrated are now perfectly autonomous. Indeed, it may well be the subsequent hijinks of these autonomous cells that will determine the outcome of the U.S. election.
Beset with an escalating terror war that he has provoked, skyrocketing gas prices at the pump, surging unemployment, and a half-trillion USD budget deficit on the home front, George W. Bush appears to be about to replicate the fate of his pop as a one-time president of the U.S. But as a Kerry presidency seems more and more a distinct possibility, the North American anti-war movement is obliged to ask itself whether a Democrat-controlled White House unchecked by viable opposition to its left, is really in the interests of world peace? With no third party to Mau Mau Kerry and the Dems into getting out of Iraq in exchange for relinquishing crucial votes in key states, JFK II is going to wage a mess of preventative wars "in our name" when he settles into the oval office.
Vietnam, where John Kerry earned the medals he once pretended to throw into the garbage (he only tossed the ribbons), was a Democratic Party-inspired holocaust. The Clinton-Wesley Clarke rain of death upon Kosovo, which last week was the scene of renewed mayhem between Muslims and Serbs, was hailed as the most deadly "precision" bombing "in our name" in the annals of modern warfare.
While the shared Bush-Kerry doctrine of "preventative war" (what we used to call Yanqui aggression in a simpler day) has the world in an uproar, inside the American bubble, the candidates cannot seem to hear the rising choir of hatred for the way the U.S. does business beyond its borders. Perhaps they have been deafened by the constant concussions of their bombs.
U.S. preventative war is alive and kicking in Latin America these days. Washington "prevented" the constitutionally-elected president of Haiti from continuing to be so by snatching him off to Africa, and now seeks to "prevent" the constitutionally-elected president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, from similarly doing his job–in a venial bid to garner votes from Miami’s belligerent anti-Castro community, John Kerry recently endorsed the "preventative" removal of Chavez who threatens an oil cut-off in retaliation. Meanwhile, Lincoln Diaz Ballart, leader of the "Gusano" bloc in the U.S. Congress, calls for a "preventative" strike against Fidel Castro via a Sharon-like "selective assassination."
Last year, the Bushites "prevented" Evo Morales, a card-carrying Socialist and leader of the coca-growers movement, from becoming president of Bolivia under threat of invasion by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
On March 21st, the U.S. "prevented" the Faribundo Marti Liberation Front’s candidate, Schafik Handal from winning the Salvadoran presidency when Bush’s Latin American hatchet man Otto Reich bluntly told national television audiences in that dollarized, flea-sized nation whose economy is now entirely dependent on remissions from the north, that Washington would not tolerate a pal of Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez in power. A bill to return 800,000 plus Salvadorans now living in the U.S. should the FMLN have won the presidency was reportedly introduced in congress. Reich’s blessing of Arena party candidate Tony Saca came on the eve of the 24th anniversary of that party’s most celebrated exploit, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero in San Salvador’s cathedral by Arena founder Roberto D’Aubuisson.
Preventing Bush’s preventative war on the known universe was the subtext of the March 20th marches that girdled the globe. Although the protests had deep scratch, those who took part should remember as they trade in their anti-war signs and banners and march off to the polls in November that separating Bush from the presidency is only half the job. So long as the curse of U.S. preventative war hangs like an ominous cloud over the Planet Earth, we have an obligation to stay in the streets.
JOHN ROSS will be traveling to Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador in mid-April and is in need of on the ground transpo bucks The Blindman cheerfully accepts contributions at 1030 Capp Street, San Francisco Ca. 94110.
Ross’s "Murdered by Capitalism: A Memoir of 150 Years of Life and Death on the U.S. Left" (Nation Books) will be in your local independent bookstore this May.