FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush’s Misleading Pledge to Destroy Abu Ghraib

by GREG MOSES

Already two claims have been repeated about the President’s War College speech, but both claims are misleading. First is the claim that the speech offered nothing new. But this claim is misleading because it fails to take seriously the meaning of the particular prime time venue. The image of the War College audience is not just another backdrop.

Second is the claim that the only news of the evening was the President’s pledge to demolish Abu Ghraib prison. And this is misleading, because the President promised to build another prison first.

If we correct for these misleading claims, the War College speech becomes another kind of promise from the President-not to stay the course, nor to reduce the prison count in Iraq. Rather, the President promises the War College audience that he plans to fully exploit the US uniformed services to advance the construction of a globalized garrison state.

Before Abu Ghraib can be torn town, said the President in effect, the US Army will protect the contractors that will build the replacement prison. And he said all this in such a way that his proposals were met with a burst of televised applause from the uniformed professionals themselves.

No, the War College speech was not nothing new. It was a crucial escalation in a plain agenda of power over the people, both at home and abroad.

Let’s take another look at the venue. The White House scheduled the War College speech during prime time, and was successful in attracting live coverage from commercial cable news networks. Broadcast networks, citing the fact that the White House did not “formally” request live coverage, stuck to their sweeps-week entertainment. But the White House baited the television hook, and networks were tacitly pressured to concede the time.

“The broadcast networks took an unusual amount of time to tell viewers their plans for Bush’s speech,” reports USA Today. “ABC didn’t decide until Monday afternoon.” Despite the lack of a “formal” request, the pressure was on.

The decision by the White House to schedule the War College speech for prime time was itself a political judgment that bears more scrutiny than it has been given. Clearly, the White House was trying to drive the President’s message into the image of the War College audience, with tightly packed uniforms of green.

In terms of image politics, there was nothing subtle about it. The War College speech was a “policy” speech, addressed to the nation and to the world. It was not a War College speech as such, yet it made deliberate use of the War College backdrop.

Especially during these crucial days of international war, with nearly 140,000 troops stationed in Iraq, Americans should be wary of war policy speeches that make use of military backdrops. There should be scrupulous respect paid to the distinction between the formulation of civilian policy and the carrying out of military orders. From his War College podium, President Bush broadcast an image that collapsed all distinctions between his role as civilian President and military Commander in Chief.

The proper study of the War College is how to carry out military objectives. The proper role of the White House is to take direction from Congress regarding the adoption of military objectives that pertain to the defense of the Constitution. At the War College, the President projected an image of warmaker among warriors, as if the whole business of this war were a matter between him and the uniformed forces of the USA. It was perilous shift of images, if we still dare to insist that our uniformed services should respond only to democratically formulated policies.

The image of the Army should never be used to sell military policy to the nation or the world. Prime time images of applause, dressed in Army green, only aggravate an increasing militarization of politics. And the White House is to be plainly faulted for trying to frame these militarized images in order to bolster support for political purposes that are falling under increasing suspicion, even from conservative members of the President’s own Republican party.

When we buy into the image of the President’s policy being applauded by military scholars, we forget that the professional military establishment has been hijacked by this administration to pursue aims far afield from anyone’s sworn duty to protect the Constitution. We forget that supporting the troops in a democracy requires that we insist they not be manipulated into public displays of affection for policy directions that belong to Congress to decide. So we cannot pass this speech off as just another political talk to a “friendly audience.”

In short, there is a distinction that democracies must respect between their uniformed services and the political authority of civilian rule. If President Bush was able to transgress that distinction without comment and deliver a speech that seemed like “nothing new,” then we have sad evidence that the banality of our militarization has become complete. The war on the American mind has been won.

Which brings us to the second mislead that is already too often repeated: the President only promised to demolish Abu Ghraib prison. A more careful reading of the speech indicates something more serious going on. Before American troops seek Iraqi permission to demolish Abu Ghraib, said the President, “America will fund the construction of a modern, maximum security prison.” In effect, the President promised that the US Army will stand guard in Iraq while contractors initiate the construction of an American-style, prison-industrial complex.

I am in receipt of a long email from Texas ex-cons who offer their writings via a Yahoo group called The Prison Experience. The email is entitled, “Extremist Prison Racial Politics and Propaganda,” and the authors argue, based upon their firsthand experience with the Texas prison system, that prisons nurture racism of the extremist kind, whether the prison is Abu Ghraib or not.

At his War College speech, the President uses the word “democracy” eight times. He also uses the word “war” or “warfare” eight times. Indeed, careful consideration of the War College speech would leave us relieved to know that in the President’s words democracy still stands an even chance.

GREG MOSES writes for the Texas Civil Rights Review. He can be reached at: gmosesx@prodigy.net

 

Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. He can be reached at gmosesx@gmail.com

More articles by:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and Henry the First: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail