• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Gomer as Claudius

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

 

More articles by:

John Chuckman lives in Canada.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
Jonathan Cook
Israel Prepares to Turn Bedouin Citizens into Refugees in Their Own Country
Stan Cox
Healing the Rift Between Political Reality and Ecological Reality
Jeff Klein
Syria, the Kurds, Turkey and the U.S.: Why Progressives Should Not Support a New Imperial Partition in the Middle East
George Ochenski
The Governor, the Mining Company and the Future of a Montana Wilderness
Charles Pierson
Bret Stephens’ American Fantasy
Ted Rall
The First Thing We Do, Let’s Fire All the Cops
Jon Rynn
Saving the Green New Deal
Ajamu Baraka
Syria: Exposing Western Radical Collaboration with Imperialism
Binoy Kampmark
A Coalition of Support: Parliamentarians for Julian Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Down Side of Impeachment
Harvey Wasserman
What Really Happened to American Socialism?
Tom Engelhardt
American Brexit
October 16, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
How Turkey’s Invasion of Syria Backfired on Erdogan
Chitrangada Choudhury – Aniket Aga
How Cotton Became a Headache in the Age of Climate Chaos
Jack Rasmus
US-China Mini-Trade Deal: Trump Takes the Money and Runs
Michael Welton
Communist Dictatorship in Our Midst
Robert Hunziker
Extinction Rebellion Sweeps the World
Peter A. Coclanis
Donald Trump as Artist
Chris Floyd
Byzantium Now: Time-Warping From Justinian to Trump
Steve Klinger
In For a Dime, in For a Dollar
Gary Leupp
The Maria Ramirez Story
Kim C. Domenico
It Serves Us Right To Suffer: Breaking Down Neoliberal Complacency
Kiley Blackman
Wildlife Killing Contests are Unethical
Colin Todhunter
Bayer Shareholders: Put Health and Nature First and Stop Funding This Company!
Andrés Castro
Looking Normal in Kew Gardens
October 15, 2019
Victor Grossman
The Berlin Wall, Thirty Years Later
Raouf Halaby
Kurdish Massacres: One of Britain’s Many Original Sins
Robert Fisk
Trump and Erdogan have Much in Common – and the Kurds will be the Tragic Victims of Their Idiocy
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal in the Levant
Wilma Salgado
Ecuador: Lenin Moreno’s Government Sacrifices the Poor to Satisfy the IMF
Ralph Nader
The Congress Has to Draw the Line
William A. Cohn
The Don Fought the Law…
John W. Whitehead
One Man Against the Monster: John Lennon vs. the Deep State
Lara Merling – Leo Baunach
Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Not Falling Prey to Vultures
Norman Solomon
The More Joe Biden Stumbles, the More Corporate Democrats Freak Out
Jim Britell
The Problem With Partnerships and Roundtables
Howard Lisnoff
More Incitement to Violence by Trump’s Fellow Travelers
Binoy Kampmark
University Woes: the Managerial Class Gets Uppity
Joe Emersberger
Media Smears, Political Persecution Set the Stage for Austerity and the Backlash Against It in Ecuador
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize, But It Takes Two to Make Peace
Wim Laven
Citizens Must Remove Trump From Office
October 14, 2019
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
Class Struggle is Still the Issue
Mike Miller
Global Climate Strike: From Protest To Power?
Patrick Cockburn
As Turkey Prepares to Slice Through Syria, the US has Cleared a New Breeding Ground for Isis
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail