Either the corporate polltakers are lying, or there’s something terribly wrong with the American people.
According to a recent survey conducted by USA Today/CNN/Gallup, 54% of Americans think the Democrats are too liberal; 57% think Democrats are weak-kneed on terrorism, and a majority believe attacking Iraq is the right thing to do. Remarkably, 50% of those polled think the Republicans have a “clear plan for curing the country’s ills,” while only 30% think the Democrats do. But what curatives have the Republicans offered? Bombing Iraq? Drilling oil in Alaska’s pristine national wildlife refuge? Making sure large corporations get federally funded insurance to protect them from terrorism? Allowing Enron criminals to skedaddle? Raiding Social Security to pay for an abominable military budget?
Of course, the Democrats don’t have a plan for anything except holding on to the seats they already have — a plan that is failing, and rightfully so, since they are not much different than the Republicans. The widely held perception that Democrats are too liberal is a mirage. The most liberal member of the Senate — who was merely liberal, not progressive — was killed recently, or had an unfortunate and oh-so coincidental accident, and his seat was taken by a Republican because the Democrats ran an ideologically bankrupt old man who couldn’t win at Parcheesi, let alone an election.
Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) killed any shred of liberalism in America. Clinton and the DLC sold-out their mild liberalism — by moving away from support for the AFL-CIO, the National Organization for Women, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition, and other liberal groups — in order to compete with Reaganism. When Clinton became president, as John B. Judis has pointed out, he strenuously avoided “undertaking reforms that would threaten the entrenched power of major business interests,” and moved the Democrats to the right. “Instead of giving high priority to serving and building up a popular constituency, Clinton quickly retreated to placating business and the right,” writes Edward S. Herman. “His major policy moves, designed to curry favor with the bond market and transnational corporations, weakened his ability to serve ordinary citizens.”
Like a good Republican, Clinton helped arms exporters win tax breaks, guaranteed loans for arms-importing countries, ended the ban on arms exports to Latin America, and defeated bills that would have conditioned arms exports on human rights. Clinton, as “the environmental president,” ignored the recommendations of US Fish and Wildlife Service scientists and teamed up with developers to kill the addition of species to the Endangered Species Act. He was soft on pesticides from agricultural runoff that have reduced parts of the Gulf of Mexico into a “dead zone.” Under Clinton’s environmental “stewardship,” Enron was allowed to dictate a “market-based” approach to global warming. In order to help out loggers, the Clinton administration spent billions of dollars of taxpayer money to construct roads to get the loggers to trees on national lands. Clinton not only screwed labor with NAFTA — he happily sold them down a river that spews into a polluted maquiladora. As for out Bushing Bush, Clinton violated the 1973 War Powers Resolution when he ordered the bombing of Yugoslavia, a sovereign nation. He also violated the Constitution when he bombed Iraq.
This is liberalism?
So liberal are the Democrats in Congress that they voted overwhelmingly to let Bush attack Iraq unilaterally. In the Senate, a mere 22 Democrats opposed Dubya’s war madness. Demonstrating how liberalism no longer exists in mainstream American politics, Daschle and Gephardt — who voted against Bush Senior’s Iraq Attack I — signed on to Junior’s redux scheme to mass murder a few hundred thousand more innocent Iraqis with nary a bleat of protest. While the Great Spineless One, Tom Daschle, made a few purling complaints at the outset — not concerning murder and war crimes, mind you, but rather about the unelected president politicizing national security — he soon signed on “because this resolution is improved, because I believe that Saddam Hussein represents a real threat, and because I believe it is important for America to speak with one voice at this critical moment.” Obviously, the non-liberal liberals stand four square behind Bush for new and “improved” mass murder. One of these days maybe the whole lot of them can be indicted on charges of crimes against humanity.
Either Americans — or the ones surveyed by Gallup, anyway — are cold-hearted and vicious, or they are so deluded, brainwashed, so trepanned by the government and the corporate media that they are no longer capable of discerning reality. Since I know plenty of good-hearted and kind Americans, I’d have to say the latter is the case. But it’s not simply propaganda — any half-intelligent person, if he wants to glean the truth, can look beyond media lies and distortions — but there also seems to be an all-too prevalent and inexcusable form of intellectual laziness embedded in the American spirit.
As the visiting Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the 1800s, Americans have a sheepish and diffident quality about them. “I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America,” he wrote. Tocqueville, who genuinely liked Americans, was being kind. Wilhelm Reich, on the other hand, was far less polite when he observed how Americans — and Germans, Italians, Russians, and others — not only cooperate with dictators such as Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, but actually embrace and worship them. “You give impotent people with evil intentions the power to represent you,” wrote Reich in his mostly ignored book, Listen, Little Man. “Only too late do you realize that again and again you are being defrauded.” Or maybe the playwright Arthur Miller was more accurate when he said, “The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.”
Certainly Bush, in the name of the American imperium, will punish the innocent. How can we go on denying such enormous crimes and look at ourselves in the mirror?
Medact, an organization of British health professionals, estimates that 500,000 people — the vast majority innocent civilians — will die in Bush’s Iraq Attack II. 260,00 will die directly in the conflict and another 200,000 or more will perish in the aftermath from starvation and disease. In a nightmarish scenario sketched out by Medact, nearly 4 million people die when the US responds to chemical or biological attacks with nuclear weapons. This scenario is hardly fantasy considering the Bush Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). “Dr. Strangelove is alive and well in the Bush Pentagon,” vows John Isaacs of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. First strikes are in, deterrence is out — and Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria, according to leaked excerpts from the NPR “are among the countries that could be involved in immediate, potential, or unexpected contingencies.” In other words, it is now permissible to nuke entire nations populated with millions of people on short notice because Bush does not agree with their “longstanding hostility toward the United States and its security partners.”
“It has got to be something in the water, or perhaps the more highly polluted air, that’s clouding the better judgment of Americans these days,” writes Doreen Miller. While CNN and Gallup distract us with the imaginary and exaggerated differences between tweedledum and tweedledee, the Bush hawk crusaders — VP Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and lesser known others — are cranking out Quadrennial Defense and Nuclear Posture Reviews, conspiring to murder and lay untold waste to large swaths of the globe in the name of a deadly and wholly arrogant hegemonism. It’s always the people who ultimately pay the price for crimes plotted in windowless rooms.
Finally, is the invasion of Iraq — now promised as a grotesque and macabre Christmas present — our revenge for the blowback of September 11? (Bush has labored for months to make a connection, however tenuous and uncorroborated, between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.) Will killing Iraqis by the tens of thousands make us feel better about our loss, our overstated victimhood? If so, we may wish to consider the words of David Potorti, who lost a brother at WTC:
“War, to the increasing exclusion of everything else, is the only thing that America collectively cares about anymore. We don’t manufacture much of anything; just war. We don’t concern ourselves with education; just war. We don’t attend to the 40 million Americans without health coverage; just war. We don’t focus on the 30 million American children living in poverty; just war. We don’t support the arts; just war. Even though a multitude of human needs were in existence prior to September 11, and have only increased since then, we continue to direct our attention and our resources into what we do best: war. Just war.”
KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org