The last time an American President flew to the Azores for a summit was 1971 when Richard Nixon met French President Georges Pompidou for a discussion of international monetary problems. The two leaders also met with Portuguese Prime Minister Marcello Caetano. In 1971, Pompidou, who had succeeded the independent and nationalistic Charles de Gaulle, began to mend fences with the United States. Nixon became a master of international diplomacy, charting out policies that would open the door to China and begin a process of détente with the Soviet Union. It was an era of Cold War statesmanship and a widespread big power desire to settle conflicts at peace tables and not on battlefields.
Fast forward to today. President Bush, who has severely damaged, perhaps irreparably, over 60 years of American diplomatic statecraft, has gone to the Azores for a summit with his “coalition of the willing,” which now consists of a politically-damaged and Donald Rumsfeld-savaged Tony Blair, Spain’s increasingly unpopular Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (who First Bro Jeb Bush thinks is President of a Spanish Republic), and Portugal’s Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, who assured the world that there would be no war declaration against Iraq at the summit.
The Azores Summit is one of the most pathetic attempts throughout recent world history to convince international public opinion that some sort of grand coalition exists with a consensus that it is necessary to invade and occupy another country. The summit on the volcanic protrusions in the mid-Atlantic is nothing more than a Madison Avenue-style advertising campaign. Look at the ingredients on the product label known as the “summit” and one will find that it consists of bogus intelligence reports linking Iraq to uranium from Niger (Israel’s Likud regime, to no one’s surprise, looks like the source of these fabrications), plagiarized academic dissertations, a phony road map to peace in the Middle East, and a 1998 letter to President Clinton from a cabal of neo-conservative GOP courtesans that demanded an immediate attack on Iraq. For those who are not up on the French language during a time when French Fries are Freedom Fries, “courtesan” is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a prostitute with a courtly, wealthy, or upper-class clientele.” An apt description for the likes of Elliot Abrams, John Bolton, Paula Dobriansky, Zalmay Khalilzad, Peter Rodman, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Zoellick and others who signed the 1998 letter and who now call the shots on the war on Iraq.
The Bush administration may think it enjoys widespread domestic support. But they same cannot be said for Bush’s beleaguered British and Spanish colleagues. Blair now faces a growing revolt from his own party that has spread from the House of Commons in London to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff. Labor Party officials are having trouble staving off anti-war resolutions in all three parliaments. An anti-war resolution in the Scottish Parliament failed by only a few votes and only after the Tories came to the assistance of the Labor majority. It was a replay of what occurred earlier in the House of Commons. Ten British Asian Labor members of Parliament said they will quit if Britain attacks Iraq without Security Council resolution. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is facing a revolt from anti-war Labor Party members in his own Blackburn constituency.
Aznar, a former tax collector, faces an electorate that is overwhelmingly against a war with Iraq (75 per cent by some polls). He faces municipal elections in May in which his conservative coalition (which draws its inspiration from Francisco Franco’s old Fascist movement) faces a trouncing by opposition parties.
Further alienating these leaders from their public is the fact they chose to fly to the Azores for a war summit only hours after hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched in Washington, London, Madrid, and Lisbon. Of course, Bush always leaves town during anti-war protests. He thinks they are merely focus groups. But for Blair, Aznar, and Barroso such arrogance in the face of overwhelming public opinion will spell political disaster. There is already talk that Blair and Aznar might be offered high-paying jobs on the international advisory board of The Carlyle Group in return for their political prostitution. They could then join former President Bush and former Prime Minister John Major among the world’s elite multimillionaires who work behind the scenes to identify and wreak financial and political havoc with retaliatory targets of opportunity like Iran, North Korea, Libya, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, France, Germany, Turkey, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, Chile, Vatican City, Norway, Ireland, Guinea, Cameroon, Angola, and Belgium. All these countries have been subjected to varying degrees of vitriol by President Bush and his cowboy courtesans.
But it is President Bush who may face the ultimate shock from his own ignorance and arrogance. The GOP and their cohorts in the media constantly portray anti-war demonstrators as a bunch of leftwing Marxists and radicals. At the March 15 protest in Washington there were some important firsts. At least one off-duty Washington policeman joined in the march with a sign saying “This DC Cop Against War on Iraq.” Veterans sporting their Veterans of Foreign Wars hats were seen for the first time. And sporting business suits, a group of lawyers held up a banner in front of the Justice Department emblazoned with “Attorneys Against the War.” Washington Police Chief Charles Ramsey responded to one protestor’s call to arrest the criminal in the White House with both a chuckle and a reply that “it’s not my jurisdiction.”
This reporter does not want to falsely raise expectations that these terrible times are improving but it is clear that something is changing — and it is changing for the better. Seventy former members of Congress signed a letter opposing the war (including four Republicans). One can only hope that the sitting members of Congress would worry more about opposing the war and representing their constituents than in stripping the word “French” off of fried potatoes and toast.
The City Council of New York has joined those in America’s largest cities in passing anti-war resolutions. The New York city councilman whose district includes “Ground Zero” voted for the resolution. County councils and state legislatures are passing similar resolutions.
So while the U.S. Congress takes inane anti-French action, more thoughtful politicians at the grass roots level are taking up the anti-war cause. The vacuum of oversight and pettiness in the halls of Congress is as damnable as the arrogance and bravado in the White House. The anti-French tack of the GOP will cost them dearly. French-Americans are proud of their culture and history. They will make their voices heard in upcoming elections in Louisiana and upper New England (French-American strongholds) and the Republican Party will suffer for their childish and xenophobic tactics. Former Governor of Vermont (French for “Green Mountain”) Howard Dean will have a persuasive campaign issue in the upcoming months.
Bush and his miniscule “coalition of the willing” may soon be relegated to the scrap heap of history. And if the past is prologue, it is noteworthy to point out what happened to the three leaders who attended the last allied summit in the Azores in 1971. Pompidou died of cancer in 1974. That same year, Nixon resigned from office hours before he was to be impeached by the House of Representatives and Caetano was ousted in a pro-democracy military coup.
WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth.
Madsen can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com