What is truly astonishing in light of the newest wave of terrorist bombings, the shredding of the Road Map, and the mounting problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the fact that, so far at least, none of this seems to be impacting on the popularity of G.W.Bush.
It’s like Orwell’s 1984 is here and gone; we’re floating in some surreal Matrix Reloaded. Reality is either ignored or blatantly distorted; dialogue consists of eloquent non sequiturs.
There’s show business even in the President’s radio talks. Last Friday, for instance, surrounded by wounded veterans of Gulf War II, George W. Bush spoke glowingly of the valor of the troops, the technological wonder of the weapons, and historic speed of conquest and “the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan”-as if Iraq was not sinking deeper each day into chaos and disillusionment (ditto Afghanistan). And U.S. troops which were supposed to start withdrawing from Iraq en masse by September, are now being augmented by tens of thousands of new soldiers. Plans for a quick transition to democracy-forget it.
The President went on: “we have removed allies of al Qaeda, cut off sources of terrorist funding, and made certain that no terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein’s regime.”
Ignored, of course, the fact that the adminstration has yet to find any WMD. Most reports have it that the Pentagon is not even really seriously looking any more. But not to worry, according to latest public opinion polls, most Americans don’t care if WMD are never found. Europeans still do, Americans apparently don’t. And U.S. politicians who criticised Bush’s rush to war, are now too timorous to speak out.
It was enough to get rid of Saddam. The majority of Americans believe Saddam was linked to Al Qaeda-yet the Bush administration has never been able to prove such links, even though they now have access to the top political and military figures from Saddam’s regime.
Americans are rightly horrified by images of mass graves now being unearthed. But remember it was the the U.S. who was also responsible for that slaughter, by encouraging the Shiites to rise up in 91–and then walking away.
How long will the U.S. stick around this time? It looks like they’re already getting bored.
A couple of weeks ago, the President and his men seemed also on the verge of claiming victory over Al Qaeda–no longer.
Said G.W. Bush on Friday, “The enemies of freedom are not idle, and neither are we. Our government is taking unprecedented measures to defend the homeland. And from Pakistan to the Philippines, to the Horn of Africa, we are hunting down al Qaeda killers. So far, nearly one-half of al Qaeda’s senior operatives have been captured or killed. And we will remain on the hunt until they are all brought to justice.”
According to terrorism experts, the “enemies of freedom” are not only not idle, they’ve spawned a new generation, thousands of young would-be suicide bombers, acting now in autonomous or regional units, emulating each other, but not an integral part of some unified Matrix of evil. They don’t need sophisticated communications or weaponry. A bomb belt and a bicycle will do just fine, thanks. And to attempt to lump them altogether in some faceless sinister enemy “Al Qaeda” misses the mark. They are all over the globe-from Morocco to the Philippines to Indonesia to Kenya, their hatred fired by nationalism and hatred of the United States and their own corrupt governments as much as by Islam.
It is also fueled by the daily images of on-going bloody conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and the fact that while G.W.Bush threatens to stomp on Syria, and pressure the Palestinians, he looks on in silence as Ariel Sharon tears up the Road Map, goes back on promisses to give up settlements, and tells anyone who doesn’t like it to but out.
No word of that in the radio talk. But does anyone really care?
BARRY LANDO is a former producer for 60 Minutes who now lives in Paris. He can be reached at: Barry.Lando@wanadoo.fr