Anticipating the July 4 wave of patriotic fervor exemplified by kids lighting firecrackers, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, attacked the New York Times for exposing a supposedly effective and classified program that tracked terrorist money transfers. Roberts asked Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte to assess “the damage” done by the Times and Washington Post’s publication of stories about how SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) used an account tracking program. Representative Peter King (R-NY) lobbed a cherry bomb by demanding that Justice bring charges against the Times. Bush limited his own fireworks oratory to calling the publication “disgraceful.”
Bush, however, played a major role in revealing “secrets.” On eight occasions, he warned “the terrorists” to watch their money transfers. A September 24, 2001 speech informed them: “Today we have launched a strike on the financial foundation of the global terror network.” On April 19, 2004, in case terrorists had forgotten, Bush explained: “See, part of the way to make sure we catch terrorists is to chase money trails.”
With the support of more than 100 nations, US officials froze world-wide assets and on June 6, 2003, Bush boasted that he’d busted the assets of over 150 known terrorists and terrorist groups. “We’re running down their money trails,” he smugly reported.
He stopped short of informing the terrorists that the tracking program — allegedly revealed by the Times and Post — had a web site where it made its anti-terrorist tracking information available on the Internet. Indeed, White House press flak Tony Snow swore that the terrorists knew nothing of SWIFT or its magazine, Dialogue, which also made tracking operations public.
Did Bush and the screamers in the Senate assume the wily terrorists — or the US public? — were too stupid to look there to find what actions the US government had taken to trace their money transfers? Solemn statements about fighting terrorism define Bush’s patriotism. He asks citizens to salute the flag — not burn it — and glue bumper stickers on their cars saying “I support our troops.”
His notion of patriotism demands nothing more — not a penny in taxes to support those suffering troops. Does a flag and bumper sticker mean loyalty to a nation, or does it represent jingoism?
On July 4, Bush reiterated his optimism on events in Iraq. Newspapers headlined another bloody attack there. On that day, a relative of my wife forwarded an email from a “patriot.” In this saturated red, white and blue scenario, all these attacks are directed against the United States. World War III began in 1979, the patriot avers, when Iranian revolutionaries took US hostages in Teheran. President Jimmy Carter could do no more than mount a futile desert rescue mission. The unnamed script writer described as skirmishes from this third world war all attacks since then against US troops and installations in the Middle East and Africa.
The Bush Administration’s explanations of the world seem downright moderate when compared to the ethno centrist obsession of the ultra right. The Minute Men and other super nationalist groups imagine a world-wide Islamic conspiracy, whose members relentlessly pursue their target: American freedom. The email implores the citizens to force the President to wage full-scale world wide war against anti-Christian evil. The email writer omits US behavior in the post World War II period, when the United States sewed the seeds of rebellion in the Middle East. When the CIA overthrew the democratic government of Iran in 1953, it helped set in motion a radical movement that has now reached frightening proportions.
After the 1967 War, Washington identified its policy ever more closely with Israel and against the Palestinians. The Arab world became ever more critical of the United States. In addition, like the proverbial rolling stone gathering diseased Middle East moss, US policies favoring oily despots picked up parasites that live off the larger body. The 26 year tyranny of the US-picked Shah of Iran, for example, pushed dissenting politics into the mosques. In 1979, dissent emerged from those “holy places” as anti-American rage. Iranians of many stripes overthrew the Shah. Then, some of the militant Islamic rebels took US hostages.
By legitimizing the illegitimate — the Shah — in Iran, US policy created a non enduring “friend” and millions of long-term, fanatic enemies. Pro Israeli policies also rang a very sour note with tens of millions of Arabs as do the policies of pro-US oil dictatorships.
Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya remind Middle Easterners that the United States continues to spread myths that Palestinians in Israel live as equals and all violence there comes from Palestinian extremism – not from Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Bush invented new lies about “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, and “spreading democracy” to the corrupt kingdoms of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the oil-rich Emirates.
Old lies beget new ones as situations demand. Iraqi government officials, for example, supposedly run a legal and sovereign entity. Ironically, Iraqi leaders complain about US soldiers murdering and raping their people. They plead for a timetable for rapid US withdrawal. Yet, Washington reasserts that “elected Iraqi leaders” want military occupation for as long as necessary to wipe out the terrorists.
Bush insists killing the all powerful and charismatically evil Abu Musab al-Zarqawi on June 7 signified a major gain. The media slavishly reported this myth as if it represented a turning point in the insurgency. As if the Iraqi government could now proceed with normal business!
Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter sneers at Bush’s sovereignty myth. “Imagine the president of the United States flying to …supposedly sovereign territory, being driven under heavy U.S. military protection to the U.S. Embassy, and then with some five minutes notification, summoning the highest elected official of that nation to the U.S. Embassy for a meeting … Iraqi sovereignty continues to be hyped as a reality when in fact it is as fictitious as any fairy tale ever penned by the Brothers Grimm. For all of the talk of a free Iraq, the fact is Iraq remains very much an occupied nation where the United States (and its ever decreasing “coalition of the willing”) gets to call all the shots.” (AlterNet, June 26, 2006)
As Ritter and other astute observers have noted, the insurgency shows no sign of abating after Zarqawi’s death. The daily news bulletins detail more bombings and kidnappings of Iraqi government personnel, including Ministers. The US-trained Iraqi police appear powerless.
Worse, scandals erupt regularly, the latest involving US troops raping and burning an Iraqi woman and then murdering her family to cover it up. In Washington, everyone agrees that the United States must eventually withdraw from Iraq, but not because Iraqi government leaders demand it. Rather, 60 plus percent of the public oppose the war and occupation. This has forced Congress to debate the issue, albeit with heavy verbal doses of cowardice and opportunism.
One such Mountebank emerged over a lost item in a 2003 document, which said that US troops stumbled on a supposed pile of chemical weapons. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) now claims the troops discovered 500 artillery shells with chemicals. Ritter said that Santorum “conveniently fails to report that there is nothing ‘secret’ about this data, it has all been reported before (by the Bush administration, nonetheless), and that the shells in question constitute old artillery munitions manufactured well prior to 1991 (the year of the first Gulf War, and a time after which the government of Saddam Hussein stated — correctly, it turned out — that no WMD were produced in Iraq). The degraded sarin nerve agent and mustard blister agent contained in the discovered munitions had long since lost their viability, and as such represented no threat whatsoever.”
Ritter, once a Republican — and presumably “patriotic” in those days — reported accurately before Bush invaded Iraq that Saddam could not have had the dangerous weapons alleged by the US government.
The self-anointed patriots in power lied about weapons, continue to foster the myth of Iraqi government legitimacy and the importance of Zarqawi’s death. Daily bombings and rising US dead and wounded counts indicate that the insurgency proceeds apace on its bloody path. Bush had no valid reason to invade Iraq and his puppet government cannot control anything.
Facts alone should refute Bush’s claim to patriotism. He lies, denies and tells jokes to show he’s one of the boys. That seems sufficient to garner more than 30% of the public’s approval. They apparently believe his assurances about tracking terrorist money and take comfort in his acceptance of their patriotism as saluting the flag and driving cars with “I support our troops” bumper stickers. Hopefully, medical science will invent a spinal transplant for Democrats so they can together shout: “Out of Iraq — Now.”
SAUL LANDAU is an Institute for Policy Studies Fellow. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.