As the U.S. lurches towards the end of President George Bush’s reign of terror, it can look back at a number of Mr. Bush’s ‘accomplishments:’ transforming a record-breaking budget surplus into a record-breaking deficit; starting two wars for no good reason, and generally making fascism fashionable again.
The evaluation and discussion of any of those ‘accomplishments’ is worthy of a volume of books. However, one area that might not be so closely studied is Mr. Bush’s alteration of the English language. A few examples will suffice to show either his brilliance, or the gullibility and stupidity of the U.S. voter. Which it is will be obvious on November 4 (Election Day).
In November of 2000, Mr. Bush proclaimed that he had ‘won’ the presidential election of the most prominent so-called democracy in the world. One tires of pointing out to Mr. Bush that winning an election means garnering more votes than your opponent. Mr. Bush did not win the 2000 presidential election; former Vice President Al Gore did. That Mr. Bush was appointed president by the Supreme Court means he became president, not that he won the election. But by saying it often enough, people do tend to believe it.
Four years later, for reasons that call into question the judgment of the U.S. voter, Mr. Bush did indeed win the election, garnering more votes than his opponent, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Voting irregularities in such states as Ohio will not be detailed here. Mr. Bush promptly proclaimed that he had ‘political capital’ to spend, meaning, apparently, that he would run roughshod over all opponents for as long as he wanted to. How this was any different from his first four years in office is not entirely clear, but was somewhat frightening.
Between his two redefinitions concerning elections, Mr. Bush introduced to the world the idea of ‘pre-emptive’ strikes. This apparently means that the president decides he wants to invade a sovereign nation in order to steal their natural resources, and announces to the world that he will do so before they have a chance to attack the U.S. The fact that they have no capability of doing so is unimportant when a ‘pre-emptive’ strike is planned. See, if the U.S. waited until Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, perhaps similar to those the U.S. sold it a generation ago, then the pre-emptive strike would not be quite so pre-emptive.
Early in Mr. Bush’s second war, he announced ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Iraq. For generations that statement had meant an end to whatever undertaking had begun. The war to which Mr. Bush referred at that time has dragged on for five years since that bemusing pronouncement. There is still no end in sight. So ‘Mission Accomplished’ now apparently means that the president has completed a dramatic photo opportunity, wasting the taxpayers’ money by landing in a jet when a helicopter would have sufficed, on an aircraft carrier to speak nonsense.
In November of 2006, with the U.S. public finally bored with nationalistic muscle-flexing, the Democrats gained control of Congress. Pundits everywhere read this as dissatisfaction with Mr. Bush’s policies on Iraq, and even the president himself, no friend to facts of any kind, could not ignore this particular handwriting on the wall. He proclaimed that he would soon announce ‘a new way forward’ in Iraq. While the public waited with bated breath (will they never learn?), Mr. Bush delayed for several weeks, and than announced his dramatic new policy for Iraq: he would send at least 30,000 more soldiers into combat. So ‘a new way forward’ means ‘more of the same.’
Congress, in its ineffectual way, was aghast. What, its members asked indignantly, was the meaning of this? An escalation of the war was hardly a ‘new way forward.’ One wonders when they will learn to speak Mr. Bush’s language.
His faithful Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, the female embodiment of a yes-man, explained it all. This was certainly not an escalation of the war: it was simply an ‘augmentation.’ So there.
One is reminded of an old expression: ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ An escalation, by any other name, is still an escalation. But in Mr. Bush’s new lexicon, it is something different altogether. What this is, however, is never quite explained.
Many of Mr. Bush’s vocabulary adjustments concern some aspect of his wars; this is not surprising since he calls himself the ‘War President.’ One would think that any man or woman occupying the White House would be ashamed to be referred to in such a way, yet Mr. Bush embraces it.
So while he is being the ‘War President,’ what began as quiet rumblings exploded into international scandal as it was learned that the U.S., that beacon of freedom and human rights (gag), was actually torturing prisoners. U.S. soldiers and others were using waterboarding, a method dating back at least to the Spanish Inquisition and banned by the Geneva Conventions and U.S. law. When asked about it, Mr. Bush stated categorically that “the U.S. does not torture.” It does, however, use ‘harsh interrogation methods.’ So now we have another new definition. Torture is no longer torture: it is ‘harsh interrogation methods.’ What was that said about a rose, above?
As the U.S. slides into recession, with some members of the middle class clinging tenaciously to that status as others drop into poverty; with thousands of Americans losing their homes to foreclosure; with jobs going overseas, Mr. Bush describes the U.S. economy as ‘fundamentally sound.’ President Herbert Hoover may have felt the same as he ushered in the Great Depression; the nation survived, so one might argue that the economy was at that time ‘fundamentally sound.’ Wait a few more years now and it may be strong once again. Until then, says Mr. Bush, there will be some ‘rough spots,’ as described above. Not for him and his supporters, of course. But for the rest of the nation, and they can always buy another house in a few years, after overcoming their bankruptcy and finding work again. Let them eat cake.
In this election year, the Republican candidate should have no chance, but polls indicate that that is not the case; Republican candidate John McCain leads the apparent Democratic nominee Barack Obama in early surveys. Mr. McCain has tied himself closely to Mr. Bush’s policies, and in many regards is given a free ride by the media. If the U.S. wants more war, more torturing of political prisoners, more elitism, more divisiness, it should elect Mr. McCain. If it wants some glimmer of hope that perhaps these ills will somehow be eased, however minimally, rather than embraced, it should elect Mr. Obama.
Six months from Election Day, no one can predict with any accuracy what the outcome will be. But the result of a McCain presidency can be predicted; indeed, the candidate himself proclaims the horrors he will continue. It can only be hoped that the U.S. voter is listening.
ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.