Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2004 6:24 pm 
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Not so new

In many ways there is nothing unusual or unexpected in the George W. Bush presidency. Its blatantly unilateral, imperialistic behavior is the natural outcome of the vacuum created by the fall of the Soviet Union and a continuation of the policies of stealthy military occupation described in Chalmers Johnson’s two books, Blowback (2000) and The Sorrows of Empire (2003), and evident already in previous administrations, including Bill Clinton’s. George W. Bush may not seem like a force for creativity in the world. Still and all, there are unique features of this regime, ways that it’s “unprecedented, unconstitutional, and illegal” beyond anything in American memory.

A few unique features

1. Bush’s selection, rather than election, as President of the United States.

2. The multiple violations of the United States Constitution championed
by Attorney General John Ashcroft, signaled by the pushing through of The Patriot Act.

3. The initiation of a preemptive war on Iraq on the basis of what Christopher Scheer, Lakshmi Chaudry, and Robert Scheer have called the "Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq." These lies as outlined in the book are:

The lies
1. Iraq had something to do with 9/11 and/or Al Qaeda.

2. Iraq illegally possessed chemical and biological weapons which were a threat to the United States and/or its allies.

3. Iraq was fast pursuing and might even already possess the means to build and deliver a nuclear bomb.

4. Occupying Iraq would not only be a “cakewalk,” but we would also find in the aftermath a nation full of people who would welcome us and cooperate fully in the rebuilding of their country.

5. Iraq was a nation which, with U.S. aid and guidance, could within a short time become a democratic model for the rest of the region.

The growing awareness of these lies may be the force that brings Bush down. But the Iraq war debacle is only the most prominent, and individually the most costly, of the disastrous failures of the current administration.

Reasons to be mad

There are two fundamental reasons for Americans to be enraged by the Bush presidency and to want to make its defeat in the next general election their primary goal, as for example the billionaire George Soros, author of the recent Bubble of American Supremacy, has pledged to do.

First: Bush has taken the country close to economic disaster and social despair and has betrayed the sympathy of the world won by the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Second: The people of the US have been neo-conned into believing the administration’s disastrous actions were justified and necessary.

Attempted damage control: "Meeting the press"

No matter which democratic candidate moves to the forefront, Mr. Bush’s stock, on its own, declines daily as the front pages of American newspapers feature stories about lost jobs at home, lost American lives in Iraq, and the continually spreading, ever-growing realization, even within the ranks of the Bush administration itself, that the bombs in Baghdad were justified by a tissue of lies, and that those lies can no longer be hidden from the American people.

Awareness of an urgent need to polish Bush’s failing image was signaled by his February 8, 2004 appearance on “Meet the Press.”

Despite the facade, typically he failed – in more ways than one -- to actually “meet the press.” One handpicked member of the “press,” NBC's Tim Russert, the show's usual moderator, interviewed him in the White House. This hour-long television appearance was obviously a command performance. It was an attempt to deal with recent attacks by a strong field of contenders for the democratic presidential nomination. Bush may not have stumbled or spouted malapropisms as he once did, but his performance was not convincing as he attempted to justify his past actions. He repeated the claim that Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat to the safety to the United States. He tried to support his CIA Director George Tenent’s prevaricating about Iraqi intelligence. And he dodged accusations about his own spotty military record as an absentee participant in the Kentucky Air National Guard by asserting that the Guard is an admirable force.

The President in this interview refrained from his usual claims of unimaginable terror and an “axis of evil.” He was just trying to defend himself, repeating his own lies, and not doing a very successful job of it. Viewers will judge the meaning of the blank eyes and fading smirk for themselves. Gradually the truth is creeping into even the most unobservant households of America. Even where agents of the President may have believed their own lies (as some generously suspect of Colin Powell), the people were systematically lied to, and even the firm believers are beginning to know that.

The facts are simple: the country is being run by a president who did not win the popular vote and whose selection will never hold up to the scrutiny of history. Making opportunistic use of the 9/11 attacks, he has sought to control the electorate through lies and fear mongering. In his “Meet the Press” interview he used the word “war” thirty-seven times. The rights of citizens and our economic future have been terribly eroded. The US and the world are less safe places than they were since Bush took office. It's hard to step away from these facts.

A mistaken "war on terror"

Nothing done by the Bush administration to counter “terrorism” has weakened terrorism in the world; on the contrary, the hatred American actions have generated has strengthened the motivation of existing or future terrorists. The method itself is futile and meaningless: you cannot wage “war” on “terrorism,” and the attack on Iraq, whatever its real purpose on the part of the US administration, was never conceived originally as a part of any “war on terrorism” and has had no effect on terrorism other than to make Iraq a center of guerrilla (in some views “terrorist”) activity.

As George Soros has argued, “by allowing terrorism to become our principal preoccupation, we are playing straight into the terrorists’ hands: They – and not us – are setting our priorities.” And tragic as September 11 was, “it does not endanger our existence as a nation. To elevate the threat posed by al Qaeda to the level represented by nuclear war is a wild exaggeration that can be sustained only by cultivating a link between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.” We’ve seen how that link has been numbingly reiterated, as if to repeat a fantasy enough times will make it come true.

Despite the unlawful detaining of hundreds of foreigners, including the indefinite holding of “illegal combatants” in Guantanamo, efforts to ferret out potential terrorists and make the US safer from their attacks have been feeble and poorly funded.

Many have called the Bush presidency the most disastrous in American history. An extravagant claim: but one not without merit.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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