THOLOS OF ATHENA

Saturday, July 09, 2005

AS VICTORY RETURNS

We are in Iraq as occupiers and it is going badly; but for George W. Bush, what matters is to dazzle the public with wishful thinking. The war is going grandly, according to him. Democracy is on the march; but really, it isn't.

While fewer Americans are tuning into his speeches, many more have stopped listening to their president. People are coming around to the conclusion that Bush's daydream of Iraq bears no resemblance to the real and tragic country itself. Suspicious cash transfers were described in an article for Reuters by Sue Pleming. Americans should be aware that $8.8 billion appropriated for Iraq is simply missing; and no one is being held accountable. Pallets of cash, billions, have been loaded on ships in New York, and handed out to corporate contractors in Iraq in duffel bags. The ground there runs red with Iraqi blood; three American soldiers are killed there every day. In Bush's fixer-upper Iraq, coalition partners don't cut their losses and withdraw their brigades. Raw sewage doesn't run in the streets in his fantasy; there is electricity and water service in the President's Iraq. The occupation isn't pushing the country toward civil war.

Sixty years ago, on "the hotttest of August nights", Albert Camus was watching Paris shoot off all its guns to celebrate liberation. He observed then that greatness doesn't come with conquest; he was sure that it only begins when people themselves resolve to be just. So it must be said that the President's audacity is no example of leadership. He never has inspired us to overcome our unjust condition, which would require that we ourselves be just.

Bush handles applause at fake Town Hall meetings, where born-again republicans are picked-over to assure their partisan purity; but he seems most comfortable speaking at military bases, from Alaska to North Carolina. The President is unchanged, even if his audience has grown more solemn. None of the old confidence has left his voice. He is still the salesman, making a pitch to secure the sacrifices of the soldiers.

This is the President who used the trauma of 9/11, the destruction and death at the World Trade Center, to run his agenda roughshod, over the law, over the truth, and over the bodies of Iraqis; having less body armor for the troops, but with no apparent shortage of happy talk. The President's disinformation machine keeps churning out the same meticulous lies, strung-together phrases, extracted by Bush's marketing experts from focus group experiments.
"The terrorists who attacked us and the terrorists we face"..."The same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York"...

"Defeat them abroad before they attack us at home"..."Iraq is the central front"..."The only way our enemies [in Iraq] can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11."
David Nyhan covered the December 1999 New Hampshire primaries for the Boston Globe. "It was a gaffe-free evening" for the "rookie front-runner"..."till he was asked about Saddam's weapons stash." 'I'd take 'em out,' [Bush] grinned cavalierly, 'take out the weapons of mass destruction--I'm surprised he's still there.'

This superficiality in the face of life and death is an unchanging trait. The cavalier would-be president was head-hunting even then; and Saddam was already in his sights.

Bush brought up New York no less than five times during his speech last June, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The soldiers were given the cue for one lonely ripple of applause, while their president failed to answer the nation's concerns. Over and over again, Bush put together the same confounded story, as he linked Iraq and Saddam Hussein with September 11. As he was about to wind it up, with one final reference to September 11, the President couldn't resist a plea for new recruits. Awkward and a bit pathetic, the remark could be easily confused with some kind of grim, gallows humor, a parody of his performance.
"And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces."
Our grandchildren will find out our secrets. They will see whether we became corrupt--or whether we grew just--once we decided to be stronger than our condition. Those who come after us will know if our souls rest easily. This would be because "we did what was necessary," as Camus says, "without any spirit of revenge or spite"..."as victory returns."

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