Implication for the Long Run: Developments Last Week

John Turner


Monday: Mr. Bush goes to the United Nations and says he wants peace with the rest of the world. At home, he pushes his torture and kangaroo court bill. It's not hard to discern what he really wants, and peace is not it. In fact, peace would be a disaster for Mr. Bush. He knows it would, and if we don't know it too then we're extremely naive people. The only peace Mr. Bush has in mind is the coercion of other countries by the United States. That's not good for us and its certainly not good for them. But from the president's point of view, it's the only good there is. Meanwhile, Mr. Cheney goes to the meeting of the National Automobile Dealers Association, and tells the audience that "We know that the hopes of the civilized world ride with us. Our cause is right, it is just and this nation will prevail." The world has good reason to be suspicious of Cheney's view of civilization, since it too projects U.S. coercion and nothing else. Both men are megalomaniacs. Neither has ever shown any appreciation for civilized pursuits, and their unceasing efforts to make everyone fall in line with their orders shows beyond doubt that their vision is concerned only with power. This has been obvious for a long time now. It seems that a majority of the American people are coming to that understanding. But whether a majority understands that the tool Bush and Cheney need most to pursue their ends is a Republican dominated Congress remains in doubt.


Tuesday: Until a short while ago Emile Nakhleh worked for the CIA. And he had a fairly important job. He was the head of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program. Here's what he has just said about Iraq in an interview with Harper's Magazine: "I have come to believe that our presence is part of the problem and that we should begin to seriously devise an exit strategy. There's a civil war in Iraq and our presence is contributing to the violence. We've become a lightning rod - we're not restricting the violence, we're contributing to it....."

What in the world is wrong with this guy? Doesn't he know you can't say the obvious if you want to be taken seriously in politics? Not only will it offend the president. It might even offend Joe Biden.

Just as soon as these people get out of government, they run off the rail.

Wednesday:  Last night wasn't Katie Couric's finest hour. She appeared to go gaga over Hugo Chavez's calling Bush a devil, right here on American soil. Then she went on to give the impression she barely knew who Chavez was. The technique of seeming just as uninformed as the TV audience is the opposite of genuine humility. If Katey Couric really knew as little about Chavez as she suggested, she has no business holding her current position. And if she actually didn't get Chavez's irony in designating the denouncer of evil as the devil, then she has no grasp of the current world dialogue. Fake indignation is the most phony of emotions, yet it abounds on television. It's an insulting condescension toward the public. If I were advising Katey I would advise her to speak to the people who do know. Those who don't won't get what she's saying no matter how she phrases it. Furthermore, they won't be interested. In truth, they probably won't even be tuned in.  Why worry about playing up to them?

Thursday:  On the Bill Maher show last Friday, Gloria Steinem said that imams have given Osama permission to kill ten million people in his campaign to protect Islam against the incursions of the West. I have no idea whether that's true, but it got me to thinking. In a certain version of Muslim politics, the imams play the role the people are supposed to play in a democracy. That being so, it raises the question of the number we have given George Bush, Dick Cheney and their henchmen permission to slay. One of the curiosities of the past five years has been Bush's persistent demand that we kill the enemies of freedom. But he never will say how many he thinks there are. And nobody who can get into his presence ever asks him. Is it okay for him to kill one million, or five million, or thirty million, or what? Shouldn't we have some idea? If I could have my way, every time the might of the United States had been  used to kill five hundred people the president would have to appear publicly before Congress, explain in detail who the dead were and why they had been slain. Then he would have to seek authorization to kill up to five hundred more, in pursuit of specific policies. But you know what the chances of that are. Neither numbers nor kill ratios are our thing. We can't even be bothered to keep count.


Friday: David Broder raised some eyebrows by saying in his column a couple days ago that George Bush has proved to be both "lawless and reckless." As Chris Matthews noted that night on Hardball, when a guy as strait-laced as Broder says anything that strong, it has to be seen as unusual. Matthews is right and Broder is to be commended for finally coming to the light. But, actually, his judgment about Bush now was not as interesting as his comment about how the country -- and, presumably, himself -- used to see the president: "a pleasant, down-to-earth guy." Why anyone should ever have viewed George Bush that way is hard to grasp, unless you give way to the notion that political propaganda machines can take in not only ignorant guys in bars but the most astute students of politics in the media. Did Mr. Broder fail to note the chest-thumping glee with which Bush presided over state killings while he was the governor of Texas? Or did he fail to take in the meaning of the Bush campaign's lies about John McCain in 2000, in South Carolina. You can reasonably call Mr. Bush lots of things, but you can scarcely call him pleasant. Still, "lawless and reckless" offsets, at least a bit, previous blindness.



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Harvard Square Commentary, September 25, 2006