THE Silly Boy Emperor and NEVER Trust A Christian Cowboy
Here's the bottom line. Not only should this American President and those whom he serves (rather than who serve him) not be easily trusted or blindly followed. In many ways, he, and they, should not even be fully respected. In the most important way of all he, and they, should be feared, and countered. "The Office of the Presidency" and the "People of the United States"... those are other matters. These insightful articles deal much more with the individual who currently holds the Office (and let's not forget just how he got it) and the group of corporate hacks, Christian fundamentalists, militarist fanatics, Israeli-promoted zealots, and public opinion manipulators who currently hold the reigns of power in the United States of America.
The Soufflé Doctrine By Maureen Dowd
New York Times Op Ed Page - October 20, 2002: WASHINGTON — The Boy Emperor picked up the morning paper and, stunned, dropped his Juicy Juice box with the little straw attached.
"Oh, man," he wailed. "North Korea's got nukes. Sheriff Musharraf was helping them. Al Qaeda's blowing stuff up again. The Pentagon's speculating that the sniper might really be Qaeda decoy teams trying to distract the law while they plan a bio-blitzkrieg or a dirty bomb attack on the capital. Tenet's broken out in hives about the next 9/11. Powell spends all his time kissing up to the Frenchies. Saddam's ranting about a river of American blood. Jebbie's in a world of hurt. The economy's cratering. At least Karl says our war strategy will open up a can of Election Day whoop on Congressional Democrats.
"This is not the way my new doctrine was supposed to work. We are supposed to decide who we pre-empt and when we pre-empt them. The speechwriters called it an Axis of Evil, but it was really just a Spoke of Evil. Condi and Rummy said once we finished off Saddam, nobody would mess with America again. But everything's gotten fuzzier than fuzzy math. Some people are actually talking about my doctrine leading to World War III!!! Karl says that would be bad."
The Boy Emperor was starting to feel bamboozled by his war tutors. He needed a fresh perspective. There was a guy on TV with a round face and deep voice running around Provence, London and Berlin, where he suggested Schröder resign. He was pre-eminent on pre-emption. The Boy summoned him to explain the Bush doctrine.
"Do I know you?" he asked his visitor.
"I am the chairman of your Defense Policy Board," an amused Richard Perle replied. "I am an adviser to Rumsfeld, a friend of Wolfowitz's and a thorn in Powell's medals. Je suis un gourmand, Monsieur le President. I have always dreamed of opening a chain of fast-food soufflé shops based on a machine that would automatically separate eggs, beat the yolks and combine them with hot milk and sugar, add the desired flavorings, whip the whites until stiff, fold them into the mixture and bake in individual pots without human intervention. Then conveyor belts would bring the glass-enclosed ovens to the table and patrons would get to see their meals rise. I've never found investors smart enough to realize the dazzling ingenuity of the Perle Soufflé Doctrine. Meanwhile, I'm killing time trying to get your foreign policy to rise. I'm known as the Prince of Darkness."
"I persuaded Reagan to ignore the weak-kneed, striped-pants set at the State Department and buy every weapon in sight until the Evil Empire was scared stiffer than a perfectly executed meringue."
"But why are we going after a lunatic in Iraq for planning to make a bomb and not a lunatic in North Korea who already has bombs?" the Boy asked.
"At the end of the day," Perle replied, his voice dripping with patience for his student, "Iraq is an easy kill."
"But if North Korea can deter us by brandishing a nuclear weapon," the Boy pressed, "why can't we deter Saddam by brandishing a nuclear weapon?"
"You must puncture the soufflé before it rises," Perle instructed.
"Why are we mad at North Korea for flouting its international agreements when we flout our international agreements?" the Boy wondered.
"You cannot make sublime crêpes suzette without a fire," Perle lectured.
"Didn't you insist that Saddam and Al Qaeda were linked?" the Boy persisted.
"We made that up," Perle shrugged. "You have to be imaginative, as Audrey Hepburn was in `Sabrina' when she offered to make Bogie a soufflé out of saltines and eggs. As the Baron told Sabrina: `A woman happily in love, she burns the soufflé. A woman unhappily in love, she forgets to turn on the oven!' "
"Huh?" the Boy said. "Tony and Colin told me to stop talking about `regime change' and instead say, `War is a last resort,' and stop talking about a `pre-emptive strike' and instead say, `War is not imminent.' "
"They're sissies," Perle said, his lip curling with an epicene disdain. "You cannot deliver the sashimi unless you use the blade."
The Boy Emperor was more befuddled than ever.
"Get me Condi!" he yelled. "And a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."
NEVER TRUST A CHRISTIAN COWBOY
To rally support for war on Iraq, George Bush presents himself as both lone ranger and good samaritan... The image of the lone gunfighter who is suspicious of fancy talk and who acts fearlessly to defeat the forces of evil is the defining mark of a certain sort of US national pride. Some have argued that this pattern exemplifies a sort of redeemer myth. The hero is saviour to the town - thus the cowboy's violence is justified. For in the absence of the rule of law, or in a town where the sheriff is seen as weak (here we see the part assigned to the UN), the cowboy must carry the responsibility for defeating evil.
By Giles Fraser* Vicar of Putney and lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford.
The Guardian (UK) - October 23, 2002: "I've always acted alone. Americans admire that immensely. Americans like the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone." So said Henry Kissinger. And he's right. The cowboy represents a popular point of reference in American culture and has been drawn upon by successive US politicians to justify both domestic and foreign policy.
Likewise, war itself is often viewed through the prism of the movie cowboy mythology. Vietnam was described by American troops as "Indian country". George Bush even initiated the war on terrorism by declaring he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive". Now the focus has turned to Iraq Bush has once again returned to a familiar script. Saddam is an "outlaw", says Bush; an "international outlaw", echoes Blair.
Here is the plot of an archetypal western movie: the hero comes to town, though the community does not fully accept him. Some evil threatens to overwhelm the town. Initially, the hero tries to avoid getting involved. However, after exercising much restraint and so as to protect the community, the hero is forced to square up to the villains. Gun in hand, and at considerable personal risk, the hero kills the villains and makes the town safe. The hero leaves town.
This is the paradigm against which war against Saddam is being considered. >From Bush's perspective, the resistance of the international community to the war on Iraq is therefore to be expected - it's part of the script. So too, perhaps, is Bush's notorious inarticulacy. For the cowboy is essentially a man of action, not talk. "So self-contained is the later western hero that he seems to exist beyond the everyday commonplaces of talk and explanation, of persuasion, argument, indeed beyond conversation altogether," writes Princeton academic and western expert Lee Clark Mitchell.
The image of the lone gunfighter who is suspicious of fancy talk and who acts fearlessly to defeat the forces of evil is the defining mark of a certain sort of US national pride. Some have argued that this pattern exemplifies a sort of redeemer myth. The hero is saviour to the town - thus the cowboy's violence is justified. For in the absence of the rule of law, or in a town where the sheriff is seen as weak (here we see the part assigned to the UN), the cowboy must carry the responsibility for defeating evil.
Bush seems to believe that this cowboy justification for war is also a Christian rationale for war. It isn't. For the cowboy film represents the development of a distinctive ethical stance that is defined in the strongest possible contrast to that of Christianity. "The meek ain't goin' to inherit nothin' west of Chicago," said Conn Vallian in The Quick and the Dead. In this cowboy film, Christianity is depicted as weak and ineffectual, something commonly practised by women and wholly incapable of dealing with the challenges of the frontier. In High Noon Grace Kelly begs Gary Cooper not to take up his gun and face the Miller Gang, but he ignores her Quaker principles. In order to create a safer future for them both he must return to unfinished business and kill the enemy. For the cowboy any sort of Christian forgiveness is never an option. Redemption only comes through violence.
Simon Schama has argued that there is a suffocating "reverend togetherness" about the US reaction to 9/11 that blocks out the important but awkward questions. This is true, though it suppresses far more than the "secular debate about liberty". Theological debate is also stifled. Even in this context of apparent piety would it be possible to imagine a public discussion of how Jesus' instruction to love one's enemies might have political application? Of course not. What is suffocating is the religion of the flag - not the religion of the cross or the crescent. Ironically, it is precisely the desire to be ecumenical and sensitive to all faiths that makes religion easier to conscript as a support for war. For in abstracting out the particular message of each faith tradition in the name of a blanket religiousness, the resistance to war that is differently coded within each faith tradition is effectively neutralised. Once this has been established, religious language and imagery can be applied in support of all sorts of dubious moral purposes.
And that is exactly what is happening at the moment. It is simply that "reverend togetherness" and the language of "evil", like the invocation of the western movie script, is employed to solicit maximum justification for the cowboy's course of action.
However, there are other scripts to follow. Sam Peckinpah's 1969 groundbreaking The Wild Bunch provides an ominous reductio ad absurdum of the traditional western format. The heroes are thieves who get involved in the politics of another country simply for their own gain. The end is not safety but carnage. "Peckinpah's shrewdest insight lay in recognising how essential to the western a form of moral self-deception has always been," writes Lee Clarke Mitchell. Cowboy ethics always leads to death.
FOR BUSH, FACTS ARE MALLEABLE Presidential Tradition Of Embroidering Key Assertions Continues
By Dana Milbank
[Washington Post - Tuesday, October 22, 2002; Page A1]: President Bush, speaking to the nation this month about the need to challenge Saddam Hussein, warned that Iraq has a growing fleet of unmanned aircraft that could be used "for missions targeting the United States."
Last month, asked if there were new and conclusive evidence of Hussein's nuclear weapons capabilities, Bush cited a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency saying the Iraqis were "six months away from developing a weapon." And last week, the president said objections by a labor union to having customs officials wear radiation detectors has the potential to delay the policy "for a long period of time."
All three assertions were powerful arguments for the actions Bush sought. And all three statements were dubious, if not wrong. Further information revealed that the aircraft lack the range to reach the United States; there was no such report by the IAEA; and the customs dispute over the detectors was resolved long ago.
As Bush leads the nation toward a confrontation with Iraq and his party into battle in midterm elections, his rhetoric has taken some flights of fancy in recent weeks. Statements on subjects ranging from the economy to Iraq suggest that a president who won election underscoring Al Gore's knack for distortions and exaggerations has been guilty of a few himself.
Presidential embroidery is, of course, a hoary tradition. Ronald Reagan was known for his apocryphal story about liberating a concentration camp. Bill Clinton fibbed famously and under oath about his personal indiscretions to keep a step ahead of Whitewater prosecutors. Richard M. Nixon had his Watergate denials, and Lyndon B. Johnson was often accused of stretching the truth to put the best face on the Vietnam War. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy, too, played with the truth during the Gary Powers and Bay of Pigs episodes.
"Everybody makes mistakes when they open their mouths and we forgive them," Brookings Institution scholar Stephen Hess said. Some of Bush's overstatements appear to be off-the-cuff mistakes. But, Hess said, "what worries me about some of these is they appear to be with foresight. This is about public policy in its grandest sense, about potential wars and who is our enemy, and a president has a special obligation to getting it right."
The White House, while acknowledging that on one occasion the president was "imprecise," said it stands by his words. "The president's statements are well documented and supported by the facts," Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer said. "We reject any allegation to the contrary."
In stop after stop across the country, Bush has cited an impressive statistic in his bid to get Congress to approve terrorism insurance legislation. "There's over $15 billion of construction projects which are on hold, which aren't going forward -- which means there's over 300,000 jobs that would be in place, or soon to be in place, that aren't in place," is how he put it last week in Michigan.
But these are not government estimates. The $15 billion figure comes from the Real Estate Roundtable, a trade group that is leading the fight for the legislation and whose members have much to gain. After pleas earlier this year from the White House for "hard evidence" to make its case for terrorism insurance, the roundtable got the information from an unscientific survey of members, who were asked to provide figures with no documentation.
The 300,000 jobs number, the White House said, was supplied by the carpenters' union. But a union official said the White House apparently "extrapolated" the number from a Transportation Department study of federal highway aid -- not private real estate -- that the union had previously cited.
The president has also taken some liberties as he argues for his version of homeland security legislation. He often suggests in stump speeches that the union covering customs workers is blocking the wearing of radiation detectors. "The leadership of that particular group of people said, 'No way; we need to have a collective bargaining session over whether or not our people should be made to wear these devices,' " he said in Michigan last week. "And that could take a long period of time."
The National Treasury Employees Union did indeed argue in January that the radiation devices should be voluntary, and it called for negotiations. But five days later, the Customs Service said it saw no need to negotiate and would begin to implement the policy, which it did. After a subsequent exchange between the union president and Customs Service commissioner, the union wrote in April that it "does not object" to mandatory wearing of the devices.
The Customs Service said the delay had less to do with the dispute than the fact that customs lacks enough devices (about 4,000 are on order). The White House and Customs Service said the dispute was settled in part because Bush had the authority to waive collective bargaining, although he did not exercise it.
On Sept. 7, meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Camp David, Bush told reporters: "I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied, finally denied access, a report came out of the Atomic -- the IAEA -- that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need."
The IAEA did issue a report in 1998, around the time weapons inspectors were denied access to Iraq for the final time, but the report made no such assertion. It declared: "Based on all credible information to date, the IAEA has found no indication of Iraq having achieved its program goal of producing nuclear weapons or of Iraq having retained a physical capability for the production of weapon-useable nuclear material or having clandestinely obtained such material." The report said Iraq had been six to 24 months away from nuclear capability before the 1991 Gulf War.
The White House said that Bush "was imprecise on this" and that the source was U.S. intelligence, not the IAEA.
In the president's Oct. 7 speech to the nation from Cincinnati, he introduced several rationales for taking action against Iraq. Describing contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq, Bush cited "one very senior al Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year." He asserted that "we have discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet" of unmanned aircraft and expressed worry about them "targeting the United States."
Bush also stated that in 1998, "information from a high-ranking Iraqi nuclear engineer who had defected revealed that despite his public promises, Saddam Hussein had ordered his nuclear program to continue." He added, "Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists," an alliance that "could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."
In each of these charges, Bush omitted qualifiers that make the accusations seem less convincing. In the case of the al Qaeda leader receiving medical treatment, U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged that the terrorist, Abu Musab Zarqawi, was no longer in Iraq and that there was no hard evidence Hussein's government knew he was there or had contact with him. On the matter of the aircraft, a CIA report this month suggested that the fleet was more of an "experiment" and "attempt" and labeled it a "serious threat to Iraq's neighbors and to international military forces in the region" -- but said nothing about it having sufficient range to threaten the United States.
Bush's statement about the Iraqi nuclear defector, implying such information was current in 1998, was a reference to Khidhir Hamza. But Hamza, though he spoke publicly about his information in 1998, retired from Iraq's nuclear program in 1991, fled to the Iraqi north in 1994 and left the country in 1995. Finally, Bush's statement that Iraq could attack "on any given day" with terrorist groups was at odds with congressional testimony by the CIA. The testimony, declassified after Bush's speech, rated the possibility as "low" that Hussein would initiate a chemical or biological weapons attack against the United States but might take the "extreme step" of assisting terrorists if provoked by a U.S. attack.
White House spokesmen said in response that it was "unrealistic" to assume Iraqi authorities did not know of Zarqawi's presence and that Iraq's unmanned aircraft could be launched from ships or trucks outside Iraq.
Some of the disputed Bush assertions are matters of perspective.
Bush often says, as he did Friday in Missouri, that "because of a quirk in the rules in the United States Senate, after a 10-year period, the tax-relief plan we passed goes away." There is a Senate rule that required a 60-vote majority for the tax cut, but the decision to let the cuts expire was based on pragmatic considerations. Proponents of the cut from the House and Senate -- both under GOP control at the time -- decided to have the tax cut expire after nine years to keep its price tag within the $1.35 trillion over 10 years that had been agreed between lawmakers and Bush.
Other times, the president's assertions simply outpace the facts. In New Hampshire earlier this month, he said his education legislation made "the biggest increase in education spending in a long, long time."
In fact, the 15.8 percent increase in Department of Education discretionary spending for fiscal year 2002 (the figures the White House supplied when asked about Bush's statement) was below the 18.5 percent increase under Clinton the previous year -- and Bush had wanted a much smaller increase than Congress approved. Earlier this month, Republican moderates complained to Bush's budget director, Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., that the administration was not spending the full amount for education that Congress approved. Daniels said it was "nothing uncommon" and decried the "explosively larger education bill."