This article, one of the best short analyses of the Bush
was first published by "Vorwarts," Germany
on June 8, 2003
Information Clearing House
In the Western democracies in the last fifty years, we have grown accustomed
to governments whose policies on specific issues may be good or bad, but
which essentially institute incremental changes to the status quo. The
major exceptions have been Thatcher and Reagan, but even their programs
of dismantling systems of social welfare seem, in retrospect, mild compared
to what is happening in the United States under George Bush-- or more exactly,
the ruling junta that tells Bush what to do and say.
It is unquestionably the most radical government in modern American history,
one whose ideology and actions have become so pervasive, and are so unquestionably
mirrored by the mass media here, that the population seems to have forgotten
what "normal" is.
George Bush is the first unelected President of the United States, installed
by a right-wing Supreme Court in a kind of judicial coup d'etat. He is
the first to actively subvert one of the pillars of American democracy:
the separation of church and state. There are now daily prayer meetings
and Bible study groups in every branch of the government, and religious
organizations are being given funds to take over educational and welfare
programs that have always been the domain of the state.
Bush is the first president to invoke the specific "Jesus Christ"
rather than an ecumenical "God," and he has surrounded himself
with evangelical Christians, including his Attorney General, who attends
a church where he talks in tongues.
It is the first administration to openly declare a policy of unilateral
aggression, a "Pax Americana" where the presence of allies (whether
England or Bulgaria) is agreeable but unimportant; where international
treaties no longer apply to the United States; and where-- for the first
time in history-- this country reserves the right to non-defensive, "pre-emptive"
strikes against any nation on earth, for whatever reason it declares.
It is the first-- since the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War
II-- to enact special laws for a specific ethnic group. Non-citizen young
Muslim men are now required to register and subject themselves to interrogation.
Many hundreds have been arrested and held without trial or access to legal
assistance-- a violation of another pillar of American democracy: habeas
corpus. Many have been taken from their families and deported on minor
technical immigration violations; the whereabouts of many others are still
unknown. And, in Guantanamo Bay, where it is said that they are now preparing
execution chambers, hundreds of foreign nationals -- including a 13-year-old
and a man who claims to be 100-- have been kept for almost two years in
a limbo that clearly contravenes the Geneva Convention.
Similar to the Reagan era, it is an administration openly devoted to helping
the rich and ignoring the poor, one that has turned the surplus of the
Clinton years into a massive deficit through its combination of enormous
tax cuts for the wealthy (particularly those who earn more than a million
dollars a year) and increases in defense spending. (And, although Republicans
always campaign on "less government," it has created the largest
new government bureaucracy in history: the Department of Homeland Security.)
The Financial Times of England, hardly a hotbed of leftists, has categorized
this economic policy as "the lunatics taking over the asylum."
But more than Reagan-- whose policies tended to benefit the rich in general--
most of Bush's legislation specifically enriches those in his lifelong
inner circle from the oil, mining, logging, construction, and pharmaceutical
industries. At the middle level of the bureaucracy, where laws may be issued
without Congressional approval, hundreds of regulations have been changed
to lower standards of pollution or safety in the workplace, to open up
wilderness areas for exploitation, or to eliminate the testing of drugs.
Billions in government contracts have been awarded, without competition,
to corporations formerly run by administration officials. In a country
where the most significant social changes are enacted by court rulings,
rather than by legislation, the Bush administration has been filling every
level of the complex judicial system with ultra-right ideologues, especially
those who have protected corporations from lawsuits by individuals or environmental
groups, and those who are opposed to women's reproductive rights. It remains
to be seen how far they can push their antipathy to contraception and abortion.
They have already banned a rare form of late-term abortion that is only
given when the health of the mother is endangered or the fetus is terribly
deformed, and a large portion of Bush's heralded billions to Africa to
fight AIDS will be devoted to so-called "abstinence" education.
Most of all, America doesn't feel like America any more. The climate of
militarism and fear, similar to any totalitarian state, permeates everything.
Bush is the first American president in memory to swagger around in a military
uniform, though he himself-- like all of his most militant advisers-- evaded
the Vietnam War. (Even Eisenhower, a general and a war hero, never wore
his uniform while he was president).
In the airports of provincial cities, there are frequent announcements
in that assuring, disembodied voice of science-fiction films: "The
Department of Homeland Security advises that the Terror Alert is now .
. . Code Orange." Every few weeks there is an announcement that another
terrorist attack is imminent, and citizens are urged to take ludicrous
measures, like sealing their windows, against biological and chemical attacks,
and to report the suspicious activities of their neighbors.
The Pentagon institutes the "Total Information Awareness" program
to collect data on the ordinary activities of ordinary citizens (credit
card charges, library book withdrawals, university course enrollments)
and when this is perceived as going too far, they change the name to "Terrorist
Information Awareness" and continue to do the same things. Millions
are listed in airport security computers as potential terrorists, including
antiwar demonstrators and pacifists. Critics are warned to "watch
what they say" and lists of "traitors" are posted on the
The war in Iraq has been the most extreme manifestation of this new America,
and almost a casebook study in totalitarian techniques.
First, an Enemy is created by blatant lies that are endlessly repeated
until the population believes it: in this case, that Iraq was linked to
the attack on the World Trade Center, and that it possesses vast "weapons
of mass destruction" that threaten the world.
Then, a War of Liberation, entirely portrayed by the mass media in terms
of our Heroic Troops, with little or no imagery of casualties and devastation,
and with morale-inspiring, scripted "news" scenes-- such as the
toppling of the Saddam statue and the heroic "rescue" of Private
Lynch-- worthy of Soviet cinema.
Finally, as has happened with Afghanistan, very little news of the chaos
that has followed the Great Victory. Instead, the propaganda machine moves
on to a new Enemy-- this time, Iran.
It is very difficult to speak of what is happening in America without resorting
to the hyperbolic cliches of anti-Americanism that have lost their meaning
after so many decades, but that have now finally come true.
Perhaps one can only recite the facts, and I have mentioned only some of
them here. This is, quite simply, the most frightening American administration
in modern times, one that is appalling both to the left and to traditional
conservatives. This junta is unabashed in its imperialist ambitions; it
is enacting an Orwellian state of Perpetual War; it is dismantling, or
attempting to dismantle, some of the most fundamental tenets of American
democracy; it is acting without opposition within the government, and is
operating so quickly on so many fronts that it has overwhelmed and exhausted
any popular opposition.
Perhaps it cannot be stopped, but the first step toward slowing it down
is the recognition that this is an American government unlike any other
in this country's history, and one for whom democracy is an obstacle
© Copyright 2003