That was then

In late 2004, shortly after George W. Bush won re-election, I wrote this:

Warning: Epic rant ahead.

I’m finally emerging from my post-election shock-induced denial. The gears of my mind is turning. So here we go…

The two stories coming out of the election appear to be:

1. America has affirmed its moral values

2. Half of America is dumb.

Have to disagree on both counts.

First, morals. The obvious basis for this argument is abortion, gay marriage and a foreign policy of spreading democracy — “the almighty’s gift to mankind” — across the globe.

But I voted against Bush on moral grounds. I stood up for moral issues that, in my opinion, trump those listed above. I voted against Bush because I’m opposed to lying, stealing, cheating, murdering and the projection of hegemony onto the world stage.

Let me first address the moral issues a slim majority of my fellow voting citizens stood up in favor of.

Gay Marriage

I simply can’t understand how gay’s marrying one another will destroy the tradition of marriage in this country. I mean, I’m a child of divorce. My mom has been married four times. The overwhelming majority of marriages end in divorce. Marriage is not a sacred institution in America. It’s as disposable as Swiffer cloths.

Abortion

This one’s trickier, and it gets down to a fundamental disjunct between the left and the right. Honestly, I’m conflicted about the issue. I was an unplanned pregnancy, and I’m grateful to have not been aborted as a fetus. And I can respect the conviction that abortion is murder. In my estimation, that is a core, fundamental belief that can only be decided by the one who holds it. As such, I can understand why such people would want to see abortion equated with murder in our legal system.

BUT.

I can also respect the belief that abortion is not murder. That a fetus is not yet a life. That, until it has reached a level of biological self-sufficiency, it is a part of a woman’s body and therefore her dominion.

So, in my estimation, these are fundamental beliefs that will never be compromised. As such, I am forced to turn my attention to the societal and policy underpinnings of the phenomenon of abortions. And when I do that, I can’t help but believe that much of the tenor of the debate over abortion is rooted in the misogynistic core of our culture. I believe it is rooted in the American man’s lust to conquer women sexually and in men’s hatred of women for supposedly evoking that lust. The reason I say this is because the mechanisms of our society and the matrix of our government policy don’t match the rhetoric about caring for and protecting innocent children. To say that we as Americans care about children is just flat disingenuous. And until we live up to that stated belief with a holistic set of policies and social norms, I simply can’t believe that the pro-life debate isn’t just a thinly veiled gihad against women.

Spreading “The Almighty’s Gift to Mankind”

Alright. This is where the real immorality comes into play.

First of all, the notion that it’s America’s calling under God to spread democracy across the globe is a crock of 100 percent grade A horse shit.

That is not, nor has it ever been, America’s policy.

We support American interest. And, for the most part, that has meant supporting dictators to ensure capitalist dominion over the world’s resources.

During the Cold War, the US and USSR treated the world as a chessboard. For its part, the US backed leaders who could promise to squash any communist uprising in their countries. The best example of this is Mobutu in Zaire (now D.R. Congo). Dressed always in his leopard-skin cap, Mobutu was able to — with unwavering US support — outright steal a treasure of $4 billion over 30 years. We backed similar leaders in West Africa, the far east and South America. (Oh yeah, don’t forget the big bucks and great training we laid on Osama bin Laden and the Taliban during the USSR/Afghan war).

After the Cold War, America continued this support of bad guys. One such fellow was Saddam Hussein. You know, the dude “who gases his own people.”

Let me say this very clearly: WE WERE SUPPORTING SADDAM WHILE HE GASSED HIS OWN PEOPLE.

The gassing took place before the first Gulf War. Saddam was directing a genocide of the Kurds. Some members of Congress and UN officials urged the US to put a stop to this. But the Bush I administration had no interest in doing so. They knew Saddam was a bad guy, but he wasn’t as bad a bad guy as the religious zealots in Iran. Moreover, while talks arose in Congress and in the UN regarding a possible course of action against the gassing of Kurds, AMERICAN CHEMICAL COMPANIES TESTIFIED THAT THEY WOULD LOSE MONEY IF PREVENTATIVE POLICIES WERE ENACTED. Read Samantha Power’s Pulitzer-prize winning book about genocide, A Problem From Hell. It’s all in there.

It wasn’t until Saddam invaded our sovereign allies in Kuwait that we stepped in.

That war was an interesting new turn in American military policy, reflecting the culmination of a policy shift that arose out of the failures of Vietnam. One of the problems with Vietnam was that the war was run by civilians who were operating according to an ideological framework rather than a military one. In short, it was high on foreign policy theories and short on tactical realities. After that failure, the power in the Pentagon shifted back toward career military leaders — chief among them, Colin Powell.

So when the Iraq-Kuwait situation arose, we did it way differently. We went through the UN, got strong international support and crafted a clear strategy that had a definite beginning, middle and end.

But there were still these ideological civilian types hanging around the Washington military policy machine who were unhappy with how the Gulf War went down. They believed Saddam should have been removed from power. They were convinced that this would spark a paradigm shift in the Middle East, that the oppressive dynasties over there would begin to crumble under the spread of American democracy.

Well, when Bush II got into office, they got their chance. Bush gave high-level positions to some of these top ideologues (Hawks they’re called). Dick Cheney. Donald Rumsfeld. Paul Wolfowitz.

Now let’s step back for a second and examine these dudes.

Only one has real military experience.

One, Cheney, is the former CEO of a military contractor, Halliburton, that was paid to actually write the very contracting policy by which it would ultimately get contracts. Cheney was CEO during this period. Not only did it benefit his company, it also fit in with an ideology that he had long held onto — that is that outsourcing the bulk of military jobs would make it easier for the US to go to war. It’s like this: When the US is occupying a country, the lion’s share of jobs have to do with taking care of the troops and building infrastructure. When the military does this, it requires thousands and thousands of enlisted men and women. But when there are contractors doing it, you don’t have those big soldier numbers that leap off of newspaper pages and freak the American public out. Sure, it costs more — a lot more — but it allows America to be more proactive with its military might. More.

Another, Wolfowitz, is a total elite intellectual. What he brings to the table is political science theory molded by years in grad school, think tanks and high-level bureaucratic positions. More.

The last , Rumsfeld, is just a fierce bureaucrat. An alpha male who believes strongly, like Wolfowitz, in American hegemony. More.

To his credit, Bush appointed Colin Powell as secretary of state. Powell is a reasoned military man who is greatly revered and trusted by the American people. He understands the need for diplomacy in international affairs, for exerting the U.S.’s military power when it is in America’s best interest and when there is a clear strategy, not just some ideological hunch.

But the other three were working to undermine them. There had long been a tension between Powell and the Hawks.

If you’ve been following the quality reporting that’s been done on the Iraq War, you should know that Wolfowitz was pushing for an invasion of Iraq before 9/11 even happened. In fact, according to Bob Woodward’s book, for which he was granted unprecedented access by the Bush Administration, Wolfowitz actually suggested that the US invade Iraq and occupy part of its sovereign territory.

You need to meditate on the audacity of this. It flies in the face of everything America is supposed to stand for. We are not an imperialist, colonizing power. It also defies all the principles of the UN.

Fortunately, it didn’t happen.

Meantime, however, Cheney began working on reworking America’s energy policy. In doing so, he held a number of closed-door meetings with industry leaders. It has come to light — in Woodward’s book, and in The New Yorker — that these corporate representatives ACTUALLY DISCUSSED MILITARY STRATEGIES REGARDING IRAQ AND THE MIDDLE EAST.

Think about this for a second.

Cheney helped shape a privatization of the military that would make it easier for the US to occupy countries.

Then he called in the leaders in the oil industry and conferred with them about how the military might be used in the world’s most oil-rich region.

All behind closed doors. And Cheney’s fishing buddy on the Supreme Court supported the secrecy.

And, of course, we all know by now that Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld were pushing for an attack of Iraq in the wake of 9/11. Rumsfeld’s reason, according to Woodward’s book, was that it would be an easier place to fight a war than Afghanistan. Wolfowitz was clinging to his pendantic ideologies.

But we go to Afghanistan — Duh! That’s where the terrorists are. The world supports us. We overthrow the Taliban.

But we also divert a whole bunch of money secretly to build military bases in the Middle East, to prepare for a war with Iraq. This came out in Woodward’s book.

Meantime, we pull way back on our efforts in Afghanistan, fail to capture Osama bin Laden and leave that country in a state of near anarchy, where the heroin trade steps up big time, warlords are running a system of all out graft and more and more Muslims in the region are getting pissed off and seduced into a commitment to bin Laden’s jihad against the US.

But what do the Hawks care? They’re now gearing up full steam toward the prize they always wanted: Iraq.

Now the lie machine starts working full steam.

The administration starts putting together policy briefs based on totally outdated information. They exault the word of a man who would later be cast aside as a liar and a thief — Chalabi. They work hand in hand with the Blair administration in England, which out-and-out cooked their intelligence information. Indeed, one of England’s key officials with expertise on Iraq went on to kill himself amid the scandal, which the Blair administration is now fully owning up to. (All this was in an amazing New Yorker story that I believe won the country’s most prestigious magazine writing award.) More. .) More. They lie that Saddam was tied to Al Qaeda, an assertion that every investigation of the matter has refuted.

Fact: AL QAEDA FOLKS HATED SADDAM. HE WAS A SECULAR DICATATOR. THEY ARE RELIGIOUS ZEALOTS.

Bush addresses both branches of Congress and lies about yellow cake uranium, weapons of mass destruction, nuclear bomb parts. All straight up lies that the administration now admits was based on outdated info that THEY KNEW WAS OUTDATED AT THE TIME.

At Colin Powell’s urging for following appropriate protocol, Bush went to Congress to approve a military strike if Iraq refused to allow inspectors full access. Congress agreed — John Kerry among them. Before he cast his vote, however, Kerry delivered a long speech explaining his position. He said he was approving the use of force to strengthen the US’s position and give some clout to the deliberations. He warned — very clearly — that the US should make good and sure that there are, in fact, WMDs; that the US most get support through the UN; and that we must have a clear exit strategy. (Think about this — one of America’s most trusted men, Powell, was pushing for the exact same thing Kerry was. Powell backed off of his position out of loyalty. But when Kerry stuck to it, he was branded a flip-flopper.)

This is the EXACT SAME THING Kerry said on the campaign trail.

He did not flip flop. More. More.

Bush didn’t flip flop either.

He slipped and slid.

First it was, “We know there are weapons of mass destruction.” Then it was, “Saddam is linked to Al Qaeda.” Then, “He gasses his own people.” Then, “Freedom is the Almighty’s gift to mankind.”

PEOPLE!

SCROLL UP!!

This is bullshit.

We SUPPORTED Iraq when they gassed their people.

We’ve never cared about freedom. Not really. To say so is just plain inconsistent with American foreign policy.

Please etch this on stone tablet in the back of your brain:

IF YOU HEAR AN AMERICAN LEADER SAYING THAT AMERICA’S MISSION IS TO SPREAD FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY ACROSS THE GLOBE, KNOW THAT THEY ARE LYING! (And they sure as hell don’t spend hundreds of billions of dollars and sacrifice more than a thousand American soldiers doing it. Hell, we lost like four soldiers in Somalia, and that was enough for us to turn our back on Rwanda when three-quarters of the population was hacked up with machettes. More.)

Worse, our actions in Iraq undermine this notion.

I recommend that all of you go out and rent Control Room. That’ll give you a good sense of the kind of freedom and democracy we’re “spreading throughout the Middle East.”

You’ll see everyday, common, working Iraqis calling Saddam a hero. These people would ordinarily hate Saddam’s guts. But America’s unilateral invasion policy changed them. You’ll a young boy just spewing the purest rage I’ve ever seen against the US.

You’ll see Donald Rumsfeld lie like a demon.

He repeatedly says in the movie that Al Jazeera, the subject of the documentary, is a constant fount of lies. That they orchestrate their images. That when a bomb falls, they bring in babies and women and have them cry in front of the rubble. But, watching the video, you know Romsfeld is bald-face lying because you’ve been seeing how Al Jazeera works. They’re just covering the war. They’re showing dead bodies, which are, you know, part of war. I mean, right after we see Rumsfeld talking about these “staged” victims, the film cuts to a shot of a little boy with his leg just mangled into ground beef. Al Jazeera staged that. Shya Right!

Early in the film, the Al Jazeera execs say that they had given the coordinates of their Baghdad office to the Pentagon, so the Coalition Forces wouldn’t bomb them. Later, we see the Army’s public information officer say that America’s bombs are the most precise on earth. When American soldiers fire one, they know exactly where it’s going.

Then you see America bomb Al Jazeera’s Baghdad office.

On the same day they bomb two other media offices in Baghdad.

Three journalists were killed by the USA.

Ok, so let’s review.

America is in Iraq to spread freedom and democracy. So they call the most reputable free press outlet in the region — Al Jazeera (remember, Al Jazeera is the news network that pissed off all the dicators in the Middle East and got banned from several kingdoms) — “liars.”

Then they bomb the journalists, who are one of the fundamental pillars of a free society.

That’s not freedom. That’s not democracy.

That’s a war crime.

That’s murder.

Then, immediately after this, America put on a show. They brought in a couple of dozen brown folks to march through Baghdad’s main square along with US tanks. And the American media — the ones who weren’t bombed by the US — ate it up and broadcast images of “celebrating Iraqis” around the globe.

Yet, an Iraqi in the movie says that he knows they weren’t Iraqis — their accents were wrong.

If that’s not enough, they allow the national museum to be looted immediately after the regime change (seems to me cultural history is an important pillar for a free society).

And they beef up the nation’s most notorious prison, the most horrifying symbol of Saddam’s regime.

And then they basically let the guards go crazy and torture the inmates. And not just any kind of torture — this was spiritual torture, where they subjected these inmates to indignities that they knew would specifically degrade their religious beliefs. Indeed, Seymour Hirsh reported that the Administration actually crafted policy papers that outlined how Muslims could be coerced by forcing them into positions that compromise their spiritual convictions. More. More. More.

(In addition to this, the US successfully argued that it would not have to treat its war prisoners humanely under the provisions of the Geneva Convention at Guantanamo Bay. They could detain these people without charges, without trial, without legal representation, indefinitely. Moreover, the official who oversaw Guantanamo when it was first being used as an intelligence gathering operation was subsequently moved to Iraq to establish the same program there. It was right after this that the Abu Ghraib scandal occurred.)

((Meantime, in the movie, we see a clip of Bush sternly saying he expects Iraqis to treat American POW’s “humanely.”)

We also learned that many of the people detained at Abu Ghraib weren’t actually dissidents and insurgents. They were just plain old Iraqi folks. More.

But the democracy we are spreading there apparently doesn’t have provisions for fair trials and such.

Then, to combat the insurgency, we shut down a newspaper. Apparently, that was an important step in spreading democracy.

In addition to all this, we handed out no-bid contracts to big Bush campaign supporters, and the company that CHENEY STILL GETS PAID BY. We quickly learned that this company was overbilling us. Also, we discovered that they weren’t even doing their job. Months after our supposed victory, much of Iraq’s infrastructure was not functioning. The New Yorker filed numerous reports in which we learned that hospitals could only use electricity for a couple of hours a day, vast portions of the country were without water. Unemployment was at staggering levels — largely because we fired the entire Iraq military, thus giving a whole bunch of fighting men a reason to join the American resistance. More. More.

Meantime, we let Iran and North Korea strengthen their nuclear capabilities.

All of that — everything I’ve just written — is immoral.

A whole lot more immoral than two gay dudes tying the knot.

No gray area, like when life begins.

Complete, pure, unadulterated, evil, rank, smelly, bloody, vile, putrid, rancid IMMORALITY!

How The World Sees Us

One of my favorite bloggers, Filegirl, posted this yesterday:

And the caring what other countries think of us? Puh-LEASE.

GROW SOME PRIDE!

BE A MAN OR A WOMAN!!

I love Krissy’s blog. Read it everyday. I think she’s wonderful. But this philosophy is problematic, IMO.

Simply put, America is the world’s dominant power. As we go, so goes the world.

I love democracy. I’d love to see the principles of freedom and equality spread across the globe. But this administration has not been spreading these principles. It has been exporting oppression. It has been acting as the world’s bullheaded, lying, uncaring, murderous, theiving, cheating bully.

Moreover, we reap what we sow.

I am convinced, to the core of my soul, that our foreign policy has bred thousands and thousands and thousands of potential terrorists.

Our policy has essentially guaranteed that we WILL be attacked again.

I just have no doubt in my mind.

Grow some pride?

How can I be proud of this shit?

It flies in the face of everything I believe in.

Alright, that’s probably long enough.

And I haven’t even touched domestic issues.

Like the fact that our so-called conservatives have sent the deficit to the moon by cutting taxes in such a way that IT WON’T STIMULATE THE ECONOMY because they’re directed to the FEW who can save and invest rather than the MANY who spend most of what they earn, and by adding to those tax cuts an ABSOLUTELY INSANE SPENDING SPREE on Capitol Hill that is unmatched by any Democrat-controlled Congress, a spending spree that has been essentially BRIBERY, precision appropriations to essentially BUY election-day victories so Congress can remain Republican controlled, or the fact that the president’s top economic advisors are folks like Grover Norquist, who talk openly about the notion that deficits are good, that it would be best for our nation to go bankrupt rather than continue to support stuff like Social Security which they, these Ivy League elites, are ideologically opposed to.

See, that’s the deal. The Bush administration is a cabal of the worst kind of elites.

They’re the kind of rich fucks who always show up in movies as villains.

It’s just they’ve all gathered behind the perfect actor: a blue-blood, slide-through-Yale, live-on-patronage-jobs son of a Senator’s-son/President who has somehow convinced everybody that he’s just another guy from Texas who grills on his back deck.

That’s where I think the dumb part is coming from. Part two: The other assessment of the election I disagree with.

It’s not we Bush haters think Bush supporters are necessarily dumb.

It’s more like:

How can y’all be missing this stuff?

How can you not see that you’re being snookered?

Bush is not a simple, hard-working man. He’s an ideological zealot who has affixed himself to other privileged, totally-removed-from-reality, greedy ideologue intellectuals who have figured out how to hijack our democracy.

And I’m embarrassed.

Ashamed of the America we’re projecting to the world.

And totally fucking pissed.

But I march on.

All best,

Joe

Now it all seems so quaint.

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