February 3, 2003
In the introduction of the speech George W. Bush gave on January 28, 2003, he offered his views on the State of the Union. He talked, as is customary, about the dangers and the challenges ahead -- you know, the present is tough but the future is bright, the enemies of liberty are besieging us, threatening the good, hard-working, god-fearing people of this blessed land...but "In all these days of promise and days of reckoning, we can be confident" (applause). "In a whirlwind of change and hope and peril, our faith is sure, our resolve is firm and our union is strong" (applause). "Days of reckoning," "faith," "god bless America..." Nothing new; I've been hearing the same messianic and religious-laded tirades for twenty years, from the very day I set foot, for good, bad and the ugly, on the mystical and mythical shores of Ronald Reagan's "pebbles of Light" where honey is a bounty and the Russians, Chinese, and the entire universe, can or should be nuked, so that the bees, which we gleefully destroy with pesticides, can set us free.
At some point in his introduction Mr. Bush intoned: "All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. And many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: They are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies." (Applause)
There, right there, I became agitated and had to part company (my companion and partner, Jan Baughman, and our friend, Michael Stowell who's visiting), get out of the house in order to regain my composure before coming back to further listen to the rhetoric. The more I listened the more agitated I became. In, out; in, out; in, out... Two-thirds into the speech, my body began to shake. My right leg was trembling uncontrollably, hitting the deck of our place, my fists so clenched that my knuckles hurt the next morning. It was raw anger and I could not figure out from where it came.
After all, Bush Jr. was not saying much that has not been said before by US leaders.
Take Ronnie joking about nuking Russia, not realizing that an indiscreet microphone was on: "My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes." The Ruskies didn't enjoy the joke at the time. Paranoia takes a whole different course when one recalls Hiroshima and Nagasaki...
Killing, from Lebanon to Libya, from Nicaragua to Granada, was not a purely Reagan trait. Through another indiscretion, a former aide to then President Clinton spilled the beans for mucho buckados and an eventual job on ABC News. George Stephanopoulos, in his memoirs (yes, even 30-something midgets write their memoirs in America), wrote: "'We're not inflicting pain on these fuckers,' Clinton said, softly at first. 'When people kill us, they should be killed in greater numbers.' Then, with his face reddening, his voice rising, and his fist pounding his thigh, he leaned into Tony [Lake], as if it was his fault. 'I believe in killing people who try to hurt you. And I can't believe we're being pushed around by these two-bit pricks.'" ("All Too Human: A Political Education" by George Stephanopoulos, Little Brown & Company, 1999, ISBN: 0316929190, page 214.)
In other words, killing is an American past time. We have the highest death rate by violent means in the entire industrialized world within our own borders. So a few (or many) dead untermensch here and there, whether in Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Nam, Cambodia, Iraq, Yugoslavia and the like (check Zoltan Grossman's compilation of US military interventions in history) won't make us miss the 6 o'clock news with the story du jour and the commercials for gas-guzzlers with 0% financing, Viagra and the usual antacids.
Not much to have a fit over. Just the usual American diet...you are with us or else. Else meaning blackmail, blockades, sanctions, military interventions with their panoply of nukes (again, sorry for the repetition, Hiroshima and Nagasaki), chemical weapons (Agent Orange in Vietnam), "hard" genocide (Native Americans), or "soft" genocide (Vietnam/Cambodia, the sanctions against the Iraqi people, the use of DU ordnance --, WMD par excellence), and on and on and on.
In years past, "the best Indian was a dead Indian," "the best communist was a dead communist." In our neo-times, "the best 'terrorist' is a dead 'terrorist.'" It's a behavior passed on from generation to generation.
Mind you, it's always in the name of freedom and democracy. So it must be just fine. For goodness sake, why getting upset?
It took me three days to fathom my reaction. It was not the language that furiously shocked me. It was the tone and the demeanor.
Bush delivered his a-historical words, "...many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: They are no longer a problem...," slightly leaned forward, with a sneering tone in his voice and a smirk on his face, almost winking. What he really meant, what he was subliminally saying was, "They are dead and we love it..."
And, in unison, the entire house rose to its feet, men and women cheering in a momentous round of applause (one among 70+ ovations the great leader received). Yesss Sireeee, they are dead and we love it!
You could feel the entire august chamber experience one of these rare moments of orgasmic orgy.
In 1991, US soldiers were writing messages such as "Mrs. Saddam's sex toy" or "suppository for Saddam" on the bombs that relentlessly rained down on defenseless Iraqis. A songbook published by the US Air Force's 77th Tactical Fighter Squadron before the bombing began had pearls like this stanza:
Phantom fliers in the sky,
Persian-pukes prepare to die,
Rolling in with snake and nape,
Allah creates but we cremate.
This time around reports CBS (January 24), the Pentagon's battle plan against Iraq calls for launching 6 to 800 cruise missiles in the first two days of the attack, almost twice as many that were launched during the 40 days of Desert Storm. In two days! It's called "Shock and Awe," a new concept developed at the National Defense University. It's about overwhelming, grandiose destructive force, wiping out power grids, water supplies, taking down all infrastructures in two short days with the expectation that the entire Iraqi people will get physically busted, emotionally and psychologically worn out, shocked into submission, so that the country will surrender without much of a ground war.
According to The New York Times (February 2) the Pentagon's war plan "calls for unleashing 3,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles in the first 48 hours of the opening air campaign, an effort intended to stagger and isolate the Iraqi military and pave the way for a ground attack to topple a government in shock." We reserve the right to use nuclear weapons, we'll experiment with new weapons like high-powered microwave weapons "that could flash millions of watts of electricity to cripple Iraqi computers and equipment." The Times has a slightly different story line from that of CBS. It says that "the air campaign would shut down but not destroy important city services, like water and electricity, so they could more easily be restarted to minimize public health problems."
Disinformation like 1991, bluffing time or latest reality-TV show? "Let's put it this way. They no longer [will be] a problem..."
Hillary Clinton was on her feet, cheering, clapping. They were all on their feet, cheering and clapping... Ovation, ovation, ovation. Up your ass Saddam. Let's kill these "fuckers!"
At last, I understood the origin of my anger...
British columnist John Pilger commented the next morning in The Mirror, "The current American elite is the Third Reich of our times, although this distinction ought not to let us forget that they have merely accelerated more than half a century of unrelenting American state terrorism: from the atomic bombs dropped cynically on Japan as a signal of their new power to the dozens of countries invaded, directly or by proxy, to destroy democracy wherever it collided with American 'interests,' such as a voracious appetite for the world's resources, like oil."
Addressing the International Women's Forum in Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela said, "It is a tragedy what is happening, what Bush is doing in Iraq." He continued, "What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust."
Into a holocaust...
On Saturday, February 1, Jan and Michael walked with 4,500 fellow demonstrators in downtown Palo Alto, California, to express their opposition to this sheer madness. I was too sick to walk with them.
· · · · · ·
Understanding the U.S.-Iraq Crisis, a Primer by Phyllis Bennis
Iraq on Swans
Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor.
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