The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 2)

Below is Part 2 in a series of essays which seem to have become, in retrospect, history-based observations of the consequences  actual and potential  of the first administration of POTUS George W. Bush, all penned early in his second term, i.e. by the end of April, 2005.  Read Part 1 here.

Listening to Mitt Romney speak to today’s world doesn’t exactly serve as a confidence-builder that anything has really changed (or ever will, for that matter) for the better.

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The Death of a Nation

“If ever we put any other value above liberty, and above principle, we shall lose both.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower (1960)

Imagine a modern society which is ignorant of history, of the arts, of literature, poetry, and drama.  Imagine a society that doesn’t care about its ignorance because it’s been taught, instead, that all there is of value in this life can be measured in dollars and cents and the goods which can be purchased therewith.  Imagine a society which believes wealth refers only to the accumulation of money and/or assets which carry a price tag.  Imagine a society which collectively is not well-informed enough to locate any particular nation on a globe, but which cheers when its leaders order invasions and occupations, a society which yawns at revelations that its leaders have ordered both torture and mass murder as a matter of policy.  Imagine a society once seen by its fellows around the world as a grand and glowing bastion of liberty and justice for everyone, no matter the accident of their birth, but now – suddenly – become feared, mistrusted, and even loathed; a society now emerged and perceived as untrustworthy and a danger to all of civilization, and in fact to Gaia, the very soul of Earth herself. Imagine a society – a nation –  so rife with political and corporate corruption that lies are now spoken as if truths, that what was once good is now bad, where right is wrong and wrong is right, where dreams are now become nightmares.

If imagination fails, simply stand forth and take a close look at the United States of America, circa 2005 A.D.: Land of the Free and Home of the Brave now become Land of the Tyrant and Home of the Scoundrel.

Much has happened on the American political scene in the last five years, and even to the unpracticed eye, none of it looks good.  Genuine truths, facts, lies, observations, trends, and tendencies have joined forces in a disturbing suggestion: that we may currently be witnessing the unveiling of events which one day will come together and define Constitutional America’s demise.

What is happening did not begin just five years ago, however, and its genesis is probably impossible to pinpoint exactly; suffice to say that the evolution of demise, itself a complicated and often will-o’-the-wisp process, seems to be finally coming to a head under the (able?) tutelage of George W. Bush, who was first selected president in December 2000 by the US Supreme Court following a most suspicious electoral result in the state of Florida, a state curiously governed by Bush’s brother Jeb Bush.  The Court ruled 5-4 to shut off debate on the matter, and to award Florida’s electoral votes to Bush in spite of the fact that there was then and remains ample evidence that the vote was tampered to favor the Republican candidate, to sway the outcome of the election.  If ’twas a plot, it worked; if ’twas not a plot but simply an accident of fate, no matter, the result is the same: America, once proud, once a beacon of hope for the world, has become a tyrant, a rogue nation which considers herself above and beyond the law.  “America über alles” seems to be her emergent slogan, as evidenced by a comment made by an unnamed White House Aide to journalist Ron Suskind: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

America is “an empire now,” at least in the view of some.  And her Emperor is, by default, George W. Bush, son of former president George H. W. Bush, grandson of financier Prescott Bush, himself in effect a Nazi collaborator – at least until the US government closed down his operation in October of 1942 via the Trading With The Enemy Act.  It is, of course, quite true that grandfather’s foibles do not necessarily predict or define grandson’s foibles; it’s also true that to dig through the entanglement of family tree roots is a nearly impossible task for the average person, and to even begin the process of creating an outline which may or may not ultimately point to a familial ‘conspiracy’ of power is most likely a useless exercise for all save perhaps the novelist.  There is one useful fact which emerges, however, from even the most cursory overview of the Bush family tree:  wealth, and the power which wealth grants, appear as indistinguishable threads, interwoven always in the family fabric.

A basis, then, a viewpoint from which to assess the current political realities in the US, emerges.  It is surely not unique to the Bush family, but it is nevertheless obviously parcel to the Bush family philosophy (if ‘philosophy’ indeed be the word), that Wealth begets Power begets Wealth begets … etc.  History suggests that when a nation falls into the hands of those who seek only power and wealth, it is – ultimately – doomed to fail, and it matters not whether it is one man, or one family, or even one grouping of like minds which finds its way to the throne of Empire. Nor does it matter if said Imperial Throne is effectively captured by an amalgamation of seekers whose disparate roots trace back through families, through familial associations, through political party associations, and ultimately into the controlling hands of an off-the-wall political/philosophic pseudo-intellectual ‘movement’ which then selects the nation’s “leader.”  In the twentieth century, there emerged three movements which came to be known, respectively, as Fascism (Italy), Naziism (Germany) and Marxism (Soviet Russia).  In late twentieth century America, there emerged the so-called Project of the New American Century (PNAC), aka neoconservativism.  It is the neocons of PNAC who’ve called for an American Empire, a global hegemony in service of American corporate power and wealth, and it is the characterless sub-squire, George W. Bush whom they’ve selected as their ‘popular’ enabler by virtue of his ‘establishment’ assignation, his selection as president.  In America, the movement has imposed a “leader;” in Italy, Germany, and the Soviet Union the reverse happened: an emergent leader imposed the system.  The difference may prove moot.

To date, it’s safe to say that even a casual review of his biography reveals that George W. Bush has shown little or none of the intellectual acuity of men such as Mussolini, Hitler, or Lenin; his pedigree as the intellectual runt offspring of the ‘new’ American aristocracy’s high-brow and financially-enabled elitist Bush clan, however, was sufficient to recommend him to the neocon movement.  No matter that his ‘wealth’ is strictly familial, derived originally from illicit financial dealings with Nazi Germany; no matter that George Bush the Younger left behind a legacy of intellectual and pragmatic non-accomplishment in spite of educational legacy admissions to each Phillips-Andover, Yale, and Harvard; no matter that he dodged military service in Vietnam via a National Guard assignment granted as a favor to his father; no matter that as an Air Guard pilot he had to wash himself out because of alcoholism and drug use; no matter that in subsequent years he failed miserably in every business venture he attempted; no matter that he has always been bailed out by family friends as a favor to the family name.  None of that matters because George W. Bush – Georgie to his family, ‘Dubya’ to the masses – the runt who was born, as some wag once suggested, on third base, but thinks he hit a triple – was, quite literally, appointed to the job of President of the United States of America by five Supreme Court justices whose loyalties were, in true Republican fashion, owed to political machinery and NOT to the people of the nation they pretended to serve.

In Georgie’s case, it’s quite likely that he’s been told all of his life that he and his family are special, that they are both chosen and deserving of the destiny to lead America out from under the god-cursed thumb of New Deal populism – an erstwhile horrid philosophy which celebrates the common man and not the aristocracy – and that if fraud be needed to attain such position, no matter, for the ends justify the means.  Always.  And, in Georgie’s case, it’s quite likely that he believed what he was told.

George W. Bush would likely have remained, sans the influence and money of his family, a classic example of the ordinary run-of-the-mill-American-male-jerk-unaccomplished-semi-literate-and-boring failure.  As President of the United States, however, while he is, to both nation and the world an ordinary run-of-the-mill-American-male-jerk-unaccomplished-semi-literate-and-boring failure, he’s also a very dangerous man: dangerous because he is fundamentally a characterless, unprincipled, coward who has been handed the job of planetary grand poobah and is therefore and by default, the most powerful man on the face of the Earth.  That he has not the intellectual means (or desire) to discern right from wrong heightens the threat he brings to the global table; that he apparently came by his position dishonestly heightens his threat to the American Constitutional Republic.  A simple question nags:  When one considers the apparent FACT that each of the first two American presidential elections of the 21st century were almost assuredly fraudulent, and that in both cases the person who actually lost the popular election – i.e. George W. Bush – became president through chicanery and underhanded tactic – one must wonder: how much further is there to sink?

The sad answer is that ‘sinking’ is not complete until the ship finally settles into the muck of decay already on the bottom.  To extend the metaphor, America today (March, 2005) is clearly under attack and has been damaged by the twin torpedoes of the fraudulent 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, by the ‘Kamikaze’ attacks of September 11, 2001, and worse, by the constant mutiny of crew itself, thus far including everyone from cabinet appointees to the GOP majorities in both houses of congress and, most likely and even more severely, by the sure-to-come-soon rabid rats of an appointed fascist Christian-theocracy-minded judiciary.  Today the once grand American ship of state founders and is taking water; tomorrow, barring a miracle, she shall surely sink, eventually to settle into the muck and mire of her decomposed idealism and her once-pragmatic intellectualism – a putrid resolve for a nation that once celebrated the goals of We the People, of individuals’ inalienable rights.  ‘Tis a high pinnacle from which we’ve fallen, but fallen we surely have.

And for what reason?  To serve that most ancient and constant equation: Wealth = Power ergo Power = Wealth.  There is no other point to life, after all.  In the 1961 film Judgment at Nuremberg, presiding tribunal judge Haywood (Spencer Tracy) speaks to the court following the conviction of the four Nazi judges on trial.  He says, in part:

There are those in our own country, too, who today speak of the protection of country, of survival. A decision must be made in the life of every nation, at the very moment when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat. Then it seems that the only way to survive is to use the means of the enemy, to rest survival upon what is expedient, to look the other way.

    The answer to that is: survival as what?

    A country isn’t a rock. It’s not an extension of one’s self. It’s what it stands for. It’s what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult.

“A country isn’t … an extension of one’s self.”

I doubt George W. Bush would agree as he presses forth and shoves his agenda into every possible chink in the nation’s Constitutional armor.  It’s a documented fact, for example, that the intent to overthrow Saddam Hussein arrived in the White House the same day as did Georgie himself, that it had in effect been on the agenda burner since 1991 when Georgie’s father, then-president George H. W. Bush, wisely refused to extend the war in the Persian Gulf and go after Hussein.  The senior Bush  realized that to attempt a military overthrow would entail a heavy cost in both life and treasure, and that there were other ways, diplomatic and economic, which would eventually serve to rid the world of the dictator.  But junior was to have no part of the measured approach: his intentions were carved in stone, awaiting only the proper excuse to take action.

That excuse appeared on September 11, 2001, courtesy of the terror attacks on New York and Washington.  Georgie, shortly after receiving word of the attacks, climbed aboard Air Force One and hurried into hiding.  A day later he reemerged and, once confident the danger to himself had passed, returned to Washington and boldly  ‘took charge’ of the matter

    Note: It’s worth recalling here that several original members of the first Bush administration – Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke, to name but two, have since spoken of Bush’s obsession with Iraq.  It’s also worth noting that the obsession did not belong to Bush alone, that it was also parcel to the fundamental doctrines of PNAC, and that PNAC members in the original – and current – Bush administration include VP Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (among others).  There are many who think that those three men represent the true power behind the throne, that they are, in effect, the puppeteers who pull the strings to make Georgie dance his pre-choreographed political refrains.  Truth be known, there is yet to come to light even a single hint that Georgie is other than a puppet, an enabler, of the PNAC, itself a master which would surely be referred to as, in another galaxy far, far away, The Dark Side of the Force.

In any case, the events of 9-11-01 opened the door and allowed the skunk, the PNAC agenda, into the room.  There was an initial and, in retrospect, half-hearted operation in Afghanistan  – ostensibly a hunt for the presumed brains behind the 9-11 attacks, Osama bin Laden and his terror organization, al Qaeda.  The effort was successful, at least to the point that it managed to overthrow the Afghanistan Taliban government to thereby disallow Afghanistan as an al Qaeda training camp and base, but that’s about all it accomplished – other than setting the stage for the invasion of Iraq, of course, itself a major foundational block of PNAC.  Iraq is oil rich, after all, and Hussein was a useful target in the sense that few in the world could intelligently argue that, as a heinous dictator, he didn’t deserve to be deposed in one way or another. In any case, Iraq was seen as the perfect testing ground for the neocon imperialist agenda.  They blew it, of course – a combination of swelled heads and poor planning usually leads to failure – and today Iraq is fractured politically, on the verge of civil war, her infrastructure is either destroyed or heavily damaged, an estimated (Lancet) 100,000 of her non-combatant people are dead, her oil industry is nearly unable to function because of consistent and damaging insurgent attacks on fields and pipelines, and she’s on the verge of evolving into America’s worst nightmare: a fundamentalist Islamic (Shiite) state.  All of that combines with costs to the US, including (as of this writing) more than 1500 dead, 17,000 wounded (many severely so), out-of-pocket costs of more than $200 billion (not to mention a sizeable chunk of an average $400 billion annual defense budget, now into its third year and counting), balooning and nearly out-of-control federal budgets.  And all for what?  A “permanent” US presence atop a huge Middle East oil reserve, itself an ostensible security measure to guarantee maintenance of the US oil-driven economy?  In a sense, perhaps, but more likely the more fundamental purpose was less in service of the nation than of her mega-corporporations, with Iraq’s oil reserves a gift to Big Oil, and Iraq’s destroyed infrastructure a gift to those who rebuild destroyed infrastructures (in this case, principally Halliburton Inc., curiously enough, the firm recently headed by VP Dick Cheney who stepped down in time to run for VP in 2000). Bechtel corporation, among numerous others, fell into the second tier as subcontractors; a significant detail is that overall, the lucrative awards went to companies that contributed heavily to Bush’s election campaign.

Business dealings aside, however, it remains virtually unarguable that what has really happened is that the US has created another Vietnam for herself, and has in the process gained the enmity of the entire Arab world AND most of the rest of the world as well (although in different degree).  The unprovoked attack on an Arab state has proven an immensely fertile feeding ground for terrorists and would-be terrorists, a recruitment bonanza for al Qaeda (which many, including yours truly, predicted three years ago) – but still under the guise, of course, of Bush’s “War on Terror.”  In the final analysis, it could easily be argued that if America was to seek out and attack the root cause of Arab terrorism today she’d be obliged to attack herself first.

The war and its direct consequences, serious as they are, are only a small part of the overall dismal, perhaps disastrous, picture that is emerging from the current political situation in Washington under the ‘leadership’ of the Bush administration.  It would take a book of at least a hundred chapters to detail all the aspects and facets of what has become an intertwining debacle, a national travesty, a task not unlike describing a spider web on a strand-by-strand basis.  That’s far beyond my scope here.  It’s perhaps more reasonable to simply view Bush’s America itself as having become a spider web, acknowledge that every strand is more than simply a strand, that its significance is not in itself but in its contribution to the whole, to the spinner of the web itself: the spider for whom the web serves as provider.

I suppose that task one, then, is to settle on a suitable definition for this metaphoric “spider.”  Who and/or what, exactly, is this weaver of the web?  That, too, is a long story, one which involves and is integral to a portion of the evolution of America herself; for our purposes here, we can define the Spider as being the power structure itself which is a historical admixture of families, corporations, banks and other financial institutions, along with, today, the conservative-fundamentalist Christian movement in the US (religion has, of course, always been a tendril, but this one seeks power, not salvation).  So, the Spider is Power.  And just as spiders need food, Power derives from money. To continue the metaphor, then, what the web is to the spider, the current political situation in America is to Power: a means to acquire that which sustains, i.e. sustenance, i.e. money.

Essayist Thom Hartman, Online Journal, wrote on March 26, 2003:

“The sweet victory of the neoconservatives in capturing control of the Republican Party, and thus of American politics, has turned bitter in the mouths of the average American and humans around the world. Soaring deficits, the evisceration of Social Security, “voluntary” pollution controls, war for oil, stacking federal benches with right-wing ideologues, bellicose and nationalist foreign policy, and the handing over of much of the infrastructure of governance to multinational corporate campaign donors has brought a vast devastation to the nation, nearly destroyed the entrepreneurial American dream, and caused the rest of the world to view us with shock and horror.”

That’s a pretty able summation of the Web itself in the Spider-Web metaphor, in that it names several strands which all come together to serve the same purpose, i.e. to feed the beast. In his list of examples, Hartman makes special note of the following umbrella issues:

    Fiscal
    Social
    Environmental
    Military
    Religious
    Corporate
    The Ceding of Government

Those are, indeed, the anchoring strands of today’s political spider web, and they each and all deserve examination if we are to ultimately make any sense of what’s really behind the scenes, to spot the spider hiding in the shadows.  And again, it’s fair to note that while each is a separate anchor strand, each is also interminably linked with the other.  No single strand by itself will serve to feed the Spider; there’s weaving to be done.  Perhaps if we examine each separately we can find the cross-links and maybe even finally draw a picture of the completed web, to see just how it serves to feed the beast – for awhile at least.

To be continued . . .

Part 3 here.

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