AS BIN LADEN LAUGHS, BUSH DANCES TO BAD MUSIC
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- A friend from another country visited us recently. I haven't seen her in many years, so I was not surprised when her first question was, "George Bush?"
As I started on the long sad story, I said that even before the 2000 election, I was not alone in thinking of President George W. Bush as a puppet.
He was a wastrel youth of enormous privilege and arrogance, I said, propped up by his family's money and his father's connections, a man who went bust at everything he tried to do on his own, yet who, somehow, always emerged unscathed. After he got himself elected - or after the first of two elections was stolen for him, if you will - it became obvious that he was a puppet whose strings were held by many masters.
Vice President Dick Cheney holds one string, with his dreams of the golden crown of empire. The Bush family holds another, with its hatred of the Kennedy dynasty and its determination to have one of their own. Karl Rove holds one, with his dream of an endless one-party (conservative Republican) state.
The inheritors of immense wealth hold another, with their dreams of reversing the New Deal and returning the populace to its "rightful" place as peasants. The oil industry holds one, and so does the nuclear power industry, although they often pull in tandem. The coal and logging industries share one. So do the rabid pro-Israel neoconservatives and the equally rabid Christians who believe they are the favored ones of God.
But as I talked, I realized that it was not a stretch to say that another string is held by the rogue Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden, and that the President is also dancing to his tune.
While it has never been conclusively proven - to my satisfaction, at least - that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were the work of Osama bin Laden, the conventional wisdom credits him with a major hand in designing and planning that terrible day.
Why? What did he want? Well, he made his goals very clear in a series of virulent anti-American and anti-Semitic speeches, letters and videotapes which were released in the years following 9/11.
Bin Laden's first demand was that the American military, which was, in his eyes, defiling Saudi soil, leave. President Bush complied almost instantly. We are out of Saudi Arabia now; we have 14 new bases in Iraq instead.
What else did bin Laden want? He wanted to destroy the American economy by luring it into a vast, expensive, unwinnable war. He wanted to prove that America and the West were corrupt imperialists with nothing but scorn for the Muslim world. He wanted to create political turmoil in the Middle East. He wanted to create a huge uprising of young, idealistic Muslim terrorists who would fight to the death against Western culture and religion.
It is almost frightening how expertly the President has danced to bin Laden's tune. He responded to 9/11 with a vicious attack on Afghanistan which killed many innocent men, women and children but left bin Laden and his Taliban supporters free to strike again.
Then, using a neoconservative plan that was published years before he took office, and using rationalizations that were patently false - even if Saddam Hussein had had weapons of mass destruction, why should America care? - he struck at Iraq.
Since then, Americans have died there every day, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, and the American wealth that isn't being stolen there is being squandered instead. A full-scale insurgency against the United States has been mounted. New terrorists have been created. Bin Laden must be proud.
Instead of being seen as liberators, today Americans are seen throughout the world as torturers. The sexual humiliation alone of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo - a female interrogator pretending to smear menstrual blood on a prisoner's face, for God's sake? - make us seem inhuman to much of the civilized world.
What about the future, my friend asked. I told her that I have great fears. Because America cannot find enough soldiers or money to start another ground war in Iran, it is a strong possibility that President Bush will use nuclear weapons there. And if Bush does not use American nukes, he will likely support the Israelis when they use theirs.
The country I love will be a pariah among nations for centuries to come.
Somewhere in the world, bin Laden is still alive and free and laughing. Even if he is caught, would it matter? Saddam Hussein is behind bars and it makes no difference in Iraq or to the rest of the world.
As I was speaking, I realized that my tone has changed. Usually, when I talk about President Bush, anger spits from my mouth. But now unspeakable sadness permeated my voice and spirit.
Although half the people in America feel the way I do, the world sees us all as authoritarian, materialistic, greedy, arrogant, ignorant, sadistic and cruel. The most painful part, I told my friend, is that I see no good coming from any of this. President Bush is a puppet dancing to sour music, and for the first time in my life I am without hope.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.