by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
April 15, 2004
AMERICA REAPS THE WHIRLWIND
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- For his Christmas card last year, Vice President Dick Cheney used a quote by Benjamin Franklin: "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"
I've thought about that quote often in the past two weeks (86 Americans and 800 Iraqis dead and counting), and it came to mind again during President George Bush's press conference on Tuesday night.
Several times Bush repeated this scary line: "We have an opportunity to bring about historic change." He didn't elaborate, but we know what he means: to create an American empire supported by God.
Americans live in a vacuum; there is no other country in the world but us. The constant chest thumping in the Bush Administration about America being so great and wonderful - what's wrong with those folks who don't want American values? - leads us to ask, which American values? The dream and the promise of America, or the sordid history of America's various interventions in the past century around the world?
The term "interconnectedness" doesn't seem to register with the Bush Administration hawks. They believe in the idea of American exceptionalism: we are blessed by God to be the most wonderful nation on earth. Therefore, we can do whatever we want, and woe to the other 270-odd nations.
Now that we have toppled the Iraqi government, the President implies, we canbring our American "freedoms" to the entire region. These "freedoms," which require the toppling of the Iranian and Syrian governments, for starters, will in turn bring jobs and economic stability to the Middle East and slowly vanquish terrorism.
That Bush has accepted this maniacal neoconservative reasoning is frightening. That he believes, as he said on Tuesday, that America has the resolve and the resources to carry out this overwhelming job - a job that other members of his Administration have described as "generational"- makes him dead wrong.
The Middle East is vast, diverse, unstable and, to most American minds, culturally impermeable. The job of changing the culture, politics and economics of such a region calls to mind other arrogant, vain, costly and failed attempts at conquest. The Crusades, for example, or Napoleon attacking Russia, or Hitler attacking Russia.
The frat boy in Bush was clearly visible Tuesday evening. He exudes the kind of bad-boy sexuality and charisma that is historically disastrous to those who get involved with it. The model that came to my mind was Alexander the Great, but Bush is far from having Alexander's storied charm and power, and even that great warrior (who actually took up arms himself) failed to keep his Mesopotamian empire from falling apart.
Where do we get money for both tax breaks for the wealthy and foreign wars? Already the dollar is falling. As a result, oil prices are rising. Our economy is built on egg shells.
"I have a plan," President Bush says, and he does. But it is a sweeping, insane and dangerous plan that will lead us directly into disaster.
So far, Bush has led us with arrogance and lies. Again and again at the press conference he weaseled out of accepting responsibility for 9/11, even though we all know where the buck has to stop. It became a double-speak mantra: "Blame George Tenant. I had faulty intelligence. It's not my fault. It's not my fault. It's not my fault."
Testimony to the 9/11 commission has confirmed that Bush came to office determined to eliminate Saddam Hussein. Focused on Iraq to the exclusion of warnings about al Qaida, he lied to the American people, the United Nations and the world about Saddam's imminent threat. And he lied again Tuesday night when he said Americans are dying in Iraq to "bring security for Americans and freedom for the world."
Then he had the gall to say, "I'm open to suggestions. Let the discussion begin." The discussion should have begun after 9/11; instead he gave us the smoke and mirrors of Iraq.
Bush has put all of us - his supporters and his detractors - in great peril. A few weeks ago I wrote that despite the evils of the Bush Administration, I still love America and the things it stands for. My column appeared on-line and drew comments filled with hatred from around the world. For example, this e-mail came from a French writer who described himself as "a former admirer of America":
"To me you utterly fail to realize what America has come to stand for in the eyes of more and more people in the world; you utterly fail to realize it has become a 'corporate republic,' dominated not by neo conservatives but the neo fascists of the 21st century. A 'lite' version of fascism, to be sure - but one can't expect neo fascists to wear brown shirts and swastikas: they have become smarter than that. And such articles as yours divert attention from that sad reality."
My instinct was to write back, "But I'm on your side. I hate what America is doing. Many Americans are working hard to get rid of George Bush and his Evil Empire. Then things will go back to normal and you can hate us for all the traditional reasons, like producing a culture based on junk entertainment and junk food and using up most of the world's natural resources."
After watching Bush on television, however, I realized that I have been naive. Even if the Evil Empire is thrown out of power (which means getting out the vote, making sure the electronic voting machines are not rigged, and guarding against the coup d'état that is sure to follow), hatred for America will remain strong. The blowback will be intense.
Cheney and Bush call themselves Christians, but isn't the first tenet of that great religion, "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you?" Even Bush admitted that he would hate to be "occupied" the way America now occupies Iraq.
No matter what happens next Election Day, Bush has sown the wind with violence. And Americans will reap the whirlwind for generations to come.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.