While President Bush blunders about the world invading countries, bombing civilians and forcing “regime change” in sovereign nations, our democracy here at home is dying. It is dying not because it is under attack from foreign forces, it is dying because the Bush government has changed America forever through its policies of secrecy, deception and lies. No democracy can survive when its own citizens no longer trust what their government tells them—tragically, that time has come for our nation.
The indications that our democracy is sick are so numerous that it’s hard to figure out where to begin. But certainly the start of deep, nationwide mistrust in the basic tenets of our government began with the Supreme Court’s decision to stop the 2001 recount in Florida and declare—without the facts to back it up—George W. Bush the winner. Thus, by only the slimmest of majorities, America broke with 200 years of democratic tradition and went from a duly elected president to a politically appointed one.
Having shystered his way into the White House, Bush and cohort Dick Cheney began to dismantle the very systems upon which Americans have always relied to keep our government in its proper place—as the servant, not the master, of the citizenry.
Right out of the chute came Cheney’s secret Energy Task Force, presumably composed primarily of corporate raiders intent on feathering their own nests while unconscionably fouling ours. Everything from protected public lands to wide-open pollution of the global environment was up for grabs. After five years of court cases seeking to reveal the truth, the same Supreme Court that appointed Bush president decided our citizens do not have the right to see who is actually calling the shots for our country. Instead, Cheney’s little backroom secret will remain just that—a secret. “National security” wasn’t an issue here; it was simply a matter of corporate manipulation of government for its own profit motives, hiding behind the Bush-Cheney curtain of “executive privilege.”
But giving up our nation’s resources and environment to corporate raiders was just the beginning. Next came the bigger move—the one where Bush willingly squandered our country’s treasury and sacrificed our young men and women in reckless military adventurism abroad that (surprise, surprise) somehow always seems focused on attaining control of the world’s oil and gas reserves.
We now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the decision to invade Iraq was a foregone conclusion. As revealed by secret British memos that were recently made public, the decision to “get Saddam” was made by the Bush administration long before the 9/11 attacks. Some might simplistically suggest that George W. was simply “finishing the job” his father began, while hiding behind the total fiction that we were threatened by Iraq’s non-existent weapons. That Iraq sits on a literal “sea of oil”—estimated to be the second largest in the world—was brushed off as mere coincidence.
In Afghanistan, the “front” for our invasion was the elimination of the Taliban regime. But closer to the truth is Afghanistan’s critical location on a natural gas and oil pipeline route long sought by America’s petroleum magnates. Trying to build and operate a vulnerable pipeline in a country ruled by a hostile government would be impossible, so we toppled the government, installed Karzai the Puppet and continue, to this day, to kill and be killed in the barren mountains of the Hindu Kush. Someday, though, don’t be surprised to see the pipeline go in—that is, if we ever truly “secure” any more of the country than the heavily guarded capital, Kabul.
To accomplish their propaganda goals, the Bush government egregiously lied to us about the death of Pat Tillman—the NFL safety-turned-Army Ranger—who was killed by our own soldiers. The fiction the Army invented was that he died charging bravely uphill to confront the enemy. In the words of Tillman’s mother: “The military let him down. The administration let him down. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting.”
According to a story in last week’s Washington Post, the latest investigation “showed that soldiers in Afghanistan knew almost immediately that they had killed Tillman by mistake” and “also revealed that soldiers later burned Tillman’s uniform and body armor.” The story didn’t come out, however, until after a “nationally televised memorial service.” The icing on the cake? “President Bush offered a taped memorial message to Tillman at a Cardinals football game shortly before the presidential election last fall.”
As Tillman’s father said: “After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy.”
Perfidy mounts upon perfidy, fiction upon fiction, lie upon lie, until the American people can no longer believe their government about anything—even the deaths of their sons and daughters in the service of the country. The worse the lies, the more misleading the labels. Polluting our air with dirty, coal-fired power plants is dubbed “Clean Skies.” Unleashing the timber industry—including provisions that exclude public review and comment—is called “Healthy Forests.” And now, in a pattern we have come to know only too well, President Bush is promising to “save Social Security”—by destroying it.
We are fortunate here in Montana because our state constitution demands fully open government on all levels, except where individual privacy would be violated. But on the federal level, secrecy, lies and distortion now rule the roost. Every secret, every lie, every distortion perpetrated by the Bush administration further erodes public trust, as American democracy dies a slow and horrible death by deception.
When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at firstname.lastname@example.org.