President Bush used his State of the Union address to tell Americans that everything is hunky-dory, and to ensure us that his “plan” for our nation is working out just fine. Nothing could be further from the truth—except, perhaps, for the long string of lies upon which Bush founded last year’s State of the Union address, in which he terrified the nation by predicting an imminent attack by Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Bush used those lies to launch America down a path of unprecedented pre-emptive war, which has cost much but brought us little aside from global hatred, a divided populace, and an out-of-control half-trillion-dollar deficit. This year’s speech contained no solutions to these problems, only a plea by Bush that we sit tight while his blurry vision steers us even further down the uncertain road to our future.
It is common knowledge that much of the world felt sympathetic toward America following the 9-11 attacks—but that sympathy was almost instantly squandered by the Bush administration. Who can forget that President Bush, in his holy righteousness, decided that the United Nations should be deemed “irrelevant” because it would not back our plan to invade another sovereign nation—or that this same president insulted a host of our long-term allies such as France, Germany, Canada, and Mexico, because they wouldn’t join his “crusade” against Iraq. Now Bush wishes the world would forget, but a quick review of what his fanaticism has reaped shows that’s not likely to happen.
One of Bush’s endlessly repeated lies is that “the world is a safer place” because of America’s military actions of the last year. But a quick look at the large and growing number of countries on the State Department’s “travel warning” list should quickly dispel any notion that Americans are safer in the world because of George W. Bush. There are now so many countries on the list that the State Department has issued a “Worldwide Caution” for Americans traveling abroad. Nepal, Kenya, Israel, Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, Malaysia, Turkey and the Philippines are among the areas in which Americans are now considered unsafe. The total area of the countries on the Travel Warning list is now larger than the North and South American continents combined. But don’t take my word for it, go to the State Department’s Travel Warning website, http://travel.state.gov/warnings_list.html, and check it out for yourself—especially if you’re planning on setting foot off this increasingly isolated continent any time soon.
The die-hard neo-conservatives who got us into this mess will undoubtedly point out that these are simply the sacrifices we have to make in the Global War on Terror that Vice President Dick Cheney recently predicted will go on “for decades.” These same knuckleheads will also crow that capturing Saddam Hussein was worth it—and that’s where the real questions, and the disunity of the Union, arise.
So far, more than 500 Americans have been killed in the Iraq War, and thousands of others have suffered debilitating injuries, but since the Pentagon has decided to obfuscate rather than inform, the exact number of wounded Americans remains a mystery. What we do know, however, is that even though Saddam Hussein is now a prisoner of war, the killing and maiming of Americans continues on a daily basis.
Having found no weapons of mass destruction and, as Bush himself recently admitted, no ties between the 9-11 terrorists and Saddam Hussein, the new rationale for all this costly bloodletting has been that America is “bringing democracy to the Middle East.” That assumption, however, deserves a closer look.
This week an estimated 100,000 Shiite Muslims took to the streets of Iraq to protest. Ironically, they were protesting for the right to vote, to hold national elections, and thus to implement the most basic foundations of democracy—to elect their own leaders. And who is denying them this right? Why, it’s the United States—the very nation that bombed and invaded their country to deliver them democracy.
The Shiites, who comprise 60 percent of the nation’s population, are ready to vote for and elect their Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, a Shiite Muslim cleric, to run the country in a distinctly non-secular fashion, merging religion and government as one. Our last experience with such governments was the Taliban in Afghanistan—and we attacked them.
Then there are the Kurds, against whom Saddam once used chemical weapons, and who now control an oil-rich sector of northern Iraq. The Kurds want total independence and appear ready to fight for it.
All of the factions in Iraq want an end to the U.S. occupation, and once that happens, don’t be too surprised if the country fractures into warring religious tribes, bent on vengeance and totally antagonistic toward the U.S. and its oil interests.
Although Bush declared success in Afghanistan last year, the vast majority of that country is now controlled by tribal warlords, each defending his dominion, while the Taliban slowly but surely regroups nationwide. The puppet government we installed in Kabul barely controls even the city itself.
Given these “victories,” it is perhaps not surprising that Bush didn’t go into detail. Instead, the president chose to lecture the nation on the danger of steroid use by athletes, the virtues of teen “abstinence” and his opposition to gay marriage, while ignoring the daunting challenges facing our nation.
Even hardcore conservatives are now wondering whether Bush’s great experiment has been worth all the deaths and the $1.34 billion a day (a million bucks a minute) in military spending. The conclusion is inescapable: We can wage endless global war, or we can take care of the growing education, health, and social needs of our own people—but we can’t afford to do both.
America’s choice seems obvious: Perceive our world through Bush’s blurry, rose-colored vision—or take a clear look at reality and start to address the significant problems this president has created.
When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.